“I go fishing not to find myself but to lose myself.” –Joseph Monniger
Day one on the water in Lake of the Woods, Minnesota (see location under “isolated”) and it’s easy to realize that it’s hard to be stressed out with a fishing pole in the hand, a beautiful lake before you, and some sun setting in the distance. My first trip to my parents’ cabin in over a decade, I wondered, “What took me so long to return?”
Backing up one week, I discovered that of all the wines I buy, my mother has taken to Riesling the most. In preparation, I went to Surdyks in NE Minneapolis because I knew they would have an adequate selection. And since she would likely be cooking up the spoils of our fishing, I wanted to appease the cook.
Willi Schaefer, 2012 Graacher Domprobst Riesling, Kabinett, Mosel (8.0%) (Retail: On sale, $15.99). A traditional-style Riesling, this wine was a great “opener” for the first night of fishing that marked the Summer Solstice. (No fish yet, but cheese complimented this selection). Fruit forward of tropical fruit of perhaps light mango and peach meets yellow apple, and pear. True to style, there is an elegance of minerality and high acidity that keeps this wine from being sweet at 8% alcohol. As the sun lasted well past 10:00 pm, this wine, too, was bright, light and silky fun.
Theo Minges Weingut’s, 2007 Der Froschkonig Spatlese, Pfalz (12.5%) (Retail: $29.99). Named after a German tale, “The Frog King” (Think girl kisses frog he becomes a prince. But this is the German version, so girl throws frog against a wall, and they live happily ever after), this wine is a tale of its own! The winemaker left this wine untouched for 18 months after harvesting. The result: A delightful, elegant and surprisingly impactful dry Riesling that tasted of still, vintage champagne. While no yeast touched the process, this wine opened with zesty, fruity and flowery notes of golden apple, gooseberry, and white flowers and opened into notes of yeast and minerality. Like a fairy tale, the high acid and long finish was like a finely filtered ray of sunlight that one could hold in the palm, and palette, to remember the day in one’s senses. Highly recommend.
Weingut and Weinstube Kruger-Rumpf, 2007 Binger Schorlachberg Riesling Spatlese (8.5%) (Retail: $34.99). Karen MacNeil writes in the Wine Bible that the essence of German Rieslings is the essence of “transparency”–that there is a nakedness and a preciseness to these wines that defines their elegance. I couldn’t agree more. On a day were our limit was caught (a fun and whopping 20 walleye!), this honey-straw colored wine had no pretense to hide–it was the pinnacle of my Riesling experiment. Ripe yellow apple, grapes, pear, melon notes met the deeper characteristics of brioche and yeast, wet mineral notes below. It was smooth and silky, as a grown-ups cottoncandy held in the mouth before dissolution. I could drink this every day to remind myself what the good things in life are. It was stunning.
Rieslings, like my belief that a 10 hour trip up North could be fun, are the come-from-behind contenders. But the good ones, and there are many, are easy to find if you push past the shelves in your store that simply scream, “I’m cheap! I’m sweet!” If in doubt, look for the eagle on the bottle with the cluster of grapes in the center: This is the logo of the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates which is awarded to the top 200 producers.