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WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:56 am

Wente Vineyards 2005 Monterey Riesling, 13% alc/vol, $8.00

My daughter brought several bottles of this home after a recent visit to the Livermore Valley. I'll find out later whether she gets upset because I hit her "stash."

This Riesling definitely smells and tastes like Riesling, somewhat reminiscent of the Rieslings I've had from the Palatinate (Pfalz). It is, however, not the greatest Riesling I've encountered. It does have a lovely light honey-colored hue, but the nose is somewhat stinky and calls brett or Pinot Noir to mind, not exactly what I think of when I think Riesling. Petrol or minerality it ain't! It never really blows off either, although when you try hard enough you do get a whiff of underlying tropical fruits. Apples and pears find their way to the tongue, but there is an abrasive, almost pith-like midpalate which upsets any enjoyment. (And, no, I do not speak with a lisp.) The alcohol also jumps out at you in an unpleasant way. Still in all, tasted blind I would probably still say "Riesling!"
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:26 am

Just for fun last night, and with a piece of mincemeat pie, I opened a split of the `94 Late Harvest Riesling. Lord knows how long that has been sitting in the cellar? The colour made me think shot but in fact it was quite tasty and had some life left!! Sure, it`s getting oxidized but in a nice way!!! Will post some notes asap after another glass or two!

Happy Holidays!!
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Howie Hart » Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:12 am

I think there's a place for everything and some places where some things shouldn't be done. Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon and California Riesling come to mind. I have yet to be impressed by either, so I avoid them. There are too many very nice Rieslings from Germany WA, MI, Ont and NY for less than $10 (I've never had one from OZ.).
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:52 pm

Pity you did not mention Australia Howie! I have had some great rieslings from the land down under.............

Petaluma.
Pikes.
Grosset.
Tim Adams.
Pewsey Vale.
Leasingham Bin 7.
Best Great Western.

I have to agree with your comment re. California (sort of!).
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Howie Hart » Wed Dec 20, 2006 1:33 pm

I was almost Rieslinged out after NiagaraCOOL, so I haven't bought one in months. I have several in my cellar, plus about 45 bottles of my home made '06. However, the next time I go shopping for Riesling, I'll look for one from OZ. :wink:
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Hoke » Wed Dec 20, 2006 3:48 pm

Howie Hart wrote:I think there's a place for everything and some places where some things shouldn't be done. Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon and California Riesling come to mind. I have yet to be impressed by either, so I avoid them. There are too many very nice Rieslings from Germany WA, MI, Ont and NY for less than $10 (I've never had one from OZ.).


Howie:

First, "California" covers an awful lot of ground. And climatic zones. And micro-climatic zones. To flatly conclude that Riesling has no place there is a leap I'm certainly not prepared to make.

Mind you, I won't deny that California has a rather disappointing record with Riesling overall. Part of that is the growers tended to put the wrong varieties in the wrong places, then to compound the problem, went for seriously high yields to pump up the volume---and that was largely because the growers/winemakers saw Riesling as a low-money plonk crop destined for jug wines. Which is exactly what Riesling was in California until a few scant years ago.

But again, to say that Riesling doesn't do well in California doesn't necessarily follow. Central Valley, yeah, it will never do well there (but a lot of grapes, heck, most grapes, shouldn't be there in the first place unless you're going for plonk, so that's not an argument). Even many of the coastal zones and AVAs aren't generally suited for Riesling.

But how about the Anderson Valley or Monterey, to cite two leading AVAs in Riesling production? There were even some promising Rieslings coming out of Napa (and Trefethen still does a notable one, I think), but most of that got ripped and planted in the money crops.

I believe certain areas in California are better suited for Rieslings. And I believe that it is possible---very possible----to make good quality Rieslings in California. I beleive some are being made right now. And I believe it can get better (it may not, but it can; the potential is there, I don't know if it will ever be realized).

By your logic (there's plenty of Rieslings in Germany, etc.), heck, we should just tear out all the Rieslings in the new world areas, shouldn't we? And Pinot Noir. And Cabernet?

