Historically speaking, Riesling is one of the "noble" grapes -- the varietals that traditionally made top quality wines were considered noble. Riesling is a white grape varietal which most likely found its beginnings in Germany, as still remains as the most grown varietal in that country. The Riesling vines made their way into the United States with the assistance of German immigrants more than 150 years ago.
Riesling vines grow best in cooler growing regions with optimum average temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees. Due to cold weather patterns, it has been quite common for Germany to have several poor vintages during any given decade but the higher temperatures that are associated with global warming makes the quality of the Riesling crop more consistent on an annual basis.
Cupcake Vineyard's 2011 Mosel Riesling was produced using grapes that are grown in the rich river valley soils of Mosel, Germany -- a region chosen due to "terroir" -- meaning that the soil and other geographic factors where grapes are grown will impart specific characteristics to the wine's aroma and flavors. The vineyards in Mosel are planted on extremely steep slopes with soil that is dotted with chunks of mineral based slate.
This Riesling is off-dry, making it taste slightly sweet and it contains zesty lemon flavors -- almost like a lemon chiffon, along with hints of melon and some minerality. It has a creamy mouth-feel and a refreshing finish. Although this wine doesn't need a food pairing to
enjoy, it pairs nicely with grilled skewers of fresh shrimp that have been basted with a spicy barbecue sauce.
Riesling is an excellent food wine due to the counter-play between sugar and acidity found in this varietal. It pairs well with spicy Asian foods, especially Thai and Chinese. Dry Rieslings are a style of this varietal that tend to be crisp and refreshing and pair nicely with a variety of different foods, flavors and spices.
The 2010 Cupcake Dry Riesling was produced using grapes from the Columbia Valley region of Washington and it contains the aroma and flavor of grapefruit, with a creamy mouth-feel and fairly long finish. If you enjoy Thai food, pair it with a spicy Pad Thai chicken dish.
The 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling from Columbia Valley benefitted from a little warmer growing season than the 2010 and 2011 vintages. This Dry Riesling has flavors of nectarine and pear, with a crisp finish. While tasting this wine, I couldn't help but think of pairing it with pan-seared scallops served over lo mein noodles seasoned with Szechuan spices and soy sauce.
Although Riesling wines are usually consumed at a very young age, they do age quite well and many German, Austrian and French Rieslings will last for decades. When drinking a young Riesling, it is common to detect fruity, flowery aromas and since the acidity levels are quite high, they taste crisp and refreshing. In well-made Rieslings that age gracefully, some will begin to have an aroma that is akin to petroleum and although petroleum may sound offensive -- it is a quite pleasant surprise to those who truly enjoy this varietal.
Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.