Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer's First Picnic

I see we're hitting our first century mark on our quest. Given the recent summer weather, what better excuse could there be for a picnic? I'd hoped to kick off the picnic season with a spread in Central Park while in NYC but the opportunity didn't present itself. English Bay has to be as good an alternative as any.

99. 2001 E.Guigal Saint-Joseph Rouge (AOC Saint-Joseph - Rhone - France)

We recently sipped the Cote du Rhone Villages on the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, this wine is one step higher on the appellation hierarchy in France. The Rhone, as a whole, is one of the most important wine producing areas in France; however, it is further divided into distinct sub-regions. It starts with a simple North and South. The Northern Rhone is the home of Syrah when it comes to red wine. The South certainly features Syrah in its reds but is equally home to Grenache and Mourvedre.

I didn't know this when I picked out the bottle, but E.Guigal is the largest producer of red wine in the Northern Rhone. So, we're talking a lot of Syrah here. Saint-Joseph is one of the notable sub-regions - although not having quite as high a profile as Cote Rotie or Hermitage. E.Guigal produces some of the most coveted red wines in the world. In 2005, some of its single vineyard wines took on some of the top Syrah/Shiraz wines from Australia and the world in Adelaide and it came out on top at that competition.

This wine wasn't one of the star wines at the competition, but it is seen as a strong wine for the increasingly popular Saint-Joseph appellation and is 100% Syrah made sources from 20-30 year old vines. Perhaps it was a little too Old World-ly in its profile but I would have just as soon had another bottle of the CedarCreek that we drank the other night.

100. 2005 Schloss Reinhartshausen Erbacher Schlossberg Riesling Auslese (QmP Rheingau - Germany)

Just as I was surprised to find out about E.Guigal's might as a producer, it turns out that Schloss Reinharstshausen is the largest privately owned wine estate in the Rheingau. seems like I pulled out some of the big guns for our first century without even knowing it.

This estate has a storied history, royalty, the last German Emperor and all, and currently includes a 5-star hotel in amongst the estate vineyards. Grapes have been cultivated in those vineyards since 1337.

There's no doubt that German wine labels can be as confusing as any labels out there, but the Erbacher Schlossberg refers to the vineyard itself as many vineyards in Germany have a pedigree of their own and are highly recognizable. This is the primary vineyard for the winery and is known as producing a grape showing "classic" Riesling characteristics.

The reference to Auslese relates to the style of wine and the fact that the grapes should remain on the vine until a specific degree of sugar has accumulated in them such that the sugar won't be entirely converted into alcohol during the fermentation process. Auslese wines, therefore, are generally sweeter and associated with dessert wines.

Being the sucker that I am for dessert wines, this was a perfect fit (as accidental as it was) as the No. 100 wine on The List. For future reference, they go perfectly with sunset views - beach, picnic or otherwise.

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