When you get a chance to taste a vertical of wine, normally images of something very fancy-pants, precious, and expensive come to mind. But at Hogue's presentation/tasting detailing the results of a new study about alternate closures (and switch to 100% screwcaps starting with the 2009 vintage), their humble Riesling shined. We sampled a vertical from 2004-2009, all sealed under screwcap. The 2004 was still lively-tasting, showing some secondary characteristics and a little bit of a funky, earthy finish; one to guzzle-up in the near future. (Maybe I'm splitting hairs a bit about the finish; keep in mind this is a sub-$10 Riesling. The 05 is still going strong; I don't think it's even plateaued yet.) All the Rieslings had good balance between sweetness and acidity; much more refreshing than cloying. This is the second time I've taken part in this tasting and I've walked away with the same thought: "Why am I not stashing away a case (or more) for a few years?"
Director of Winemaking Co Dinn gave us an interesting background in all the trials and tests to determine how wine ages when sealed under screwcap. This was especially daunting as, he explained, "People who make screwcaps are capmakers, not winemakers." Co's team at Hogue had to do a lot of research into how the wine in the bottle was affected by oxygen transfer. It was also great to have Gary Hogue in attendance. He spoke of his farming background, and how when his family went into the wine business he "couldn't even pronounce Gewurztraminer." Gary also talked about the reason the company started experimenting with alternate closures: "When you have your name on a product and there is a problem, you're embarrassed."
After the round of Rieslings we got into the reds. Five glasses of 2003 Genesis Merlot--each from a bottle sealed with a different closure--were set in front of us. We would find out after trying the lot which was which. Now this was really interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I think it deserves a separate post. (Stay tuned.)
So what's your take on wines sealed with a screwcap?
In our never-ending quest to eat from food trucks as much as possible, the staff recently got tacos from a regular favorite, Marination Mobile. As I am trying keep my cholesterol from reaching quadruple digits, I ordered the tofu tacos. (They describe the tofu on the menu as "sexy" but I can't go there. I did eat four of them, so it certainly has undeniable appeal. There will be a second date.) They have a nice refreshing cabbage slaw and a creamy, tangy sauce. I'm not sure what the tofu is marinated in but it was really good. (My efforts to get Marination to divulge the ingredients was unsuccessful. Though they did reveal to me on Facebook that the sauce was "Nunya Sauce--as in nunya bidness." That's cold.)
Marination did, however, offer what I thought to be a great wine pairing, a Sancerre. A racy, zesty Sauvignon Blanc with a bit of richness would be great with the slaw and the creamy, uh, "Nunya" sauce. Especially with a squeeze of lime juice. I think it could even handle a bit of the pickled jalapenos. If you got a little spicier (and I did with some Sriracha) I think an off-dry German Riesling or Washington Riesling would work, too. (For the local wine, I'd go with Poet's Leap.) But I'm leaning towards Marination's pick or maybe a dry Riesling, like one from Australia.
What would wine would you match with these tacos?
The red wines produced by Long Shadows, an innovative program started by Allen Shoup, brings together some of the heaviest-hitting names in winemaking from all over the world to produce wines made with Washington grapes. As Gilles Nicault, Director of Winemaking and Viticulture (who was our guest for a recent tasting of Long Shadow's releases) explained, visiting winemakers "come to Washington and bring their savoir-faire."
While the reds seem to get the lion's share of the attention, I was truly impressed with the quality of the Rieslings. The Long Shadow's "Poet's Leap" is a collaboration with Armand Diel of Germany's Schlossgut Diel. Its refreshing qualities and nice, zippy acidity on the finish were so pleasing. The 2009 is the best version of this Riesling I've tasted. A definite porch-pounder for those hot summer months. Grab some sushi or some spicy Asian fare. (Then call me; I'll be right over.)
The real stunner, however, was the 2008 Botrytis Riesling, a dessert wine. Botrytis is often called "Noble Rot" as grapes affected by it make arguably the world's most famous dessert wine, Sauternes. All other kinds of rot, however, just make a wine that is...rotten. Botrytis helps concentrate the juice and flavor of the grapes so that by the time you harvest it, you get a juice more akin to nectar. As Gilles commented, the sugar levels are so high for this wine that when it gets into the tank it "ferments like maple syrup." In some logic-defying manner, while there is an insane amount of sugar crammed into every slender bottle, it's not cloyingly sweet. (Like, for example, a Jolly Rancher.) There is enough acidity on the finish (the looooong finish) to provide a bit of refreshment. Add this to gorgeous aromatics and you have a dessert wine that is one to sip, savor, and repeat. Just get some blue cheese and some thin slices of apple. (And, seriously, get a hold of me via phone, fax, text, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, carrier pigeon, whatevs. I will totes be there.)
Here's my real-time reaction to the Botrytis Riesling on Twitter:
Apparently I wasn't the only one impressed; Annie, a Washington wine enthusiast (to put it mildly) who was also attending our Long Shadows seminar, responded:
So enjoy those Long Shadows reds, but don't sleep on the Rieslings!
Touched down in Melbourne and stayed at the Crown Promenade Hotel, where lunch was the first order of business. Connected by a tunnel are a casino and, more importantly, the restaurants of the sister Crown Towers Hotel. I was about to heed the siren song of Nobu when I was distracted by two words: wine bar. Hello, Number 8.
I decided my theme would be seafood and it served me well. The first course pictured atop this post:
What can I say? It tasted as good as it looked. Perfectly cooked, tender shrimp (which is no mean feat as shrimp go from tender to rubber in nanoseconds) with a light sauce set off with some peppery arugula. (Or "rocket" as they call it here, which just sounds cooler.)
And here's the follow-up act to my prawns (aka shrimp):
Roasted Cone Bay barramundi, crisp baby calamari, à la grecque dressing
Barramundi is a fish extremely common in Australia; it has a medium firmness and some oily richness but flakes nicely with some gentle fork-prodding. The dressing was a Greek-inspired Mediterranean medley with an undoubtedly tomato base. And note the nicely crisped skin on top that was like the most holy alliance of fish and chip.
The icing on the cake? Naturally, the wine I had to accompany both courses. I was doggedly determined to drink Aussie and something I never had before. Hello Riesling from Tasmania! How cool is that? The 2010 Freycinet drank just like its counterpart from the continent: dry and refreshing.
Now that's what I call an auspicious beginning to my food and wine adventure in Australia! Bravo, Melbourne.