Riesling is the noble grape that probably has received the least amount of attention in the past. That may be changing. Exposure to this grape is growing and with regions like the Finger Lakes now making world class Riesling, more and more North Americans are getting exposure to this fantastic grape varietal. Most of the wines recommended in this summary are from Germany—only because I covered most of the current Finger Lakes Rieslings earlier this year. In the second half of this report, I will tackle dessert wines. These dessert wines are delicious treats to be enjoyed after your meals this fall and through the holiday season.
My first observation is that if you find a 2007 Riesling from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr (VAY-len-er Zon-en-ooer) Vineyard you probably can’t go wrong. Four of our top ten Riesling recommendations that scored over 90 points came from this vineyard-including our top pick!
That top pick was the 2007 Dr. Loosen “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese” Riesling for $32. This was our favorite Riesling covered this summer. We scored this Riesling 92 points. The downside is that Dr. Loosen only produced 400 cases of this special wine from the steep, rocky, and blue slate soils of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard. This Riesling is full-bodied, well balanced, and very creamy. It displays a delicious blend of apricot and pineapple flavors. It finishes nicely sweet and is quite refreshing. Our panel felt this wine would be perfect with melon wrapped in prociutto.
Our second place wine is really wine 1A as it also scored 92 points. It was the 2007 Dr. H. Thanisch “Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Spatlese” Riesling. The only reason I placed this wine second on the list is because it came from a different vineyard other than Wehlener. This offering costs $30 and it is also is very limited in that only 400 cases were made. This Spatlese level Riesling won its blind tasting flight and as I mentioned it tied for 1st place overall. On the palate it is full-bodied, very nicely balanced, complex, and really smooth. The flavor profile is an incredibly tasty ripe green apple with a touch of sweet lemon. We also detected a hint of minerality as well. The finish is extremely refreshing and it is also very easy to drink and enjoy. We felt this Riesling would pair nicely with grilled shrimp with a pineapple salsa. We also think this wine might be a wonderful option to pair with your turkey on Thanksgiving.
Next up is a slew of Rieslings that we scored 90 points. The first 3 are from Wehlener Sonnenuhr. Notice the different profiles, given the same vintage and the same vineyard. It just goes to show you that different wines and different styles can be produced from the same vineyard in the same year.
Our first selection is the 2007 Dr. Loosen “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett” Riesling for $26. This limited production wine was very well received by our panel. There were only 200 cases of this lovely wine produced. On the palate, this wine is full-bodied, balanced, and viscous. The flavor profile is a tasty blend of ripe green apple and sweet peach with a touch of minerality and honey on the back end. It was very refreshing.
Next up I chose the 2007 S.A. Prum “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett” Riesling for $25. This offering is medium-bodied, shows nice viscosity, and sweetness with its lemon tea flavors. It was nicely balanced between its fruit and sugars. Again, like the Loosen it is nicely refreshing and would make a perfect pool wine.
We conclude the Wehlener Sonnenuhr parade with the 2007 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese” Riesling for $33. This offering was full-boded, viscous, creamy, and nicely sweet. It displayed mild lemon flavors with a touch of apricot and pineapple. There was a drop of honey mixed in as well. This Spatlese is very food-friendly and would be a wonderful choice with a roasted pork and apple compote.
Next up, Dr. Loosen returns to the recommended list with their 2007 “Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese” Riesling for $32. It was also very well received by our recent tasting panel. It is full-bodied, balanced, and slightly viscous with a touch of fizz. The flavor profile is a light lemon tea and orange with some infused minerality. The panel felt that this wine would be a perfect option with peach glazed pork smothered in caramelized onion or bacon wrapped shrimp.
Finally our last 2007 vintage 90 pointer comes from Dr. H. Thanisch. Their 2007 “Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett” Riesling opens with a very attractive ripe pear like bouquet with hints of light apricots and bananas. Once invited in by its attractive bouquet, you will find a full-bodied and viscous Riesling that displays a very tasty iced tea flavored wine with notes of lemon and apricot. It was delicately sweet and very refreshing. We felt it would be a perfect sipper for a hot summer day.
The next 3 wines are from the 2008 vintage. I call them my early risers. The first two are also great deals.
