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.
He is widely known for making wines the way he believes they should be made (which can include calling Europeans 'pussies', in a friendly way, of course, for being scared of wines with more than 15% alcohol) and for an equally distinct approach if it comes to marketing and labels, as you can clearly see above. Oh, and Smith was recently crowned Food & Wine Magazine’s Winemaker of the Year 2009.
The Kung Fu Girl Riesling comes from the Evergreen vineyard, in Washington State's Columbia Valley. According to the website, it is 'a cooler site due to river influence, the soils are composed of clay, silt, and caliche, deposited during ice age floods. This site produces fruit with sublime mineral character and the acid balance that winemakers dream of.' So, an American single vineyard, dry Riesling - what is it like?
The colour is a pale lemon with a green tinge; not unpleasant, but hardly substantial. The nose is crisp, dominated by lime in different variations, including candy lime, and under-ripe green apple. Add a hint of pear and a little mineral.
On the tongue it is lime all over again. Lots of limey acidity gives the wine sharpness, especially in the finish, and a bit of edge. Mid-palate though it all falls a bit flat, more like a processed soda or soft drink. I have enjoyed wines with more acidity than the Kung Fu Girl, but me and my drinking companion still felt it was too much, or rather that it could have been better integrated. Having the wine with food made it better, but even so the acidity dominated the experience.
Now, if you consider the price and the audience it is marketed at I am sure many people would find it very drinkable - as Twitter seems to confirm. If the idea of drinking sprite with alcohol and Riesling acidity appeals to you (and there is nothing wrong with it) you may like this wine. We did not finish it, not because it was bad, but we could also not see much reason why we should.
Interestingly, the night before we had tasted a fantastic Mosel Riesling with really well integrated acidity and great minerality, which we loved to bits. So I leave you with what Charles Smith has to say about the 2009 Kung Fu Riesling (btw, I think it is great that he gives detailed notes on all his wines on the website):
2009 was a nearly perfect vintage in Eastern Washington. The grapes were picked in late October after a season of very long, steady, slow ripening. A very long, cold fermentation helped to bring out the maximum in true varietal character, similar to a classic "Mosel-style" Riesling. Both fermentation and aging occurred in 100% stainless steel. This vintage shows the true character and potential of this amazing vineyard. This girl truly rocks with a mineral edge, yet delivers killer fruit character expected from an awesome Riesling. Worth twice the price and from a single vineyard—perfectly 'Modernist Project.'