Riesling


Technically, these three pinot noir wines (and one riesling) from Penner-Ash Wine Cellar’s 2015 vintage are not products of Jackson Family Wines, because that ever-expanding entity didn’t purchase Penner-Ash until April 2016. Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash founded the winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1998, launched with 125 cases, developing over the years to about 12,000 cases annually. The winery specializes in single-vineyard pinot noirs, made by Lynn Penner-Ash, of which I look at three today. She’s a meticulous winemaker, as you can see by the carefully calibrated oak regimens these wines are given, none exactly alike, and she will remain on board in that position under JFW’s regime. These are impressive wines, fine in detail, deep in dimension, and they will benefit from several years aging.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Penner-Ash Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, aged 10 months in French oak, 31 percent new barrels, 33 percent one-year-old, 23 percent two-years-old, 13 percent neutral. The color is dark ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; it’s a pinot noir of blazing purity and intensity, featuring spiced and macerated black cherries, currants and plums permeated by cloves and ground cumin, hints of sandalwood and sassafras and a touch of pomegranate; the super-satiny texture drapes the tongue in a dense, almost chewy enfolding, though kept dynamic through elemental bright acidity; the wine becomes increasingly loamy and foresty through the intense and concentrated finish. 13.7 percent alcohol. One of the best pinot noirs I tasted this year. Drink through 2022 to ’25. Production was 915 cases. Exceptional. About $65.
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The color of the Penner-Ash Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, is very dark ruby shading to a transparent rim; it’s a wine formidable in size and dimension, starting with its potent elements of loam and graphite minerality, its heady and intense aromas of lilacs and rose petals, its deeply spicy scents and flavors of black and red cherry and currant compote; dense, chewy and succulent, it’s a powerful and muscular expression of the grape, its texture equal parts talc and flint, its electric acid strain seemingly chiseled from granite. 14.1 percent alcohol. The oak regimen was 10 months in French barrels, 27 percent new, 35 percent one-year-old, 27 percent two-years-old, 11 percent neutral. Try from 2019 or ’20 through 2025 to ’28. Production was 1,000 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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The Penner-Ash Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Eola-Amity Hills, reveals a large-framed, intense and concentrated wine animated by penetrating graphite minerality and vibrant acidity while unfolding lovely details of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants infused with pomegranate and cranberry, sandalwood and sassafras; as with its stablemates mentioned above, texture and structure are fused by the power of its slightly dusty, velvety tannins — it’s the most tannic of this trio — leading to a sleek finish packed with cedar and tobacco, flint and juicy black fruit. 14.5 percent alcohol. Wood regimen was 10 months in oak, 30 percent new barrels, 46 percent one-year-old, 12 percent two-years-old, 12 percent neutral. Try from 2019 or ’20 through 2028 to ’30. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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By the way, don’t miss the Penner-Ash Hyland Vineyard Old Vine Riesling 2015, McMinnville, a true classic of a pale, dry riesling that makes a powerful expression of petrol, heather, peaches, lime peel and intense aromas of jasmine and gardenia, its lithe texture wrapped in vibrant and vigorous acidity and a scintillating limestone element. Excellent. About $35.
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So, today is Thanksgiving + One, and all the fuss about what the hell are we going to drink with the Feast of Abundance and Gratitude is over, done, finito. I will, however, describe what we drank. We happen to like riesling with this gargantuan and multi-diverse meal, and looking through the wine fridge, I found what turned out to be a wonderful choice, the Domaine Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2013, from one of the most distinguished estates in Alsace, originally founded by Capuchin monks in 1612 but operated since 1898 by the Faller family. The color is pale straw-gold; arresting aromas of peach, pear and mango are permeated by notes of cloves, honey and hay, acacia, green apple and almond skin, with a background of slate and flint. The wine features superb definition and dimension, framed by incisive, crystalline acidity and profound limestone-and-flint minerality that bolster spare flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pear with a paradoxical hint of lemon curd for a sly element of richness; a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of lilac and lime peel. Silky smooth, it’s quite dry on the palate and finishes with a boldly austere impression of august limestone minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. We were quite happy last night with this wine’s ability to bridge the often contradictory sensations that the Thanksgiving meal affords, as well as with the fairly glorious wine itself. Half a glass remained, which I finished this morning. Exceptional. About $40.

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala. A sample for review.


