When you think of Riesling, which part of the world normally comes to mind?
Most people instantaneously recall the cool climate of a southwestern Germany where the steep slopes throughout the valleys of Mosel, the Rheingau vineyards dotted all along the majestic Rhine river or the protective Haart Mountian Range of Pflaz produce some of the most spectacular wines in the world.
Although Reisling only accounts for about 20% of all vineyard plantings in Germany, it is by far the most popular varietal we associate with the country.
But did you know that there are places in the new world that have adopted this varietal and are making some outstanding wines from it as well? In fact, just in North America, Riesling based wine production has been present for over 200 years. Thanks to German immigrants who brought the Johannisberg Riesling plant to America midway through the 19th century, wines made from this characteristically German varietal have been available for quite some time in the US.
Where’s the Riesling
Among the seven US states that are known to grow cultivate Riesling vineyards, (New York, Michigan, California, Oregon and Washington) Colorado stands out as one of the country’s most peculiar regions for this type of wine. As Riesling is known for its characteristic “transparency” in flavor and presentation of terroir, and its balance between fruit and mineral flavors, it is no surprise that Colorado Riesling presents nuances that strongly reflect the types of soil, weather and altitude where it is grown.
A curious thing about buying wine in Colorado is that due to stringent state laws, one can only purchase alcoholic beverages from liquor stores and specialized shops, not from grocery stores as most people are accustomed to. Luckily, as with any specialized establishment, the wine shops and liquor superstores that specialize in selling Colorado´s alcohol are some of the best in the country with a great selection of small craft producers.
The Wine of choice
So, while returning from an extravagant and haughty Food and Wine event in Aspen, I decided to pick up a bottle of their locally produced Riesling in order to compare it to the European counterparts which I was more familiar with. Laughing Cat Riesling from Carlson Vineyards was my weapon of choice.
Founded by Parker and Mary Carlson, this adorable and charismatic couple have dedicated their lives to bringing well-deserved recognition to the wines of Colorado not only by making captivating wines that represent all the local varietals of the AVA but also by adding a special family farm touch to their operation that enchants every visitor who is fortunate enough to visit their estate.
Carlson Vineyards is found in the mountainous western spine of Colorado’s Grand Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area); an area that covers 32,000 acres (12,950ha) within Mesa County on the western border of the state with some of the highest vineyards in the world at altitudes between 1200-1400m above sea level. This dry, high-altitude terroir here slows ripening overnight, promoting the development of complex phenols along with acidity. In addition, the special location of Grand Valley attributes to the production of bright, fruit-driven wines made from Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and is responsible for producing more than three-quarters of the wine made in Colorado.
The moment of truth
Before I uncorked my beloved bottle of 2014 Laughing Cat Riesling, I gazed at it, enamored by the cheerful appearance of the packaging, and reflected on how well it transmitted the jubilant nature and philosophy of those who made it.
The first pour came out silkily and cradled itself playfully at the bottom of my swirling glass while its thick clumsy legs slowly settled toward its body, the same way any warmhearted housecat would on its favorite living room rug.
This sneaky little cat immediately stole my heart.
Once settled, I brought the glass eagerly to my nose. Expecting to be confronted by the intense petrol and rubber aromas typical of Riesling’s German ancestors, my sense were instead greeted by pleasant fruity aroma of nectar and mineral notes.
Just as my nose implied, in the mouth Laughing Cat presented a semi-sweet combination of ripe apples, apricots and pears. In addition, the pungent minerality that I was expecting was instead replaced by a lightly tart and semi-sweet silkiness. Although the acidity present at the beginning of this light body white slightly fell flat towards the end, after letting my glass sit for about 30 minutes, the enticing aromas revealed at first pour became even more pronounced, inviting me and my companion to a few more glasses. Indeed, this Cat was definitely having a laugh at my expense and I indulged in it.
I would definitely encourage anyone, cat lover or not, who is curious to taste a Riesling from a non-traditional region, to try Laughing Cat Riesling.
The only justifiable way I can think of concluding this entry is by citing the winemakers themselves through this little excerpt I found on their website:
We asked “why make drinking wine complicated?” Our idea was to craft fine wines that people enjoyed drinking, that were affordable, friendly and unpretentious. We encouraged people to “trust your own taste.” Our belief was that wine is a great accompaniment to life, best with food and friends.
Prost und miau!