Blue Nun Riesling

Blue Nun RieslingPrice: $19
Maker: F.W. Langguth Erben GmbH & Co. KG
Varietal: Riesling
Packaging: 3-liter box, push-button spigot
Alcohol: 10.5%
Our Rating: 8.2 out of 10

It’s taken us quite a while to get around to tasting Blue Nun Riesling, a non-vintage German wine that has been marketed in the U.S. for decades. This was in part because I tend to lean toward red wines, and in part because I’ve avoided man of the ever-present supermarket boxed wine. This Riesling has pear and pineapple flavors, with a hint of citrus in the finish. It’s relatively sweet and simple, and lacks the crisp, acidic finish that might tone down the sweetness.

This wine will appeal quite readily to those who aren’t regular wine drinkers – its fruity sweetness won’t offend at all. In fact, “inoffensive” is a good way to characterize Blue Nun Riesling. As such, it might be a good choice for a picnic white or similar uses.

Starling Castle Riesling 2006

Starling Castle RieslingPrice: $10
Maker: Imported by Prestige Wine Group from Germany
Varietal: Riesling
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 9 %
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

One’s first impression of Starling Castle Riesling 2006 comes from its gorgeous bottle. The surface of the bottle is frosted, except for one polished area on the front in the shape of a bird in flight. Like the better-known Belvedere Vodka bottle, the clear spot on the front of this wine bottle lets you view an image on the opposite side, in this case an ancient castle. With the light golden color of the Riesling, it’s a very nice effect and surprising for a wine this affordable. But, enough about the bottle… Starling Castle Riesling starts with melon and peach aromas, leading into pear, pineapple, and grapefruit flavors. This wine is at the sweeter end of the spectrum for a Riesling, but is saved from being cloying by a light crispness in the finish.

Overall, Starling Castle Riesling is light, sweet, and refreshing – it would pair well with fruit or cheese. The sweetness would match up with some spicier Asian fare as well. This is kind of a light-duty wine, but overall is certainly pleasant enough.

The Prestige site notes that this wine as scored a couple of modest medals:

Silver Medal, 88 pts, “Best Buy” German Wine Challenge 2007
Silver Medal American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition 2007

They claim the wine “was inspired by the flocks of starling birds that hover around the vines of this grand wine vineyards hoping to catch some of the golden, sweet Riesling grapes during autumn harvest.” Birds or not, this is a pleasant and attractive wine.

Polka Dot Riesling 2006

Polka Dot RieslingPrice: $8
Maker: Imported by E. & J. Gallo from Pfalz, Germana
Varietal: Riesling
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 10.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

With its fun, informal label, Polka Dot Riesling 2006 is clearly aimed at a casual, unpretentious crowd. The wine itself reflects that attitude. This Riesling has a flowery nose with some peach in it. The flavor is sweet for this varietal, with pear, peach, and a hint of sweet pink grapefruit. It’s a pleasant, sweet wine that would go well with spicy ethnic cuisine. The other day I had a dish called simply “spicy catfish” in a Thai restaurant, and this would have paired nicely with it.

Although it’s not indicated anywhere on the label, according to Wine Business Monthly, Polka Dot Riesling is an import of E & J Gallo Winery. This wine has received a fair amount of attention in the blogosphere. For starters, we found the great illustration you see here that was created by photographer Elisa Henry. Back to the wine itself, Wineography found it “tasty” and “in keeping with its label aesthetic; it seems frivolous and fun, perfect for swilling at girly get-togethers and never to be taken too seriously. It almost tastes like California Pinot Grigio to me…” tried it at the St. Louis Wine Festival and liked it. 1700 Miles of Cooking tried Polka Dot Riesling as part of a bigger group of wines, but it didn’t make the favorites list. Greedy Gretchen thinks it’s a “very good choice” when her favorite Bloom Riesling isn’t available.