I dont know about you, but I like the fact that Ontario Rieslings exist. As well as Michigan Rieslings (some killer ones too). And Washington state. And even the Okanagan. I've had dynamite Riesling from Chile (try the Cousino Macul from there); yet it's another country I really didn't associate with Riesling.

And you really should try some South Island New Zealand Rieslings, and some from the Clare Valley, the Eden Valley, and the Margaret River GIs in Australia. They can be wonderful.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Howie Hart » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:06 pm

Hoke wrote:Howie: .......

Hoke:
I'm not sure if you're critical of my statement, but the contents of your post almost seems like you're supporting it. :? I'm sure decent Riesling could be grown and made in some places in CA, but even in those places, is it actually the best grape for that area? So, the next time I go shopping for Riesling, as I stated above, I'm going to look for one from OZ. If I were to also look for one from CA, what would you recommend?
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Gary Barlettano » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:14 pm

Howie Hart wrote:
Hoke wrote:Howie: .......

Hoke:
I'm not sure if you're critical of my statement, but the contents of your post almost seems like you're supporting it. :? I'm sure decent Riesling could be grown and made in some places in CA, but even in those places, is it actually the best grape for that area? So, the next time I go shopping for Riesling, as I stated above, I'm going to look for one from OZ. If I were to also look for one from CA, what would you recommend?


Howie, as you probably know, I spent a whole lotta time in Germany and that skewed my enjoyment of Riesling to a more "German" profile. To be sure, I have yet to find a Riesling outside of Germany which satisfies my "bone hunger." Indeed, I even have a hard time enjoying MSR Rieslings as opposed to those from the Rhineland. I have not found a Riesling here on the left coast which even comes close to the flavor profile I enjoy, but that is not to say these were not decent wines in their own right ... just not German Rieslings. And I s'pose they shouldn't have to be since they were grown here!! But whether I am right in so doing or not, I find German Rieslings to be archetypal and, perhaps, am putting up barriers to my own enjoyment because of it.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Hoke » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:31 pm

Howie, as you probably know, I spent a whole lotta time in Germany and that skewed my enjoyment of Riesling to a more "German" profile. To be sure, I have yet to find a Riesling outside of Germany which satisfies my "bone hunger." Indeed, I even have a hard time enjoying MSR Rieslings as opposed to those from the Rhineland.


Gary:

That's a very interesting statement for me.

I spent my "formative" years in wine in Germany too. Actually, I spent my teenage years there, and spent an awful lot of time, as much as I could out in the countryside. Since I lived in the outskirts of Frankfurt, that meant I was often in the Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen, Pfalz and the MSR. I had some idea---but not the proper appreciation for the fact---that I was casually visiting and imbibing at some of the world's greatest vineyards, and undoubtedly some of the world's greatest Riesling vineyards.

While I had a proper appreciation of all the different regions, where my heart settled was in the MSR, and even more specifically in that range from the Mittel-Mosel to the Saar-Ruwer. Don't get me wrong: I still love the wines from Nierstein and the Nahe, and I gobble up a Basserman-Jordan and other plump little Pfalzes when I can, and I genuflect to the wine gods in the Rheingau....but when it comes to what rings my chimes, it always comes back to that stretch between Urzig and the Saar.

Obviously, your focus is different, and I can fully appreciate that. And that's one of the the great things about wine and wine geeks: we all have different tastes, some subtle, some great. And there's room enough for all of us.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Gary Barlettano » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:41 pm

Hoke wrote:
Gary:

That's a very interesting statement for me.

I spent my "formative" years in wine in Germany too. Actually, I spent my teenage years there, and spent an awful lot of time, as much as I could out in the countryside. Since I lived in the outskirts of Frankfurt, that meant I was often in the Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen, Pfalz and the MSR. I had some idea---but not the proper appreciation for the fact---that I was casually visiting and imbibing at some of the world's greatest vineyards, and undoubtedly some of the world's greatest Riesling vineyards.

