The Wine Cellar: Remarkable rieslings

If I had to choose my favorite type of wine, it would have to be riesling. Before I talk about my personal recommendations, I thought I’d start with a little history.

Riesling wines were originally grown in Germany’s Rhine and Mosel river valleys; however, today they are commonly produced in many regions throughout the world. The dominant varietals are Johannisberg and White Riesling.

The wine is available in both dry and sweet variations. If you tend to like dry wines more, you’ll want to look for a bottle labeled dry or “trocken,” which means dry in German.

If you’re like me and you like your wines a little bit sweeter, then you’ll want to look for a bottle labeled Spatlese, which means “late harvest” in German, or Auslese, which means “selected harvest.”

The aromas and flavors associated with riesling wines tend to be fruity, mainly with hints of apple, peach, apricot and pear along with some floral elements. The wine can be paired with an array of foods, from appetizers to desserts. It goes well with pasta, chicken, fish, pork and spicy Asian foods. It’s the type of wine that should be brought along on a summer picnic.

Following are a few of my favorites, not only for their quality, but also because they’re affordable. They’re listed in no particular order.

Hogue Cellars Late Harvest White Riesling (2005, Washington)—You’ve probably seen wines by Hogue before and just didn’t realize it. They have the hard-to-miss red label with a gold leaf in the middle. I like this riesling because of the aromas and flavors that include pineapple, mandarin orange, orange blossom, apricot and even powdered sugar. Plus, I like that it’s only $10 a bottle. You’ll also notice that Hogue uses screw cap closures for their wines.

Beringer Riesling (2003, California)—Most everyone has heard of Beringer vineyards based in Napa Valley, Calif. This wine is dry with flavors of lime and various spices. It has a peachy scent and is quite crisp. At $18 a bottle, this makes a good wine if you’re having guests over for dinner.

Schmitt-Sohne Blue Riesling Auslese (Germany)—This wine is also hard to miss with its bright blue bottle and yellow sunshine graphic on the label. It’s a classic German wine with flavors of apricot and honey. It’s perfect with almost any kind of dessert or fruit. I think of it as the perfect picnic wine and, at $10-$15 a bottle, it’s a bargain.

Jacob’s Creek Riesling (2005, Australia)—The label on this wine is very plain so it can easily be overlooked. This riesling has hints of lemon and lime, which is paired nicely with a light salad or fish entrée. It is also priced at $10-$15 a bottle.

V. Sattui Dry Johannisberg Riesling (2004, California)—Unfortunately, this wine is only available through the winery in California. You can order it online or via telephone if you can’t make the trip out to Napa Valley. This wine could be paired with almost any type of food. It has just a touch of sweetness. It’s also very affordable at around $17 a bottle.

Nicole Lindsay is an administrative assistant at Rockford College and a resident of Loves Park.

From the May 31-June 6, 2006, issue

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