USA

The Riesling Retribution by Ellen Crosby. A cozy wine mystery book review

Some reviews seem to write themselves, in extreme cases even before you have had a detailed look at the product. I mean honestly, what could you possibly expect from a "wine country mystery" novel entitled The Riesling Retribution that blends the discovery of a body near a vineyard, a love triangle in a winery and old family secrets into a "combustible atmosphere" that also features "eerie ghost stories", "buried secrets" and "a most unexpected outcome"? Is it really a recommendation when the cover cites an inspired reviewer with the verdict "A crisp read that goes down smoothly with a pleasant finish"? Would you trust an author to produce great literature who titles her novels The Bordeaux Betrayal or The Viognier Vendetta?

Let's see if the reality of Ellen Crosby's The Riesling Retribution is quite as predictable as that.

I'll be back: Shopping for German wine at Schneider's of Capitol Hill, Washington D. C.

You and I have unfinished business. Don't be afraid, gentle reader, the unfinished business is not with you and I won't come after you with my katana - just to put those of you familiar with movie references at ease. My unfinished business was with Washington D.C., the capital of the richest, most powerful nation on earth. At the Wine Rambler, we don't do feuds small scale, nor do we forget. It had happened to me in 2009 in D.C., and three years later I armed myself properly, booked a flight and returned to settle the score.

Washington calling

In the course of this mission I fought mighty lions, returned to the scene of my disgrace and (well prepared and armed) I did battle, restored our reputation and came home with molten Riesling gold, snatched from the dragon's lair.

Shinn Estates Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

Following my recent Californian adventure I have now paid the US East Coast a visit. At least so far as you can call opening a bottle of wine "paying a visit". I had visited the New York region last year though, and on a tour through Long Island discovered one of its vinous gems, Shinn Estate Vineyards. Among the lessons I learned there was that you can make very strong wines that can still feel light - if you get the balance right.

Now, if the warning of the Surgeon General on the label of the Shinn Cabernet has not scared you away, will the fact that it has 15.4% ABV?

Torsten Thursday, 04/08/2011

Au Bon Climat, 66% Pinot Gris, 34% Pinot Blanc, 2009

It is one man in particular that every so often makes me crave American wine: Jim Clendenen, the Californian winemaker behind Au Bon Climat. The ABC Pinot Noir and Chardonnay I have tried so far were delicious and, if you consider how insanely expensive Californian wine can be, reasonably priced. As it has been a while since I had the pleasure and as I love all Pinot varieties I could not resist getting a bottle of ABC's Pinot Gris and Blanc blend.

With a label like this, impossible to imagine in France and probably even in Germany, I don't have to tell you what went into the wine, but for you lovers of more "natural" winemaking I can add that this ABC is an unfiltered organic product of spontaneous fermentation.

Mayacamas, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1992

There are wines you fancy, wines you want badly and wines you have to buy. The Mayacamas ticked all these boxes, but particularly the third. An eighteen year old wine from a top Californian producer famous for their age-worthy, lighter Cabernets, and the price reduced to half - I had to get it. Mayacamas Vineyards go back to 1899 and rose to prominence when their Cabernet was included in the famous 1976 Paris blind tasting battle France vs. California.

The red cabbage and the chestnuts went on to accompany a piece of venison. The wine went into the Ramblers

In 2006, the blind tasting was repeated and the Mayacamas came third out of ten red wines, beating the likes of Château Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. So, when I saw my Mayacamas at Battersea wine shop Philglass & Swiggot I did not hesitate for second and decided to take it to Munich for a blind tasting at a Wine Rambler full committee meeting.

Torsten Sunday, 13/03/2011

Shinn Estates Vineyard, Malbec, 2007

There is a lot that could be written about Shinn, but as I have done that recently I just point you to my article 'You can't make red wine on Long Island' - Shinn Estate Vineyards, making local wine in a global world. For now just let me say that I bought this Malbec at a recent visit to a beautiful estate on Long Island that is currently being transformed to biodynamic production. Interestingly, the Shinn Malbec comes in a half-litre bottle - they only make Malbec in good years and in 2007 there was only enough for 1344 of those small bottles (selling at $35 each).

