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

Organic, Delicious, and from Washington State

Yesterday, Josh Wade at Drink Nectar lamented, to an extent, the growing pains of the wine industry in Washington. Among his highlights, he noted that Washington’s QPR is generally extremely agreeable, albeit more select, and that Washington State’s boutique wineries would have a hard time matching the production and pricing of California, as selling under $30 would necessarily cut into their profits necessary to survive. He also laments the lack of Washington wine available across the country. Lower volumes attract less interest in larger distributors, leaving the massive of the massive in California to take over the world. Shops have to actually put in some effort to invest in Washington wines.

Per Josh, Washington's production pales in comparison to California's, 150,000 tons annually to 4 million tons

Lucky for you and me both, some of Washington’s wines still make it across the country, although it’s typically the lower-end fare. Regardless, finding Washington State is always a fun challenge, and if you can find a palatable wine, such as Badger Mountain‘s Organic Riesling, for the typical California-level bargain prices, well, it just gives me hope for the future of the region.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a fairly deep straw color and a fairly full viscosity.

The nose of the wine is an orchard-like blend of flowers, pear, and citrus, accompanied by a very light minerality and baking spices scent.

The mouth feel of the wine is very smooth and tangy, with a delightfully active acidity that dances on the tongue.

The flavor of the wine is not quite as full as the nose would suggest, with underripe clementines, tart pear, and green apple on the finish. There’s a hint of minerality, and it comes with a delightful baking spice that really matches the light fruit flavors extremely well. Very dry, and everything about this wine is crisp and pure. When paired with havarti cheese, the fruit flavors intensify and the sweetness comes forward even more.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a good entry-level wine if you’re trying to explore the Pacific Northwest. Different from the Finger Lakes and California, this Riesling has a more Alsatian style, offering very little sweetness, and instead being bolder and more nuanced. Don’t expect a dessert wine, I guess is what I’m saying. Pair with light seafood or chicken dishes… spice will overwhelm this, and heavier meats will utterly clash with the flavors.


At a price of $11, this wine is definitely worth a try. It’s not representative of the best that Washington has to offer… not even close… but you’d be hard-pressed to find many wines of this quality at this price. Oh, and it’s organic, which is certainly a plus! 6/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: N-S-A Organic Columbia Valley Riesling

Producer: Badger Mountain Vineyards / Powers Winery

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington, United States

Varietal(s): 100% Riesling

Vintage: 2008

Residual Sugar: 1.7 g/l

Alcohol: 13%

pH: 3.08

Price: $11

Purchased at: Weaver Street Market, Hillsborough, North Carolina

Pair with Food: The Most Aggressive (good) Viognier I’ve Ever Tasted

The Back Story:

I was fairly bummed about missing the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla this year. I decided to pass the time in the days leading up to the event by directing hundreds of guilt-tripping tweets towards the bloggers who I knew were going.

Actually, I’m not quite that mean-spirited.

I did tweet a couple times to wish some of my blogger friends the best of times at the conference, in my own snarky way of course. One of the Washington State wineries, Desert Wind, noticed one of my tweets and offered to send me a sample of the wines they would be tasting at the event.

Who am I to turn down free wine?

The bottles arrived less than a week after I tweeted. I’ll definitely give Desert Wind props for that… I got 2 bottles from Desert Wind Winery and 2 bottles from Duck Pond Cellars, another Fries family project with vineyards in both Oregon and Washington. I was in a white wine mood (hey, big surprise there), so I decided to pop open a standard favorite of mine, the Viognier. The first experience was… unrewarding, I would say, but it clued us in to a food pairing that I decided to try the next night. Once that came around…? Oh man, was it good.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very pale straw color with the slightest green tinge and a very clear luminosity. It appears to have a fairly full body.

The nose of the wine is very fruity with primarily tropical and citrus scents. Notes of pineapple, mango, and tangerine round out a slightly unusual Viognier nose. The alcohol doesn’t hardly come through at all.

The mouth feel of the wine is extraordinarily crisp and active, with a palpable acidity that registers in your mouth and throat immediately.

The flavor of the wine is, admittedly, nothing special on its own. It’s primarily fruit-forward, though the flavors themselves are fairly meek. Tropical and citrus round out the palate, though it’s hard to taste through the potent structure (alcohol at 14.5%). Even though the perceived acidity is high, it’s not imbalanced at all, as the pH is 3.45. It’s not bitter or unpleasant, just overwhelming where the flavor is concerned. The wine truly shined, however, when paired with Chicken Tikka Masala, a traditional Indian dish consisting of chicken tikka (chunks) cooked in masala, a tomato-based orange sauce seasoned with turmeric and curry.

As you can guess, the chicken is spicy, which is just what the wine needed. The spice softens the flavor, evoking a beautiful peach and mango flavor with a clean, moderately long finish. The wine also wasn’t half bad with buttered naan, garlic goat cheese, and juniper-berry-cured prosciutto either.

For the Casual Drinker:

You don’t want to attempt this wine without a spicy, rich food to counter it. It’s unforgiving on its own, and unless you absolutely crave the taste of acid and alcohol, you won’t get much of an experience from it. Break it out for your exotic white-meat or veggie fare, your spicy Asian dishes, maybe even Mexican if the chiles are kicking. Definitely don’t expect it to deliver nuance to a tame meal… it’ll simply overwhelm it.

The Conclusion:

Not an everyday drinker, but that’s not a problem. As long as the food pairing is right, this will be a rich, rewarding experience, especially at a bargain price of $15.00. 6/10.

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Desert Wind Viognier

Producer: Desert Wind Winery

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State, United States

Varietal(s): 100% Viognier

Vintage: 2009

Residual Sugar: 1 g/L

Alcohol: 14.5 %

pH: 3.45

Price: $15.00

Purchased at: received as a gift, but available for purchase from the winery here

note: this wine was received as a gift from the winery as an industry sample.


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