Wine

I have begun to enjoy wine, and in particular, I have become a fan of German Riesling. Below are some notes that I have also posted on my blog and the wine community website Vine Catcher.

Wine at Restaurants – 11 January 2008

I’ve had a glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling with dinners at restaurants on a couple of occasions. Now that I have developed more of an interest in wines, I find it somewhat annoying that the wine list at most mid-priced restaurants provide so little information about the choices.

At Mimi’s Cafe tonight, they only listed the producer and varietal… So I asked to see the bottle! It turns out that the Riesling they offered is the 2006 Columbia Valley Riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle. According to their website, it was rated 86 points by Wine Spectator. Davidson’s has it priced at $7.99, the same as the Saint M that I like. It was $5.95 for the glass, which seems about average for restaurants…

I thought that the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling was a very nice wine, although perhaps not as interesting as the Saint M… It had a light fruit aroma, and a light gold color. It had a subdued mineral component, with subtle fruit component, hints of pear, apple and melon. There was a slight sweetness, offset by a mild acidity… Overall, not quite as intense as most of the German Rieslings that I had tried. Would I get it again? Certainly! The Chateau Ste. Michelle seems to be frequently offered at restaurants. It was definitely good enough to get again. At Mimi’s Cafe tonight, I had their Diablo center cut pork chops, which paired with the Riesling very nicely.

I’ve also had a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling at the Elephant Bar, with their MisoYaki Grilled Salmon. I’m guessing that it was also the Columbia Valley…

The last time we were at Applebee’s, they had just revised their menu and wine list. This seems to happen about every six weeks, or about every time that we go there… They no longer offered a Riesling, so I settled for the Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio. I wasn’t terribly impressed with it… It seemed lacking in any discernible flavor, like most of the Chardonnay that I’ve had.

In December I was at C.B. & Potts with some co-workers, and tried the Black Swan Riesling from Australia. I think that Davidson’s sells the Black Swan Riesling for $5.99, which is probably about what it cost for the one glass that I had at the restaurant! It also seemed pretty flat… I wouldn’t have guessed it to be a Riesling if I didn’t know that was what it was…

I haven’t posted reviews of any of these on Vine Catcher since I had so little detail about what they were. Perhaps I’ll post something on the Chateau Ste. Michelle, since I know what it was…

Batch or Bottle Variation – 10 January 2008

One of my favorite inexpensive Rieslings over the past few months has been the 2006 Saint M, from a joint venture with Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington, with Dr. Loosen in Germany. My local wine shop, Davidson’s, carries the Saint M for $7.99, which I think is a great value. I’ve had a bottle of Saint M on hand the last couple of times that I’ve done wine tastings, so I’ve been able to compare it with a number of other German Rieslings. The Saint M has come out better than several other wines that are twice as expensive. I know, I should stop equating the cost of the wine with the “quality.” I still expect that better wines would cost more, so I have higher expectations from more expensive wines, but am pleasantly surprised when I find a really enjoyable wine for less than $10. The Saint M has hit that spot for me. Its light and refreshing, with a subdued sweetness, balanced with a tartness and acidity that makes it interesting. There is no one aspect that seems overwhelming. Nice by itself, but also goes well with light foods…

In fact, one of our typical Friday night routines is a late dinner, after my daughter gets done with dance class, stopping by Panda Express on our way home for take-out. Their signature “Orange Chicken” or “Thai Chicken” goes great with a Riesling like the Saint M. Slightly spicy/tangy food like Oriental is balanced with the sweetness of the wine – a great combination, at a great price!

Anyway, back to the topic… Last weekend I picked up a Saint M, which I intended to keep for a wine tasting with my neighbor Steve. We’re going to compare some of the less expensive German Rieslings head to head, and wanted to include the Saint M. Well, I couldn’t wait, so I opened it early, since we weren’t able to meet up over the weekend. I was really disappointed with the Saint M! Instead of the nice balance that I expected, it was more tart than usual, and seemed to be lacking the sweetness… Looking at the back label, I noticed that the last two sets of the “A.P. Number” that indicate the batch and year the wine was bottled were different than the others that I’ve had… I think that all of the other bottles of Saint M 2006 that I’ve had ended with “01 07” but this bottle was an “08 07” so it was apparently a different batch. I am sure that this isn’t all that unusual, but its the first time that I’ve experienced this firsthand…