Sometimes a sweet wine is called for, and that’s just the way it is. For example, yesterday for lunch I had a pasta dish — the pasta was farfalle — that features caramelized cabbage with anchovy-sage-garlic bread crumbs. Plenty savory, all right, but the caramelized cabbage gave the dish a depth of sweetness that suggested drinking a sweet riesling with it. I opened the Brooks Wines “Sweet P” Riesling 2016, from Willamette Valley’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The grapes grow in a dry-farmed, biodynamic method vineyard on 42-year-old vines; native yeast starts the fermentation, and only stainless steel tanks are used, no oak. How sweet is the wine? The back label indicates a point between medium dry and medium sweet, and I would say that’s an accurate assessment. The color is pale straw-gold; at first the wine is all fresh green apple and apple skin; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of spiced pear and lychee and a hint of apricot, unfolding elusive hints of jasmine and honeysuckle. On the palate, the sweetness assumes the form of ripe and slightly honeyed peaches and apricots balanced by bright acidity and a fairly glittering element of limestone minerality; the latter qualities provide a tension between softness and crispness, between sweet and dry that gives the wine excitement and allure. 11.9 percent alcohol. Production was 500 cases. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $24.

A sample for review.

At just under three years old, the Helfrich Riesling 2014, from Alsace, is drinking beautifully, with promise of increasing its burnished character for four to six more years or so — such estimates are always inexact, though based on knowledge, experience and intuition. Fashioned all in stainless steel, the wine offers a very pale straw-gold hue and sprightly aromas of green apples, ginger and quince, with notes of petrol, heather and hay and more subtle hints of lychee and mango; as the moments pass, the floral element of honeysuckle and jasmine burgeons and blossoms. The entire effect is of a crystalline, chiseled substance, equal parts limestone and steel, propelled by scintillating acidity and buoyant flavors of spiced pear and lime zest. The finish delivers a bracing hit of apple peel, almond skin and pure shimmering minerality. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink with fresh oysters, grilled trout with capers and brown butter, pike quenelles, or, as we did last night, miso soup. Excellent. About $16, representing a Top Value.

Imported by Advantage International Distributors, Miami, Fla. A sample for review.

Here’s a German riesling for true lovers of German rieslings. The Heitlinger Tiefenbacher Schellenbrunnen Riesling Trocken 2014, Baden, hails from the town of Tiefenbach; the vineyard is Schellenbrunnen, designated Grosses Gewachs, something akin to a Grand Cru in Burgundy or First Growth in Bordeaux. This classification is indicated on the label by the “GG” emblem. The color is very pale, a shimmering light straw-gold hue; aromas of green apples and spiced pears are highlighted by penetrating notes of limestone, petrol and gunflint, this heady amalgam unfurling hints of peach and lychee, heather and hay. At slightly more than two-and-a-half years old, this tense, taut and vibrant riesling has attained a state of pure minerality on the palate, where it defines the notion of “bone-dry”; in fact, there’s something bony about its structure, in the sense, for example, that we consider high cheekbones — especially in women — a sign of elegance and breeding, yet the texture delivers a touch of talc-like softness that keeps the whole project from being forbidding; austere it is, yes, particularly on the whip-lash, chiseled finish, but not characterized by Olympian detachment. A few minutes in the glass free up scents of jasmine, honeysuckle and lemongrass. This is, in other words, a captivating, even thrilling riesling that delivers pinpoint and crystalline virtues at every level of its varietal nature. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2022 to ’25. Exceptional. About $30.

Imported by WineWise, Oakland, Calif. A sample for review.

“Orange wine” became a category, a trend, an obsession in certain small circles 10 or 15 years ago. The concept of troonfermenting white grapes on the skins — hence the pale orange color — runs contrary to the usual practice, in which the juice and skins are whisked away from each other, so the wine takes on the familiar hues of pale or medium straw or gold. Fermenting white grapes on the skins, about which a great deal of ink was spilled or keyboards mangled for a fervent period of time, seems to have lost its controversial and partisan allure, so winemakers can decide to make an orange wine without subscribing to a list of demands or pledging allegiance to a philosophy laid down by fanatical critics. For those consumers who have never tried an orange wine, I offer today the Troon Vineyard Whole Grape Ferment Riesling 2016, from Oregon’s Applegate Valley appellation. Foot-trod, fermented with native yeasts, the wine — Troon’s first venture into orangeness — spent a bare three months in neutral French oak barrels. It’s unlike any riesling you ever encountered. The color is a kind of pale copper-topaz hue; at first, the wine is pure apples and in fact smells rather like cider; then it expands with notes of orange rind and spiced pear and a sherry-like tendency toward cloves and roasted/salted almonds. The wine is quite dry, animated by brisk acidity, and organized around a structure that while delicate and lithe feels almost tannic. From mid-palate back through the finish, it’s dominated by elements of quince marmalade infused with ginger, candied grapefruit rind and a touch of green olive. 12 percent alcohol. Not intended to make old bones, this unique wine should be consumed by the end of 2017. Winemaker was Steve Hall. Try with tapas and other salty and savory appetizers. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

