Tag Archives: summer wine

Two Entry Level Rieslings from Reputable Producers

Rheingau and Mosel: 2011 KM501 Rhein Riesling and Loosen Bros Dr L Riesling

Rheingau and Mosel: 2011 KM501 Rhein Riesling and Loosen Bros Dr L Riesling

Today I want to compare two entry level Rieslings from Germany: the 2011 Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling and the KM501 Rhein Riesling.

I know, summer is over and I should have posted this way earlier, but somehow I only got around to tasting these two wines side by side now. I’ve had the bottle of KM501 in my cellar for a bit now, and I always have a stash of Dr. Ls. I wrote about the 2010 vintage of Dr. L here.

The wines come from the two regions in Germany that have the most clout when it comes to Riesling: the Mosel valley and the Rheingau. While most of you are probably by now bored with my singing the praises of the Mosel, let me introduce the Rheingau, albeit briefly. The Rhine, which this area borders, flows pretty much straight forward North-North-West once it leaves Lake Constance at the German-Swiss border. Except for a stretch of roughly 30 kilometers beginning in my hometown Mainz. There, the Rhine takes like a 100 degree turn to the West and then flows straight West-South-West until Bingen where it does another 100 degree turn and goes North-North-West again. We call it the knee of the Rhine. If you look at the map, you know why.

The Rheingau is north of the Rhine (Map from Google Maps)

The Rheingau is north of the Rhine (Map from Google Maps)

This creates quite perfect growing conditions for the Rheingau, which sits atop the Rhine with vineyards facing straight South. In cold climate wine regions, like Germany, it is especially important for grapes to catch all the warmth they can, so south-facing vineyards are great because they get sun all day. Add in the reflection of the sun from the river that hits straight into the vineyards and warms them up and the moderate climate a river provides and things are actually pretty great…at the Mosel, it is also very common for good vineyard sites to be facing South.

While the Dr. L is made by Ernst Loosen, the KM501 is made by Balthasar Ress, a winery with a long history in the Rheingau (the family’s owned the winery since 1870). Both wines are entry level wines and made with grapes from the area, albeit not necessarily grown by  the wineries. KM501 refers to Rhine Kilometer 501 (when traveling along the Rhine you will notice signs that mark every single kilometer of the river as well as the half kilometers in between). The winery picked the name because the Rheingau starts at Rhine Kilometer 501. Both wines are made from Riesling grapes and both are from 2011, a year that saw rather good growing conditions with overall modest acidity in the grapes and therefore resulting wines. Most importantly, both wines don’t break your bank and are available for around $9 to $12 (I paid $9 for each).

2011 KM501 Rhein Riesling

2011 KM501 Rhein Riesling

We started with the KM501 Rhein Riesling. You can find more information about the wine on its American importer website here (although it seems weirdly devoid of real information). According to the label, the wine has 9.5% ABV. In the glass, a light yellow wine presented itself, with hints of green. In the nose, I got grapes and citrus, lots of citrus. Nice. On the palate, the light bodied wine tasted like white grapes, was soft, with some peach and pear and residual sugar. Acidity was mild and the wine showed a decent length finish. There were some bitter aromas at the end. All in all, a pretty solid wine in my book. Typical summer afternoon quaffer that one can down a bottle or two without a problem. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this wine.

2011 Loosen Bros Dr L

2011 Loosen Bros Dr L

We then opened the Loosen Bros. Dr. L. More information can be found here. The label noted 8.5% ABV. The wine presented itself in a slightly more intense yellow than the KM501. The nose was very fresh (I am using this descriptor again, not sure how else to describe it), with peaches and sweet pear coming in. Lovely. On the palate, the Dr. L showed more residual sugar than the KM501, with peach and apricot coming in. The mouthfeel was soft and silky, but I wished there was a bit more acidity in this. It was just a tad too sweet but still refreshing. The finish was good. I did not get any bitter notes as I did in the KM501. There was also a certain creaminess in the wine, which I enjoyed.

So here we are. Two wines, good producers, different regions. Can I taste the different regions? Not sure. I also don’t think it is likely to be able to taste different regions in these entry level wines. I think they are both well made enough and definitely worth a try if you want to see what an everyday Riesling tastes like to me. I think in the end I would go with the Dr. L because I don’t care much for bitter aromas in Riesling. Nina remarked that while the KM501 had some good notes, the Dr. L seemed to have more depth. Which I can’t really dispute…

But, bottom line: No more excuses not to try affordable, enjoyable Riesling from Germany! KM501 was available at World Market last I checked, and Dr. L is available at Trader Joe’s or Costco.

Oh, and we had them both with the Korean spicy potatoes that we love, and they both nicely held their own. So, once again: Pair Riesling with Korean food!!!

