Winos – let’s be honest. A lot of times we pick a wine out at the wine shop not because of the vintage or our Wine Know regarding that region or varietal or anything of the sort. We pick it because of the label. And THAT is exactly why I picked up Kung Fu Girl Riesling.
After I got home and looked at the label a little more closely, I realized this wine is made by a winery with which I’m already familiar – Charles Smith Wines. I’ve tried their Boom Boom Shiraz (at La Grande Orange in Phoenix and elsewhere) and their Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon (at Kazimierz in Scottsdale) – the latter being one of my favorite wines, but both I enjoyed immensely. Ordinarily, I think of Rieslings as overly sweet and – not having a sweet tooth when it comes to wine – I do not usually seek it out. However, earlier this week, I was talking with Sister Kai (my actual sister, not a nun) who commented on how she enjoys Rieslings… AND I read something about how Rieslings pair with many different types of food. So I took it as two indicators of needing to study up a bit on Rieslings. And when I came across one from a winery that I knew I liked, it just seemed that the stars had aligned.
Diving Wine of the Week: Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington
I approach Rieslings with a bit of an attitude to start – primarily because of that presumed sweetness factor that I previously mentioned. But if I had to guess what Kung Fu Girl was on a blind taste test, I probably would have guessed a Pinot Grigio. The wine had flavors of apples and peaches or apricots and was very light and delicious. Cousin K enjoyed the bottle with me and she has a similar feeling regarding Rieslings. But for the sake of the blog, she went with it, and we both were pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the wine was. Overall, it was light and easy to drink – it was sweet, but not sugary sweet – it was appley sweet… which was lovely.
Riesling grapes originate in Germany and have “been arguably the world’s most undervalued” grape. (The Oxford Companion to Wine) What makes the Riesling grape so impressive is its ability to not lose its unique style as a wine while allowing a winery to place its own characteristics on the end product. The Riesling vine itself is extremely “cold-hardy” meaning it can withstand colder temperatures than most vines – convenient in its home (cold) region of Germany. The difficult growing conditions in which Riesling grapes ripen results in the acid-sugar balance that is so uniquely Riesling-esque. (The Wine Avenger)
According to The Wine Avenger, “no grape, white or red, goes better with more foods than Riesling.” I was pretty surprised to read that as I would never have paired a Riesling with any food, quite frankly. But The Wine Avenger also notes that Riesling is the most misunderstood wine. The alcohol levels in Rieslings are below average, and the wines can range from dry to “opulently sweet”. (The Wine Avenger) In fact, most Rieslings are around 8% alcohol content compared to about 13% for Chardonnays. Depending on the wine-making process, most Rieslings are busting with flavor due to their “high acidity, high extract, and low alcohol levels”. (The Wine Bible)
As stated, I always associate these wines with über-sweetness, but Kung Fu Girl – while sweet in a fruity way – was not über-sweet. (Do you like my use of a German word in the post about wine originating from the Germanic regions!?!). I would indeed go and get another bottle of this wine to enjoy it on multiple occasions.
In general, Riesling typically has flavors of ripe peaches, apricots, and melons, and sometimes a mineral-like quality (The Wine Bible). But what does Charles Smith have to say about Kung Fu Girl?
“A long cool awesome vintage. Heightened minerality. White stone fruit, you know, apricot, nectarine, peach also satsuma and lime leaves. This girl is kickass as ever! We love Riesling from Evergreen Vineyard in The Ancient Lakes area of the Columbia Valley AVA.”
90pts Wine Spectator
“Vivid, distinctive and immensely appealing for its juicy Winesap apple, apricot and citrus flavors, finishing with zing to balance the sweetness.”
Ummm… I’d just like to remind you Winos that I always write my assessment before looking up what the winery or world-wide-web says about a wine that I’m blogging about. And can I just say that apples, apricots, and peaches were ALL in my description!?! (Having a proud moment here…)
Riesling’s home is Germany and is very popular in Austria and Alsace (which is the French side of the Franco-German border). But Kung Fu Girl comes from Columbia Valley in Washington State. This state is known for its “bright fruit and relatively crisp acidity” in wines (The Oxford Companion to Wine). White grapes are the most commonly planted grapes in the state, and Rieslings in particular do especially well. The region in general prides itself on high value wines for less than high dollar (something most of us Winos appreciate).
I especially hope you all give this wine a try as it was surprisingly delicious in my humble Wino opinion (for Ms. Snodgrass, that abbreviation is IMHWO). If you do, let me know what you think!
[Source for all Wine Know, unless otherwise stated, is The Oxford Companion to Wine.]