Three Rieslings to believe

Grape leaf

More reviews have been written, designed and pushed down your throats on Canuck Riesling than on any other grape. What’s up with that? Quality, that’s what.
Photo: hayo/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

There are many reasons to believe in Riesling, that versatile and brutally honest grape. Riesling holds no punches, speaks its mind, tells it like it is. Grown worldwide and vinified in so many varying styles, Riesling is not so much a chameleon but rather a mutant. It takes root in every vineyard, marking its terroir, expressing itself singularly and without apology.

Canucks make Icewine from many different varieties; Vidal, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and most often, Riesling. This coming weekend the most passionate Icewine lovers will gather to get silly with Niagara’s nectar gift to the gods. The annual #icewinefest is set to begin on Friday, roll through the weekend and continue on for three more activity filled weeks. Wine Country Ontario has all the details. For more information, click here.

In 2006, a Gothamist author made a poignant call in the column A Riesling to believe. Quote, “there was so much going on in the glass that it truly captured our undivided attention.” There’s one rub. In 2012, The BC Wine Guys stated in their post, You Give Me a Riesling to Believe, “thankfully, a hand full of the original vintners in the province held to the belief that world-class Rieslings could, and would, be made in BC.” True that. Wineries of Niagara on the Lake also employs the catch phrase in their discussion on several local wineries fashioning excellent versions of Riesling, notably Between the Lines, Cattail Creek, Konzelmann and Strewn. Montreal Gazette wine columnist Bill Zacharkiw‘s more than appropriate recent rodomontade stated that 2014 will be the year of Riesling. His stance? “It’s time to spread the gospel about this glorious and misunderstood grape.”

Riesling held centre stage in this column twice last year. In the post, 100 kilometre wine for spring, there was this: “A modern-day Riesling narrative takes place less than a 100 kilometres away, along the Niagara Escarpment and above the pictorial towns of Beamsville, Jordan and Vineland.” In June, there was the Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s Riesling Experience 2013. It was there I asked the $128,000 question, “are you wine experienced?” It was also there in St. Catherines that Nik Weis of the Mosel’s St. Urbans Hof winery furtively suggested, “Riesling is better than an isotonic sports drink.”

Over the past two-four months I have exonerated and upheld with the highest Riesling belief that Canada does the variety justice above and beyond the pale, in the vineyard and in the glass. Gushing praise has been doled out to Tawse, Greenlane, Flat Rock, Angels Gate, Sperling, Hidden Bench, Thirty Bench, Rosewood, Charles Baker (Stratus), 2027, Cattail Creek, Chateau des Charmes, 8th Generation, Featherstone, Fielding Estate, 13th Street, Calamus, Cave Spring, Tantalus, Colaneri, The Foreign Affair, Hinterland, Vineland Estates, Malivoire and John Howard. More reviews have been written, designed and pushed down your throats on Canuck Riesling than on any other grape. What’s up with that? Quality, that’s what.

If there is a better place to produce Riesling than up on the Beamsville Bench and the upper reaches of the Niagara Escarpment (the Mosel in Germany notwithstanding) then I’d like to know about it. With no disrespect to the Rheingau, Pfalz, Baden, Nahe, Rheinhessen, Alsace, Wachau, Clare Valley,  Eden Valley, Marlborough or the Finger Lakes, Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula and to a lesser extent, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley should and will be making some of the planet’s finest juice.

As if the list of nearly 25 Niagara producers was not long enough, here are two more to add along with their three combined terrific Riesling interpretations.

From left: SUE ANN STAFF LOVED BY LU RIESLING 2012, SUE ANN STAFF GRACE'S DRY RIESLING 2011, and HINTERBROOK RIESLING 2012

From left: SUE ANN STAFF LOVED BY LU RIESLING 2012, SUE ANN STAFF GRACE’S DRY RIESLING 2011, and HINTERBROOK RIESLING 2012

SUE ANN STAFF LOVED BY LU RIESLING 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (322636, $16.95, WineAlign)

Perhaps camping in that gray area between a laugh and a tear, ostensibly off-dry and simple in succulence yet an undeniable stonking acidity manifests its ability for give and take. Honey, lemon, melon and yellow plum combine for fruit forgiveness, with no petrol and “I know there’s a balance, see it when I swing past.” Really terrific.  88  Tasted December 2013  @SueAnnStaff

SUE ANN STAFF GRACE’S DRY RIESLING 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (367086, $18.95, WineAlign)

Hard lemon drop sour candy, beautifully medicinal and waxy Riesling, dry yet intimating something more, something hung and harvested longer. More lemon, freshly squeezed and grapefruit too, with Alsatian promise but with a bent towards what I don’t know. Intriguing, beguiling and herbal, like a lemon balm tisane. “I know that you are strong enough to handle what I need.” Very unique Niagaran giving yet another reason to believe in the Peninsula as a dashboard confessional for Riesling prayer.  89  Tasted December 2013

HINTERBROOK RIESLING 2012, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (270512, $17.95, WineAlign)

Despite the pale hue this has body and a certain, distinct clarity. Nearly but not quite off-dry, this makes use of lake-effect for balance. There are fresh herbs, the tang of yellow plum and even an odd licorice note. Springs a full stein of mouth-watering Riesling belief, so much so that a “congregation gathers down by the riverside.” Another hymn to Riesling is sung.  88  Tasted December 2013  @Hinterbrook

Good to go!