The 2008 Ad Lib “Wallflower” Riesling for $17 came from down under. Mt. Barker in Australia to be exact. This was our favorite “Dry” Riesling in our recent mini tasting of dry styled Rieslings. It was medium-bodied, nicely balanced, and very easy to drink. Its flavor profile was a mineral infused light lime. The finish was rather dry and refreshing. We found this Riesling to be very versatile and food friendly. It will pair particularly well with bacon wrapped shrimp or scallops. We scored this dry Riesling 90 points.
Next up was the 2008 St. Urbans Hof 2008 “QbA” Riesling for $17. There are tons of this wine available as there were 14,000 cases made and it should be very easy to find. Since we scored this wine 90 points, you will find it to be quite a bargain. This offering is a tad sweeter than the most of the Kabinetts. However, it was the consensus winner in a mini flight of mostly QbA level Rieslings. Its flavor profile is a blend of light lime and green apple with a touch of minerality gently infused. The finish is delicately sweet and very refreshing. This is a pleasant food friendly Riesling that would be perfect in the summer and served with grilled scallops.
Also from St. Urbans Hof we recommend the 2008 “Piesporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese” Riesling. Like the QbA we scored this wine 90 points. This Spatlese is medium-bodied and shows crispy acidity. Its flavor profile initially was a vibrant tart lime with complex notes of tangerine, peach, and pineapple. With some air and time it went on to reveal some mangos and it improved its balance. The finish was refreshing. We think this very young Riesling will definitely evolve and get much better with time due to its complexity and how it evolved and improved on day number two. Finally we felt this Riesling would pair nicely with spring rolls or bacon wrapped scallops at your pool party this summer if you plan to have it in the short term.
Finally, our last highlighted Riesling comes from Dr. Konstantin Frank in the Finger Lakes. His 2008 “Dry Riesling” was our second favorite “Dry Riesling” and we scored it Very Good and awarded it 89 points. It is light-bodied, balanced, and has a rather dry mouthfeel. The flavor profile is a mineral infused grapefruit and apricot with a hint of lime.
Other Recommended Rieslings:
12) Dr. H Thanisch 2007 Riesling “Bernkasteler Graben Spatlese” $30 (89)
13) Dr. Pauly Bergweiler 2007 Riesling “Bernkasteler Badstude Kabinett” $23 (89)
14) Studert Prum 2007 Riesling “Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese” $25 (88)
15) St. Urbans Hof 2008 Riesling “Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett” $20 (88)
16) St. Urbans Hof 2008 Riesling “Ockfener Bockstein Spatlese” $24 (88)
17) Georg Albrecht Schneider 2007 Riesling “Niersteiner Paterberg” $15 (88)
18) Dr. H. Thanisch 2007 Riesling “Berncasteler Doctor Kabinett” $39 (88)
Dessert Wine Recommendations:
We love the Riesling tasting every year. Those of you who love sweet wines, really love sweet wines. This year’s selections of recommended dessert offerings are exceptional. You will find some of the wines near the top to be a bit pricy. However, I would say that they are worth it. There is no better way to finish your dinner than with one of these dessert wines. Sweets for your sweetie as they say. So let’s get started.
Our favorite dessert wine was one of the three exceptional Ice Wines that we recommended from Inniskillin. Their 2007 “Riesling IceWine” for $75 was terrific. We scored it Very Good+ and gave it 92 points. This offering from the Niagara Peninsula in Canada is golden colored, full bodied, nicely balanced, and displays a silky syrup like mouthfeel. The flavor profile is a very ripe apricot and tangerine blend which one panelist described as sweet, but not too sweet. It’s harmonious. The panel felt this tasty dessert wine would pair nicely with green apples and sharp cheese or simply on its own for dessert. Next up is its big brother. The 2007 Inniskillin “Cabernet Franc IceWine” for $95 was a new one for me and the panel. However, what an impression it made in our recent dessert wine blind tasting. It opens with a fragrant raspberry jam like bouquet with a hint of licorice mixed in. On the palate, this offering is full-bodied, viscous, and creamy. The flavor profile is a very sweet and tasty black raspberry with hints of honey and apricots. This delicious Ice Wine was my favorite and we would pair this gem with dark chocolate covered strawberries. This offering also scored 92 points.
On my trip to the WBC this summer, I came across a very tasty Moscato which was the highest scoring Dessert wine on the trip. This wine was the 2008 St. Supery “Moscato”. It was full bodied, balanced, and shows a reasonable level of sweetness. The flavor profile is a delicious blend of tangerine and peach with a hint of apricot. It paired perfectly with our peach cobbler. We scored this wine 92 points and for $23 it is a steal.
