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Murray: Rieslings are good for sippin', too
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Wine of the Month

Columbia Crest Two Vines Vineyard 10 Rose 2007

The wine: Fruity but nearly dry rose table wine

The grapes: 95 percent syrah, 5 percent viognier

The source: Washington State

The verdict: The bride and I put together a spicy hot Thai fish dish recently and I was rummaging around looking for just the right wine. I found it! What a lovely, dark pink beauty this turned out to be. The precise fruit flavors — probably as much from the white viognier as from the red syrah — meshed perfectly with all those runaround spices. This is another fine example of a European-style rosé; nearly dry, but with exciting flavors. The name Two Vines comes from the way the folks at Columbia Crest arrange the vines on the trellises in this old vineyard area. Many area retailers carry Columbia Crest wines.

The price: About $8 — a genuine bargain

I’m a riesling fan! The white wine grape known alternatively as Johannisberg riesling and white riesling is adored by most hard-core winos — even those who wax rhapsodic over nothing but big, strong, hearty red wines.

Riesling is none of that. But German and Alsatian rieslings are wonderful wines; full of fruit, bursting with acidity (that the fruitiness hides nicely). Australia, too, has made good rieslings — generally drier than the Europeans. And there are a few well-made American examples, as well.

But this great wine is not so popular in this country. Why? It’s that fruitiness. That softness in the mouth makes riesling hard to mate with food, unlike merlot with a big steak or sauvignon blanc with seafood.

Another concern among casual wine drinkers arises from the varying grades of quality of rieslings, especially the German wines, where the sweetness level rises along with the quality. Want a relatively dry riesling to serve with your pork roast? You don’t want an Auslese. You probably should poke around the label to find this tongue-tangling quality designator — Qualitatswein bestimmten Anbaugebietes, or QBA. This is mid-range quality, good, smooth wine, generally offering less sugar than the higher-quality Qualitatswein Mit Pradikat, or QMP.

I got off on this tangent because of an e-mail from an old friend, Big Jim Caudill, who handles PR and marketing stuff for the beverage giant Brown Forman. In it Jim told me that one of California’s most respected riesling producers, Jekel Vineyards, will be adding the International Riesling Foundation Taste Profile scale to the back labels of its Monterey County products.

This is a great help for consumers. It shows a sliding scale ranging from dry to sweet with a pointer along the axis showing you just where this particular wine falls. “Dry” and “sweet” are terms used to indicate the absence or presence of sugar in the finished wine.

Dry wines have little sugar left after fermentation, while sweet wines, obviously, boast more sugar. Sweet wines generally are not good table wines — wines to be served with a meal.

Most people can begin to discern sugar in a wine when it hits 1 percent or above. And that’s just about where Jekel’s Monterey Riesling is. That classifies this wine as “medium-dry.”

“Any consumer-friendly effort that helps explain that rieslings come in a wide array of taste profiles, from dry to sweet, is a consumer benefit we can easily embrace,” commented Tom Dempsey, Jekel’s Brand Director.

If you’re a riesling buff you might want to check out for more information about this often-overlooked beauty.
More from the Net

In other news...

I’m not a big Internet soul. I have trouble spelling PC, and in my vocabulary IBM stands for It’s Beyond Me. However, I do my share of surfing and do receive more than my share of wine-related stuff through the ether.

  • The Atlanta Wine School offers a monthly newsletter about events, restaurants, tours, etc., relating to wine and food in the big city. I’m happy in my little country home and try not to leave my ZIP code too often, but I’m sure not everybody feels that way. I’m sure there are some folks who actually want to go to the ATL. You can check in with these good wine folks at I’m sure they will be happy to put you on their list.
  • Nick Passmore is a wine guru in the Big Apple who offers frequent recommendations online. I enjoy Nick’s site because, frankly, we seem to agree more often than not on what makes a really good and interesting wine. Check Nick out at
  • Internet/wine lovers also might want to check out Lots of programs are available about various aspects of wine, wine makers, foodies, trends, etc. I’ve found a couple of interesting interviews at that site. Quality needs to be jacked up a tad, but it’s easy to get and the subject matter is eclectic enough to convince you to come back and check out another subject.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at His column runs on the first Wednesday of the month.

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