Tuesday Dinner with Affordably Priced Rieslings and Reds.

A couple of weeks ago, at one of our wine lunches, I asked my friend, J-Lab, who is familiar with locally available German rieslings, if he could organize a riesling pairing dinner at a restaurant called Lemuria (where he’s the wine pairing consultant).

I figured Lemuria would be the best place to have a riesling pairing since the proprietress also owns Brumms, a company that imports and locally distributes German wine. I left all the dishes and pairings to my friend, naturally, and, on Tuesday evening of the 24th March 2009, my wife, I and several friends trekked to Lemuria. We were 12 in all.

All the German rieslings were provided for by the restaurant, the new world rieslings were donated by friends who import them and all reds were brought by us. All these wines are very affordably priced, one need not spend a lot on wines all the time to be able to enjoy a meal.

To start things off as everyone trickled in, we enjoyed chilled glasses of:

2002 Reichsrat Von Buhl Riesling Sekt Extra Trocken - This may very well be the first bubbly riesling I have ever had. Lean, taut and bone-dry, this is a crisp, edgy, tense, dry bubbly that exhibited strong citrus, white grapefruit, just a touch of green apple, lime and underlying orange peel, with an over-all bright white mineral lift to it.

Very pleasing and light, yet there is a seemingly nonchalant depth to its fruit. Tastes fresh with lots of bracing acidity - zippy, with a dryness you could cut your cheek on. Nice first experience with a bubbly riesling. Will wake you up and nice for the summer’s heat.

James then had served his bottles of:

2007 Kim Crawford Marlborough Dry Riesling - This seemed to be an evening of “firsts” for me, as this is, undoubtedly, the very first riesling I have had from New Zealand. I’m much more familiar with their sauvignon blancs.

This was a nicely rounded, moderately ripe-fruited New World riesling that exhibited slightly honeyed apple and white peach. There are mild ripe lemon-citrus, orange rind nuances underneath as well.

Comes off a bit tropical to me, with a seeming ripely-sweetish slant to its fruit. Its mildly honeyed fruit character and sufficient acidity made it a very nice match with the excellently rich Duck Liver Ballotine with Wasabi amuse bouche.

Relatively forward and readily pleasing - I’d say this would be very approachable to the many, especially those new to rieslings. Me, I liked it well enough. Straightforward, simple, honest and very friendly.

2006 Künstler Estate Riesling Medium Dry - Served with the appetizer course of Tuna and Compressed Watermelon with Wasabi Mousse.

A nicely dry, minerally riesling for the fish, with notable freshness and focus to its clean and lean streamlined white apple, stone fruit, comparatively less ripe (a good thing for me), drier and not as forwardly citrusy.

There was also more depth, minerality and underlying orange rind, with an alluring, subtle cold stone character. Merest whispers of petrol and small white flowers surface towards the back and in the finish. A precise and correct wine, if not much else. With the seared/crusted tuna, it was unsurprisingly good, cleansing and refreshing the palate of the salty spice of the tuna’s crust.

With an outstanding Cacao Smoked Duck Breast with Violet Confit and Dried Plums, we had two rieslings:

2006 Leewin Estate Art Series Margaret River Riesling - Another New World riesling thoughtfully donated by the Stockbroker who, unfortunately, couldn’t join us that evening. Another first for me, as I do not recall ever having tried a riesling from Australia. I’ve had, however, a vintage or two of Leewin’s Art Series Chardonnays and found them quite good.

Plumper with distinctive concentration and ripeness of white fruit that makes it come off plumper (especially mid-mouth), marginally heftier and noticeably less dry in comparison to the leaner, less fruit-driven, edgier and more minerally German rieslings, this is a more forward and eager to please style of riesling.

Like the Kim Crawford riesling above-discussed, I would say that this would likely be more approachable to those just “getting their feet wet” with riesling. Pleasant enough and more than just a little charming; very easy to drink.

2005 Gunderloch Rothenberg Nackenheim Riesling Spätlese - A mouthful of a name, as well as a wine, indeed.
Perfumed aromas of sweetly spiced white peach, honeyed baked apple, candied lemon, small white flowers and a slight breath of eucalyptus. Quite alluring. On the palate, the aromas are mirrored in a viscous, barely-medium body. Its heft and viscosity is very apparent, perhaps amplified by the string of preceding, drier rieslings. Lowish on acid, but still in good balance, with supple curves.