loosen riesling spatlese
Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2011, Mosel, Germany, is not the current release of this wine from the distinguished estate; that wine would be the 2015. However, I was sent the 2011 version by the generous people at Wines of Germany, who have supplied we with eight examples of German wines — two each quarter — for many years. How often do we get to try a wine with almost six years of development under its belt? Not too damned often! The name of the vineyard means “spice garden”; the village where it lies is indicated by the name Ürziger. The wine was made from vines that average 60 years old; it fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and large old foudres. The color is glowing medium gold; aromas of slightly honeyed peaches and apricots are woven with notes of ginger and quince, cloves and sandalwood, smoke and loam. Though moderately sweet at the entry, the wine is riven by bright and shining acidity that segues to dryness from mid-palate back through the crystalline finish; it’s sleek and satiny, lovely, lively and delicate altogether, and the ripeness and luxury of baked stone-fruit flavors are balanced by damp stone-wet leaf earthiness at the core. 8 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2022 to ’25 with spicy Southeast Asian cuisine, charcuterie, pork chops with chilies, veal roasted with apples or, paradoxically, with the least sweet of desserts, a shortbread cookie, biscotti or fruit compote. Excellent. About $32.

Imported by Loosen Bros. USA, Oregon City, Oregon. A sample for review.

What more is there to say after “delightful and charming”? These are wines designed to provide your weekend — or the whole week, for that matter — with pleasure, deliciousness and elegance. We range widely in this post: Greece, Germany, Oregon, California, Long Island, Mendoza and Chablis. All single-variety wines, their grapes include assyrtiko, indigenous to the island of Santinori; pinot gris, not that common in the Rhineland; riesling and sauvignon blanc; gruner veltliner and pinot blanc; semillon and chardonnay. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I largely eschew technical, historical and geographical data for the sake of quick, incisive reviews meant to pique your interest and whet your palate. With one exception, the wines were samples for review. Enjoy! (In moderation, of course.)
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argyros
Estate Argyros Assyrtiko 2015, Santinori, Greece. 14% alc. This one will make you wish you were sitting in a little cafe looking out at the wine-dark Aegean Sea. It sees 20 percent French oak and was made from 150-year-old ungrafted vines. Very pale straw hue; dusty, dry marsh and seashore grasses and herbs; roasted lemon and faint spiced peach; quite ethereal and summery but displaying bracing acidity, notes of limestone-seashell minerality and an aura of yellow meadow flowers. Very Good+. About $25.
Athenee Importers and Distributors, Hempstead, N.Y.
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binz
Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Pinot Gris Kabinett 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany. 12% alc. Bright straw-gold color; jasmine and camellia, preserved lemon and lemon balm, lime peel and pear skin; a hint of mango-like tropical character; crisp and tart, taut with vibrant acidity, very dry yet ripe and juicy on the palate; long, lean, lithe finish. Truly delightful and lots of personality. Excellent. About $14, marking Great Value.
Winesellers Ltd, Niles, Illinois.
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brooks riesling
Brooks Riesling 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 12.5% alc. Pale straw-gold; a direct hit of petrol and rubber eraser, followed by notes of heather and meadow, peach and lychee, with burgeoning hints of jasmine and quince and, after a few moments, ginger beer; limestone minerality offers a tremendous presence for a sense of dimension, without diminishing such fine details as bay leaf and nuances of mango and guava; the whole enterprise feels etched with bright, dry acidity. Just great. Excellent. About $20, representing Wonderful Value.
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2016SauvBlanc
Freemark Abbey Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Napa Valley. 13.4% alc. Very pale straw-gold color; notes of lime peel, grapefruit, lemongrass and spiced pear, highlighted by hints of pea-shoots, hay and heather and undertones of sunny, leafy figs; really lively, vibrant, super drinkable, yet spare, dry, lithe, nothing flamboyant or over-done; a finish chiseled from limestone and flint but wreathed in lilac. Excellent. About $24.
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Illahe Estate Gruner Veltliner 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13.5% alc. 650 cases. Very pale straw-gold; classic ILLAHEHEADER_famowned notes of hay, lilac and pine, with roasted lemons and yellow plums, a hint of lime peel and peach; very crisp, lively and engaging, with clean acidity and crystalline minerality cutting through a juicy, talc-like texture; terrific personality and appeal. Excellent. About $17.