In order to avoid any bias I might have had from being welcomed so warmly at Shinn, I figured the wine would have to be tasted blind. So I took it with me to a recent Wine Rambler full committee meeting in Munich and wrapped it properly to hide its identity.

Coturri, Pinot Noir, Lost Creek Vineyards, 2002

Yes, it is plain wrong and should never exist. Seriously, a Pinot Noir, any wine in fact, with 15.3% alcohol must be evil. And yet this Californian Pinot Noir was strongly recommended to me when, during a visit to a stylish NYC wine shop, I asked for an unusual American wine below thirty bucks. As I love Pinot Noir and as Kate from September Wines was very enthusiastic about this one I decided to take it home with me (for $27.21, if anyone cares to know).

A few weeks later on a cold autumn weekend in London a pheasant was merrily roasting in the oven. The meal, the atmosphere and the colours around me were quite autumnal, and as the appearance of the Cotturi seemed to reflect that, I decided that the wine's time had come.

Jonathan Edwards, Gewurztraminer, 2008

Mystic, Connecticut, may not sound like the place to go for a wine adventure. And yet the Wine Rambler had an adventure moment there when (while browsing the shelves at a wine merchant) I discovered a wine from Connecticut - a wine region we have yet to explore. Naturally, I had to take the Gewürztraminer home with me (in one of those brown bags that the Americans like to sell their booze in).

The 'Gewurz' is part of the Connectictut product line of the Jonathan Edwards Winery (they also make wine in Napa Valley), a company that produces less than 10,000 cases a year: Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah and a few others, including my Gewürz. The winery is located in North Stonnigton, apparently with a distant view over Long Island Sound. It is part of the Connecticut Wine Trail, a group of some 20 state approved wineries you can visit along a scenic route signposted on state highways.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2009

If you come across a wine called 'Kung Fu Girl Riesling' you can be pretty certain it is a new world wine. I first heard of it on Twitter, where every other day a random American hipster would tweet about how much they liked it. The more radical souls seem to take the Kung Fu aspect literal and share kick ass opinions such as 'Yes, bitch, I like Kung Fu girl riesling. No I don't buy it as a joke. Go fuck yourself sideways you pretentious c-word.' Clearly, a wine that attracts interest, I thought, and made a mental note to get my hands on a bottle. So, when I recently found a bottle of Kung Fu Girl in a New York wine shop for fifteen bucks, I had no choice but to go for it. Is it really as kick ass as Twitter and the label make you want to believe?

Let's start with a few words about the winemaker. Charles Smith is a bit of a rock star among the wine crowd, and that is not only because he used to managed rock bands before going into the wine business.

'You can't make red wine on Long Island' - Shinn Estate Vineyards, making local wine in a global world

'How much alcohol do you think this one has?' With a cheeky smile David hides the label from us, just having poured an intensely coloured red wine. We swirl. We sniff. We taste. Towards 14%, we guess. David turns the bottle around and triumphantly declares '15.4%. But it does not feel that heavy, because of the acidity.' He reconsiders. 'You will still feel it the next morning though.' While I take a second sip of the lovely Cabernet, I look back over a line of open bottles. Just a few minutes earlier David Page had mentioned that he had once been told: 'You can't make red wine on Long Island.' I swirl another wine around the glass, smell the blackberry and earthy aromas of 87% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec, and I do not even need to look up to see David smile, and to know he has reason to. For the wines he makes together with his wife Barbara Shinn are proof that you can - make red wine on Long Island. And that is not the only thing we discovered during our visit to Shinn Estate Vineyards, a visit that turned into a study on local winemaking in a global world. And a bit with a dog...