While I had a proper appreciation of all the different regions, where my heart settled was in the MSR, and even more specifically in that range from the Mittel-Mosel to the Saar-Ruwer. Don't get me wrong: I still love the wines from Nierstein and the Nahe, and I gobble up a Basserman-Jordan and other plump little Pfalzes when I can, and I genuflect to the wine gods in the Rheingau....but when it comes to what rings my chimes, it always comes back to that stretch between Urzig and the Saar.

Obviously, your focus is different, and I can fully appreciate that. And that's one of the the great things about wine and wine geeks: we all have different tastes, some subtle, some great. And there's room enough for all of us.


You sound like me. I always say that I grew up in Germany. I got there when I was 19ish and left when I was 40ish. I cut my wine teeth in Mainz, so you know I lean heavily towards Rhine wines. Weck, Worst, Woi and all that jazz! Another parallel is that I was clueless as to what I was drinking at the time I was drinking it. (I also spent a lot of time in France and Italy and did not take advantage.) My more organized and scientific appreciation of wine came later in life. My butt is bung-full of denture marks relating to regrets about missed opportunities to learn.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by JC (NC) » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:43 pm

For dessert -style wines I can vouch for the Greenwood Ridge Late Harvest Riesling (only produced in years that favor the late harvest)--this is from Mendocino County. Definitely on the sweet side. I've seen praise for their basic Riesling as well but it is also off-dry so if you seek dry Riesling only, look elsewhere.
I also found some satisfaction with an Arrowood Late Harvest Riesling Hoot Owl Vineyard but would give the nod to the Greenwood Ridge.
Hoke was on the money about Anderson Valley in Mendocino. It has the cooling fogs and ocean influence to grow varietals such as Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Rielsing.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Gary Barlettano » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:48 pm

JC (NC) wrote: Hoke was on the money about Anderson Valley in Mendocino. It has the cooling fogs and ocean influence to grow varietals such as Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Rielsing.


Navarro Gewürztraminer, Husch Pinot Noir, Lazy Creek Gewürztraminer ... yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!!!
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:55 pm

I just went to cellar-tracker.com and searched "late harvest riesling". Over 8 pages of notes and many from California!!
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Hoke » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:55 pm

I'm not sure if you're critical of my statement, but the contents of your post almost seems like you're supporting it. I'm sure decent Riesling could be grown and made in some places in CA, but even in those places, is it actually the best grape for that area?


Ah, Howie, sometimes it's a pain to try to be balanced. :wink: I can sure understand where you're coming from----I just don't happen to reach the same conclusion you do, thassall.

I think there is some serious potential for Riesling in certain areas of California. You're ready to write off most of the west coast of the entire United States as a dead zone for Riesling. :) Somewhere in the middle, I suspect, is where the meeting point will be.

I can tell you that in numerous tastings (usually simple blind) I have conducted or participated in, California Rieslings often fare well against Rieslings from other areas. As Gary B. just pointed out, they are definitively not comparable to good German Rieslings, no. But then, they are not German Rieslings in the first place, so why should they be comparable? I don't expect CA Pinot Noir to taste like OR Pinot Noir or Burgundian Pinot Noir either. For me the equation is Variety/Place/Winemaker: Style.

Rather than name names of brands from California, I'll give you some source places to consider: Monterey, Monterey Arroyo Seco, Anderson Valley/Mendocino.

Santa Barbara (selected parts of it) could be a good Riesling area, I think, but it's unlikely they'll develop that grape there, as Riesling just doesn't get the money per ton that varieties like Pinot, Syrah, and others do. I've often wondered what selected parts of the Russian River Valley, especially the Green Valley/Sonoma part where it gets frickin' cold there and where they grow dynamite Pinots, could do...but it's signficantly less likely (like a frosty day in Hell) that someone is going to plant and lovingly develop Riesling there, so we'll never know, will we?

