Friday Frappe: Riesling as the People’s Wine {& More}

Riesling rocks. Life is not a blind tasting. Nor should it be. I was delightfully reminded of this slice of vino-veritas this week when running a wine bar at a cocktail party for a group of about 100 NY metro alumni of a prominent business school. It was a completely unscientific and yet utterly real-world setting to compare how wine lovers respoinded to an array of options. Let’s cut to the chase: the hands-down winner in this smackdown was a Finger Lakes Riesling; Dr. Konstantin Frank 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling, to be precise. Over the course of two hours, we went through 8 bottles of the luscious Dr. K (retail $15), vs. just over 2 bottles of Chalk Hill 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($29 retail). This was an old-fashioned and well-deserved butt-kicking. The Dr. K checked in to the party with gobs of juicy fruit and a vivid underpinning of mouthwatering acidity that seemed to make apples turn into apricots and pear. What was wrong with the Chalk Hill, which I learned after the fact had been “highly rated”? It was a Chardo-wannabe, smothered with a viscous malo-lactic charater and barrel-induced distraction. Fruit and acid took a backseat to winemaking technique and the result, as judged by the discerning masses, was not pretty. In fact, I ran out of the Dr. K, even after starting to offer smaller pours; could have probably poured 12 bottles. Word got out very quickly: try the Riesling. People kept coming, and kept coming back.

Shameless self-promotion department. I want to share news of a few events I’ll be doing in coming weeks:

I am teaching three classes at Institute of Culinary Education in NYC this Fall: Wine By Style, Oct. 17; Wines of Germany & Austria, Nov. 7; Catch the Trendiest Wines, Dec. 5. Each class features the same jokes but different wines. Seriously now, I approach each class the same way, using the wines in the glass as a route to the Big Picture of what’s going on in wine today. Great wines and good times, for $80. Details at .

Shameless cross-promotion department. My experience at the Wine Bloggers Conference is still reverberating. In case anyone missed it, here is the article I wrote about it for

Planning a follow-up of odds and ends from WBC09 still, but meanwhile, check out this experiment of “reverse social media” as the inimitable “Wine Bard” attempts to wed in wine country: . And watch for another WBC-spawned adventure, , as @sharayray and @thebeerwench (as they are known on Twitter) make like Thelma and Louise and go cross-country in search of what makes wine click with Generation Y.

Last but most important, a humble little note to say that I am very excited about helping launch a new wine content site in September. Palate Press ( represents the next giant leap in the movement of wine dialogue from print to cyberspace. Most exciting for me has been the unprecedented aggregation of brain-power and palate-power from a roster of contributors that represents some of the sharpest wine writing on the planet. Details to come…..


  1. Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Dr. K, Dr. K, Dr. K!!!

  2. Posted August 18, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Couldn’t agree with you more- Riesling absolutely rocks! It’s a good thing however, that you didn’t have any Pinot Grigio lying around. If you did, all hell would have broken loose!

  3. Posted August 20, 2009 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Let’s see. Wine to drink as an aperitif? A sweet wine with good acidity or a dry, oaky wine that badly needs food to be enjoyed. Hardly a fair comparison.

    The one part of this tale that pleases me most is that it was Riesling, and if there is a great variety that has been badly overlooked, it it Riesling. A balanced Riesling is delicious. We need alternatives to the ubiquitous Chardonnay, still my favorite white variety, and Riesling, easily my second favorite, deserves, in my opinion, much more attention than it has been getting.

    Keep pouring Riesling, Tish. It will make a comeback one of these days.


  4. Posted August 20, 2009 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    Meant to add that I like the Chalk Hill Sauv Blc as wine. It certainly is not your garden variety Sv Blc as you have noted.

  5. Posted September 13, 2009 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Noted your class planned on German and Austrian wines. FYI, we work with the Austrian Wine marketing Board (social media marketing)…how can we help your class.?

  6. Posted October 10, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    The same thing happens when I run tastings. The riesling vanishes — even when it’s not of Dr. K’s quality. Yet, often if people know what it is first, they won’t try it or buy it because “oh rieslings are sweet aren’t they.”

    Recently a customer insisted “I do NOT like sweet wines AT ALL” so I pointed her toward a big manly Napa cabernet. Then she asked about that delicious wine they used to make years ago, “Leme — Lebbe — ” I said, “Liebfraumilch?” And she gushed, “Yes!” And I pointed her toward that and she took it and went away happy. Human nature is fun.

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