Korean braised potatoes

Korean braised potatoes

Have you had either of the wines? Or even tried them side by side? I am curious to know what you think of them…

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2011 Maxwell Creek Rosé Wine Napa Valley

2011 Maxwell Creek Rosé Wine Napa Valley

2011 Maxwell Creek Rosé Wine Napa Valley

I don’t know how things are going weather wise for you all, but Ann Arbor has finally had a few sunnier days and temperatures have begun to rise. All this lured me into craving a rosé (or blush) wine. I have a weak spot for Rosés. Always had. While growing up, one of my favorite wines was a Portugieser Weißherbst made by my winemaker friend Pitt Zimmermann in my hometown. Portugieser is the grape, and Weißherbst is a German denomination for a rosé wine that is made from just one grape variety and from one single vineyard. I loved that wine: It was always served very cold, was quite sweet and always hit you with strawberries all over the place.

Over the years, it has become a bit too sweet for my taste buds, but when home I still enjoy a glass or two of this wine. Let’s call it one of the gateway drugs…

For those not familiar with Rosé, it is a wine made from red grapes. Unlike red wine, the pressed must does not sit on the skins and stems for long (or at all). Since the color in red wine comes from the skin, and the juice is white just like in a white grape, this leads to just slight discoloration in the wine, hence the name rosé (or blush). Many regions produce these wines, and there are some general rules: Rosés from Southern France tend to be the most dry of all Rosés. Very dry are usually also the Spanish wines of that kind. American and German Rosés tend to be sweeter, with more residual sugar. To me, there is a place for both. While the Southern European versions are great food companions, I actually enjoy a bit of residual sugar in terrace or garden slurpers, when I have the wine on its own.

I bought four of these bottles of Maxwell Creek during a flash sale on Wines Till Soldout and this was the first of the four I opened. I paid $9 per bottle, I believe. “Maxwell Creek Cellars” is located in Rutherford, California. A bit of research showed that it is not a “proper” winery, but rather a filler of wines apparently serving as a second label to sell off overcapacity. The great news about that is that it is usually produce from good wineries just sold under a generic name which comes with a steep cut in price. I was unable to unearth much more about this wine or label, so if you know more please let me know in the comments section!

The wine had 13.7% ABV. Winehoarder declares that the grape varieties used in the wine are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot.

First off, I have to say I LOVED the color of the 2011 Maxwell Creek Rosé. It was a darker red that I associate with strawberries. I so love that color and prefer it over the more salmony or orange looking rosés. The nose was very fruity, just what I wanted and had hoped for: strawberries, gooseberry and peach, some water melon. Really draws you in if you like fruit-forward aromas. On the palate, the wine was quite light-bodied, with good acidity and some tannin giving it body. To me, peach and cream flavors dominated, later gooseberry coming in. It also reminded me of one of the ubiquitous blends in Germany of sparkling wine and vineyard peach liqueur (just without the bubbles). There was some slight bitterness in the finish, which I think might come from the pretty high alcohol level, which overall led to an unbalanced wine. Nina remarked that for her, the wine was too sweet in the middle section and then not good enough at the end. I thought that was a pretty good explanation of what is going on. There is definitely some sweetness to this wine which many will probably not appreciate. The finish overall is disappointing.

But what can I say? The wine was not impressive or anything special (except for the nose). However, I think this is another example of a wine I only want to drink on a summer afternoon, sitting in the sun. And then it will hit all the right notes and all the right points. It was definitely not the right day to open this bottle with the 45-50 F we are having right now. But I am happy that I have three more bottles to open this summer.

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Trader Joe’s Espiral Vinho Verde – my idea of summer wine

Man, I have made my find of the summer! With heat like we have had those last weeks, there is nothing like a well chilled down white wine. Even better if the people who make it know what heat means. And in vinho verde country, that is Northern Portugal, they sure do…I am even willing to forgo my riesling snobbishness for this.

I first came across vinho verde (literally green wine) through my good friend Nair, who comes from the beautiful town of Porto, and whose father happens to own a winery along the Douro river. Whenever he came to visit, he would bring bottles over bottles of vinho verde and his house red. All bottles unlabeled. He also brought gallons of olive oil that they produce, so Nair also distributed that among us, because she is a great friend! (And we threatened her if she did not give us some…)

Vinho verde is to be drunk young, and it usually is still a bit fizzy. It is dry, but remains fruity, usually lower in alcohol content which makes it easy to enjoy in the heat. Those memories made us pick a bottle from Trader Joe’s display two weeks ago. At $4.49 there is not much one can do wrong we thought. And nothing wrong with it there was!

We have made several runs to TJ’s in the last weeks to stock up because we are constantly running out of it. I think it is just what summer should taste like: In the glass you get a light colored, depending on the bottle more or less fizzy wine. The nose is full of fresh apple and pear and some fresh grass. When you try it, it is a dry wine, but not too dry. The fruitiness is amazing, but the acidity gives you that refreshing race over your tongue. At 9% ABV there is also nothing to worry about.

Simply put: It is delicious. And at that price, it is a steal! So, better pick some up while the heat lasts, and TJ’s supplies do as well…I for one am sure that I will make a couple more runs in the not too distant future….

If you’re not in Trader Joe’s country, go and pick up some other vinho verde. Chances are that it won’t be too expensive, fruity and fresh, and just be the right thing on a hot summer’s day! Just make sure you drink it well, well chilled.

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