So where do you stand with Washington Riesling, Howie. Is that dead to you for Riesling as well? :mrgreen:
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Hoke » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:02 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:I just went to cellar-tracker.com and searched "late harvest riesling". Over 8 pages of notes and many from California!!


There have been some stellar renditions of late harvest Rieslings from California over the years, going back to the old Monterey Vineyards days, and including some from the Chateau St. Jean releases in their early years. Dick Arrowood made some damned impressive ones.

Dick Peterson, back in the 70s and 80s, put out some "Thanksgiving Harvest" and "Christmas Harvest" releases that were amazing.

Some of the Monterey Rieslings in particular, I thought, were stunning. But most of those aren't even made any more. Shame, because there you had the confluence of long hang time, extended fruit development, cold climate, with some occasional dampness which allowed botrytis, but not so much that the rains would wipe out the harvest.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Howie Hart » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:10 pm

Hoke wrote:So where do you stand with Washington Riesling, Howie. Is that dead to you for Riesling as well? :mrgreen:

Above I wrote:
I think there's a place for everything and some places where some things shouldn't be done. Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon and California Riesling come to mind. I have yet to be impressed by either, so I avoid them. There are too many very nice Rieslings from Germany WA, MI, Ont and NY for less than $10 (I've never had one from OZ.).
WA was second on my list. I've had a few nice ones ones from WA. Not many, as the local wine stores seem to have a large selection of Riesling from NY and Ont.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Hoke » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:25 pm

Howie Hart wrote:
Hoke wrote:So where do you stand with Washington Riesling, Howie. Is that dead to you for Riesling as well? :mrgreen:

Above I wrote:
I think there's a place for everything and some places where some things shouldn't be done. Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon and California Riesling come to mind. I have yet to be impressed by either, so I avoid them. There are too many very nice Rieslings from Germany WA, MI, Ont and NY for less than $10 (I've never had one from OZ.).
WA was second on my list. I've had a few nice ones ones from WA. Not many, as the local wine stores seem to have a large selection of Riesling from NY and Ont.


Well, yeah, sure. I think it's axiomatic that each of our perceptions of regions is based largely upon availability in our local markets. Obviously, you have a vastly broader selection of NY/Ontario Rieslings where you are: I have very, very few. And you'd think if that were the case, then I'd have some choice ones. But it's difficult to find good top-quality wines from that area here in the SF Bay Area. Fortunately, I get to travel enough that I can score some of those wines; unfortunately, now that the airline security issue says no liquids on the planes, that avenue has been sorely curtailed as well.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:41 pm

WTN: `95 Wente Late Harvest Riesling, Arroyo Seco Reserve-- Monterey.

350 ml bottle, purchased in late `90s, around $12 Cdn. 12% alc, very nice packaging.
Sugar at harvest 32.5 brix, sugar at bottling 11.65%

Colour. Very light burnt copper with watery rim.

Nose. Apricots, apple, almond, honey botrytis. Nose has stood up well overnight, natural cork inserted.

Palate. Still alive with nuts, white fruits, excellent acidity. Oxidized but does not totally detract! Caramel and some sweetness on the lingering finish. Great stuff from Monterey and good match for mincemeat pie. Cheers!
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by JC (NC) » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:18 pm

