Friday, October 24, 2014

Texas Two-Step from the Dancing Bee Winery

About a year ago I visited the Dancing Bee Winery and Meadery.  It's roughly 80 miles north-east of Austin and part of the San Gabriel Wine Trail.  (See Mead 101 and the Dancing Bee Winery).  I bought a bottle of what I considered their most interesting wine, and I'm drinking it tonight in honor of Texas Wine Month.  This wine-mead combo is technically called a Pyment, which means it's made from honey (like mead) as well as grapes -- in this case 60% honey and 40% Merlot.  (This bottle lists Merlot as the grape, but my notes from the winery say Tempranillo.  Either I wrote it down wrong initially, or they were in the process of changing the blend.)  Let's see how this bottle fared over the last year...

Appearance:  Deep brick red.  More brownish in color than most red wines (at least young ones), due to the honey.

Nose:  Aromas of cherry, plum, honey, and toffee.

Palate:  Dry, with barely a hint of sweetness, but not enough to be called off-dry. Flavors of ripe red fruits, honey, and a nice earthy quality. Moderate acid and surprisingly strong tannin.  13.8% abv

On one hand, Texas Two-Step is a unique experience.  On the other hand, it might not taste as unusual as you'd expect, given the ingredients.  Despite being made from 60% honey, it still tastes mostly like red wine, and is well balanced.  The honey in the mix accomplishes 3 main things: adds flavor, adds a touch of sweetness, and makes the red wine ultra smooth.  I think the combination is pretty successful and easy to drink.  Make sure you chill it for a few minutes. 

Mead is an occasional thing for me, so I can't see myself drinking this on a regular basis.  However, I think it's a must-try for wine geeks.  And anyone who finds many red wines too harsh and wants one that is super, ultra smooth, could fall in love with this.

As far as I know, the only place in Houston to buy this at the moment is at the downtown Spec's, where it costs about $16.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Ultimate Guide to 24 - now 27! - Pumpkin Ales in Houston

(As I try more pumpkin ales, I'm continuing to add to the list...)

About this time every year, I become obsessed with all things pumpkin, especially pumpkin ales. So I decided to try all the ones I could find, rate them, and create my own definitive guide. All of these pumpkin ales were purchased in the last month or so in the Houston area. Is it just me, or are there a lot more pumpkin ales than there used to be?

These pumpkin ales range from almost pale, to amber, to stout.  I included pictures for most, so you can see the color.  Although I'm not a cider drinker, there are several pumpkin ciders available, and I picked the one I found most interesting to throw into the mix.

I should confess my personal prejudices about pumpkin ales:  I prefer them to be rich and smooth, malty more than hoppy, and with lots of pumpkin and spice flavor, so my ratings reflect that.

The list is grouped by my personal star rating. In my house we use the Ebert Scale of 0-4 stars, which, when applied to beer, looks like this:

0 stars - Is this even beer?
* - awful
** - kinda bad
** 1/2 - almost good, but has some flaws (probably wouldn't buy it again)
*** - good (would buy it again)
*** 1/2 - very good
**** - outstanding


4 stars


**** Kasteel Ingelmunster Pumpkin:  A lovely golden color, with aromas and flavors of butterscotch, apples, pumpkin, and almonds.  This is unique, and I suspect one would either love it or hate it - clearly I love it.  There isn't much spice to it, which is usually a negative thing for me, but I don't even care.  This stuff is delicious.  8.5% abv


**** Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin - Very rich, heavily spiced, complex.  Strong but smooth.  Pure amazing pumpkin nectar of the gods. But sip it slowly, because it's 9% abv.



