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Winning Rieslings
An offer you can't refuse, from Francis Ford Coppola

Giving credit where it’s due, Gary and Greg Butch of Elizabeth on 37th gave me what little Riesling education I have.

Through them I learned to appreciate the great Old World Rieslings and to explore the styles with an open mind and a welcoming palate.

To many wine drinkers, the Riesling grape conjures up memories of very sweet wines. In fact, access to Rieslings today offers a huge variety of expressions — it’s a true mirror of its terroir. Aromas, acidity and minerality can vary greatly between labels and certainly between geography.

And while the best Rieslings, to my palate, come from Germany, France and, domestically, Washington, this week I sampled a pair of Rieslings from California.

Francis Ford Coppola 2009 Su Yuen Riesling: Composed of 100 percent Riesling grapes grown in the cool climate of Monterey County, the juice is fermented in stainless steel until the wine achieves an off–dry level of sweetness. Aromas of tropical fruit and ginger are unmistakable; expect to taste a veritable fruit basket ranging from green apples to lush, juicy flavors of pineapple, peaches and lime. A hint of minerality gives Su Yuen its clean finish. About $16.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2010 Riesling: Produced entirely from grapes grown in Monterey County this full–bodied Riesling is rich and brimming with fresh honeysuckle, ripe peach and citrus blossom. Splashes of Gewertztraminer and Moscat Canelli grapes add depth and character.

Both of these wines are very aromatic, although not possessing the famed “petrol” aroma of aged Old World Riesling. Pair either with spicy Asian foods ranging from Thai to Vietnamese. Of course, our native shellfish and shrimp are equally pleasing food pairings. About $11.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey

Old No. 7 is getting a little sweeter when Jack Daniel’s rolls out its first new whiskey label in more than a generation.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey blends Old No. 7 with honey liqueur to create a market–challenging new player in the whiskey/honey category. I found it a pleasing blend and a clear cut competition to other brands, notably Wild Turkey American Honey.

It’s an enjoyable sipper on cracked ice and a nice little shot when you want whiskey without the bite. It’s a nice addition to lemonade, iced tea and ginger ale. 70 proof, about $22.