Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Chardonnay Spectrum

I like to think of chardonnays as falling somewhere on a spectrum. For the sake of convenience, I use the age-old left-to-right spectrum used and abused in the political sphere. There is by no means a relation between a person's political views and their tastes in chardonnay, but, follow me if you will.

On the right, you have the bombastic buttered toast bombs, chardonnays that have given the grape much of its reputation as a delivery route for oak and butter. These are the wines that have been fermented or aged in new oak and allowed to undergo full maloactic fermentation (which turns the malic acid and green apple flavors into lactic acid and butter flavors.) A lot of Australian wines with critters on the label fall into this category. Napa and Santa Barbara chardonnays frequently taste of an oak tree and butter sandwich. These are the wines with understated back labels that use catch words like toasted marshmallow, baked pear, hazelnut and honeycomb.

On the left, you have mineral-driven, high acid, steely chardonnays that beg for oysters on the half shell. Usually these wines have been fermented in older oak barrels that have lost their toasty edge, or increasingly they are fermented in stainless steel tanks, which impart no flavors and let the grapes express themselves in an unadulturated way. Chablis wines from France are a good example of left-wing chardonnays, although Grand Cru Chablis and a lot of Premier Cru Chablis from good producers have a bit more heft to them. Teetering on the edge of the leftist extreme are the freakish lightning strike chardonnays of the Jura.

Most chardonnays will likely fall somewhere in the middle. It's a fact that even the best chardonnay grapes can benefit from some contact with oak, new, old or some blend of both. White Burgundies (made entirely of chardonnay) can pop up all over the spectrum, but they usually fall somewhere in the middle, offering a kind of vinous consensus of acid, fresh fruit and creamy toast. More and more often, chardonnays from Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Oregon and Washington State demonstrate the best of both right and left. And it's not always place that determines the style, but the winemaking practices. Look for how the wine was made, whether it was aged in oak (be it new or old) or stainless steel, and for how long.

What interests me so much about chardonnay is this versatility. When I talk wine with friends and acquaintances, I frequently hear: "I don't like chardonnay." "Hate" is even thrown in there sometimes. Wine nerds like myself call these folks the ABC crowd ("Anything But Chardonnay!") My reaction to the ABC crowd is always the same: "What don't you like about it?" It's my opinion that there really is a chardonnay out there for everyone, right, left or somewhere in the fruity, mildly-toasted center. And knowing where you usually fall on the spectrum can help you choose a bottle that can convert even the hardest ABCer into a chardonnay believer.

So, with that spectrum in mind, I went back over tasting notes from chardonnays I've had in the past few months. It turns out, there are a lot. (Actually, according to my database, I've tasted more chardonnays than any other grape!) To demonstrate the different styles of chardonnay, I've chosen a wine on The Right, a wine on The Left, and a wine somewhere in The Center.

The Right
On the right wing, we've got the 2009 "Annabella Special Selection" chardonnay from the Michael Pozzan Winery. This Napa Valley wine is an extremist. It's a lightning rod, a galvinizer, a benchmark butter bomb chardonnay that will help you determine where your chardonnay sympathies lie.     

I drank this wine with my girlfriend over a dinner of homeade chicken panninis. I picked it up specifically for her, as I know she tends to fall on the buttery, toasty end of the spectrum. This chardonnay is a golden color in the glass, which is usually a good indicator that you're in for a big, oaky chardonnay. Right away, the aromas hit you: buttered toast, ripe pear, vanilla and hazelnut. The palate, of course, is goopy with butter, oak and ripe pears. There is almost no acid on this wine at all. In fact, I can't remember a wine I've had recently that had so little acid, which is why I chose this one to represent the extreme end of the spectrum So, if you don't like acid in your wines, this may be for you. I, on the other hand, like at least some acid in my wines, and tend toward wines with more intense acid. I do enjoy the flavors in this wine, and I'll admit that I have a sweet spot for buttered popcorn in my chardonnay. This wine is by no means balanced or subtle. The sensation on the palate is that of getting cracked in the head with an oak stave that had just been dipped in popcorn butter. I don't want to sound derisive about this style of wine, even though it's not my favorite. There's a reason these wines sell out. A lot of people, sometimes myself, absolutely love them.