**** St. Arnold Bishop's Barrel (BB) No. 6:  Imperial Pumpkin Stout Aged in Rum Barrels (aka "Rumpkinator") - It's a little unfair to include this on the list, since it's so hard to get, but I tasted it at the Untapped beer and music festival at Discovery Green and thought I might as well record my thoughts.  This pumpkin stout is very dark and strong, with lots of spice flavors.  The rum barrel aging compliments the pumpkin stout beautifully, and it acquires quite a bit of rum flavor during aging.  Incredibly good.  (I have previously drunk the non-barrel aged Pumpkinator from which this BB is created, and it is excellent.)  10.4% abv before barrel aging / 13% afterwards



3 1/2 stars


***1/2 BJ's Brewery Pumpkin Ale - Highly spiced and well balanced.  (Only available at the brewery/restaurant on draft, not in bottles.)  4.7% abv












***1/2 Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Stout - Dark and thick, with lots of coffee and chocolate flavors.  The spice flavors are present, but not screaming out, while the pumpkin is more subtle.  10.5% abv












***1/2 Harpoon's UFO (UnFiltered Offering) Pumpkin Ale - Plenty of pumpkin and spice on the nose and the palate.  Smooth and rich, but with a pleasane brightness and tartness - maybe even a little citrusy.  Great balance of flavors.  The internet tells me this is 5.9% abv, but so help me I could not find it listed anywhere on the bottle or 6-pack.










***1/2 Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale - Aged in oak bourbon barrels, this has a honeyed aroma and definite bourbon flavor on the finish.  The pumpkin and spice flavors are present, but not strong.  Good balance of rich, smooth, and strong.  10% abv











***1/2 Magic Hat "Wilhelm Scream" Pumpkin Ale - Well balanced, with moderate pumpkin and spice flavors, notes of vanilla and caramel, rich and smooth, yet with a bit of hop bitterness on the finish to keep it from being too sweet.  5.4% abv  (For those who aren't familiar with the "Wilhelm Scream," here you go.)









***1/2 Rahr and Sons Pumpkin Ale - A brown ale with lots of spice and caramel.  8.7% abv



***1/2 Shipyard Pumpkinhead - Lots of spice, especially cinnamon.  Crisp and great for a lighter style of pumpkin ale, that's not too rich, too heavy, or too hoppy.  Aftertaste of cinnamon applesauce.  4.5% abv














***1/2 Southern Tier Pumking - Has the advantage of smelling and tasting of graham crackers, going for the full pumpkin pie experience.  Comparable to Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin, but ultimately not as rich or flavorful, though still very good.  12% abv












***1/2 Southern Tier Warlock - This is an Imperial Stout and, like the Pumking, it has a distinct aroma and flavor of graham crackers, which is a good thing.  A fair amount of pumpkin on the nose and a lot of ginger on the palate.  I read a comment on another website that this tastes like someone injected a pumpkin with Guinness, and that's not far off.  8.6% abv










***1/2 Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus - Lambics are made from wild yeasts and are often called "sours" due to their distinctive sour taste.  Flavored lambics are frequently sweetened (peach, cherry, and raspberry flavors are common), but this pumpkin lambic tastes dry.  It is tart, with a fairly strong sour component, a lot of pumpkin spice flavor, and leaves a tart apple impression on the finish.  I love sours, and I think this is a great one, but they aren't for everyone.  4% abv








3 stars


*** Alaskan Pumpkin Porter - Great porter, very dark.  Tastes like spiced coffee, but not a lot of pumpkin flavor.  (This is the beer version of my usual Starbucks drink in the fall - tall black coffee with 1 pump of pumpkin spice - which I hear actually contains no pumpkin.)  7% abv




*** Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale - Moderate pumpkin and spice flavors, nicely rounded and balanced.  I tasted this at the Untapped beer and music festival, but it is also available for retail purchase in the Houston area.  5% abv









*** Crown Valley Brewing Imperial Pumpkin Smash (Stout) - Aromas and flavors of vanilla, molasses, chocolate, coffee, a hint of cigar, a bit of pumpkin, but not much spice.  This is rich and thick and strong, with a lingering taste of black coffee and bittersweet chocolate.  While I love it as a stout and would have given it 3 1/2 stars, I took away 1/2 a star for lack of pumpkin and spice.  Great stout though.  48 IBUs and 10.6% abv  (It's packaged uniquely in 4 bottles to a box.)

