Monday, January 17, 2011

Summertime, and the Riesling Is Ready

The end of last summer seems remarkably close in my memory compared to the months it has been; mostly due to vintage beginning with the dawn of September and swallowing up the following two and a half months... which then disappeared into the holidays.  Now that I can think about those halcyon days, I was recently feeling nostalgic for a fun visit from a good college friend back around Labor Day.  There is no doubt that I took a great deal of joy in showing him around our lovely Finger Lakes, and it was as eye opening for him as it was refreshing for me to visit the world class wineries they are populated with.

My friend had just come up from the wonderful wine bar Terroir in New York City, where he had conveniently been inundated and successfully brainwashed by their "Summer of Riesling" celebrations.  Coming from the West Coast, it did take him a few sips to recalibrate his palate to the acid-driven structure of our rieslings, but he was soon very impressed with what he was tasting.  

After the two of us had tasted at a few wineries he made the comment that he was glad to have visited Terroir beforehand because they had put him on the path to realizing "that Riesling is a great summer wine."  This comment was meant earnestly and honestly, and I took it in that spirit without saying another word.  Nevertheless, it is a sentiment that has obviously lodged itself in my brain for several months in the limbo between thought provoking and unintentional, backhanded compliment.  What exactly does that mean?  And what should it mean for those of us who fancy, and fancy ourselves, riesling producers?

As far as riesling is concerned, I hope that the answer is not that riesling is a pleasant, bracing wine for warm weather and sun.  No doubt dry rieslings are spectacularly refreshing and one of the wine world's best and only pairings with refreshing summer foods and salads.  Just because it is a white wine, however, does not mean it isn't a serious or powerful wine for the colder months as well.  In fact, the most logical pairings for riesling in my mind are distinctly cold weather meals linked to the traditional foods consumed in regions that have taken the grape to such great heights; Germany and Alsace with pork and roast birds. 

In the end, I think my friend's comment is merely another step in America's flirtation with Riesling wines.  Even in our most erudite circles, white wines are thought of in terms of femininity and lacking seriousness compared to our Anglo-historical fascination with claret.  Admitting that rieslings are actually quite interesting and fantastic for summer may just be the next step in our romancing of the riesling grape.  Perhaps as American consumers discover that rieslings with sugar can be serious wines (not to mention some of the most stunning wines in the world), they will simultaneously discover the place of riesling at the dinner table that isn't on the patio.

So are Americans romancing the riesling?  As a riesling lover and producer, I think it is probably the other way around!

By: Kelby Russell, Winemaking Team

Music of the Day:
  • The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds; "God Only Knows" (In the same vein of 'what is appropriate when,' I am more and more drawn to the warm and springy sounds of The Beach Boys as a break during the depths of winter):

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