Columbia River Landing Riesling 2013

The Columbia River takes it’s time getting from the source in the Canadian Rockies to where it empties into the Pacific ocean.  During the last 309 miles or so of it’s over 1200 mile journey, it serves as the border between Washington and Oregon.  Along the way, it has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Northwest United States and serves a variety of ecosystems from alpine to wetlands – some perfect for growing grapes.  In fact, the Columbia Gorge winegrowing region boasts over 30 wineries.

Winemaker:  Columbia River Landing
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Columbia Valley, WA
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This cheap Riesling from Trader Joe’s was a vivid yellow color.  Light-bodied, it had decent acidity and 10.5% alcohol.  Not surprisingly, it was sweet and presented mostly fruit flavors of peach and melon.

Columbia River Gorge

Wine For Baking?

That was the question I asked myself.  Not because I was putting wine INTO baked goods.  I am an observer rather than a participant when it comes to baking.  It’s probably better that way for everyone concerned.

So, why “wine for baking?”  You see, my household has become addicted to the Great British Bake Off.  As a result, we have been binge-watching the show “on demand” first and then online “streaming.”  Here’s the interesting thing – nobody here is a baker.  So why are we so fascinated by this British reality television competition?

With a sea of reality TV options serving up anger, animosity, self-centered “stars'” and conspicuous self-indulgence, The Great British Bake Off stands out as a positive, interesting, and informative show about real people.  These people are all truly amateur bakers – from housewives to medical students to construction workers.  Some, of course, are hoping to do more with their avocation.  Even so, they remind us of people we know and care about.  And before we know it, we care about how those participants are doing in their bakes.

The judges are tough but not mean.  The two hosts are funny but don’t completely steal the focus from the participants.  And the show is forthright about letting the contestants practice some of the baking challenges at home in advance.  Instead of ruining the competition, it makes the results of their efforts that much more interesting.  It seems practice doesn’t always make perfect!  In other words, what might seem like a potentially boring show is anything but.

Thus, I recently found myself shopping my local wine stores for something to accompany an evening of vicarious baking.  This is one of the bottles I chose for that purpose.

Winemaker:  Robert Mondavi
Wine:  Private Selection Riesling
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Central Coast, California
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  A pale yellow with a greenish tinge, this light-bodied Riesling was high in acidity and a tad off dry at 12.5% alcohol.  For me it presented a fairly simple flavor profile including tangerine, a touch of honey and grass.  I liked it – especially for something to sip while I watched folks struggle to make perfect macaroons on schedule.  It would also be good with a light cheese course or a gently spicy chicken or seafood entree.


Schmitt Söhne Riesling 2012

With summer now fully upon us, I am very likely to be popping the cork on some lighter wines – white and blush, especially.  They just seem more weather-appropriate, you know?  And they also tend to complement the types of meals one generally gravitates toward on a sweltering summer day.  As I may have mentioned previously, I used to live in Germany (twice, actually).  Yet much to my chagrin, while there I didn’t get to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the outstanding wines.  The first time I was too young.  The second time … that’s a long story.  lol  One of these days I’m going to make a return trip (a nice lengthy one) and correct that.  In the meantime, I’ll be buying what I can find in my local area to sample and enjoy – such as this inexpensive Riesling.  Another Riesling in a blue bottle!

Vineyard:  Schmitt Söhne
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage: 2012
Appellation:  Rheinhessen, Germany
Price: $11.29 for 1 Liter

Notes:  The color of this Schmitt Söhne Qualitätswein was very pale straw.  The bouquet was quite faint, carrying scents of apple, grapefruit and grass.  Acidity was good, and the body was light.  Flavors I detected were also on the lighter side.  They included honey (not surprising as this selection comes in at 9.5% alcohol), pear, apple, a hint of apricot and grapefruit on the finish.  It was light and fruity.  It was also quite inexpensive on sale – in the liter bottle – for $7.99.

Cupcake Vineyards Riesling 2011 Pfalz

This German import is sold under the Cupcake label but is bottled in Germany by a company given the designation D-RP – 907 009.   That’s a sexy name for a winery, isn’t it?  After some digging, it appears to me that the responsible party is likely one J.F. Brems GmbH in Zell.  A small town of roughly 4,300 residents situated on the Mosel River, Zell is best known for another wine.  One I remember my mother buying and sipping when I was just a little tyke.  Zell is the home of the Zeller Schwarze Katz.  But this particular bottle is not a Schwarze Katz selection, it is a Qualitätswein Riesling from Pfalz.

