Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Psyched for the Summer of Riesling

Some Riesling grapes soak up the sun near the Mosel town of Bernkastel, Germany. ©IJB 
Rock on and drink Riesling! That’s the motto for the Summer of Riesling, a collaborative, season-long celebration of the world’s greatest grape. It’s a motto I fully support.

Bars and restaurants from all around the country are joining the party with Riesling-themed dinners and tasting events from June 21 through September 21. (For a list of Riesling-soaked spots in your area, click here.) These participating venues will pour three or four Rieslings by the glass all summer long, and in July at least two of those Rieslings will hail from Germany.

Why celebrate Riesling all summer long? My response is: Why the hell not? The Summer of Riesling’s web site has another explanation: “Because we must overcome this hackneyed belief that the glorious diversity of Riesling is also a fault... simply put, no grape can do what the Riesling grape can do.”

These Riesling fans are right. I love trying all different kinds of wines, but nothing tops Riesling. So, if you’re trying to beat the heat this summer, or you just want an excuse to drink great wine, why not Riesling? Of course, the Summer of Riesling is promoting the festivities using the Facebook and Twitter machines (@SummerRiesling), so it’s easy to find an event near you.

I’ll be visiting some Riesling-pouring establishments in DC this summer for sure, but I kicked off the summer a bit early with a recent Riesling tasting. Some wine nerd friends and I got together for a whole bunch of mostly German Rieslings. Demonstrating Rieslings’s diversity and aging potential, some of the wines were old, some new, some sweet, some dry. All were tasted sighted.

Here are some reasons to celebrate the Summer of Riesling (organized from oldest to youngest bottles)…

1966 Wachstum H. Schweiszthal Uerziger Würzgarten Riesling - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A bit musty on the nose, but also some nice notes of apricot, dried mango, orange rind and crushed rocks. Still going on the palate, with flavors of apple sauce, sweet tea and dried mango. Soft and reserved, but some minerals still show through. Considering this wine is almost a half-century old, I’m impressed. (86 points)

1976 Schloss Vollrads Riesling Matuschka-Greiffenclau Spätlese rosa - Germany, Rheingau
Orange-golden color. Smells like oil, apricot marmalade and wax. On the palate, chunky mango and dried pineapple meets medium acid. Caramel, wax and nougat notes add complexity. Not subtle, but yummy. Well-aged but still alive. (88 points)

1990 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese * - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Rich golden color. Smells of canteloupe, apricots and honey. Full of creamy apricot and white peach fruit. Zippy acid makes this easy to drink. Nutty, apricot jam flavors last long onto the finish. I’m generally a big fan of 1990 rieslings, and even though I liked this, I was expecting a bit more. (88 points)

2001 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mosel Saar RuwerThis Riesling is in a superb place right now. Complex, deep aromas of white peach, lime, white flowers. The palate is rich and honeyed, with apricot and caramel, but the acid never quits. Lovely mineral, lemon peel and smashed rock flavors. Long finish with the perfect amount of sweetness. Nowhere near the end of its life. (92 points)

2002 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Smells amazing: lime, dried flowers, minerals, pineapple, lamp oil. The palate is rich and full of honey and apricot, but the acid keeps it balanced. The mineral, crushed rock aspects are great, and matched with flavors of sweet caramel apple and lemon peel. Long finish. Delicious stuff. I think it’s fair to say every other person at the tasting loved this wine. (93 points)

2002 F.X. Pichler Riesling Smaragd Loibner Berg - Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
Golden apple colored. Aromas of oil, marmalade, minerals and peanut brittle. Dry with bracing minerals on the palate. The acid is a little lower than other bottles I’ve had, but it’s still there. Lots of apricot, mango and peach, backed up by earthy, spicy, tobacco notes. Seriously, I get flavors of chewing tobacco and mushroom, especially on the finish. Very unique and funky, but perhaps time to drink up. (90 points)

2004 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Love the aromas: intense flowers, peaches, pears and a hint of salt. The sweet peach, marmalade and green pear fruit is matched with live-wire acid. Delicious bruised apple and honeysuckle lingers with lots of minerals on the finish. A pleasure to drink, and I imagine this will continue to improve for years. (91 points)

2007 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Nahe
Another awesome Riesling from Schäfer-Fröhlich. Very light gold color. Aromas of lime, papaya, mango and honeysuckle. Juicy and full on the palate, with pineapple, guava and lemon meringue flavors. Medium acid and crystal clean minerals and slate balance out the sweet fruit. A riesling built for the long-haul, as this has a ton of complexity to unpack. (91 points)

2011 A.J. Adam Hofberg Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Intensely floral and fruity on the nose. Deep and complex, with pineapple, melon, slate and orange peel. Steely acid on the palate, but lots of rich fruit, especially for a kabinett. Apple cider, cinnamon and mango mix with slate and a rush of minerals. Long, focused finish. Delicious now, but this has the stuffing to age wonderfully for five to ten years without a problem. (92 points)

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