Archive for ‘Riesling’

September 3, 2020

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling, 2017 & Tantalus Riesling, 2019

Gismondi gave an over the top review for the 2019 Tantalus Riesling, suggesting we horde; it is after all the current trent. He said “back up the truck” so we took him at his word and got a case of the 2019 and then at private stores sourced some old vines. And I gotta say, it’s good, it’s worth it, but it just didn’t knock our socks off the way his review did.

The OV is sharp and acidic and striking. If there’s a barbed wire Riesling, this is it. The 2019 is more overtly approachable and, on the palate, has plenty of depth and is determined to proclaim itself RIESLING. Both are decently low alcohol and superbly food friendly. But, overall, we reserve judgement. The 2019, after a sample, went “into the cellar” to revisit post-Covid, sometime down the road in the new normal. I’m calling it something to look forward to.

Price: An extremely reasonable $21.75 at the vineyard for the 2019; nearly double for the OV at private stores.

Market Liquidity: At less than $22 a bottle it’s a science experiment; only time will tell.

September 20, 2018

La Frenz Naramata Bench Riesling Clone 21B, 2017

We tried.  Nope.


Acid.  Just too much acid.  At least there’s therapeutic benefit to apple cider vinegar.  This wasn’t food friendly with hard cheese, braised pork or just as a late summer sipper.


The vineyard blurb boasts lavender, thyme, peach.  We got nothing.  Citrus and minerality. And enough acid to burn a hole on your palate.


I’m certain that in August, under a grape vine draped gazebo overlooking one of the many Okanagan lakes, this crisp (and forgettable) white would please.  But I don’t think it has much utility outside of context and was a bitter disappointment.


Price: An extremely reasonable $19 at the vineyard.


Market Liquidity: Riesling rises to higher heights all down the valley…

July 20, 2018

Fort Berens Dry Riesling, 2016

Wine from Lillooet?  What’s next: Wine from Graaff-Reinet?  I suppose.  If one of the myriad Lillooet forest fires common to the region, regularly, consistently, doesn’t wipe out the vineyard.  And lord knows there’s heat up there.


Tangy, tart, zesty and refreshing.  Decent with frittata.  But it’s no stellar Riesling and most will, at best, find it inoffensive, in the middle nonplussed, but us we could leave it be.  Quite forgettable.  (92 points over at John Schreiner.  Wow.  God bless him.  But that is just way, way beyond the quality and texture and depth of this very simple table white.)


Price: Less than $20.  So four stars on that.


Market Liquidity: Turns out only some of the grapes were from Lillooet.  Just one more let down on the last glass.

February 6, 2018

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Riesling, 2016

Drinking wine in Australia 2: Generally, LE churns out a huge swath of drinkable and sometimes especially eloquent wines.  The Art Series is their upper echelon and, if you can find it in Canada, will set you back significantly.  In Australia you can source the various bottles and a dry WA Riesling spoke to us.  But unfortunately only on the shelf at he bottle shop.  As a sipper or with food this just didn’t work for us.  It was highly acidic, and not in a “succulent” way as the label promised; very lime forward, deeply mineral, and only a nuance of floral notes.  To compare it apples to apples, new world to new world, I was thinking of how spectacular the “simple” Riesling from Sea Star on Pender Island was/is, and thinking about the heft and cache of Leeuwin, and that just made us more discouraged.


Price: $30 Australian in Australia.


Market Liquidity: Sometimes big stars walk through a matinee performance.

March 2, 2017

Selbach Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett, 2015


A dry, juicy, spare but luxurious Riesling with a touch of Metallica but a lot of Cream, Peaches & Herb and Tangerine Dream.  Another stunning gentle white from Mosel (11.5%) that went with chicken braised in, yes, Riesling, and broiled root vegetables, like waves on the ocean.  We really could not find a food friendly fault.


Price: $29.99 at BC Liquor before taxes (but I should point out you can score this in WA at almost half the price if you scout around).


Market Liquidity: When serendipity meets kismet.

November 8, 2016

Culmina Decora, 2015


Wow.  I think you could line this up blind with any of the Alsace Rieslings available in BC and it would trump most.  Well, maybe not the Pierre Sparr, but still…


This sips cool, cold, crisp, with intense acidity but enticing layers of hearty orchard fruit along with the lightness of a butterfly garden, whiffs of blossoms across the tongue.  By which I mean both meaty and delicate.  It’s like spring in a bottle.