The Left
Ah, Chablis. I'm not talking about the jug stuff, but the real stuff that comes from a northern enclave of Burgundy. If you're in the ABC crowd because of oak, butter and goopy pear flavors, then you need to go out and buy a Chablis from Domaine Bernard Defaix. This producer puts out medium bodied chardonnays with superb acid, bold minerals and freshness. And 2008 Chablis tends to be leaner and fresher than the 2007 or 2009 vintages.

This wine shows a light straw color in the glass, with tinges of green as well. When a chardonnay looks more like a sauvignon blanc in color, it's probably safe to assume it's going to be a left-wing wine. The aromas on this wine are fresh and lively. There's a rush of sea salt, followed by a burst of lemon zest and some slate. The palate is full of searing acid, so if you've got acid indigestion problems, you might want to stay away from left-wing wines like this. That said, it maintains some creaminess as well. It shows grapefruit, lime and lemon flavors, mixed in with flavors of oyster brine and sea salt. This $25 wine paired very well with a quinoa salad with a lime dressing, and it's acid and minerality helped cut through salmon. I dare you to try this chardonnay, or another that's stylistically similar, and you'll see why I frequently come to the defense of the chardonnay grape. In fact, I've poured many a Chablis for ABCers without telling them it was chardonnay. More often than not, ABCers dig Chablis. Just saying...

If you think you might fall on this side of The Chardonnay Spectrum, you might also want to keep a lookout for "naked" chardonnays. Over the past decade, these wines have seen a surge in popularity, due in large part to the immensity of overoaked, buttery chardonnays that were in vogue for many years. Naked chards are fermented in stainless stell and usually undergo minimal maloactic fermentation, leaving you with fresh, steely wines that tend to show green apple and citrus fruit flavors.

The Center
Self-described political "centrists" tend to be about as exciting as the navy blazers they wear. But centrist chardonnays demonstrate the power, intensity and balance that the wines can achieve at their pinnacle. Chardonnay is planted pretty much everywhere grapes are grown, and winemakers around the world use a variety of methods to craft chardonnays that have both refreshing acid, as well as creamy mouthfeel and integrated oak flavors. I love the richness and nuttiness of a lot of White Burgundies like Mersaults and Puligny-Montrachets for this very reason: they back up the fruit and oak with a good dose of acid. The balance of a lot of Sonoma County chardonnays can be similarly mouthwatering.

To demonstrate what I mean about the best of both worlds, I've chosen the 2008 Cameron Chardonnay "Clos Electrique." This was one of the best U.S. chardonnays I've ever had. (I rated it 96 points.) It comes from the Dundee Hills appellation in Oregon's Willamette Valley. This chardonnay is complex, bold, sexy, but also wonderfully balanced. The nose is a massive explosion of pineapple and lime juice. It kind of smells like someone poured a salty margarita on top of cotton candy. The palate shows ripe, sweet fruit, but it is by no means overwhelming. The palate is silky, creamy and alive. It has the citrus flavors of a left wing wine, but the rich honeydew, vanilla and almond flavors that remind me of some wines on the right end of the spectrum. 


Where do you fall on The Chardonnay Spectrum? If you're not sure, there's only one way to find out. Drink. It's a whole lot more fun than politics. If you know what you like, and you know what to look for, I think it's nearly impossibly to say: Anything But Chardonnay!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Northern European Beer Tour

I'll admit it, I don't know nearly as much about beer as I do about wine. But when I'm at a bar or restaurant, I usually go for a beer, preferably something local. Wine is always overpriced and usually vapid, while beer rarely disappoints. When I travel, I really get a kick out of trying local beers. So, on a recent trip to Iceland, Denmark and Germany, I tried as many different local beers as I could. The labels were sometimes hard to read, and the beer lists were frequently translated into Gobbletygook, so most of my beer selections were based on nothing more than pointing to a tap or a ordering whatever the guy next to me was drinking.

Iceland doesn't have many beers to choose from, and many of the bars in Reykjavic serve the same few selections. But what they do serve is quite good. In Copenhagen, I couldn't find a beer for less than $10 in the entire city. The dollar is worthless, apparently, so I to practically cash in my 401k to buy a draft. That said, I tried some incredible beers in Denmark. It's rare that a beer really stops me and grabs my attention, but that happened more than once while sipping beer in Copenhagen. The brown ales I had there were unbelievably good. I didn't drink as much beer in Germany, because I was there mostly for the Mosel Valley's riesling, but what I did taste was quite good. I'm not sure how many of these beers are available in the United States or other countries, but there are a few here that I will perpetually keep an eye open for. Cheers!

