Surely it’s not too late for a few New Year’s resolutions? It’s seems so soon to be a few days into the New Year. I was busy trying to find last year’s list, just to see what I missed out on procrastinating about. Just say I’m just well-practiced in putting off making (and breaking) those pesky resolutions. So here goes, a partial salute to the New Year and a look ahead to months of swirling, sipping and scribbling.
Taste more Colorado wines – Notice I specifically didn’t say “drink” more Colorado wines.
There are many in-state wineries whose tasting rooms I’ve yet to sully, and this year I plan to sully as many as possible.
That said, there also are some (many? few?) Colorado wineries who wines aren’t worth drinking, sad to say.Over-reaching, under-ripe, too many chemicals and too few years’ experience all add up to undrinkable. I’ll taste as many as possible and steer away from those who deserve steering away from.
Find the hidden gems – Sounds great, too bad it’s already taken by Colorado Ski Country USA.
Those wise marketing folks at Ski Country know a winner when they market it and I hereby resolve to let you in on the better-kept secrets of Colorado winemaking.
You won’t ready anything about the plonk (see No. 1) but each year I find some gems at the Colorado Mountain Winefest.This year, I’ll take you with me when we swing around the state.
Encourage wine drinkers to use better glassware – Sure, you can use a jelly jar for drinking wines, but then you could drive a Yugo to the Indianapolis 500, too. Good stemware, the kind that allows you to hold, swirl and sniff, isn’t expensive and lets you enjoy the flavors, bouquets and beauty of the wine.
If you think it’s chi-chi or stuck-up or fancified, that’s OK, too. Some day you’ll be served a nice wine in a decent glass and you’ll wonder what took you so long.
Drink more sparkling wine – Like, this might be possible only if they add a few days to the calendar. Don’t save sparkling wines only for “special occasions.” There are some fun sparklers out there costing under $10 and some killers in the $20 and under range.
Besides, haven’t you noticed how opening a sparkling wine – a sparkling wine other than Cold Duck, that is – makes any occasion special?
This also is the year to explore grower Champagnes, wines from farmers who once sold their grape to immense wine houses but now are bottling their own labels.
Try more (domestic) chardonnay – I’ll admit it: Domestic chardonnay is getting better. By “better,” I mean it’s trending away from the over-blown, over-oaked, over-ripe, peaches-and-cream flavors that ruined California chardonnay for millions of former fans. Winemakers are starting to rediscover the taut minerality and vibrant acidity that made chardonnay America’s favorite white wine. South America and South Africa also are producing some excellent chardonnays but the finest chardonnays still come from France.
Explore more – Speaking of California chardonnay, did you know some excellent (not chardonnay) white wines come from Spain (viura), Italy (trebbiano), Germany (riesling), New Zealand (sauvignon blanc) and South Africa (chenin blanc), to name a few varieties? Not to mention Bulgaria (traminer), Portugal (albariño) and Austria (riesling).
Ditto for red wines. There’s really no excuse for falling into a wine-drinking rut.
Stay out of a wine-drinking rut – Enough said.
My last morning at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen was spent watching part of the Quickfire Cookoff between Rick Bayless of Frontera in Chicago and Michael Voltaggio of The Langham in Pasadena, Cal. and being entertained and educated by Riesling fan extraordinaire Paul Grieco.
This final morning of the Classic traditionally is the quietest of the three-day event, as many people are thinking about heading home while there also are plenty of Saturday-night hangovers being nursed.
Grieco is co-owner of Hearth restaurant and Terroir
wine bar in NYC and such a devoted fan of the Riesling he was sporting for the weekend a big, bold, black “Riesling” tattoo.
Grieco (rhymes with echo) offered a seminar called “Riesling: A World Tour,” and after three days of the Classic, a Sunday morning seminar is unlikely to be very crowded, as he noted.
“People are either too hungover to get up or are over at the St. Regis watching the show,” Grieco offered. “So that means you (in the audience) are either lost or in love with Riesling.
“I’ll be bold enough to presume it’s the latter.”
“Finesse, harmony, complexity, longevity, all these add up,” he said, running his hand through his unruly mane of black hair, flashing the big, bold “Riesling” printed on his forearm.
But it’s terroir, and the ability to communicate terroir, that makes a wine truly great, he said.
“What do I mean by terroir?” he asked. “It’s more than just the soil or the landscape or the weather. It’s a sense of place, it’s what you grow and where you grow it and even the history of the land.”
Riesling, said Grieco, speaks of place like no other grape.
“Riesling is the greatest grape and produces the greatest wines on the planet,” he said. “Riesling is totally transparent, it gives absolute voice to the place it’s grown.”
He was also wearing a T-shirt announcing “The Summer of Riesling,” a Riesling-phile program offered at his wine bar, Terroir. Thirty wines, all Rieslings and all by the glass, comprise the bar’s white-wine menu.
“No chardonnay, no pinot gris, no sauvignon blanc, just Riesling,” Grieco explained. “We want people to experience and get to know Riesling.”
The six Rieslings he had us sample during his 45-minute included the 2007 Von Kesselstatt Riesling Trocken Josephshofer from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany.
“The measure of greatness in a Riesling isn’t the level of sugar, it’s the acidity to give it balance,” Grieco said. “The area along the Mosel is the perfect place to create wines with that balance.”
He laughed about the tattoo on his forearm, and noted we, too, could have one.
“If you love Riesling as much as I do, you’d do this, too,” he said, lifting the arm for all to see. “And so I’ve given you all the opportunity to have a Riesling tattoo.”
It’s not a real tattoo, of course, but rather a temporary water-based mark, and there at our seats were similar wet-and-press-on tattoo kits.
In spite of the hour, and any remaining hangovers, very few of the audience left without their Riesling tattoo.
Other Rieslings in Paul Grieco’s “Riesling: A World Tour:”
– 2008 Johannes Hirsch Zobinger Heiligenstein Riesling, Kamptal, Austria
– 2005 Josmeyer Les Pierrets Riesling, Alsace, France
– 2007 Herman J. Wiemer Magdalena Vineyard Riesling, Finger Lakes, N.Y.
– 2006 Cave Spring Cellars CSV Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Can.
– 2009 Craggy Range Fletcher Family Vineyard Riesling, Marlborough, N.Z.