  





*** Karbach Krunkin' Pumpkin - Moderate pumpkin and spice flavors/aromas.  Nice, rich caramel-toast taste.  A little hot on the finish for me, but an overall good beer.  7.9% abv













*** Nebraska Brewing Co. Wick for Brains - Plenty of pumpkin and spice flavors.  A good balance of richness and hoppiness (the can says 18 IBUs).  It also has an interesting pop top on the can.  6.1% abv









*** New Belgium Pumpkick - Plenty of spice, but not a lot of pumpkin.  The label tells me they've added a touch of cranberry.  This imparts a pleasant tartness (the "kick"), and the cranberry flavor is very subtle.  A bit sweet up front with some hop flavor at the end.  6% abv












*** Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin - Dark, with definite pumpkin and spice flavors.  Somewhat smoky from the smoked malt, and a touch of hop bitterness at the end.   I liked this one, but I'm not sure the smokiness is right with the pumpkin and spice.  Though the alcohol is not as high as some others on this list, and it did add a nice viscosity and mouthfeel, I think the beer would have been better balanced with a slightly lower abv.  8.5% abv






*** Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale -  Light and refreshing, with lots of floral, citrus (especially grapefruit), and hoppy characteristics.  5.84% abv




*** Wasatch Pumpkin - Heavy on the pumpkin, light on the spice.  This actually tastes like pureed pumpkin, and wins the prize for most pumpkin flavor on this list.  Balanced, easy to drink.  4% abv

*** Wasatch Black O'Lantern Pumpkin Stout - Lots of coffee and cocoa flavors.  Great stout, but little pumpkin flavor.  If I hadn't seen the bottle, I might not have known it's a pumpkin ale.  I'd give the stout 3 1/2 stars, but as a pumpkin ale, I'd demote it to 2 1/2 stars for lack of pumpkiny-ness, so I averaged it to 3 stars.  6.5% abv




2 1/2 stars



**1/2 Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin/Harvest Moon - This is fine, but sort of the least common denominator of pumpkin ales.  Not too light, not too dark, not too pumpkiny, not too much spice, not too strong.  It is inoffensive, but boring.  Maybe a good place to start if you've never had a pumpkin ale or are not sure you like them.  5.7% abv











**1/2 Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - It kills me to give this only 2 1/2 stars, because I love DFH - both their beers and their devotion to reviving ancient beverages - but this just didn't do it for my tastes.  Sweet up front, followed by some hoppy flavors, as opposed to the smooth richness that many pumpkin ales offer.  Less pumpkin flavor and less spice than many.  If you think pumpkin ales usually don't have enough hops, try this one.  7% abv








**1/2 Tieton Cider Works Smoked Pumpkin Cider - I mentioned that I'm not a cider person, so this is awfully sweet to me, although it seems in line with the sweetness level of most ciders.  It definitely smells of pumpkin and apples, which is a great combo.  However, the addition of the smoked apple wood is where this cider loses me.  I appreciate the idea, and I usually like smoked things, but I'm not a fan of the smoky aftertaste on a sweet cider.  My husband disagreed with me and liked the smoke effect, so your mileage may vary.









**1/2 Uinta Punk'n Harvest Pumpkin Ale - Plenty of spice, but not much pumpkin.  Not bad, but a little thin, and the flavors drops off suddenly on the finish.  5% abv











I was surprised to find so many pumpkin ales available in Houston, and yet I'm sure there are some I missed. If you've tried one I haven't, please leave me a note in the comments, because I'd love to know how it tasted!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Tasting Llano Estacado's Texas Tempranillo

Since it's Texas wine month, let's taste a Texas wine.  Llano Estacado was established in 1976 near Lubbock, Texas.  In 1993 the Texas High Plans AVA, surrounding the Lubbock area, was designated as an official wine region.  (See the Texas Wine Cheat Sheet for more about Texas wine regions.)

