Special to WJW
Being originally from California, when I want to lighten the mood, I usually reach for a something from the Golden State, like the dependably delicious Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($27) from Napa Valley, or the always enjoyable Covenant Red C Rose 2016 ($35) from Sonoma. Both are absolutely fine choices, and I recommend them unreservedly.
At this moment, however, I found myself reaching for the latest vintage of Alsatian Riesling from the Abarbanel Wine Co. With its new “Lemminade” light green and yellow label and packaging, the bottle just seemed bright and inviting.
This 2015 Riesling was hand-harvested from 40-year-old vines in the Haut-Rhin region of Alsace. Situated in eastern France, bordering Germany to the north and east, and Switzerland to the south, the Alsace is known for its white wines, such as its clean, bright, typically dry and generally linear Rieslings, and dry-to-off-dry Gewurztraminers.
There are only a handful of kosher Alsatian Rieslings in the U.S. market at any given moment, and other enjoyable examples of kosher Riesling are also available from California, Canada, Germany and Israel. The glass before me now, however, is this:
Abarbanel, Lemminade, Riesling, Vin D’Alsace, Semi-Dry, Old-Vine, 2015 ($18; non-mevushal): Clean, bright, fresh and really lovely with citrus and refined floral aromatics followed on the palate with the fresh, racy tang of sour lemon, tart apple, great minerality, zippy acidity and a little spice, and all in fine balance creating an almost crystalline or delicate effect for a wine that otherwise has some nice heft and mouthful. Overall, this is vivacious and food-friendly, with reserved, Old World charm. Serve lightly chilled.
Since it is still available, try comparing the new vintage to the previous one (with the old packaging) — Abarbanel, Old Vine Riesling, Batch 66, Vin D’Alsace, France, 2012 ($19; mevushal): No longer as restrained on the nose as it once was, this lovely wine offers classic citrus, flint, and floral aromatics followed on the palate with the fresh, racy tang of citrus, spice and herbs, with still enough of the acidity to keep it all together nicely, and now with additional bottle-age complexity to make it enjoyable even without food. Serve lightly chilled.
Also consider the other Abarbanel Alsatian wine:
Abarbanel, Lemminade, Gewurztraminer, Vin D’alsace, Old-Vine, 2015 ($23; non-mevushal): This is a beautiful, bright, vibrant, somewhat rounded yet refreshing and very slightly sweet Gewurtz with tingly acidity and wonderful aromas and flavors of white peach, lychee and wild flowers, with notes of ginger and cloves. Serve only slightly chilled with poultry, Asian cuisine or Cajun cooking.
And, because I mentioned them at the beginning and they really are fine choices for such an occasion:
Covenant, Red C, Rosé, Sonoma, 2016 ($35; non-mevushal; only available direct from the winery): This really refreshing, light, dry, crisp rosé — a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot and a little Cabernet Sauvignon — offers flavors and aromas of strawberry, raspberry, sour cherry and pungent honeysuckle. Serve slightly chilled.
Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2016 ($27; mevushal): From vintage to vintage, this is invariably one of the most reliably beautiful, delicious, aromatic, fresh and refreshing kosher Sauvignon Blancs on the market, with soft yet crisp acidity balanced perfectly against floral and fruit notes — especially white peach, green apple, mango and kiwi, with mineral-rich citrus and citrus-peel characteristics on both the nose and sumptuous palate. Serve chilled. This food-friendly glass of sunshine is perfect to pair with crudités, salads, mild fish and chicken dishes as well as simply grilled fish — or even just on its own to brighten your mood. L’ chaim!
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