Next up is the 2007 Dr Loosen “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese” for $42. Based upon what we said above, it is not a big surprise that this wine from this vineyard produced a winning dessert wine. We scored this wine Very Good+ and gave it 91 points. This viscous offering has a flavor profile of tangy lemon flavored iced tea with notes of apricot. The finish is pleasantly sweet and very nicely refreshing. It would be a very nice wine to finish off your special meal.
One of my favorite dessert wines each year is the Standing Stone “Vidal Ice.” The 2007 vintage was a winner again. It is also an exceptional bargain. We scored this wine 91 points and for $20 it’s a steal. What you may not know is Vidal Blanc makes incredible Ice Wine. This one is full-bodied, rich, creamy, and balanced with delicious sweet apricot flavors. This wine is special and you should order a bottle soon to serve over the holidays.
Our next recommendation comes from South Africa. The 2005 Kanu “Kia-Ora Noble Late Harvest” for $22 is made from mostly Chenin Blanc. We awarded this wine 90 points and like the Standing Stone it is a really good value. This full-bodied and viscous dessert wine displays a sweet dark rum and ripe pear like flavor profile that the panel felt would be a perfect match for pecan pie. You should get a bottle of this for Thanksgiving to go with the pie.
The next 2 options are both made from Vidal Blanc. Both wines scored 90 points from our panel. First up is the 2007 Jackson Triggs “Vidal Icewine.” This wine is only $25 for 187 ml. You should be able to find it as 8,000 cases were made. It is full-bodied, balanced, and concentrated. It shows off very ripe apricot flavors with notes of sweet honey and spice. One panelist summed up this wine as a terrific dessert wine to have as dessert. That says it all. Next up is the 2006 Inniskillin 2006 “Vidal Gold IceWine.” This one costs quite a bit more at $75 for 375 ml. It is silky and well balanced. Its shows delicious concentrated ripe apricot flavor profile that explodes in the mouth. I loved it. However, it was a bit sweet for a couple of the panelists. If you love classic Vidal Ice Wine, this one is for you.
Our next wine is again from Wehlener Sonnenuhr. The 2007 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese” for $45 is also Very Good. We scored this wine 89 points. This viscous dessert wine displays a mineral infused lime flavor profile with a touch of peach detected as well. The finish is pleasantly sweet and refreshing. We would pair it with chicken cordon bleu.
Lastly, I am going to do something I never really do. I am going to highly recommend 2 Port wines. To give you a little history why I do not usually go down this path is a short story. To me, most Port wines display too much alcohol and are more like liquor than wine. I like wine for its food friendliness and enjoyment. Most Ports to me are hard to pair with food and very difficult for me to enjoy. However, this year I found a couple options that defy this premise and therefore will get highly recommended.
The first is the Warre’s Non Vintage “Otima 20 Twenty Year Old Tawny Port” for $45. Our mini panel scored this wine Very Good+ and gave it 91 points. The Port lovers on the panel would have probably scored it higher. I have to say that this Port does a very nice job of keeping its 20% alcohol level in check. It was medium-bodied, smooth, and very enjoyable. It displays a light nutty flavor with notes of pecan pie. There was just a little bit of heat in the end. But I definitely felt that this was a Port that most readers could enjoy with friends after dinner. I was impressed!
Our last wine is what I call my challenge wine for 2009. As mentioned above, I usually have to be coerced into trying most Ports. So that is what happened. Billy Grant from Four Vines coerced and convinced me to give his 2005 Zinfandel Port a whirl. I reluctantly tried it and let me tell you, I was quite impressed. This gem is full-bodied, quite smooth, and balanced. It is rich and concentrated with beautiful sweet ripe red raspberry flavors with a hint of raisin on the back palate. This is one of the best Zinfandel ports I have ever tried. I have since tried a few others which have come nowhere close to this wine. As a matter of fact, none of them qualified. So if you like Zin Port, this is a perfect wine to serve with dark chocolate covered strawberries. Grab some quick, because at $23 per bottle this wine is a steal. We scored this wine 93 points and look forward to trying the 2006 vintage.
That wraps up this year’s Riesling and Dessert wine results. We hope over the next few months you get to try some of these gems. We had a fun time covering these sweeties. If for some reason you can’t find any of these specific brands, I feel very confident in saying that if you find any 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling, you are likely in for a treat. Cheers – Ken
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