Winemaker:  Cupcake Vineyards
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Pfalz
Price:  $10.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The color was bright golden yellow.  The bouquet held scents of tart apple and fragrant peach.  Alcohol was at 10.5% in this Pfalz white that was light-bodied and somewhat low in acidity.  Flavors I tasted centered around a core of tart apple.  Not green apple, but more of a Braeburn type sweet and tart.   I also caught hints of peach and a touch of lemongrass on the finish.  Clearly, given the flavor profile I’ve listed, this wine is not devoid of acidity.  I just think that a tad more would have given it the play-on-the-tongue quality that I enjoy in my favorite Rieslings.  If your preference is for something a little more mannerly … well, here you go!   It isn’t overly complex and the price is reasonable, so it’s a decent candidate to pair with a relaxed meal – maybe a lightly spicy vegetable stir fry or a quick pan-fried pork chop.

Zell on the Mosel

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight – A Different Kind of Wine Train

I recently learned that Sleeping Car passengers on two Amtrak routes – the Coast Starlight and Empire Builder – are offered a complimentary wine and cheese tasting.  Maintaining a certain balance and harmony with the travel, the wine and cheese selections Amtrak serves are chosen from areas and locales along the respective routes.  The Coast Starlight is a route between Seattle and LA.  Washington and California?  Those are two of the best known and most productive wine regions in the United States.  Now you see what I mean about this being a different kind of wine train!  So … what can you get in a Sleeping Car on the Coast Starlight?  The wines available are Summerland Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel, J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Wente Riverbank Riesling, Firesteed Pinot Gris, Hogue Genesis Syrah, Milbrandt Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Traditions Series, and Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.

As I live in the eastern U.S., I probably won’t have the chance to experience the Coast Starlight in the very near future.  I would love to, of course.  Can you imagine the scenery passengers are treated to?  [You won’t see it if you’re sleeping, though.  Ha!]  No, that experience will just have to go onto my bucket list.  Instead, for now I will have to content myself with grabbing one of the wines on their menu and doing a wine tasting of my own while I daydream about it all.  Well … it’s better than nothing!

Winemaker:  Chateau Ste. Michelle
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Columbia Valley, Washington
Price:  $12.99

Notes:  The color of this Riesling was literally a barely-there wash of pale yellow.  I smelled pear and citrus in the bouquet.  This was a light-bodied wine, and the acidity was quite bright.  In fact, there was a very light effervescence to this wine as it first hit the tongue.  I like that in a Riesling.  Alcohol comes in at 11.5% on this Chateau Ste. Michelle selection which makes it a bit sweet.  Thus, you get a back-and-forth on the palate between the acidity and residual sugar – tart and sweet.  Flavors for me were pear and citrus with some hints of kiwi.  On the finish I got a nice zing of lemongrass.  At times – in particular as the wine warmed – the sweetness was very present.  I also tasted some peach as the wine lost it’s chill.  All in all, it was most definitely a pleasant wine.  I could certainly see this paired nicely with a young cheese or (because of the sweet component) with some spicy Asian food.  After all, there are several dishes at my favorite Thai restaurant that include lemongrass.

By the way, this post is a response to the first in a series of wine-blogger challenges.  The Drunken Cyclist threw down the gauntlet and called on us to write a wine blog post around the theme of transportation.  Finally, if you’re interested in taking a trip on the Coast Starlight, here is the Current Schedule.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Williamsburg Winery Governor’s White 2011

This is a winery that has some serious history behind it.  You know that wine-making in the U.S. started in Virginia.  Right?  After all, the Twelfth Acte of 1619 required that each settler plant at least 10 vines on his property for the purpose of making wine.  A few years later — a mere 369 years — the first Governor’s White from Williamsburg Winery was released.

While this is not one of the wines I brought home from Vintage Virginia 2013, I thought it would be a good time to sample this offering from one of the largest players in the Virginia wine industry.  They were at the festival, but they weren’t pouring this particular wine.  Instead, I bought this at my neighborhood grocery store.  That being said, the label clearly indicates that this wine is available in Virginia only.  Bummer!  You can buy it direct from the winery, but they only ship to 19 States plus D.C.