I recently tasted Llano Estacado's Tempranillo.  Tempranillo is a Spanish grape which grows well in the Texas High Plains AVA and is increasing in importance to the Texas wine industry.  The climate of west Texas and the panhandle bear some resemblance to the climate of Spain, so it makes sense that Tempranillo would do well in Texas.

Llano Estacado 2012 Cellar Reserve Tempranillo
Appearance:  Medium ruby-garnet.
Nose:  Aromas of cherry, plum, cinnamon, black pepper, and cedar.
Palate:  Medium+ acid, moderate tannin, and medium body.  12.5% abv

I'm a fan of Tempranillo in general, and I really like this wine.  The flavor and structure are nicely balanced. It's easy to drink on its own, but food friendly as well.  Just an all-around great Texas wine! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Visiting Tara in East Texas and Tasting Stagecoach Red

Tara Winery is part of the Piney Woods Wine Trail in northeast Texas.  I visited the winery a few years ago and really enjoyed the wines, but only recently drank the bottle I purchased when I was there.  As you may have guessed from the picture, Tara is named after and built to resemble Scarlett O'Hara's house from Gone with the Wind.





Tara grows the Lenoir grape (aka Black Spanish) onsite and buys other grape varieties from other places. This estate-grown Lenoir figures prominently in my favorite of their wines, Stagecoach Red.  It's made from 50% Lenoir, 30% Merlot, and 20% Syrah (from California). This bottle was not vintage dated, but I purchased it in 2012.
  • Color:  Medium ruby-garnet
  • Aroma:  Red and black fruits, toffee, sweet baking spice, cedar, plum, plus a hint of tobacco and vegetal aromas. 
  • Palate:  The flavors on the palate generally matched the aromas, with a hint of smokiness on the finish. Medium acid and strong tannin.  12.5% abv
  • Price:  $18 at the winery (in 2012)
I love this stuff.  My notes from tasting it at the winery were positive, but the wine improved as it aged. (I stored it in a wine fridge for most of the 2 1/2 years before I drank it.)  It might have improved for another year or so, perhaps, but I think I got lucky and ended up drinking this bottle at or near its peak.  It really did taste great.

  

I drank Stagecoach Red with what we happened to have for dinner that night:  spaghetti squash topped with a rich, meaty tomato sauce, which I made in the slow-cooker with herbs, capers, and chicken thighs.  It was a big wine for this food, but still paired reasonably well.  The earthy sweetness of the squash paired with the fruity/earthy/sweet-spice qualities in the wine, and the wine was acidic enough to stand up to the tomato sauce.  This pairing worked because of the rich sauce, but Stagecoach Red would really shine with grilled meat or a steak.

I believe Tara's wines are currently available only in east Texas and the DFW area, or directly from the winery when you order online or join the wine club.  I'm hoping they'll appear in the Houston area soon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wine Infographic: Texas Wine Cheat Sheet

October is Texas Wine Month, so use this to brush up on your Texas wine knowledge and try something new!

To see the full collection of wine cheat sheets, click here.




To see the Cheat Sheet in full size…
…in Internet Explorer, right click on it and select “open link.”
…in Chrome, right click on it and select “open image in new tab.”
…in Firefox, right click on it and select “view image.”


You may also be interested in:
Returning to Messina Hof for my 1st harvest and grape stomp!
Comparing 2 Texas Viogniers
Texas Kneecaps (with Bonus Lesson on Semi-Generic Labeling!)
Visiting Los Pinos in the Piney Woods
Texas Saké (a surprise addition to your 4th of July?)
Texas Wineries: The Bluebonnet Trail

Friday, September 19, 2014

Top 6 Things to Know About Wine Vintages

The concept of vintages is fundamental to understanding wine, yet confuses many people.  Here are the most important things to know.