After a Ginger and Grapefruit Ice (in the form of a small, triangular popsicle) palate cleansing sorbet, the main course of US Rib-Eye Steak with Porcini, Creamed Spinach and Leeks with Madeira made its way to the table and the evening’s reds were served.

2001 Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Clos Vougeot Grand Cru - My bottle, the one that was not opened Monday night at Pepato. My last notes on this (though I’ve had it another time since then I think), were from lunch of 12th February 2009 wherein I did not decant the wine:

…this relatively young wine, after around half an hour’s breathing in my glass, readily displayed a perfume of dried cranberries, ripe black cherry, pressed violets, whispers of damp earth, all bringing to the fore the wistful romance of Burgundy decay. In the mouth, it was just shy a notch of legitimate full-body. Neither austere nor lavish, the wine readily rewarded the palate with a smooth, supple blend of dried cranberry, ripe cherry, raspberry over red beet, touches of plum and violets. Slight chocolate notes emerge discreetly just past mid-mouth and join in the finish. The dried cranberry/cherry/cranberry/ceps notes form the firm backbone of this wine. Admirable focus and grace, good typicity.

I liked this a lot and ordered more the moment I got home. I also read up on it on the net (what would we do without google?), and found out that in the first quarter of 2003, Allen Meadows’ Burghound rated this wine 89-92. While I am no big fan of assigning scores to wine (something I have absolutely refused to do), I do have great respect for Meadows’ evaluations of Burgundy’s wines. Happily, I got it at a very reasonable price.

This time, I decanted the wine before dinner started, so it was breathing for around 1-½ to 2 hours before it was served. It is still quite young at point, so material decanting does help it release its charms. This bottle was noticeably more complex, heftier and richer than before - Burgundy decay was not apparent in its bolder fruit infused with violets, touch of Asian spice, moderate dark chocolate and well-integrated vanilla/oak. Nice body, not quite chewy, but showing its girth.

1997 Clos du Marquis - Rene’s bottle, the 2nd wine of St-Julien’s Château Léoville las Cases. 1997 is an under-appreciated vintage, in my humble opinion, due, mostly, to a certain influential critic’s vintage assessment and his apparent preference for heavier, very ripe, fruit-driven wines. I have had some very enjoyable '97s (e.g., from Léoville las Cases, Cos d’Estournel, Léoville Barton, La Mondotte, Lascombes, etc.), thankfully, at very affordable prices due to the public’s coolness to the vintage.

Sure, they may not be as long-lived as those from better years, but, who cares? That just means I can enjoy them sooner rather than later.

In any event, this wine is medium-bodied, earthy and dry, rendering gravel and earth touched cassis, cedar, slight roasted herbs, violets, licorice and underlying tobacco. Very food friendly, properly reserved and, though not very complex, it is comfortingly familiar and undeniably a pleasure to drink. Good to go now and within the next two years, I’d say.

2005 Christian Moueix Bordeaux - Shared by Marina, this is the basic Bordeaux of Chrisitian Moueix from the much hyped, hot, ripely-roasted 2005 vintage. Simple, though somewhat charming, warm, round dark plum and dark fruit, bit of cherry and some cedar. Tastes like it is merlot-dominated. Not bad, though, for a basic Bordeaux. Good for hosting large parties for the under-initiated.

2001 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz - Shared by Lawrie, one of the several Penfolds lines that James distributes. This was decanted near the start of the dinner, so it had been breathing for around 2 hours or so by the time it was served.

Bigger, warmer, riper, more extracted, forward and concentrated than any of the previous reds, yet calm and collected. Viscous and round, a bit dense, plush with exceedingly ripe raspberry, blackberry, black cherry, confited dark plum, bit of pepper and a hefty dose of mildly creamy oak/vanilla nicely knit in. Hints of toffee and cinnamon, licorice. The red berries/fruit had a touch of candy to them.