A wine prescription for cold and flu

Resveratrol molecule
PHOTO: LISHA/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

A glass or two of wine might just be the thing to help ward off the common cold and the flu. OK, 15 minutes of daily exercise will help too. And Vitamin C, Echinacea, lemon ginger tea, chicken soup and washing your hands… and did I mention wine? Research indicates that it interferes with viral replication. Very personal hermeneutic public service announcement? Maybe. Perverse mantra of belief? Perhaps.

There are researchers and doctors who believe that certain chemical compounds in wine can help immunize the body against 100’s of common viruses. The antioxidant properties, called flavonoids, lower blood pressure and absorb harmful toxins in the body, including the nasty stuff in nasal passages. Though red wine generally contains more positive attributes like resveratrol and polyphenols (compounds that also attack bacteria), it’s effectiveness may be negated because, not unlike dairy, it can increase the production of mucus. The solution? Go white, but don’t mix it with medication.

But it’s cold outside, you say, and you don’t want to drink benumbed white wine on a frigid winter night. The esteemed NY Times wine critic once wrote, “Not so cold…doctor’s order. Good white wine shouldn’t be too cold.” The question is, what kind of white wine serves well, not so chilled. The answer lies in body, balm and colour, in opulent, canorous and warmer-hued wines. But mostly it’s about the aromatics. Look for clement whites with hyperbolic, expressive aromas. Seek out varietals such as Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Altesse, Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Scheurebe, Riesling and Chardonnay. Whites made from grapes endowed with the most exaggerated scents; of spring flowers, citrus, tropical and stone fruit.

Here are five mellow whites to seek out this week for when the mercury falls on a frosty winter’s night.

Five mellow white wines

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Formerly Macon-Farges Paul Talmard, now produced by Mr. Talmard’s daughter Mallory and son-in-law Benjamin

The lowdown: The Mâconnais may be lower down on the Burgundy totem pole but quality is at an all-time high

The food match: Roasted Butternut Squash, maple syrup, toasted pistachios

Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon-Uchizy 2010 (733956, $14.95) forsakes oak for crystalline lucidity, green apple mineral punch and a late-night pistachio snack. Considered a lamb to some by Burgundian standards, but “as the neons dim,” this Chardonnay turns “to the coat of white.” A Genesis of great #ffffff value.  88  @TalmardMallory

The grape: Roussanne

The history: 100% Stainless Steel fermented Rhône ranger out of Mendocino by way of the Parducci family

The lowdown: The rarest of VINTAGES California sightings for this Southern Rhône varietal and only 225 cases produced

The food match: Roast Halibut, tabbouleh, beet hummus,

McNab Ridge Shadow Brook Farms Roussanne 2009 (312892, $18.95) waves the elderflower wand and casts a code white spell. Florally over the top, almost violent or even combative but what’s wrong with that? Balanced by a sweet shadowfall of peach marmalade. For something other, range to this Mendocino Rhône.  89  @McNabWines

The grape: Gewürztraminer

The history: A signature bottling for founder George Weiss

The lowdown: From Okanagan vineyards in both Kelowna and Kaleden at an average of 21 Brix. Their ’11 Pinot Gris and Unwooded Chardonnay were also terrific

The food match: Za’atar Crusted Roast Chicken, saffron rice, peach preserve

Gray Monk Gewürztraminer 2011 (321588, $19.95) articulates stone fruit from white peach to nectarine and citrus from clementine to mandarin. Does lychee, rose and pink grapefruit on a quieter note. White pepper and spice (cardamom, coriander) dust this dry yet profuse specimen. If only we would see their Siegerrebe here in Ontario.  88  @GrayMonkWinery

The grape: Pinot Grigio

The history: Three generations, forty years, from Tauriano di Spilimbergo within Friuli

The lowdown: This PG comes from Collio grapes near the Slovenian border

The food match: Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Almonds and Pomegranate Seeds

Fantinel Sant’Helena Pinot Grigio 2011 (310144, $19.95) shines copper in humid hue and is both herbal and cerebral for Pinot Grigio. A dashboard confessional suggesting tarragon, sage, capers, Acacia Flower and Adriatic salinity. A portrait for “cold nights and fires and white wine,” the only gift I need, though it may not strike the faint of PG hearts.  90  @ProfileWineGrp

The Splurge

The grape: Riesling

The history: The Berres family has lived and worked in Ürzig’s vineyards since 1510

The lowdown: Late harvest Riesling at its best, in vintage, quality and price. This vineyard is the “spice garden” of Ürzig, an amphitheater formed by a dramatic bend in the river Mosel. Loved the Kabinett too.

The food match: Panko Fried Shrimp, sweet, sour and spicy glaze

C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2010 (301952, $24.95) casts a whiter shade of pale, and trips the shining, soda light fantastic. Dances the spicy fandango perversely across the tongue and after just one sip that tongue has “turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor.” Dry, saline, seltzer up the nasal passage, sweet, exotic tropical fruit past the taste buds and a lengthy held note plays on.  91  @imbibersreport

Good to go!