What is a vintage?
Vintage means year.  The vintage on a wine label refers to the year in which the grapes were grown.  For the vintage to be listed on the label, most wine regions require that at least 85% to 95% of the grapes be from that year, so a small portion from other years may be included.

Why do vintages matter?
In a word:  weather.  Weather conditions have a huge impact on the grapes in any given year.  A warmer year might yield grapes with higher sugar content, which would translate to a more alcoholic wine.  A cooler year might yield slightly underripe grapes with more vegetal characteristics.  Rain near harvest time is a notorious vintage spoiler, because it causes the grapes to absorb extra water which dilutes the juices.

Do vintages matter everywhere?
Some climates are more prone to vintage variation than others.  Maritime climates, such as Bordeaux and Oregon, tend to experience more weather fluctuations from year to year, so vintages matter more in those regions.  Also, a year that produced a great vintage in one wine region, might have produced a terrible one in another region.

Can I use this information to find wine bargains?
Yes!  If you know which vintages were outstanding in a certain region, you can expect all the wines from that region, even the less expensive ones, to be better that year.  Therefore, you can spend less money to get a great bottle of wine.  For example, if you normally spend $25 for a good Bordeaux, and you know that 2009 was a great year, you might spend less on a bottle from that vintage, knowing that the cheaper wine got a quality boost from the weather that year.  (Conversely, you also might decide to spend more on a bottle from that vintage, because you have confidence in its quality and want to buy a really amazing bottle.)

Do vintages affect aging?
Yes.  Even within a region that makes great wine, which is capable of aging for many years (like Bordeaux), a wine from a great vintage might have a significantly longer lifespan than a wine from a lesser vintage.  (More on wine lifespans here.)  In the vintage charts below, you'll see recommendations for when to drink a wine based on its vintage, such as "early maturing and accessible," "still tannic, youthful, or slow to mature," and "ready to drink."

Is there a handy reference for good and bad vintages?
Yes.  Various organizations produce vintage charts.

I recommend Robert Parker and The Wine Advocate's vintage chart (preview below).  This is a one-page quick-reference vintage guide which goes back to 1970 and includes "drink vs. hold" suggestions.  You can view it on a web page at this link, or download a pdf version here.  (I downloaded the pdf to my phone for easy reference.)


In the rare event that you need vintage data older than 1970, you can look to Decanter's vintage guide, which goes back to 1960 for some wine regions.  Decanter's guide offers good vintage information, similar to the Wine Advocate/Robert Parker chart, but is only updated through the 2008 vintage, whereas Robert Parker's goes up to 2013.

Happy hunting!

You might also be interested in:
Is your wine over the hill?
Burgundy, Bottle Aging, and Tertiary Aromas
Building a Better Wine Tasting

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Film Review: SOMM

Four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world.

I had been hearing good reviews of SOMM for a couple of years and finally got around to watching it this past weekend.  The film tells the story of 4 men who are studying to pass the extremely difficult exam to earn the title of Master Sommelier.  (Click here for an overview of wine certifications.)  The exam has 3 sections:  theory, service, and blind tasting.

The film follows the Master Sommelier candidates as they study together, taste (and spit) late into the evenings, and make thousands of flash cards.  What could have become monotonous scenes of guys talking and tasting are made compelling because, whether or not you’re interested in wine, it’s fun to watch passionate people who are experts in a field doing what they do best. The talking/tasting scenes are also intercut with footage of the wine-making process and animated maps of wine regions.  The transitional shots of wine glasses exploding in slow-motion were pretty cool too.  I will never take this wine exam, but as a wine student who’s taken 6 other exams so far, I sympathize with these guys and their obsessive studying.  (In fact, this is exactly why I started making wine cheat sheets.) 