I was out tonight, and stopped at Davidson’s for another bottle of wine. I checked the bottles of Saint M on the shelf, and was happy to discover that they were again ending with “01 07.” So happy, in fact, that I bought two, so that I could open one, and save one for the tasting/comparison with Steve this weekend…

While I would expect to be able to detect differences between vintages, I was surprised that there was this much difference between two batches from the same year…

Christmas Eve Wine Tasting – 03 January 2008

On Christmas Eve, we had a wine tasting with our neighbors, Steve and Diane Porterfield. Steve is the one who introduced us to the German Rieslings, so it was fun to do a tasting with him. Steve and I had gone to Davidson’s over the weekend, where we each picked up 2-3 bottles. I had a Saint M already open, so we had a total of six wines to compare. We had an array of appetizers while we tried the wines, including a variety of fresh sausages (sweet Italian pork, Cajun chicken, chicken and apple, and Polish pork) from Sunflower Farmer’s Market, Italian meatballs, Buffalo wings, chips with various dips, and a fresh vegetable tray. Here is what we tried:

Dr. Loosen 2005 Blue Slate Riesling – Mosel Saar Ruwer

Blue Slate Riesling comes entirely from steep blue slate vineyards in the Mosel valley. These vineyards are noted for their delicate aromas and vivacious personalities, which are quintessential expression of the Mosel. Blue Slate Riesling, made in the classic, off-dry style.

Qualitätswein – Produce of Germany
Produced and bottled by Dr. Loosen D-54470 Bernkastel/Mosel
A. P. Nr. 3 576 162 1306
Imported by Loosen Bros. USA Ltd. Salem, Oregon
Alcohol 8.5%
Price: $12.99

Tasting Notes:

Had a good balance of sweetness and acidity, slightly sweet, fairly light body, with a discernible citrus note. This wine was very smooth. I think that it compares well with the Mönchhof Mosel Slate, which has been my favorite, especially at 2/3 the price!

Steve said: “A blast of sweetness carried by a burst of tangy citrus to a lovely finish…”

This was Steve’s favorite of the night, and my (close) second favorite. This was Jeannette’s favorite as well. I liked it enough to buy another bottle for New Years’s Eve. The only drawback was that the champagne we opened at midnight was disappointing compared to this lovely Riesling!

Wegeler 2003 Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spätlese – Rheingau

In 1882 Julius Wegeler established the Wegeler Family Estates which are now operated in the fourth generation. Know-how, garnered in over a century both in the cellar and vineyard evolved a winemaking philosophy that strives to produce great Rieslings that reflect the signature of both estate and vineyard.

Weingüter Wegeler – D-65375 Oestrich-Winkel
Rheingau – Qualitätswein mit Prädikat
Gutsabfüllung A.P. Nr. 002902401104 – Produce of Germany
Imported by Cellars International, Inc.
San Marcos, CA 92069 USA
for Rudi Wiest
Alcohol 8.0%
Price: $12.99

Tasting Notes:

Had a nice heavy body, full of citrus flavors, loads of sweetness, with a definite mineral bite. Had a bit of a “sour apple” tart finish. This also compares well with the Mönchhof Mosel Slate, like the Dr. Loosen Blue Slate. This may become my new favorite! (I’ve already bought another bottle…)

Steve said: “A bold mineral presence mixed with a subdued sweetness and tartness with a short, fading finish.”

I ranked this as my favorite of the night, and Steve placed it second. I liked the heavier body, but Steve thought it was too heavy!

Saint M 2006 Riesling – Pfalz region

Bottled by Villa Wolf property of Ernst Loosen for Chateau Ste. Michelle
Qualitätswein – Product of Germany – Bottled by D-RP 142 463 in D-07231134
A. P. Nr. 5 142 463 01 07
Shipped and imported by Chateau Ste. Michelle, Woodinville, WA, USA
11% alcohol
Price: $7.99 from Davidsons

Tasting Notes:

Light gold color, medium body. slightly sweet, off dry, a bit of a tart/acidic finish. A well balanced combination of sweetness, tart apple, mineral and acidity.