The Beers...

Egils Gull (draft, Iceland)
Sweet, green apple and honeysuckle flavors, mixed with a rich malty note. It has a little bit of tang, no and no bitterness. I enjoyed this beer at a place called the Cafe Paris in Reykjavic.

Kaldi Dark Lager (bottle, Iceland)
I had these two beers at an amazing little hole-in-the-wall fish and chips shack called, simply, Icelandic Fish and Chips. Fresh, beer battered cod that melts in your mouth and delicious beer... truly a great combination. The dark lager was superb and complex, with a creamy body and delicious caramel and malt flavors. The finish was full and creamy.

Kaldi Lager (bottle, Iceland)
The regular lager bottle was much lighter in body, and had much more of a bite to it. I enjoyed the pear and Granny Smith apple flavors.

Fano Vadehav Brown Ale (draft, Denmark)
My first order of business in Copenhagen, was to acquire a cold beer and a big sandwich. I found a great place called Dia Man Ten located on one of a dozen plazas beside a snaking canal. I had some sort of roast beef sandwich that seriously rocked me, but this beer was surprisingly good as well. It was a beautiful dark ruby color. The palate was bold with dark chocolate and caramel malt ball flavors. It was almost like a stout, commented my girlfriend, who, truth be told, is quite the beer aficianado. And she was right. A lovely ground coffee flavor came out on the finish. It was simply a phenomenal beer, and probably the best brown ale I've had in my life.

Ravnsborg Ale (draft, Denmark)
So, according to the translated English menu, this beer is a "brown-red ale." I don't really know what that means, but I do know that I love this beer. It reminded me a lot of an Irish red, but with more bite. It was so fresh, and had that great bitterness to it to balance it out. As far as red ales go, this is way up there, and I sure hope I can find some of this in the States.

Jacobsen Brown Ale (draft, Denmark)
I enjoyed this lovely brown ale on the grounds of the Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen. Surrounded by a moat and flower garden, it was quite a beautiful spot to enjoy a beer on a warm September day. This beer is apparently made by the Carlsberg Group. Malty, dark bread aromas. The palate is really malt-driven, with lots of dark rye bread flavors. This is so much richer and more complex than the English brown ales I'm used to drinking. The caramel and barley flavors carry onto the finish. Complex, but it maintains a freshness. If the Fano Vadehav brown ale is my favorite, this is number two.

Carlsberg Jacobsen Extra (bottle, Denmark)
I sipped this pilsner while my girlfriend walked around the Danish Design Museum. My feet were tired from roaming around the Rundetarn and half the city of Copenhagen, and this beer was a great respite. Bitter and nutty on the palate, with a very dry finish. This beer packs a punch, which I like, but it lacks complexity. It hit the spot though. Carlsberg describes this as a "luxury pilsner" brewed with German hops.

Carlsberg Pilsner (draft, Denmark)
One of my favorite go-to pilsners. Classic, as always.

Astra Pilsner (draft, Germany)
This was my first time tasting this pilsner from Hamburg. What better place to taste it than the infamous Reeperbahn. What a party town Hamburg is. I never knew it was so crazy. It's an underrated town that apparently produces a great pislner. It starts off with green apple, and leads to a strong, bitter finish, which is long. This pilsner has some love handles on it. Plus, I love this beer because its logo reminds me of the logo from one of my favorite bands, the Bouncing Souls from New Jersey.

Köstritzer Schwarzbier (bottle, Germany)
For a dark beer, this had a light auburn color. It was very hazelnut-driven on the palate, with a very creamy body. I was expecting a bit more, but this was still enjoyable.

Holsten Edel Pilsner (bottle, Germany)
My girlfriend and I drank this Hamburg beer after a full day of driving from Hamburg to Southwest Germany. It took almost twelve hours and involved several highways that dead-ended in the middle of nowhere. So I was exhausted when I finally popped this beer. After an incredibly long day of travel, this beer was like some sort of magic elixir. It was crisp and tangy, with gorgeous green apple flavors. It had a smoothness and creaminess that I don't usually get from pilsners. This was a beer to remember, and one of my favorites from the trip.

