Tag Archives: white 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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1997 St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Spätlese

1997 St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Spätlese

1997 St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Spätlese

Some of you may recognize the iconic black label of St. Urbanshof, because I have previously written about a wine from this winery, a wine I really like. This one however, a St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Spätlese, does take us back a couple of years (1997, the year in which I finished my alternative military service, the year in which I first moved to Trier to take up my studies, and oh did I hate Trier and Mosel valley at the time for being forced to go to my fourth choice school despite very good grades…but I digress). I need to write a somewhat longer introduction on this one…bear with me.

When Nina and I visited Germany last year, we naturally spent time with our wonderful friend, my wine mentor and former Korean teacher ManSoo (you have heard that name often enough by now). During our long, delicious dinner, he was gracious and kind enough to open many bottles of Riesling, among which were a just degorged 1992 Riesling champagne and this bottle of wine, a 1997 Scharzberg from St. Urbanshof. The wine had, as all wines do, a history: ManSoo had laid hands on some of these bottles through the president of Saar-Mosel-Winzer Genossenschaft, a cooperative that mostly makes Sekt, the German champagne, but also other wines. If I remember correctly, the president told ManSoo that he found several cases of this wine in the deep cellars of the cooperative. The wine label bears a special imprint that shows a bird and reads “Singapore Duty Not Paid – Not for Sale”. What the heck? Well, turns out that this particular wine was bought by Singapore Airlines to be served in first class service in the late 1990s, early 2000s and it was a special bottling. Apparently, Singapore Airlines had not taken all of the bottled wines, so some ended up, for whatever reason, in the cooperatives cellars….and now ManSoo got a couple of bottles.

We tried the wine back in June 2012 and really liked it. And I had firm plans to write about it, but to this day I have been unable to unearth the tasting notes from that evening….usually a sign that I had a tremendous time, but also quite unnerving!

Fast forward to May 2013. Friends of ours are heading to Denmark for a wedding and have the idea that maybe ManSoo could send them 12 bottles of Riesling for them to take home, because they love Riesling. So I contact ManSoo, tell him to send a package to Denmark, give him an idea of the price per bottle, and tell him “you know what we like”. Which was horribly unclear and naturally ManSoo assumed that the wines were for Nina and I. So he decided to ignore my pricing ideas and packed a box of very much more expensive wines than anticipated. When my friends posted photos of the contents, I almost screamed out at the screen! We were able to rectify the situation by them bringing the wines, and us exchanging them for wines more in their price range that we already had here….

This box, besides many treasures that I intend on sharing with you as we progress, contained a bottle of this wine, the 1997 St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Spätlese. Some of you might know that I am very fond of the vineyard Scharzhofberg. Notice the -hof- which differentiates that vineyard from the current bottle. It is confusing, and I believe it was designed to be confusing. The 1971 German wine act created 160 vast tracts of land under vine (so called Großlage) which received certain names which any winemaker who produced wines from that area could use. Some of them might sound familiar to you: Kurfürstlay, Michelsberg, Schwarze Katz, Domherr, Gutes Domtal and Rehbach, to name a few. Let me be clear: Winemakers were allowed to use these names for grapes that come from anywhere in that vast area. It is the opposite of terroir idea or single vineyard denominations, although it sounds like a single vineyard denomination…

The name Scharzberg is awfully close to Scharzhofberg, and one can only surmise that it was chosen to make sales easier because of that proximity in name. It is rare that one finds the name of the Großlage on a bottle from a renown producer. Usually, they put the single vineyard on there or, if they don’t, they do not even bother to put the Großlagen name on there and just sell it as a regional or even German table wine. Why did they do things differently on this one? I don’t know…but it is noteworthy.

After this long introduction, let me get to the wine which we shared with the carriers of the box it came in last week. The cork was dried out and very crumbly. I cursed myself for not having brought my two-prong bottle opener, which would have dealt with this situation. As it was, I had to crumble out what I could, and then push the last bit into the bottle. We then poured the wine through a very fine sieve into a decanter, where we let it sit for about 15 minutes.

It poured in a honey-tinged yellow with hints of green in the glass (it looked much more golden in the decanter). Great color. In the nose, the first thing I noticed was a vibrant acidity. There was also petrol, which I expect in a Riesling this age (not necessarily in a young Riesling, mind you!). There were also some honey aromas, but the most prominent for me was tangerine. The wine smelled quite citrussy, I noted down lemon rind and some butter aromas. One of our friends remarked that it smelled like kumquat to him, and I think that nails it: it was a tad more bitter than tangerine, so kumquat definitely made sense. The nose was just beautiful. There was so much going on, and it had this vibrant freshness to it, despite the cork disaster that made me cringe. On the palate, the wine was light bodied with great acidity, and I mean that, just  a backbone of great acidity. The residual sugar did its job of balancing the acidity beautifully. The wine tasted incredibly fresh, was very creamy (something I usually associate with Scharzhofberger). Fruit-wise I got gooseberry, petrol, white currants, tangerine and some slight vanilla. The wine’s finish was rather shortish.