Echoing Hoke and Gary to some extent, I was in Germany on three different tours as a Department of Army civilian starting when I was 24 and totaling 15 years. I regret not taking more advantage of learning about wine at the time. My first love was German Riesling, specifically the Middle Mosel and Saar. I guess I still prefer MSR over other Rieslings but am fond of some Rheingau, Pfalz, Nahe, etc. Heck, I was there for some great vintages--when the 1976 went on sale for example, but drank the wines young and never stored them for any length of time. I did take Wildman's "Wine Tour of France" with me on an art history tour of Burgundy and used it in a wine shop to help select a Beaune wine to take home to Germany with me while the other Americans on the bus were mostly grabbing the cheapest red wine they could find. I credit my years in Germany with introducing me not only to fine Rieslings and Scheurebes but also to wild game such as rabbit and wild boar. I remember on a ski trip to Switzerland trying to explain Geschnetzeltes Zuricher Art (which I still can't pronounce) to an American couple. We were in a French speaking part of Switzerland and the menu listed it as Emince Veau with accents over the e's in Emince. I told them it translated literally to minced veal and the guy said "Oh, hamburger!" I protested vehemently--"No, it's NOT hamburger! It's small pieces of veal in a lovely gravy sometimes with mushrooms and in Germany it's usually served with egg noodles or rice but on the menu here it is served with Rosti which is like the Swiss version of hash browns. You'll love it!" I convinced the couple to try it although the wife asked for Pommes Frites instead of Rosti. The guy tried it before his wife had taken a bite and said "If you don't want yours, I'll eat it!" They both loved it as I had predicted. Wish I could get it in Fayetteville now.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Gary Barlettano » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:27 pm

JC (NC) wrote:I remember on a ski trip to Switzerland trying to explain Geschnetzeltes Zuricher Art (which I still can't pronounce) to an American couple.


Even though one should technically say "cut into strips," I sometimes refer to the meat as "shaved" like for real gyros to get the picture across. "Chipped" as in "chipped beef" works, too. Mahlzeit!!
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Hoke » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:37 pm

JC, that sounds very familiar to me.

I remember the first time I went to the Drossegasse in Rudesheim, with its almost embarrassing touristy foofaw, the lederhosen and the dirndls, the oompah band, etc....but, hey, some visitors wanted to go there and have fun. When the dish of the evening arrived, it was knoedle (dumpling made from potato and flour), which resembles a large softball sitting in a puddle of gelid gravy. Eeew. Come to think of it, it tasted sorta like a softball too.

I tried despairingly to explain about the wonderful food you could get in the right places in Germany---the lovely little yellow kartoffeln, the incredible veal and pork schnitzel sandwiches in the gasthausen, the sausages, the river fish, and most of all the Schweinehaxen---slow roasted pork shanks with meat so tender it would fall off the bone. But after the knoedle, they wouldn't believe me. :D

The food in Germany wasn't all that elaborate, but if you stayed away from the tourist haunts, it was usually simple, good, and plentiful. And the wines, of course, were superb.
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Gary Barlettano » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:46 pm

Hoke wrote:The dish of the evening arrived, it was knoedle (dumpling made from potato and flour), which resembles a large softball sitting in a puddle of gelid gravy. Eeew. Come to think of it, it tasted sorta like a softball too.


We make something called a Böhmisch' Knödel which is basically a light bread dough. You toss a raised, 4-cup ball of dough into a deep pot of salted boiling water, turn down the heat to a simmer, and then let it draw for 20-25 minutes, rolling it over about halfway through. It swells up like football. Let it rest for about 10 minutes and then eat it.

To cut it, you need to pull a thread underneath it and then cross the thread through it. Optionally and definitely for the leftovers, you can fry the slices in butter.

This beats out Spätzle by a long shot, especially with a nice brown gravy and gulash ... red cabbage on the side. O wie wohl ist mir am Abend ...
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Eric Ifune » Fri Dec 22, 2006 2:02 pm

Schweinehaxen!
Oh I miss it. I could feel my arteries hardening as I ate, but it was worth it.
Didn't Phelps source their riesling and schuerebe from Napa in the days they made some nice ones?[/quote]
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Re: WTN: Wente 2005 Monterey Riesling

by Gary Barlettano » Fri Dec 22, 2006 2:11 pm

Eric Ifune wrote:Schweinehaxen!
Oh I miss it. I could feel my arteries hardening as I ate, but it was worth it.


I am intrigued as to how my September comments on a less than stellar Wente Riesling could lead to December Schweinehaxen. It is, however, a good place to be. My Swabian men's choir used to gather round the grill and lay on some serious hocks in the cool breezes of the Schwarzwald.
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