Astra URTYP (bottle, Germany)
This beer is made at the Hamburg harbor by Carlsberg, which apparently has its fingers in some Deutsche breweries as well. This pilsner had a creamy body, with lots of golden apple flavor. The bitterness is sharp, almost mouthpuckering, and carries onto the finish. I enjoyed this, but my girlfriend thought it was a little overdone.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Pilgrimage to Riesling Mecca

The Mosel Valley has long intrigued me. The geological diversity, the architecture, the culture, the history, but most of all, the wine. I've always loved riesling in all its different interpretations, but I've enjoyed Mosel rieslings most of all. During my sommelier studies, I learned the towns and vineyards by heart. So visiting the Mosel for the first time was like a pilgrimage for me. And the trip proved to be more thrilling than I'd ever imagined. The people are so real, the food so authentic, and the wines so pure. Each day I hiked through vineyards, taking in the incredible views and watching people pick grapes by hand. It was a tremendous experience, and I know that I will be back in the Mosel again soon. I wasn't able to keep track of all the wines I tried, but I did a pretty good job at keeping notes. I'm glad I did, because the wines I tasted were so diverse and exciting. Anyway... here are my notes.

The Mosel is lined with steep, beautiful vineyards.
Rieslings in the a.m.
During the Mosel harvest season, people in town seem to start drinking early. I waited until 11 a.m. before starting in on some rieslings at a wine and music festival in Bernkastel. The atmosphere was great, and the wines were too.
  • 2010 Weingut Tesch Riesling Unplugged Kabinett Trocken - Germany, Nahe (10/1/2011)
    my first riesling of the trip, and my first 2010, was a solid one. this kabinett from the nahe region (which is actually east of the mosel valley) smelled like flowers, peaches, lemon zest and a hint of cotton candy. the palate is bold, and this wine strikes me as very young. there's an intense burst of honey, pear and green apple. so fresh, so young, but so balanced. a streak of minerals comes out on the finish. i love the intensity of this wine. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Hansen-Lauer Bernkasteler Riesling Spätlese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    this riesling is actually from the Bernkasteler Matheisbildchen vineyard, which I'd never heard of. this was one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip. the aromas of golden apples, pineapple and papaya are rich and intoxicating. the creamy honey and peach flavors on the palate are pure and lush. there's an underlying salt and lime flavor, and some high acid to keep it all balanced. the finish is long and leaves the palate refreshed. this is one absolutely delicious riesling from a producer i'm glad to have discovered. (92 pts.)
Molitor-Rosenkreuz tasting
The Molitor Rosenkreuz tasting room is located just north of the beautiful Bernkastel Markplatz. My girl and I sat down for a personal tasting, and were attended to by an old man whoat noon was clearly drunk, and not just on wine. While he was downing riesling by the glass, he poured us some of the weingut's wine. It was a fun tasting, full of the man's drunken ramblings about sex and women, which my girlfriend translated for me. I'd never heard of this winery, but I think it's safe to say they use too much sulfur in their wines. The bottles had just been opened, but almost all of them showed a lot of sulfur aromas. Some of the aromas blew off with air, some did not. Still, it was a great tasting in a beautiful area. I enjoyed their Großes Gewächs a lot, and loved being able to taste several wines from Wintricher Ohligsberg, a vineyard I'd known of, but had never tried until this trip.
  • 2008 Molitor-Rosenkreuz Riesling Alte Reben trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    the first wine of the tasting was light straw colored. the nose showed a vegetal aspect, like green onion. the palate was actually much better, with green apple flavors, solid minerals and tangy acid. a solid entry level wine, but the nose throws me off a bit. (83 pts.)
  • 2005 Molitor-Rosenkreuz Wintricher Großer Herrgott Riesling trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    i loved the apricot, honey and hint of petrol aromas in this riesling. the palate is plump and oily, with hazelnut, golden apple and petrol flavors, and fresh acid. it tastes great now, but seems to have years ahead of it. (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Molitor-Rosenkreuz Wintricher Ohligsberg Riesling Spätlese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    the nose on this showed some sulfur, which didn't dissipate too much with swirling and air. there's some other aromas hiding underneath, apricot and honey, but the sulfur dominates. the palate is delicious: gorgeous honey and white peach with a streak of minerals and great acid. (84 pts.)
  • 2008 Molitor-Rosenkreuz Wintricher Ohligsberg Riesling Spätlese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    the color on this vintage was significantly darker than then 07 and 09. the nose shows lemon and hints of sulfur. it is plump and creamy with lots of fresh pineapple, honeycomb, but balanced with medium acid. this is a solid wine for under 10 euros. (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Molitor-Rosenkreuz Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Großes Gewächs trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    the aromas on this riesling are deep and intense. i got a lot of lemon and margarita salt. the palate starts off with a burst of pineapple, golden apple and buttered pear, but finishes with mouthpuckering acid. a rich apricot flavor lingers on the finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Molitor-Rosenkreuz Wintricher Ohligsberg Riesling Spätlese trocken Großes Gewächs - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    this riesling has a beautiful light gold color, with dried pineapple, circus peanuts and mango nectar aromas. the palate is gorgeous, just dripping with fruit: pineapple, apricot, papaya. enough acid to keep it balanced, but this is definitely a richer style großes gewächs. (92 pts.)

