Growing up, the first wine I tasted was Blue Nun. My parents were not wine drinkers and when they had people over for dinner, Blue Nun was a good safe bet at the time. Now we think of this as an unsophisticated sweet german wine and if you are a wine drinker it probably conjures the same connotations as “tickled pink”. As a disclaimer…I’m referring to the Blue Nun I tasted in my youth, I have not had any recently, and it could have dramatically changed since then.
My wine tastes have changed. As I started drinking wine the sweeter german rieslings were fun and easy to drink. As my palate evolved I wanted something less cloying. I mentioned the other day finding a great food riesling. The Gunderloch J-Baptiste Riesling is slightly sweet but very clean and great with Thai food. It’s just too bad I can only find it in restaurants locally!
Michael enjoys rieslings and we explore quite a bit with different styles all typically in a lower budget range. I hate to spend more than $25 on a wine that I have not tasted and don’t know if I will like. We’ve found some that are nice for food and for quaffing and some that just don’t measure up.
In traveling tasting wines at wineries we rarely end up tasting rieslings because we are usually in California. A few years ago though we visited Oregon the Willamette Valley, the Dundee Hills and Trisaetum. We were there early in the day, in fact probably the first visitors. This winery is off the beaten path and we drove and drove and worried we were headed the wrong way, until finally cresting a hill and finding the vineyard and winery. As it was so early we were able to sidle up to the bar and have a great conversation with the pourer on the wines and the vineyards. These were rieslings like we had not tasted before and the range of rieslings dependent upon the vineyard location was amazing. They were all fantastic. We had spent several days in the area and were flying home and did not purchase wine to take with us. I can’t tell you how often we have thought of these wines since then.
A month or so ago I was at a wine tasting at Khoury’s on the other side of town and after the tasting was doing my usual stroll down all of the aisles looking for wines by wineries I am familiar with and I came across a Trisaetum 2008 Riesling. I immediately picked it up and cradled it. This I would be taking home. In researching it I found that this wine had scored 94 points and received an Editors choice award from Wine Enthusiast.
When Michael and I sat down to open this we paired it with smoked gouda, a smoked goat cheese cheddar and one of our favorite quick appetizers the lemongrass chicken sticks from Trader Joe’s. This wine was stunning with them as well as lovely on it’s own. We both realized the moment we tasted that this is the difference between a small vineyard wine that might cost you $30 or more and a $7.99 to $15 bottle of riesling that has been produced in much greater quantities. This was worth it. And…if memory serves, when we tasted at the winery, this was not even the best of the rieslings we tasted.
Now this is not to say that you cannot find great inexpensive rieslings. You can! But for our money we would rather find a compelling wine from a smaller vineyard where you can see the history and the love of making wine.
Regardless of the cost or where it comes from you will still find riesling to be one of the best wines to pair with foods, most especially summer foods. It plays well with salty things, ham, charcuterie, sausage, bleu cheese as well as rich poultry like duck and goose. Off dry Rieslings go wonderfully with Asian spice as well as with sweeter vegetables. When you get into late harvest they are great with desserts. Avoid pairing it with red meat and peppercorns, those things that you standardly think of with a big red, well…they need a big red and would overpower a riesling.
So pick up a riesling and don’t be afraid to spend a little more for it.