Where buy now: Elevated Wines & Spirits ($10 at Surdyk’s Spring Wine Sale)
Region: Washington State
I can’t believe I’m writing about an American Riesling. Not because I’m a hater-I look at every wine I dislike as a missed romance- my palate is just not about syrupy, sweet wines. American Rieslings have a reputation of being sweet and thick. While “sweet” and “thick” can be very desirable adjectives for certain things in life, wine is not one of them.
I checked out the new(ish) Elevated Wines & Spirits in South Mpls off Hiawatha Ave. I was welcomed by warm employees as I walked into this great space full of craft beer and wine. The New France [local distributor] rep, Erin, was pouring delicious wines. I told her I was going to make some spicy Mandarin chicken and she asked if I’d tried Kung Fu Girl Riesling. At first I balked at it, seeing it hails from Washington State. Erin told me that she’s not a Riesling drinker by nature but loved this one. So, I took her advice and off I went.
Kung Fu Girl is bursting with zingy apricot, tart apple and peachy floral aromas and tastes. It’s smooth and silky with a layer of lime balanced by minerality. It’s truly an off-dry Riesling and I haven’t had an American one that mimics a German Riesling.
‘Tis the season for corned beef and cabbage, so, on a hunch, I bought another bottle. Constructing the perfect Reuben is quite important to me. The corned beef must be shredded, topped with Frank’s sauerkraut, thick swiss cheese & a healthy dollop of Thousand Island dressing. Oh, and it had better end up between marble rye. I must tell you the Kung Fu Girl Riesling was a pleasant surprise. The zing and tart, balanced by sweetness and minerality, cut through the thick beef/kraut/dressing veil- complimenting it rather than competing with it. This was wine/sandwich perfection. Get your corned beef on for St. Paddy’s Day and I defy you to go against the norm and pair it with this Riesling.
Corned beef aside, this will be my go-to wine for spicy food. it paired swimmingly well with Mandarin Chicken (kissed with Sriracha). I can also see this pairing well with a burrito al pastor, possibly Pad Thai. It’s also going to be a superb Summer sipper. Erin, you vino matchmaking genius, I can’t thank you enough for persuading me to take this girl home.
Where buy now: Most anywhere. Costco has it for $6.49 right now
Grapes: Pinot Grigio
Unsolicited samples can be a double-edge sword. On one hand, hey, free hooch! On the other, if you’re just not into it, then what?
There are two schools of thought: write the God’s honest truth or don’t write anything at all. Remember what momma used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Personally, I prefer Olympia Dukakis’ character, Clairee Belcher, in Steel Magnolias where she says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come stand by me!”
I was oh so happy to be pleasantly surprised by this Pinot Grigio by Gnarly Head. They make a mean, chewy Zinfandel, one I adore with spicy BBQ. http://bit.ly/VzpPHp /Ravenswood & Gnarly Head Zinfandel But hey, you couldn’t expect the Mack Truck folks to create a cutesy, sporty, two-door Mini Cooper, right? This light, crisp white varietal seemed like such an unlikely departure. Alas, it totally works. This Pinot Grigio is what fans of Pinot Grigio are looking for. This wine is light and lively. It is crisp and tart with flavors of lemon.
Are you making anything with lemon butter? Pair it with this Pinot Grigio. A light, herbed citrus chicken? Pair it with this Pinot Grigio. Hitting up the Chinese take out after work for some Kung Pao Chicken? Do it to it (just add Gnarly PG).
You can find this almost everywhere for around $8-9. [Psst! it’s at Costco right now for $6.49!]
Where buy now: Sunfish Cellars and Stinson Wines & Spirits for $11.99, North Loop Wines & Spirits
Region: Savoy, France
I’ll admit, French wines confuse the hell out of me. The label is all kittywampus. What am I reading? The wine type, the region it’s from, where it’s produced- WTF (and that “F” doesn’t stand for “French”)? The French government regulates what grapes can be grown where. Therefore, wineries don’t usually print the wine varietal on the label. This assumes that when you see where the wine is produced, you’ll automatically know what kind of wine it is.
Très difficult. Sacre bleu! If French wine wasn’t so delicious I’d just write the whole country off. So, I’m going to attempt to give you my down and dirty guideline to understanding a French wine label, Savvy Lush style.
The biggest words on the wine label are going to be the producer/winemaker and the appellation/region. You’ll also see the vintage and extra stuff like the wine’s ranking. There are four grades:
AOC or AOP – Appellation Controlée
VDQS – Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure (demarcated wine of superior quality)
Let’s look at this wine’s label. Up at the top you’ll read “Vin de Savoie”. This denotes the origin- it’s made in Savoie/Savoy region of France. The next notable item is “Abymes”. This is the name of the vineyard [or the maker’s name] for this particular wine. In this case, it just so also happens to be a village in the Savoy region. See how confusing this all can be? Below that is “Domaine Labbé”, which denotes the wine maker/winery.
Whew! Now that today’s lesson on label reading is done, let’s cover the “sciencey” details. This wine hails from the Eastern side of France tucked in the Alps bordering Switzerland. The wines produced are in small batches that rarely leave the region. Have you heard of the Jacquére grape? Didn’t think so. Most of this wine is consumed by locals and vacationers as this spot is huge with both Winter tourists (skiing) and Summer tourists (hiking).
The Domaine Labbé vineyard is unique in that it doesn’t sit high up the mountain side, rather it sits low on the valley floor. It gets a lot of sunshine and fresh Alpine air.
From The Vineyard’s website:
“Labbe and his team control yields by strategically de-budding vines in the spring. This labor intensive practice is rare to find at this price point. Grass grows in the rows between the vines to fertilize and oxygenate the soil – this practice also forces the vines’ root systems to go deeper for nourishment and soak up the terroir of the subsoil. Vinification practices preserve both varietal typicity and freshness – the cellar temperature is controlled, and indigenous yeasts are used in fermentation. Labbe uses only non-reactive tanks and foudres for aging.”
If you’ve ever had a chance to visit the Alps, you know they are breathtaking. If you haven’t, put it on the “bucket list”. One of the first words that comes to mind is “pure”. This directly relates to the water and air: fresh, clean, open, free. Before I get all Julie Andrews on your ass, I still haven’t described the wine!
It truly smells and tastes like the mountains from which it came. Graceful, fresh aromas emerge from the pale lemon green liquid (I smelled light citrus, pineapple and soft apple). Ethereal floral hints also mingle with the citrus fruits. This dry white wine tastes of fresh citrus and floral natures, and is balanced by minerality and crisp acidity. It’s a wonderful cross between Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay.
Now, what does one eat while enjoying this Alpine wonder-tonic? Oysters, shellfish and sushi if you swing that way. Cheese fondue is native to this region. Therefore, if you’re fonduing, pour the Abymes alongside it. If fondue isn’t your bag, a grilled cheese with gruyere, caramelized onions and a quick smear of mustard would be heavenly.
I drank it at Sunfish Cellars with their seasonal savory flatbread pizza. This consisted of an exquisite garlic sauce topped with cured meats, pepperoncini, red pepper flakes and mozzarella. I implore you to visit and tell Erica you want the Abymes and savory pizza combo. She’ll know exactly what you mean.
I hope I’ve begun to help demystify the elusive French wine label. Since two truths have been held for centuries, there’s little chance of them changing. First, French wine is delicious and worth exploring. Second, the French are going to do things their way so you best follow along lest you miss out on an abundance of life’s pleasures.
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