Music Monday: Broken Glass In Your Wine

The Music

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day. I could post a brilliantly romantic song like millions of other people are doing right this second, but I’m kind of feeling something a little more risqué. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Last Shadow Puppets. It’s like James Bond going through a scenester phase. I happen to like it an awful lot.

2007 Winehaven Riesling

2007 Winehaven RieslingI picked up this gem on a business trip to the frozen north. While in Minneapolis, I stopped at a wine shop called Sorella Wines & Spirits. This place had a fantastic selection of local wines from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. In addition to this one, I also picked up a couple Rieslings from Michigan and the Voyageur from Alexis Bailly Vineyards, a red wine blend of Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, and Frontenac varieties.

I understand that the northern Midwest is ideally a white wine region, thus the focus on Rieslings, but I’ve also heard good things about the Alsatian specialized red grapes growing in the area, and I wanted to give them a try as well.

The wine is a very deep golden yellow with a fairly low viscosity. The nose is very grape-y, like white grape juice. Aside from that. there are notes of white floral, ripe pear, and apricots.

The texture is rich, very, very smooth, though not quite as full as most Rieslings. It’s  off-dry, with a significant amount of residual sugar to the flavor. It’s not quite a dessert wine, though the sweetness is palpable. There’s a brief attack of pear, then the flavor abruptly dissipates. The finish consists of honey and floral. As it gets warmer, the more complex flavors start to come out, and the mid-palate starts to gain some citrusy qualities, specifically mandarin orange. It’s a little too sweet, and the alcohol and acidity could stand to be a bit higher, as the wine was a bit cloying. It wasn’t terribly imbalanced, though.

Match this guy up with some spicy seafood or chicken, though nothing overwhelming. The body is a little light, but the sweetness can take on some heat. The flavors themselves are built to suit a beginner’s palate, though they’ve still got the taste of a classic Riesling. I’d highly suggest this one to wean those you love off of White Zinfandel.

This is a wine that really needs to be consumed a bit warmer than 50 degrees to get the full range of its flavors. Too cold, and it’s flat and dull. This was even evident the second day, when any flavors that would need time to open up would have come about already.

Surprisingly good, though very simple, from the land of Minnesota. 5/10

One final note about this wine, and it’s a good lesson to learn about many other wines:

I opened the bottle, and what did I find but this stuff all over the cork and the inside of the bottle neck. Looks like broken glass or rock salt, right? It’s actually tartaric crystals, a solidification of potassium salts left over from the winemaking process. Someone might open a bottle of wine and find this stuff on the cork and believe the wine to be tainted. Rest assured, your wine is perfectly fine.

Many winemakers, mostly in Europe, elect to not put their wines through cold stabilization before bottling, which would cause these salts to form into their crystals for easy removal. When they don’t, the crystals will form on their own in the bottle as the temperature drops. Go ahead and taste them if you want. They’re odorless, essentially tasteless, not sugary or salty or anything else that will affect the flavor of your wine. Just filter them out or ring them out with a decanter and enjoy your wine as you normally would.

The Wine: Winehaven Riesling

Producer: Winehaven Winery

Vintage: 2007

Region: Minnesota, US

Varieties: 100% Riesling

Alcohol: 10.7%

Price: $12

Music Thursday: Art Rock and Washington Riesling

The triumphant return of the blog comes with one of the best new bands in my library paired with one of the best white wines I’ve had the pleasure of sipping.

The Music

I have been obsessed with this band the past few weeks. They’re a British art rock band with heavy progressive rock and electronic influences. Their vocals heavily depend on male-female harmonies and chant-like repetition, all laid over a saturation of rapid bass and rhythm guitar strokes. The band seems more keen on creating an atmosphere than a poppy sing-along, embracing programmed drums and waves of synthesizers to fill the void left by conventional instruments. The only real breaks in the music seem to be focused on giving full weight to a vocal harmony.

Anyway, the track is “ii) Apogee iii) Requiem for the Lovers” by Pure Reason Revolution. The video is a combination of footage from their tour and a show in London back when they were performing this music before it was released in studio, so you’ll also get to see glimpses of their recording session. Really, all it did was make me desperately want to see them live. Hopefully they’ll come stateside soon.

2009 Kung Fu Girl

Now for the wine: I celebrated a successful first day of my participation in the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference with a bottle of Riesling. I’d originally set out for a bottle of Champagne, but, alas, it was near impossible to find a wine shop open after the conference’s day session, and the hotel bar stopped serving at 7, so I decided to open the Riesling recommended to me by Collin at The Wine And Cheese Place in Ballwin, MO, the previous afternoon. Kung Fu Girl, from the Columbia Valley in Washington, it was.

The wine is surprisingly active, forming a lot of bubbles on the glass after the pour. It has a light straw color, and the swirl suggests quite a bit of heft behind the wine.

The nose is very light and crisp with lilac, citrus, peach, and pear. It just smells like spring. There’s no hint of alcohol heat, no unsavory scents to be had at all.

The flavor is a  mouth-coating blend of white peach, lemon, and pear, with a fantastic perceived sweetness and a touch of minerality. Pear lasts on the medium-long finish. The wine takes all these beautiful delicate spring notes and creates an intense, rich experience. It’s truly an exemplary Riesling. Fantastic balance, with a zesty acidity that you can feel without tasting. The alcohol backs up the body well without overpowering the light flavors.

I’m drinking this wine in the dead of winter after a major snowstorm in a cold city, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. For optimal results, break this one out in a bright, sunshiney kind of picnic setting, with a light white-meat or seafood offering. [insert aforementioned meat here]-salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, cheese-and-crackers. The sugar can handle a touch of spice, and the body of the wine is built to handle the assault of a primarily poultry meal.

In short, this is one of the best sub-$20 Rieslings I’ve ever had. 8/10.

As a bonus, I sipped from Oenophilia’s Polycarbonate Wine Glasses. Shatterproof wine glasses that look just like their glass counterparts, they were one of the most popular products that I demo’d at the conference. I would wait until a couple people walked past, not really paying attention, and then chuck the glass at a metal display or a table across the way. They’d panic until they realized the glass didn’t break. It cracked me up every time.

The Wine: Kung Fu Girl

Producer: Charles Smith Wines

Vintage: 2009

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington, US

Varieties: 100% Riesling

Alcohol: 12.5%

Price: $18

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