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2013ReservePinotBlanc300x300 (1)
Lieb Cellars Reserve Pinot Blanc 2015, North Fork of Long Island. 11.9% alc. And this one will make you wish you were sitting on a terrace in the Hamptons, gazing out at the cerulean Atlantic. Very very pale, almost invisible in the glass; notably clean, fresh and spare, quite crisp and vibrant, with delicate strains of peach and spiced pear, rose petals and candied lime peel and a tremendous volume of limestone minerality; slightly herbal and resinous finish. Lovely character. Excellent. About $22.
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Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5% alc. Medium green-gold hue; sunny, leafy figs Santos_SM_NV_labeland guava, apple skin and lightly baked pear; a haze of smoke and jasmine; quite clean, spare and elegant, with a beguiling texture that balances moderate lushness of fruit with zinging acidity and flint-graphite minerality, though that aspect emerges on the finish. Wholly delightful and pleasingly complex for the price. Excellent. About $16, marking Good Value.
Global Vineyards, Berkeley, Calif.
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chablis
Christian Simon Petit Chablis 2014, Chablis, France. 12% alc. Drinking beautifully at about two and a half years old. Pale straw-gold; shimmers with steel and limestone and a snap of gunflint, lustrous with lightly spiced lemon and apple; a texture both dense and powdery, lithe and supple; warms to subtle floral notes; lovely shape and resonance. Excellent. About $22, a local purchase.
Matinicus Wines, Beverley Hills, Fla.
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The Saar Valley is one of the least-known of Germany’s wine-producing regions, though the name used to be integral in the overall suhwar13bottleappellation Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. (After 2007 called just Mosel to be consumer-friendly.) To make its acquaintance, I would suggest the St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Wiltinger Alte Reben Riesling 2015, classified as Kabinett Feinherb, meaning that it’s a bit drier than most Kabinett rieslings. “Wiltinger” is the village associated with the vineyard; “alte reben” indicates old vines, in this case dating back to the early 1900s, at least in some portions of the 22-acre parcel, which lies on iron-rich Devonian slate. Dry the wine might be, but, gosh, it’s a real sweetheart. The color is a pale straw-gold hue; beguiling aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, peach and lime peel are wreathed with notes of heather and lemongrass, green apple and mint, this panoply segueing seamlessly to the palate, where elements of roasted lemon and spiced pear are bolstered by a burgeoning tide of limestone and flint that attains a state of pure minerality. All these qualities culminate in a blithe yet savory finish characterized by grapefruit rind and bracing smoky salinity. 10.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22 with grilled trout, fish and seafood stews and risottos or as a delightful aperitif while cooking. Nik Weis is owner and winemaker of St. Urban-Hof. Excellent. About $18, marking Great Value.

An R. Shack Selection, HB Wine Merhants, New York. A sample for review.

The Schlossberg vineyard in Alsace, designated Grand Cru, is a steep, terraced property on granitic soil farmed by the Blanck family on blancksustainable standards. The Paul Blanck Schlossberg Riesling Grand Cru 2012, Alsace, was fermented by natural yeasts in stainless steel and rested for a year in large wooden foudres, followed by two or three years in bottle before release. Have mercy, what a lovely wine! The color is pure medium gold; seamlessly woven aromas of quince and ginger, peach and lychee, green tea and lemongrass open to notes of lightly spiced pineapple and grapefruit and hints of jasmine and honeysuckle. Crystalline acidity chimes a course through a texture that’s part swooningly ripe, part school-teacher astringent, for an effect that’s vibrantly balanced and exciting; flavors of roasted lemon and lemon balm are spicy and savory, dry and refreshing, bolstered by a burgeoning coastline of saline limestone and flint minerality and a finish that trades in lime peel and a note of grapefruit rind bitterness. For a riesling of such depth and complexity, it’s remarkably clean, bright and light on its feet. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2022 to ’25, giving the wine a chance to mellow and burnish. Excellent. About $34.

Imported by Skurnik Wines, New York. The label image is woefully laggard but is all that’s available. A sample for review.

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