Random rieslings in Bernkastel
After the Molitor-Rosenkreuz tasting, I wandered the streets of Bernkastel, stopping at shops and bars for more riesling. I discovered some great ones. The Bernd Kilburg wines were tasted in a 400-year-old cellar that was damp, dark and beautiful. It's been there so long that there are stalagtites forming from all the water and minerals that leak down over the centuries. It was an other-worldly experience that I'll remember.
  • 2010 Bernd Kilburg Bernkasteler Kurfürstlay Riesling QbA trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    the nose on this riesling is really unique: lemons, limes, white flowers and an aroma that reminds me of Flinstone vitamins. the palate had a bit of spritz, but also som rich lemon-lime flavors. this is really tangy and extremely mineral-driven. it's delicious, and begs for shellfish. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Bernd Kilburg Brauneberger Klostergarten Riesling Spätlese feinherb - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    rich pear, honey and white flowers on the nose. the palate is plump and fruity, with delicious sweetness and solid acid. it has that 2009 vintage richness, but is very balanced as well. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Weingut Erben Karl Dillinger Bernkasteler Alte Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Spätlese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    i tasted this wine at a gorgeous tasting area in a Bernkastel square. the nose showed white raisins, white cherries and apricot. the palate shows medium sweetness and acid, with white peach, lemons and limes. low minerals, and significant sweetness, but this was a really easy-sipping, rich Spätlese. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Schmitz-Bergweiler Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Beerenauslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    i tasted this beerenauslese dessert wine at a wine shop just outside the Bernkastel Markplatz. the nose was a medley of orange rind, orange brandy and apricot. the palate was delicious, with honey, apricot jam and a hint of toffee. the acid is there to keep it fresh and balanced. delicious finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Schmitz-Bergweiler Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Eiswein - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    the aromas on this ice wine are astounding: potpourrie, lemon candy, orange blossoms. the palate is plump, rich and full of pear, cotton candy and honeycomb flavors. the acid is really surprising, leaving the palate pleasantly refreshed. what balance on this wine. i bought a bottle at a ridiculously low price. i'm glad to have found this wine and this producer, as they are clearly capable of making superb wine. (92 pts.)
Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler
I stopped into this tasting room of a producer I've enjoyed for years. The tasting room was beautiful, overlooking the Mosel River, and the woman who poured the wines was knowledgeable and helpful.
  • 2009 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Riesling - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    for an entry-level riesling priced at 7 euros, this is a superb value. fresh and lively, with lots of green apple flavors. fruity, but balanced. this is a crowd-pleaser. (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    another great riesling from this producer. aromas: very floral, peach blossoms, apricot. palate: pear skins, green apple skin, gorgeous acid, zesty finish. (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Bernkasteler Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Spätlese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    this is another example of what a good producer can do with 2010 riesling. the nose is lively and explosive with its sugar cane and green apple aromas. the palate is bold and fruity. it starts off with grapefruit and lime, then a rush of minerals sweeps in and carries to the long finish. this is a wonderful riesling to drink now, but its so dense that it will surely gain in complexity for years. (91 pts.)
Wines @ the Vinothek in Keus
This cavernous tasting cellar is a wine tourist's dream come true. I paid 15 Euros and got to run around the cellar and taste as many wines as I could stomach, which turned out to be quite a few. There were over 130 wines to choose from, so I started with the 2010 rieslings, which I was excited to try. They were very nice, as were many of the 2009s, of course. I had a blast hanging out for about three hours tasting these wines, the overwhelming majority of which come from small producers that do not export their rieslings to the United States. This tasting really showcased the quality of the 2010 and 2009 vintages, and the differences that make both vintages uniquely delicious.
