This summer marks the sixth annual celebration of Summer of Riesling, an event created by the sommelier Paul Greico that first kicked off at Terroir, a wine bar with a cult-like following in New York City’s East Village.
Since the summer of 2008, restaurants and wine bars around the country have joined in the fun. The intent is simple: to spotlight Riesling, educate patrons about this white German grape, and woo them into trying wines made from it.
Made from a grape often championed as one of the most versatile and food-friendly, Riesling wines come in a broad range of styles, from dry to sweet to sparkling, although the latter is rare.
Which is why a flight of sparkling Rieslings recently captured my attention at Raven & Rose in downtown Portland, Oregon. The restaurant’s sommelier, Kristen Koors, had picked three sparkling Riesling wines, or “sekts,” to feature as perfect summer sippers. Or, as she dubbed the flight, “the best sekts of your life.” (See below for more info on the wines themselves.)
Curious about her choices, I asked Koors a few questions about Riesling.
What do you love about Riesling?
Let me count the ways . . .
One: Riesling is so expressive of where it comes from. And being able to stick my nose in a glass and feel like I’ve been whisked away to a cool night standing in a slate-laden Mosel vineyard doesn’t suck.
Two: Riesling has such incredible longevity! So many are produced that will live forever in your cellar, getting better by the minute. But if you are impatient, you can uncork a bottle and enjoy it fresh.
Three: Acid! All wine nerds love acid, right? Riesling is such a safe bet to pair with a huge variety of foods.
Four: Variety! There’s a Riesling for every occasion and every course. With such variances in sweetness levels, producer styles, and soil content, you can never get bored. Never.
Five: Riesling is for everyone. It’s a gateway wine. It can easily welcome those intimidated by wine with a sweet quaffable embrace, and it can also make the hair on the back of a Master Somm’s neck stand up.
Why did you pick “sekt” wines to feature?
I want people to learn that not all Rieslings are sweet; they can remove the enamel from your teeth with rip-roaring acid. So it was important to me that only one showed sweetness.
Any favorite food pairings with each of the three wines you are featuring?
I especially love it with the dish of spatchcock quail, green beans, peaches, and walnuts that our chef, David Padberg, created. And our sous-chef, Adam Kallio, has been following along the lines of Raven & Rose’s nod to the British Isles by introducing garam masala to his nightly specials. The most recent one featured grilled Oregon sardine, crispy shrimp, red pepper, and heirloom tomato. Having some Indian spice makes sense with our concept, and especially with Riesling.
What are some of your Summer of Riesling highlights?
It’s been a great opportunity to educate people about this grape, and to make people aware of the challenges that are facing our German friends.
Specifically, the Mosel bridge project?
The Mosel bridge project is going to cut through what would be considered grand cru vineyards in France, removing the tree line (water source) and putting a road in its place. This road will save drivers 15 minutes. A sommelier named Jessica Pierce is making a documentary to raise awareness and educate the public about the families, farmers, and vineyards that will be affected. The film is called “The Mosel Shortcut.” [You can read more about the film and the proposed bridge project on Pierce’s website.]
2010 Weingut Schwaab-Dietz, “Brudersekt” Riesling Trochen Sekt: “I specifically wanted to highlight a single vineyard, Erdener Treppchen, because of the rare red slate that lends the beautiful spicy notes to the Schwaab Dietz, Brudersekt. It also gives you a chance to connect the wine drinker to the people that made it. “Bruder” translates to “brother,” and this Sekt was made by four brothers. Many of the houses in the Mosel make a Sekt but save them for their own families. It reminds you how special it is.”
2009 Reichsgraf von Kesselstat “Majorat” Extra Dry Sekt: “I had lunch with Annagret from Reichsgraf Von Kesselstadt last year, and wanted to feature her Sekt because only their estate vineyards make it into the bottle. Most of the grapes come from the Kaseler region in the Ruwer, which gives a smoky minerality to this ripe 2009 vintage.”
NV Loosen Bros. “Dr. L” Deutscher Riesling Sekt: “Ernie Loosen is an incredible human. He makes more Riesling than anyone in the world, and manages to make it gorgeous regardless of the size of the production. The Dr. L is a great expression of the entire Mosel and all the lovely slates, with focused fruit and signature minerality.”
Kerry Newberry is a wine and food writer based in Portland, Oregon. She believes a good glass of wine is a story of people, place, and time. Join her here as she seeks out the personalities, politics, and poetics that craft a wine from vine to table. Follow her online and on Twitter @KerryNewberry.
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