The guys are also sympathetic because the odds are against them:  this exam has a pass rate of 10%.  We see the sacrifices they’ve made to study and prepare, we see what this dream has required of them, and the impact it’s had on their relationships and families, and we want them to get through it and succeed.  Some might say they’re crazy and should quit, but I think most of us have a soft spot for someone fully committed to a big dream who’s willing to work extremely hard (possibly to a crazy degree) to make it happen.

I like that the film shows the analytical and deductive tasting process, and emphasizes that it’s about training, not talent.  I also like that they made fun of some of the sillier tasting terms that don’t mean anything – like “my grandmother’s closet.”  (In my International Sommelier Guild class we were taught to use aroma/flavor descriptors that will mean something to another person.  If the point is to communicate how the wine smells/tastes, then you have to be comprehensible to someone other than yourself.)

Mixed in with all the stress and studying, SOMM conveys one of my favorite things about wine:  the way it can only be fully understood when you learn the history, geology, geography, and culture of where the grapes are grown and the wine is made.  At the same time, you have to consider the modern technology involved and the global business aspects of the industry.  It’s incredibly complex, and there’s a lot to know, and that’s why the test is so hard.

I think it’s worth mentioning my husband’s viewpoint.  He’s not a wine aficionado, other than what he’s picked up from living with me, but he IS a certified film snob who has made his own independent films and written a lot of film criticism.  Film Snob Husband gave SOMM ***1/2 stars out of ****, and appreciates that it doesn’t skimp on the “shop talk.”  So many reality shows and documentaries gloss over the actual work being done, in favor of trying to create drama by focusing on the personalities, relationships, or competition involved.  Film Snob Husband and I both prefer the style of SOMM, where we’re a fly on the wall in a world we’d otherwise never get to see.


Here's the trailer:



(SOMM:  Not Rated, 2012, 93 minutes, Directed by Jason Wise, Starring Brian McLintic, Dustin Wilson, Ian Cauble)

Friday, September 5, 2014

An eclectic list of good white wines under $15

I usually drink more red wines than white, but in the summer I like the cooler, lighter whites to combat the Houston heat.  Summer may be over (at least according to the school calender - the autumnal equinox won't arrive and officially bring fall with it until September 22), but we all know Houston will be sweltering for another month at least.  So I figured it wasn't too late to share a list of good white wines under $15.  This is a very eclectic list, based solely on what I happen to have tasted lately, so it's by no means exhaustive or even well-rounded.  But hopefully it will point you to something new to try!  

If I've written about the wine before, I linked to that post.  I also added a few words about the flavor profile.


DRY
  • Buchegger Riesling, from Austria
    • very fruity
  • Pewsey Vale Dry Reisling, from Australia
    • lemon, apricot, and minerality
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling, from Washington State
    • green apple and lemon with some minerality
    • (link to buy online)
  • Sartori Pinot Grigio, from Italy
    • citrus, mineral, and floral notes
  • Fontana Candida Terre dei Grifi Frascati, from Italy
    • citrus, pineapple, with a hint of toast
  • Abadia de San Campio Terras Gauda Albarino, from Spain
    • citrus and pear, little-to-no oak
  • Vignerons du Pallet Muscadet, from the Loire Valley in France
    • simple citrus flavors, with bready qualities from sur lie aging
  • Gerard Bertrand Picpoul de Pinet, from Coteau de Languedoc in France
    • simple and fruity, little-to-no oak
  • McPherson Viognier, from Texas
    • tropical fruits, floral notes, balanced by earthiness

DRY SPARKLING
  • Anna de Codorniu, Brut Cava, from Spain
    • fruity and toasty, a bit like Champagne
    • (link to buy online)

DRY, HALF-SPARKLING (petillant/frizzante)

OFF DRY
  • Sauvion Vouvray (Chenin Blanc), from the Loire Valley in France
    • apple, lemon, peach, and earthiness

OFF DRY, HALF-SPARKLING (petillant/frizzante)
All of these are Vinho Verdes, and though they vary a bit in sweetness and flavor profile, they share the same crisp, refreshing, citrusy qualities.