Leonard Kreusch Estate Riesling 2005

Leonard Kreusch RieslingPrice: $7
Maker: Leonard Kreusch, Germany
Variety: Merlot
Packaging: Bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 11.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Leonard Kreusch Estate Riesling 2005 has a mild spicy pear aroma, and a slightly syrupy mouthfeel. Its flavor notes include pear, apple, and grapefruit, with the latter being most prominent in the finish. This is a pleasant enough Riesling that would be fine for serving with seafood or to take some of the bite out of spicy food with its sweetness.

This Riesling is the first Leonard Kreusch wine we can recall trying, but in checking their website it’s clear they distribute a wide range of products. Not only do they have a broad selection of French, German, and Italian wines, they even offer spirits like the unusually named Karl Marx Vodka.

Wine Tasting at the Vine & Spirits

We love to attend wine tastings, as they let us sample a range of wines in the space of an hour or two, without having to commit to buying and consuming a bottle of something that turns out to be not to our liking. The Vine & Spirits hosted one the other night, with a slightly unusual approach. While normally such tastings showcase the range of wines from one or several vineyards, this tasting night contrasted the offerings of different brands in four varietals: Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. With three wines in each category, the taster could compare and contrast the different characters of each wine. This wonderfully practical approach is often superseded by the necessity of meeting the needs of a sponsor, but in this case it was an enjoyable change from the ordinary.

These included a Yalumba “Y” Series Riesling from Murray River, Australia, a Kiona White Riesling form Washington, and a Black Star Farms Late Harvest Riesling from Michigan. We didn’t keep notes on these, but the Kiona White was easily the sweetest, almost a dessert wine in character.

Pinot Grigios
These were Cantina Torlano Pino Grigio from Alto Adige, Italy; Torre Di Luna Pinot Grigio from Trentino, Italy, and Cantina Lavis Pinot Grigio IGT (Trentino, Italy). The Torre Di Luna wine seemed a bit more acidic, but not in a bad way.

Pinot Noirs
The Castle Rock Pinot Noir from Mendocino, California had a mild plummy flavor with a little spice. The first wine from Tasmania that I can recall tasting was Tamar Ridge Pinot Noir Devil’s Corner; this wine was rather thin, with quite a bit of pepper and acidity, but more mineral than fruit. My favorite of the group was the Babich Pinot Noir from New Zealand; it had quite a bit of body with a good mix of cherry/berry notes and pepper.

The most unusually named wine of the night was Gravity Hills Tumbling Tractor Zinfandel (Paso Robles), supposedly named for an incident in which a tractor slid down the steep hillside of the vineyard. This zin had a plummy start, and a dry, peppery finish. The Graziano Zinfandel from Mendocino, California had a big, bold flavor; it was fruity, almost slightly sweet as it hit the palate, but complexity and spice increased quickly, leading into a woody finish. My favorite from the group was Schuetz Oles So Zin, a California wine that was full bodied and showed a nice balance of cherry and spice from start to finish.

At the end of the evening, I ended up taking home some of the Babich Pinot Noir and the Schuetz Oles So Zin, my two favorites of the night. Kudos to The Vine and Spirits for hosting an interesting tasting event organized by varietal rather than the more typical brand arrangement.

Oliver Riesling 2003

Price: $9
Variety: Riesling
Packaging: Bottle, natural cork
Our Rating: 9 out of 10

This Riesling from Oliver Winery has a mild aroma of apple blossoms, and a golden color that is bright and clear. The wine has a very slightly syrupy texture, which isn’t a bad thing. Tasting it reveals apple and melon flavors, with a hint of honey and spice. Finish is a pleasant balance of sweetness and acidity.

The 2004 version of this wine won was awarded the “2005 Best New World White Wine” at the Jerry D. Mead’s New World International Wine Competition, which features blind tasting of a group of wines not restricted by price range.

If your tastes tend toward a sweeter wine, this is a choice that will still provide interesting flavors and satisfy those who might prefer a dryer choice.