Winemaker:  Williamsburg Winery
Wine:  Governor’s White
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Virginia
Price:  $11.49

Notes:  This Virginia Riesling is a pretty pale yellow in the glass.  On the nose I got scents of apple and peach.  On the tongue this was a light-bodied white with good acidity.  Flavors for me were plentiful peach with green apple, some hints of pear and apple peel on the finish.  It’s brisk while providing plenty of fruit flavor.  Alcohol is at 12.5% which gives this Governor’s White a light sweetness without it becoming cloying.  On the tart-versus-sweet-o-meter, I’d put this one down more on the tart side (but not tremendously so).  Of course, that’s right in the strike zone for my taste buds.  I enjoyed it.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

J Lohr Riesling 2011

This time I went with a California Riesling.

Winemaker:  J Lohr
Wine:  Bay Mist White Riesling
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Monterey County, California
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  Interestingly, this wine is a blend of 92% White Riesling, 6% Gewurztraminer and 2% Orange Muscat.  It was a pale yellow in the glass, and I got scents of apple and citrus in the bouquet.  On the palate the wine has a very light effervescence.  Flavors for me were primarily apple and lime with peach notes.  There was grass on the finish and some light hints of spice as well.  Alcohol is at 13.1% – dry by comparison with most Rieslings.  Acidity seemed fine but not as bright as with others I’ve had.  Overall, it’s a pleasant wine.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Joseph Händler Riesling 2012

Peck_JHRiesling2012OK.  Here is the third in my promised trio of German wine tastings.  It’s another Riesling from the Pfalz region – this time a 2012.  Here’s what I found in this simple, straight-forward wine.

Vineyard: Domherrenberg Kellerei for Trader Joe’s
Varietal: Joseph Händler Riesling
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: Pfalz, Germany
Price: $5.49 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The wine is a very pale straw color in the glass.  On the nose I got lemon and white peach.  Like the Spätlese I recently tasted, this Riesling has good acidity which gives the tongue an effervescent zing immediately (but in a more restrained way).  The primary flavors for me were apricot, lemon and green apple with green apple peel on the finish.  It’s fairly sweet at 10% alcohol, but the acidity and flavors make it seem less sugary than other selections at the same ABV.  Overall the experience was pleasant – less dramatic than the Spätlese but equally pleasing.  I wouldn’t consider serving this one at dessert, though.  This wine sits solidly in the “good for a picnic” category for me.  It would also be nice served at a cheese and wine gathering.

By the way, don’t think I’m finished with German wines.  I’m not.  Ich komme zurück.  Ohne Zweifel!!

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

A Little Riesling At The Pub

Following up on my intent to broaden my wine horizons and in the interest of internationalism, I’m going to be tasting 3 wines from Germany in the next few days.  This is the first.  You may remember that I wrote a post not too long ago about a nice red I’d tasted at a local watering hole where they have good live music, too.  Anyway, things went so well with the red that I thought I’d give one of their whites a try.

Winemaker:  Lucashof
Wine:  Riesling
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  Pfalz
Price:  Not Available

Notes:  It was simple, light bodied and for me light on flavor.  What I tasted was lime and peach (with the fuzz on the quick finish).   Dry – Sweet?  This Riesling comes in at 11.5% alcohol.   It wasn’t bad at all, but I  just didn’t think it brought that much to the table.  I almost didn’t post this review because I couldn’t find this wine at retail anywhere in my area – or even online for that matter – for this vintage.   But then I thought maybe others would run into it at their local haunt/restaurant/etc., so I went ahead.  I’m thinking maybe this pub doesn’t go through much Riesling and they should’ve served this a year ago.  I see that Lucashof gets good reviews for their wines, so I am going to give another of their selections a try in the future.

Jacob’s Creek Riesling 2009

This was originally published on 12/13/2010 over at Blogarhythms.

I enjoy Rieslings – most often for their mix of tart flavors and residual sweetness.  Although this selection from Jacob’s Creek is dryer than most at 12% alcohol, it was still true to it’s kind.

Vineyard:     Jacob’s Creek
Varietal:       Riesling
Vintage:       2009
Appellation: Southeastern Australia
Price:          $6.95
Notes:     As I mentioned, I enjoy the juxtaposition of tart and sweet that a Riesling brings to the palate while usually remaining lighter and crisper than say a Gewürztraminer.  What was this one like?  It was quite pleasant and rather straightforward. To me the flavors showed a very present core of lime with some hints of grapefruit and grass.  I liked it.  At $4.99 on sale, I’d definitely drink it again!

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.