Steve said: “A smooth, almost halbtrocken combination of mineral, sweetness, citrus, well balanced yet light and very tasteful.”

Both Steve and I ranked this as our third pick of the night. We enjoyed the Saint M more than the Flying Ace, Rosch or Detonation, and the Saint M is considerably less money!

Josef Rosch 2005 Halbtrocken Liewen Klostergarten

(Need to get the details from the label)
Price: $16.99 at Davidsons

Tasting Notes:

A sharp attack of mineral and acid, with a tart finish. Not as well balanced as the other wines we tasted. Disappointing for the price point.

Steve said: “A halbtrocken with a smooth balance yet stronger on mineral strength, lesser on sweetness and citrus. Medium finish – not remarkable.”

Both Steve and I ranked this in fourth place, after the Saint M. For the same money, I would buy two bottles of the Saint M instead of buying this again.

Flying Ace 2006 Riesling – Rheingau

The Red Baron was the original Top Gun, known for his skill and courage. Flying Ace is a deftly made half-dry Riesling from the land where this grape reigns supreme. Flavors of golden delicious apples mingle with ripe peaches and tangerine, followed by a refreshingly crisp finish. This is a versitile, food-friendly Riesling that can pair with poultry dishes, salads, and Asian cuisine. Prost!

A.P. NR. 3107102307
Qualitätswein – White Wine – Product of Germany
Bottled by Weingut Karl-Joh. Molitor
65346 Eltville-Hattenheim
Alcohol 11%
Imported by Magellan Wine Imports, Inc.
Centennial, CO 80122
Price: $12.99

Tasting Notes:

Overwhelming sour apple flavors, strong mineral component, no discernable sweetness, very flat finish…

Steve said: “A definite halbtrocken not withstanding, fair balance of mineral, sweetness and citrus. A half finish as well…”

We both ranked this wine as our fifth pick, although neither of us expect to buy this again…

Batterieberg 2006 Detonation Riesling – Rheinhessen

Housed in a 1,000 year-old castle, the estate of Batterieberg (Cannon Hill) takes its name from its vineyard that was created in the 19th century by blasting away a mountainside with dynamite. The blasting echoed like 100 cannons in the valley and revealed the pure blue slate that the vines grow in today. Detonation Riesling pays homage to the vineyard created with dynamite.

Qualitätswein – White Wine – Product of Germany
A. P. Nr. 1 907 133 190 07 – Bottled by D-RP 907 133 in D-07 135 092
Shipped by Weinhaus C.A. Immich-Batterieberg, D-56850 Enkrich
Imported by Magellan Wine Imports, Inc.
Centennial, CO 80122
Alcohol 11%
Price: $11.99

Tasting Notes:

Sharp mineral bite, lacking discernible sweetness, lacking balance. Perhaps too dry for my taste? Very disappointing for the price.

Steve said: “Subdued mineral tastes blended with sweetness, absent of citrus, no real finish”

We both ranked this as our last pick. Certainly, for the money, I would rather spend an extra dollar or two for the Dr. Loosen or the Wegeler, or even save a few bucks and get the Saint M, which is more enjoyable. This is not a wine that I would expect to buy again, and it may steer me away from other Batteriebergs, although their higher end wines are well rated… Perhaps I’ll have to try another sometime…

I finished this bottle over the days following our tasting, and it seemed to improve a bit… Perhaps it needed to breathe a little, or perhaps our palettes were overwhelmed by the Dr. Loosen or Wegeler Spätlese that we tasted first? I still didn’t like this as well as the Saint M, so it didn’t change my opinion much… Perhaps enough to tie with the Rosch?

Conclusions:

As I have developed a taste for German Rieslings, and gained some exposure to different producers and regions, I have come up with some criteria for rating them. First, do I enjoy the wine, and find it interesting? Is it good enough that I would like to have it again? Then, do I like it more than other wines in the price range? If I don’t like it more than another wine that is the same price, or less, then I wouldn’t rank it highly. So, the first cut is a pass/fail test: would I buy it again? Next question is would I spend more money for this wine that another that I like?

I noted our rankings in the notes above. The top three wines all make the cut – I would definately buy them again. In fact, I already have! The lower three wines definately fail that test – I would certainly NOT buy any of them again.

