Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Beating Riesling's Bad Rap: the 2005 Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Dry Riesling

Riesling gets a bad rap--it really does. This is unfortunate when there are good examples out there in the marketplace at rock-bottom prices. Like cru beaujolais, riesling is not fashionable right now, despite the fact that both types of wine go beautifully with food, are low alcohol, and great value. The American wine drinker (especially) has become so used to oaky, big, ripe wines, that many find riesling and beaujolais wines "thin," "light" (which many are, but they're meant to be, so this isn't a flaw so much as a flavor difference), and "not interesting."

If you would like to try out a riesling, and do so in a way that does justice to both it and to your dinner, order some Chinese or Thai takeout (we got Thai from Tongdang Thai Kitchen, our favorite local, for this experiment) and buy the 2005 Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Dry Riesling ($8.99, Trader Joe's). Stick the riesling in the fridge for 2 hours--not all day, or all week, since this blunts all the flavors when wine is served that cold. For more on serving temperatures, CellarNotes has a nice chart, as well as instructions on properly chilling wine.

The 2005 Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Dry Riesling is, as its label suggests, a dry riesling. Rieslings come with many different levels of sweetness, as a brief article on wine.com explains. So if you've had syrupy sweet riesling and sworn off the stuff, then you're missing out on a world of great taste because not all rieslings are like that. In fact, one of the great things about this wine is that their aromatic floral fruitiness can give the impression of sweetness, when on the palate all you taste is bone dry citrus and minerals. At the high end rieslings are amazingly complex and can be cellared for decades, the flavors and aromas changing each year. At the budget end, they are refreshing and easy to drink.

When Bonny Doon made this excellent QPR riesling, they blended grapes from Washington (75%) and the Mosel in Germany (25%) to produce a dry, Washington-style taste that retained the aromatic profiles of the riesling varietal characteristic of the Mosel. It had loads of citrus and herb aromas, with a touch of something floral. As you sipped this wine, there was a cascade of apples, grapefruit, and a touch of mint. And after you swallowed there was a nice crisp juiciness that made you want more. At 12% alc./vol. you could have some more, too!

Like all Bonny Doon wines, the 2005 Pacific Rim has great labels--in fact it has 3 great labels. On the front of each is the Pacific Wine Maiden in her shell, but on the back, visible through the pale straw wine, are images of either garlic, cilantro and hot peppers, or sushi. Wondering what to serve your wine with? There are the cues, right on the bottle. Anything really light and clean-tasting like sushi that can get overwhelmed by most wine, or anything spicy that will clash with the tannins in many wines. We loved it with our Tongdang mango chicken ma muang, spicy beef with cashews, and basil shrimp and eggplant.

Take a walk on the wild riesling side soon and if you know of other good value rieslings out there, post a comment here so we can enjoy them, too.

9 comments:

John said...

I've always been partial to Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling. It's distributed widely enough that it can be found locally for many of us, and it should come in under that magic $20.

Love those Boony Doon wines.

drdebs said...

Hi, John! I haven't been able to get my hands on one of those yet, but I'm going out to a new wine store next week that says they carry them. I'll keep my eye out for it.Thanks for the tip!

Brooklynguy said...

I like Darting for budget German Rieslings (although he makes high end stuff too). I think Austria offers some greta values in Riesling too, but they are bone dry and super minerally compared to German or NY wines. For example, Hirsch and Nigl both make affordable Rieslings that go great with food.

ppelous said...

Totally agree on this one. It's exactly the type of white I like and I think the important factor me is that it is a "Dry" one because Riesling could be more fruity. Also I first found this wine at Cost Plus for those who are still looking for it. Myself I'm still hunting down the Minervois in your previous post!

cookingchat said...

I had succumbed to Riesling's bad rap for awhile too, but have started to come around. I'll have to try this one. I posted recently about a good one I had recently, Ayler Kupp:

http://cookingchat.blogspot.com/2006/11/2004-ayler-kupp-riesling.html

drdebs said...

Thanks, Neil, for the tip on Darting. I've never seen their wine out here (this is where Cal stores are not as good as those on the east coast--rieslings and also Burgundies!). And to Cooking Chat--that one sounds like a winner, too. Thanks also, PPelous for the head's up about it being at CostPlus as well.

Neal said...

If the 2005 is anything like 2004 I have to strongly disagree. Bonny Doon missed the mark and it barely resembles a Riesling. For comparison I have a review of the 2004 online.

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Neal. Of course everyone is entitled to their own palate. I didn't have the 2004, of course, and I found it neither watery nor oakey--maybe you had a bad bottle, one that was exposed to heat? And, as my review clearly said, this is a dry riesling. But not at all like a pinot grigio in my opinion.

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