Thirst Calls, Riesling Answers
The peak of summer is also riesling’s peak season. Care to listen to two tempting tales of the enjoyment and wonderment that this naked grape delivers?
The first experience is difficult to duplicate in totality, but not in spirit. It was a tasting of Niagara rieslings to demonstrate the ten new sub-appellations unveiled this year by VQA Ontario. Seven were poured blind for city sommeliers by the tag-team of John Szabo and Zoltan Szabo, on behalf of the Wine Council of Ontario. It was a muggy June noon hour in the Distillery District, and these wines crackled with refreshment. Forget terroir for a moment—thirst called, riesling answered. Niagara seems to bring out this character better than many others, be it minerality or grapefruit or any other signature. A couple of these rieslings just sang, including the tight, zesty Flat Rock 2004 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling **** ($19.95, winery only) which tied for top Canadian riesling at the 2005 Canadian Wine Awards. Cave Spring 2004 CSV Riesling **** ($30, winery only) flashed similar brilliance, charm and more of riesling’s classic acid-driven structure. Then there was the completely opposite yet no less fascinating power and almost tropical opulence of Henry of Pelham 2002 Speck Family Reserve **** ($30, limited at the winery only), a wine to carry into the richest of fish, poultry or pork meals.
The second experience was on the road, by the pool at the Hotels Arts in Calgary on a tepid June evening, at the end of a long day of plus-30 temps. This is a boutique-style hotel with strong Asian leanings on its restaurant’s menu. I ordered a bottle of Loosen 2004 Dr. L. Riesling ***1/2 ($13.95, Vintages) from Germany’s Mosel Valley, to join a cold Asian dinner of mango and crab sushi rolls, followed by spicy cold shrimp on assorted greens. With almost perfect acid-sugar balance, and caressing, cool and seamless texture, it just never tired. It is not great riesling, with a hint of wet wool masking the peach-apple fruit, but with a kiss of sweetness and only 8.5% alcohol it was perfect for the moment. I really couldn’t have dreamt up a better food and mood match. At the price you should be grabbing six or 12 bottles to last the summer. And lest I forget to credit the winemaker, the brilliant and outspoken Ernie Loosen is among the leaders of Germany’s riesling revival—or renaissance, or reformation. It has been called many things over the years by hopeful writers. With affordable wines like this, I think it just might stick.
And one final note on Calgary before moving into the interior of B.C. for two weeks. My last dinner with judges from the International Value Wine Awards was at a Stephen Street restaurant called Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro. It sports the best “what’s new” wine list I’ve seen in awhile, and this because its owners, Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts, also operate a cutting-edge fine wine shop called Bin 905. Interesting how that works without a liquor board. Find interesting wines, import as many as you want without delay and sell them in your store and restaurant, one promoting the other. A concept with almost riesling symmetry and precision. Check it out at www.crmr.com/divino.