  • 2010 Rainer Heil Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    i started off the tasting at the Vinothek in Keus, Germany with this dry spätlese. the aromas explode from the glass. it smells like white peach, and like fresh squeezed lemonade, along with a distinct slate aroma. this has an intriguing flavor profile of nectarine, orange peel and grapefruit. there's a bite to this that reminds me of an orange rind. the acid is fresh, and minerals linger on the long finish. delicious. (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Weingut Klostergut Himmeroder Hof Kestener Paulinshofberg Riesling Auslese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    thick legs on this auslese trocken. powerful aromas of lychee and dried pineapple. i really enjoyed the nose on this. the palate is creamy and rich, with lots of mango and apricot. slight mineral edge. it's quite thick, and a little low on the acid, or this would be a knockout. still a beautiful riesling. (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Weingut Jacob Steffen Erben Kestener Paulinshofberg Riesling Kabinett trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    what an explosive nose on this riesling: white flowers, white peach, and elegant perfume. the palate is very ripe, but balanced, and it maintains a refreshing body. there's a solid dose of chalk in this wine. the finish is long and delicious. this is really intense now, but so delicious. it will improve for quite some time, i'm sure. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Hoffmann-Simon Klüsserather Bruderschaft Riesling Spätlese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    the first 2009 of the tasting really showed the difference between the 09 and the 2010 vintage. the aromas are ripe and sweet: cotton candy and a very distinct caramel apple aroma, with some lemon to balance it out. the palate is bold and rich with apricot jam and marmalade. the minerals burst onto the stage on the finish, which is very long. a remarkable wine. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bischöfliche Weingüter Trier Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    so, this wine is made by a catholic order in trier, and i was really impressed with this effort. thick legs with caramel, toffee and pineapple on the nose. plump to start off, but it turns creamy and ends with a surprising acid. i love this nectarine and nougat-like flavor on the finish. (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    what a find. fresh peach and apricot jam on the nose. the palate is surprisingly floral. my girlfriend says it's "like drinking gardenias," and i thought that was a great assessment. medium acid with lots of apricot flavors. a shot of minerality carries onto the finish. gorgeous now, but will benefit from some time in the bottle. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Weingut 2 Freunde Spätburgunder trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    this winery seems to be a bit of a tourist gimmick, but they still produce a decent pinot noir rose. the color is very pale coper. it smells like roses and bruised strawberries. the palate shows some lively strawberry and white cherry flavors. good acid and a fun mouthfeel. this is a good picnic wine, although my girlfriend didn't like the cheese rind flavor that comes out on the finish. (83 pts.)
  • 2006 S.A. Prüm Riesling Blue Kabinett Trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    this wine was a bit disappointing. the nose shows golden apple and apricot skin. the palate shows some simple apple and apricot flavor, but it drops on the finish. overall, it's okay, but boring compared with all the other great rieslings i was tasting. (79 pts.)
  • 2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett feinherb - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    i found this off-dry riesling to be richer and delicious. the nose was full of orange fruit. the palate had a slight spritz, green apple and nectarine flavors, all backed up by minerals and acid to keep it lively. cotton candy comes out on the finish, and there's just the right amount of sweetness. for a basic level riesling, this was wonderful. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett feinherb - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    i dont' know the details, but this wine was made by winemaking students. it has a perfumed and floral nose. bright and zesty palate with orange marmalade and sweet apricot. simple, but very pleasant off-dry riesling. (85 pts.)
  • 2010 Friedrich Stork & Rarbacher Schlossberg Riesling Hochgewächs halbtrocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    bright nose of lime and sea salt. the palate has a little less acid than i like. it's bold, with almost chewy apricot fruit. still, a nice off-dry riesling, especially at less that 10 euros. (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Christoph Koenen Riesling Spätlese feinherb - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    this wine is one of many 2010s that convinces me it is a superb mosel vintage. just a hint of sulfur initially, but that blew off as the wine got some air to show spritzy grapefruit and lime. the palate has zesty acid and delicious lemon, lime and nectarine flavors, underlined by slate and chalk. sweet, but so fresh. what a buy at 8 euros! (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Weingut Becker-Steinhauer Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    oh mein gott! what an auslese. the nose is so damned sexy. lots of botyrtis aromas of honey and apricot, also sweet lychee and flowers. the palate is pure silk, with apricot, honeycomb and lychee. the acid is delicious, and keeps it perfectly balanced. the mouthfeel is superb on this wine, like honey, but easy to drink and refreshing. the slate and chalk flavors are intense and carry through on the long finish. both my girlfriend and i knew immediately that this was the wine of the day. (94 pts.)