Most shocking of all is that we paired it (on a whim) with eggs (Martha Stewart’s baked squash, carrots, kale, with eggs and a cilantro dressing): eggs are notoriously wine un-friendly, and cilantro is no Alsatian amie, but by gosh it held up like the Cubs in the tenth.


Price: $21 from the winery. A steal by any measure (except, it seems, the hordes who pass on Riesling).


Market Liquidity: A taste of the good life.


September 7, 2016

Sea Star Prose, 2014


There was a lot of wine on offer during the last “official” week of summer.  Most of it neither here nor there.  A 2009 Priorat that Robert Parker claimed could be drunk over the next 15-20 years was corked.  A CdR Sablet that Gismondi had recommended for the cellar through 2020 was mediocre.  A cheap red from the OK crush pad was character-free but enormously quaffable.  The star of the lot for me was a dessert beverage from Pender Island.


Sea Star turns out some exceptional, light, aromatic whites.  We’ll review a couple next week.  Hard to find, but inexpensive and easy to drink, they show what can be done in earnest, as opposed to ego.  They sell two dessert wines, one a Riesling paired with apple, the Prose, and another which is Foch, Pinot Noir and berries, which they call Poetry.


I’ll be blunt: The Poetry is a disaster like, I hasten to add, so much modern poetry.  There’s an American “conceptual” poet called Kenneth Goldsmith who originated “uncreative” writing including an art installation of every word he said for a week, and who has stated he never suffers from writer’s block because there’s always something to copy.  In other words, insufferable.  Sea Star Poetry drinks like your neighbour’s kit wine club plonk which they bottle at $4 per plus supplies.  Alcoholic, forward, blatantly berry, and not unlike any number of bottled fruit beverages they serve on ice with a cherry instead of ale.


Which is to say, that’s too bad, because the Prose is something to be savored.  It sails in the direction of Sauternes, shy of course, but still with that full fruit of apple, stone, kiwi, lingers on the tongue (but not long enough), and is will suited to not just cheese (thank God) but actual honest to god desserts.  Expensive ($21 for the half) but a wonderful BC antidote to the Port wannabes, such as Black Sage’s Pipe, et. al.


Price: $21 at the Saturna General Store (!).


Market Liquidity: Sometimes good things come in small packages.

August 25, 2016

Peter Jakob Kühn Riesling Trocken, 2013

Peter Jakob Kühn Riesling Trocken, 2013

We liked this much more than the online pointsters who seem, by and large, non-plussed.  In fact, after nodding off through three or four BC Liquor “trocken” wines this summer, none interesting enough for a review, this sort of knocked my socks off.


It pours out a golden nectar, honeyed nearly Sauternes gold.  It is light on the nose but hits the palate searingly dry.  There is a little filbert, pronounced mandarin and pear, a sweet blossom perfume, and a crisp nearly startling acidity that is enormously appealing, dare I say addictive (heck, it’s only 12%, why not?).


It tops out with an extraordinarily long finish that transitions to sweet nectarine and peach.  Then, it just sits on your tongue, like an angelic gift, tart and delectable.


This was a “blind” buy, spur of the moment, but once we opened the bottle I had to Google the vintner who is, no surprise, passionate, biodynamic focussed, and embraces 200 years of wine making history.  The whole shebang is easy enough to source.


Price: $13 USD in Seattle.  Not a typo.  $13.


Market Liquidity: Simple brilliance.

July 23, 2016

La Frenz Riesling, 2014

La Frenz Riesling

A mere 11 per cent alcohol.  Fruity, a smidgen sweet, an addictive acidity, and light as a feather.  Crisp and not cloying.  Forget rosé; this is a lunch wine par excellence.  We ate it with Jacques Pepin’s fresh corn souffles, but in fact it would pair with any civilized summer lunch that doesn’t require pomp or proclamation.  Not, technically, the drier, heartier Rieslings we gravitate to, but at the price point a most accomplished accomplishment.


Price: $20 at the vineyard.


Market Liquidity: A proverbial delicate flower.

June 23, 2016

Drinking Wine in Istanbul, Vienna, Prague and Madrid


Just got back from three weeks in Europe.  We drank wine in Turkey, Austria, the Czech Republic and Spain.


Istanbul: The first big surprise is that the Turks make some half decent wine.  Some half decent white wine, anyway.  The second big surprise is that the cost is insane, OTC or in a restaurant.  Plonk (because, yes, they make some mediocre wine too) starts at nearly $20 CDN a glass!  Most bottles in a restaurant start at around $40 and the palatable ones are around $50.  I wish I could have done like the Turks, and stuck with Raki, but that would be like eating the unripe, sour green plums that are a delicacy there.