It was a great wine. So fresh, so well held up. It brought some silence around the table, while everyone was pondering it and comprehending it. I was glad we got to share it with our friends, who are both Riesling nuts and are able to appreciate a good bottle of Riesling. But then again, I seriously believe this bottle would have impressed anyone, even the fiercest Riesling hater. It made me remember the dear friendship that brought the wine to me, and it brought memories of the night I first tried it. It made me feel damn lucky. This wine is not available anywhere for sale as far as I know, and yet I have been able to try it twice already. I’m a lucky bastard, I know…Oh, and thank you Singapore Airlines for never picking up all the bottles!

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Oenophilogical: Dry Creek Fumé Blanc 2011

Somewhere, beyond the Sea

Somewhere, beyond the Sea

For this instalment of my summer guest blogging series “Somewhere, Beyond the Sea” I am very happy to present you with the work of Joe, who runs the wine blog Oenophilogical. Joe has captured my attention with his focus on affordable wines (something I care about deeply) and his concise and well written tasting notes. Joe also shares my love for Rieslings and even has tried some other, more obscure German grapes. As we explored what he wanted to write for this series, he was the one that most surprised me with his idea. I hope you like it as much as I do. Thanks, Joe!

Dry Creek Fum Blanc 2011

Is it possible to sail a dry creek and end up somewhere over (beyond) the sea?  Yes, indeed!  The first and most important thing you have to do, of course, is find the right place to begin – the right dry creek.

That would be Dry Creek Vineyard where the flagship (their wording, not mine) white wine is a Fumé Blanc.  Gracing the label of that refreshing wine is a beautiful picture of a sailboat.  Why is there a beautiful picture of a sailboat on that bottle of wine?  Well, first it’s important to note that Dry Creek isn’t dry – not really.  It’s an active stream in California that runs through the counties of Mendocino and Sonoma – stopping off at Lake Sonoma – and then continuing on it’s way past Dry Creek Vineyard to the Russian River.

You should also know that the folks from Dry Creek Vineyard are sailing enthusiasts.  In fact, Dry Creek Vineyard is the official sponsor of several major sailing regattas around the U.S.  Because of their passion for sailing, they have been putting sailboats on their wine labels since 1984 which has earned them the moniker “the wine for sailors.”  They see similarities and a kind of symbiosis in a love for both good winemaking and sailing.  Here’s how they put it. Winemaking and sailing actually have a lot in common.  Like winemaking, sailing is fun, adventuresome and romantic.  Like sailing, the art of winemaking demands the skill, discipline and determination of a group of people committed to the same goal.  Sailing and winemaking are a study in choreography and teamwork – each person contributing something essential to the ultimate success or failure of the team. Now, I had read about the Dry Creek “wine for sailors” and decided I wanted to try one.  I have to admit that I’m not a sailor.  The only sailing I’ve done was in a Sun Fish on a lake at a camp I went to for two summers when I was a boy.  And yet I find many images of sailing to be beautifully majestic and calming while at the same time redolent of excitement, exploration, and exploits.  I have two prints of paintings by Winslow Homer that have hung alternately in my offices and my home over the years that have brought me much joy.  So I wanted to sample one of those wines. The Dry Creek wines aren’t sold at all the stores in my area.  Very few, as it turns out.  So I had to undertake a little adventure of my own in searching for this selection.  To my surprise, I found the last store I visited (Calvert Woodley) in the throes of a major sale on white wines.  They advertise these things, of course, but I just can’t keep up the way I’d like to.  Anyway, it must have been the winds of fate that blew me into the store at that very moment.  You see, they only had one bottle of the Dry Creek Vineyard 2011 Fumé Blanc left in stock when I arrived.  And I got it!  It had to be kismet. Having secured my treasure, I took it home with me to be opened and enjoyed as a reward for my dogged determination.  Here is what I recorded in my “ship’s log” about the wine. Winemaker:  Dry Creek Vineyard Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc 11bWine:  Fumé Blanc Vintage:  2011 Appellation:  Sonoma County, CA Price:  $12.99 Notes:  This Dry Creek signature white is light yellow with a green tinge.  On the nose I found a peach-o-rama.  Seriously, there was copious peach scent in the bouquet.  It was appropriately light on the tongue with very bright acidity.  On the palate I found white peach, lime, and honey with pear and floral notes.  The finish had a grassy bracing zing.  It was a dry white, and the label confirmed that with an alcohol content of 13.5%.  I thought it was very enjoyable.  I could absolutely imagine pairing this Fumé Blanc with a nice grilled fish or shrimp dish. I have to thank The Winegetter for his challenge to write a post on – about, around, through, for, from – the theme “Somewhere Beyond The Sea.”  This post answers that call to the best of my ability.  I was very honored that he would invite me, among others, to share a guest spot on his blog this summer. Finally, drinking my “wine for sailors” and looking at the sailboat depicted on it’s label brought me daydreams of distant beaches, warm breezes, and idyllic surroundings.  And it inspired me.  Perhaps because The Winegetter was, himself, inspired to the theme for this blog series by the well-known Frank Sinatra tune “Somewhere Beyond The Sea,” I was moved to write a song.  For better or worse.  Ha!  The goal of the song is to celebrate some of the thoughts and feelings that I associate with sailing, adventuring and the allure of the sea.  My tune is called “Somewhere Over The Sea.”  I’ve included a home-brewed demo of the song below.  I’m not expecting a Grammy nomination for this, but I do hope folks enjoy listening to it.

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