I’m quite surprised I liked this, given that I don’t particularly favor shiraz - there are always exceptions. Good with barbecued ribs and very hearty roast or grilled red meat with robust sauces.

2004 Corté Riva Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - J-Lab shared this bottle, a label he distributes. As I understand, the winery that produces is Corté Riva wines is owned and operated (including the wine-making itself) by 2 Filipino-Americans Lawrence Cortez and Romel Rivera, formerly cellar master and assistant winemaker, respectively, of Pride Mountain Vineyards.

This is unmistakably Napa cabernet sauvignon, with dense, yet pliant ripe dark fruit, cassis, licorice, oak, dash of kirsch, with topnotes of slight cedar and mint leaf. Though still quite primary and, basically fruit-driven, it will, with aeration, surely please Napa lovers and fill nationalists with pride.

Though I’m neither a chest-thumping flag-waiver nor a Napa enthusiast, in all objectivity, I say that this is a well-made wine, displaying more craftsmanship, balance, self-control and structure at this early stage than many, many over-blown, syrupy Napa cabs I have tried.

Dessert, then was finally served, a delightfully light three-part play on apples called “3 Ways to Love Apples”, namely, as tasting portions of soufflé, beignet and jellied apple. This was precisely paired with…

2005 Bassermann-Jordan Ruppertberger Reiterpfad Riesling Auslese - Another tongue-twister of a name, Marina’s last bottles from Brumms’ inventory. This wine had a lot of bright, refreshing mineral lift and a bit of youthful spritz in its display of sweet crunchy pear, peach, green apple and hints of orange peel. The acidity balances off the sweetness very nicely, cleansing and resuscitating the palate as one enjoys its playful sweetness. Notably good purity in the fruit as well. Still quite young, but already very enjoyable.

After a round of brewed coffee and double espressos, several diners took their leave. For those of us who lingered, J-Lab offered to open another red and we happily agreed to help him drink it.

2004 Pierre Usseglio Châteauneuf-du-Pape - The wine was not decanted, and, young as it is, was understandably tightly-wound and a bit unyielding at first. Thus, we let it aerate in the glass while chatting with one another, while checking on th wine every so often to see how it was coming along.

After around half an hour or so, I noted that it had loosened up a bit, giving up more of its spicy, dried herb-infused, roasted-ripe red fruit, black cherry, tobacco, slight anise and pepper. The fruit is still shy, however, but there seems to be a lot of it hiding below the surface. There is a bit of heat as well, but, then, it is a young wine. Structure was very firm; there is a sturdy acid backbone to this that would suggest a long life ahead.

Marina sat with us stragglers and entertained us until the wee hours when the last of us took out leave.

Fantastic as always Luis Manuel. Great to see such an across-the-board representation of Rieslings. I would think with your relative proximity to Australia, you would have been exposed to some bottles long ago. Look for Clare & Eden Valley bottlings next time.

Thanks for the notes on the Corte Riva. I have been on the fence on picking some of these up at a deep discount. Looks like I can pull the trigger.

Noel, thanks for the notes on the Kim Crawford. Like you, NZ doesn’t really pop into my mind when i think Riesling. I see Kim crawford all over the place and without your note, would have been pretty hesitant to even try it…

Hola y gracias, Jorge. Please call me “Noel”, nobody ever calls me “Luis Manuel”, even though that is my real name.

There are a lot of Australian and NZ wines here, but mostly shiraz, shiraz blends and sauvignon blancs; with, to a lesser extent, pinot noirs and chardonnays. I have never seen Australian rieslings before, but, then, I’ve never looked for them. Now I know there are and will likely get them for large parties. I will certainly look for some of the Clare & Eden Valley bottlings and give them a try. Thanks for the tip!

My pleasure, Bill. I am not by any means very experienced with Napa cabs. Admittedly, I have tasted through only a small range of them. I have no idea how much the Corte Riva goes for in the US (much less what your deeply discounted price is), but, offhand, I’d say around $40 should be fair enough for this.

It’s ok at its price. Very tropical and not as focused, minerally, etc. as German rieslings - but, of course, it’s an entirely different animal. Pretty good for what it is.

Best to all,


Mil disculpas señor. Para la proxima lo recuerdo.

No tiene importancia, amigo.