The one surprise was the Kayra Barrel Fermented Sur Lie Chardonnay. We drank a 2012.  We actually drank a number of Kayra wines, but this was the best, refreshing, sharp but not too acidic, nuanced oak, and with lovely notes of violet and green herbs.


Austria: A bomb.  I had my Wine Spectator list in my pocket at all times.  I was on the special lookout for F X Pichler.  I tasted glass after glass of Gruner Velliner and Riesling, from houses you’d recognize and at farmer’s markets with home-style vintners.  And, overall, it was disappointment after disappointment, start to finish.  Nothing had depth, or vigor, or held our interest longer than nanosecond.  I would write that it wasn’t a total disaster, except that even the sacher torte was dry.  The irony?  Probably the best Austrian wine we drank was the Peter Schweiger Gruner on Cathay Pacific, in North America!

st charles scaffoldingYou probably shouldn’t drink and go up the scaffolding elevator at St. Charles anyway.

spaghetti ice cream

Plus, there is always “spaghetti ice cream” instead of wine.

Wachau Riesling

If there was one decent wine we drank, it was a Riesling from Wachau, which was cool, crisp, with a lovely tart finish.


Czech Republic: Cesky-Krumlov, UNESCO heritage site.  Where we saw a waiter take the box wine, remove the box, then squeeze and knead the bag to get every last drop into a glass.

absintheYou can drink cocktails, superbly crafted cocktails, until you’re blue in the face.  Even in tiny tot towns they had bars with crushed ice, regular ice, large ice.  Absinthe was just par for the course.

But wine?  The sorry truth: They make local wine, mainly in boxes, that gives box wine a bad name.  I really wish I could be friendlier, “ribbon for participation Moravia” but there are more duds than not.  However, for whatever weird reason, restaurants around the country carry an amazing array of Italian wine: When was the last time you saw a “choice” of Basilicata at a BC Liquor store?  And the Czechs sell this wine at very reasonable prices.  We had wines from Puglia, Piedmont, Sardegna, Sicily, Veneto, Umbria, hugely accomplished reds, and rarely paid more than $22 CDN (in a restaurant!).

magnifico rosso

Some highlights.  This six year old superb Primitivo was less than $20 in a restaurant.  Add Puglia to the bucket list.


And I sourced this wine in Canada, not in BC, at $14.  It was a tad thin but eminently drinkable, especially, (need I keep emphasizing this? In A Restaurant) at, wait for it, $14 CDN, the same price you pay in a liquor store in SK.  It makes eating out in BC a woeful misery, so many $$$ for mediocrity.

wenceslasKing Wenceslas’ crown.  Yes, that King Wenceslas.


The weird thing is that when we actually spent a few bucks on wine, say more than $25 (in a restaurant) it was good, but not substantially better than the “OK” wines so modestly priced.  This Barbera was on the young side but there was a jammy complexity that was extremely appealing.

field amuse bouche

Amuse bouche at the one Michelin star Field in Prague.  Foie gras macaron and decadent cheese balls.


The alarmingly beautiful Spanish Synagogue in Prague’s old Jewish quarter.

madrid cathedral

Spain: We were only in Madrid.  To say we were in Spain is like saying a trip to NYC is a trip to the US.  But ohmigosh was the wine incredible.  Corner store with vintage Rioja at $10 a bottle.  Whack-a-mole brilliance on restaurant wine lists under $30.  Just for fun one night I bought the Pruno.  You can get it easily at BC Liquor for $28.  We paid less than $25.  It was one phenomenal glass of red after another.  One other sensational thing about Spain is how easy it is to find a wide variety of wonderful white Rioja; that’s a bit of a task back home.  And they bottle some magic.

madrid airport

The very creepy surreal arrival carrels at MAD airport.


We drank a lot of great red wine and some OK white wine, but too numerous start to finish for the blog.  One evening we had an interesting Priorat.  It wasn’t the best red we drank in Spain but (for me) the most interesting, particularly its smoky, woodsy, campfire impression on the palate.


That was at a lovely hard to find restaurant, Bosco de Lobos, in the courtyard garden of the architectural school.


Maybe the wine tasted so good because the ham tasted so good?


We flew home on points, so stopped off at the lounge for a snack.  Iberia had not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven types of sherry in the Velazquez lounge at MAD.  Plus, get this, a wine counter with a wide array of Spanish whites and reds.

night flight

I’m not big on flying, but a little Deutz champagne at 39,000 feet helps.