  • 2007 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Bernkasteler Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Spätlese trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    this was good, but not as good as the 2010 i tried a day earlier. at first, the nose smelled a bit stinky, like cellar dust. it wasn't faulty, because the fruit was creamy and rich, with a nice spritz. still good, but i prefer the 2010. (87 pts.)
  • 2003 Weingut Leo Schwab Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    the nose on this auslese was reticent. some apricot, but that's about it. it's really rich on the palate, showing it's unabashed 2003 flavor profile. the acid is really low on this. it's yummy, and the nougat and honey flavors are nice. this is a great wine to have with dessert, but it doesn't have enough acid to get me too excited. (86 pts.)
  • 2010 Weingut Peter Schneider Gewürztraminer Bekonder Schlossberg - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    this was the only gewürztraminer i tried on the trip, but it was a good one. the nose smelled of lychee, white pepper and a bit of funkiness, like a hint of sweaty sock. the palate is really delicious. bouncy white peach and lychee fruit with a spritz that dances on the palate. really fun, with lots of personality. (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Weingut Hermann Grumbach Spätburgunder trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    the first red of the tasting, a pinot noir, was quite impressive. the nose was smoky and full of rawhide and stawberries. the palate shows bright bing cherries, smoke, and some oak. it's got a lot of acid as well. for 13 euros, what a solid buy. (88 pts.)
  • 2004 Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch (Erben Müller-Burggraef) Dornfelder - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/2/2011)
    dusty cherries on the nose. the palate has bitter tannins, underripe cherries, and dust and balsamic flavors. i don't think it's volatile acidity, just a bad wine. (75 pts.)
  • 2009 Ludger Veit Dornfelder trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/1/2011)
    god, what a bad german red wine. the nose smells like underripe grapes and pennies. the palate is bitter, acidic and underripe. i've accidentally crushed some grape seeds while eating them, and this wine reminds me of that extremely bitter sensation. not pleasant in any way. (61 pts.)
Drinking 2010 Rieslings in Erden
On the way out of Bernkastel, we headed north, weaving through the roads, dodging grape pickers and tractors. We passed through the heralded vineyards of Graach, Urzig, Wehlen and ended up in Erden, a quaint little town on the eastern bank of the Mosel. A harvest festival was going on, and riesling was flowing from more than a dozen tasting booths. I only tried a few, because I had to drive east through the mountains, but the wines I tasted were a real treat. The views of Erdener Treppchen are breathtaking.
  • 2010 Rebenhof Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/3/2011)
    the nose is very perfumed, also shows lemon-lime. razor-like acid on the palate. lemon rind, nectarine and intense mineral flavors. it's very powerful, and could use some time in the bottle, but it's a very good kabinett. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Bischöfliche Weingüter Trier Dom Riesling Trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/3/2011)
    this is a very aggressive style of dry riesling. the nose explodes with lemon pine sol aromas. the palate is lemon and mineral-driven, with incredibly tangy acid, and strong mineral water flavors. intense wine, but for this style, i enjoy it. (85 pts.)
  • 2010 Schmitges Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/3/2011)
    the winemaker poured this for me at a wine festival in erden. what a gorgeous spätlese. this wine has gorgeous lychee and white flower aromas. the palate is very creamy, with a wonderful mouthfeel. lychee, white peach and a bit of mango on the palate. medium acid and a huge shot of minerals on the finish, which is delicious and long. (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Weinhof Sankt Anna Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese Alte Reben - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/3/2011)
    this auslese took me by surprise as soon as i smelled it. apricot, orange marmelade and sea salt on the nose. the palate shows whipped honey, pear and golden apples. there's a seamless transition to the minerals and acid that linger on the finish. this is so well balanced. an auslese for all times and occassions. (93 pts.)
  • 2010 Schmitges Erdener Treppchen Riesling Beerenauslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (10/3/2011)
    this wine gets me excited about the 2010 dessert wines. the nose is intoxicating, with dense aromas of honey, orange blossom, lemon cream pie and a distinct spiced apple aroma. the palate oozes with rich white peach, honeycomb and cinnamon applesauce flavors. but the rich fruit is balanced with lively acid. it's crazy how a wine this dense can be so fresh. the finish is smooth and laced with minerals. (94 pts.)