Ranking the top three picks by the second criteria is perhaps a bit more difficult. Since October, my absolute favorite Riesling has been the Mönchhof Mosel Slate, which is about $18 a bottle locally. Both of the top two from this flight are about $13 each. I definitely like them as well as the Mönchhof, and since they are about 30% less expensive, I’d have to say that I expect to buy the Dr. Loosen Blue Slate or Wegeler Spätlese more frequently than the Mönchhof. The Saint M has been one of my preferred wines for “everyday” (or in my case, weekend). It goes nicely with food or by itself, and at $8 is easy to afford.

This tasting was interesting for several reasons. Most of the Rieslings that I’ve had so far have been from the Mosel region. This time we included Rheinhessen and Rheingau regions as well as the Saint M from Pfalz. Also, most of the Rieslings I’ve had before this were QbA or Spätlese, where several of these wines were “halbtrocken,” the German term meaning “half-dry.” I think that both Steve and I came to conclusion that neither of us like the halbtrocken styles. If you prefer a dry white wine, then you might enjoy the Flying Ace, Rosch, or Detonation more than we did. Also, I think that both of our wifes like the sweeter wines better, which means that we wouldn’t get into so much trouble buying them, as long as we share! 😉

Wine Tasting 25 Nov 2007 – 28 December 2007

Ok, so this is a little bit late, but I thought that I would copy and paste my notes here for completeness… On 25 Nov 2007 we had a wine tasting with my folks, who were visiting for Thanksgiving. We had three wines, all German Rieslings:

Saint M 2006 Riesling – Pfalz region

Bottled by Villa Wolf property of Ernst Loosen for Chateau Ste. Michelle
Qualitätswein – Product of Germany – Bottled by D-RP 142 463 in D-07231134
A. P. Nr. 5 142 463 01 07
Shipped and imported by Chateau Ste. Michelle, Woodinville, WA, USA
11% alcohol
Price: $7.99 from Davidsons

Tasting Notes:

Light gold color, medium body. Slightly sweet, off dry, a bit of a tart/acid finish, nice balance… I’ve bought this several times, and find that it compares well against German Rieslings costing double! This is a very nice wine for “everyday” with casual dinners, or just sipping on its own.

Schmitges 2006 Riesling Qualitätswein

Gutsabfüllung – AP NR 25820711007
Estate Bottled by Weingut Andreas Schmitges D-54492 Erden
Product of Germany – Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Imported by Magellan Wine Imports, Inc. Centennial, CO 80122
11% alcohol
Price: 15.99 from Davidsons

Tasting Notes:

Pale straw color, medium body, some spritz when poured. Smooth, well balanced, crisp, tart finish

Mönchhof (Robert Eymael) 2005 Mosel Slate Riesling Spätlese

The Mönchhof estate was founded in 1177, and today is managed by Robert Eymael. This Mosel Slate Spätlese was selected from the famous Erden Treppchen vineyard. The vineyard consists primarily of grey-blue slate which produces elegant wines with a crisp and refreshing acid structure.

Weingut Mönchhof – Robert Eymael
D-54539 Ürzig/Mosel Gutsabfüllung A.P. Nr. 2602 029 004 07
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat – Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Imported by Cellars International, Inc.
San Marcos, CA 92078 USA
for Rudi Wiest
Produce of Germany
8% alcohol
Price: $17.99 from Davidsons

Tasting Notes:

Pale color, medium body, some spritz, smooth, noticeably sweet, good balance with acidity, nice finish This was the wine that we served for Thanksgiving dinner.

Conclusions:

Of these three, Jeannette liked the Saint M best. Both Mom and Rich preferred the Schmitges as their first pick. I would have placed the Schmitges second, as I preferred the Mönchhof Mosel Slate.

I had served the samples in 2 oz. plastic tasting cups, which were poured about 30-45 minutes before we were able to taste. Rich commented the next day that the Mönchhof tasted much better with dinner then it had the previous night. I’m wondering if the Mönchhof didn’t sit well in the plastic cups? I think that I may avoid using the tasting cups in the future, and stick to regular glass wine glasses!

All three of these are wines that I would buy again.