MEDIUM SWEET

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My continuing quest for cheap, dry Rieslings

As regular readers know, dry Riesling is quite possibly my favorite white wine.  Many good, dry Rieslings are priced around $20 (or more), which puts them out of my "everyday wine" price range, so I'm always looking for inexpensive options.

First, it bears repeating that, contrary to popular belief, not all Rieslings are sweet.  There are various ways to tell whether a bottle of Riesling will be sweet, dry, or somewhere in between.  I wrote about a strategy for predicting the sweetness level of German wines here.  Even better is the International Riesling Foundation's sweetness scale, which some producers put on their labels.

My current favorite cheap, dry Riesling is Pewsey Vale from the Eden Valley in Australia (which I've mentioned before here).  It runs $12 - $15, which is a great value.  But there are several other dry Rieslings which are widely available and even cheaper!  So of course I had to try them.  

The title holder and the challengers:

  

The 2 "challenger" dry Rieslings both come from the Columbia Valley in Washington State.  The Pacific Rim Dry Riesling costs about $9, while the Chateau Ste. Michelle is around $8.  Incidentally, they both use the International Riesling Foundation's sweetness scale on their back labels (as does Pewsey Vale).



One difference between these wines jumps out right away - the different bottle shapes.  Chateau Ste. Michelle uses the traditional German flute, while Pacific Rim uses the common "Bordeaux" bottle.  This can indicate a difference in the style of the wine.  German-style Rieslings tend to be lighter and more minerally (less fruit-forward), while Rieslings from the "new world" of wine (outside Europe) tend to be richer and fruitier.  Sure enough, when I tasted them side by side, Pacific Rim was fruitier, while Chateau Ste. Michelle in the German-style bottle was lighter and leaner.

Here are the full tasting notes:

2012 Pacific Rim Dry Riesling
  • Color:  pale yellow
  • Aroma:  pungent citrus and rich apricot with mineral undertones
  • Palate:  high acid, flavors generally match aromas, slightly bitter and hot on the finish, medium body, 12.5% abv
2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling
  • Color:  pale yellow
  • Aroma:  bright lemon and peach with lots of earthy, mineral character, and a hint of the "petrol" quality that some Rieslings have
  • Palate:  high acid, flavors generally match aromas, medium body (but a bit lighter than Pacific Rim), 13% abv  (Though this alcohol level is higher than the Pacific Rim, this wine seems better balanced and integrated.)
Neither of these were bad wines, but they didn't blow me away.  I liked the Chateau Ste. Michelle a little better.  They're both a good value for the price, but I think in most cases I'd pay a few dollars more and buy a bottle of Pewsey Vale.  So Pewsey Vale remains my favorite cheap, dry Riesling, but I'll keep my eyes open for other potential contenders.  Please let me know if you have one to recommend!

A note on food pairings:  Rieslings are often paired with Asian and/or highly spiced foods, so I drank these with Baharat roasted cauliflower and Indian-spiced eggplant over pasta.  Please forgive my poor food photography...


The wines paired well with these dishes.  But don't forget that the Riesling grape originates in Germany, so Rieslings are a good choice with any type of German food as well, like sausage and sauerkraut, pork chops, chicken and dumplings, etc.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wine Infographic: Riesling Cheat Sheet

Next up in the wine cheat sheet series:  Riesling!

See the full collection of wine cheat sheets here.



To see the Cheat Sheet in full size…
…in Internet Explorer, right click on it and select “open link.”
…in Chrome, right click on it and select “open image in new tab.”
…in Firefox, right click on it and select “view image.”

You might also be interested in:
Wine Infographic:  German Wine Cheat Sheet
How to Tell if German Wine is Sweet or Dry
How Sweet is Your Riesling (part 2)