Wine ó Drinking Whites After Labor Day

A riesling for the fall


One cardinal fashion rule is: Thou shall not wear white after Labor Day.

And although this seems a little severe and comes from a time when women wore white gloves for afternoon tea, it still contains a kernel of truth, especially in northern climates where a white linen suit could mean frozen danger if one became trapped in a snowdrift. So as the trees turn and the kids head back to school we put away the crisp summer whites and, at least until Halloween, dress in more appropriate khaki and beige tones.

Wine is like fashion. After the heat of summer has passed, we put away those dazzling whites and switch to the more seasonal winesóbut these wines donít have to be vinicultureís equivalent beige. While they are sturdier and more rugged they make delightful drinking and pair with the wonderful bounty of fresh harvest foods from our region.

Riesling is the new white darling of the wine world. California is planting riesling in anticipation of it becoming the new chardonnay. The top award winner in a recent New York State wine competition was a riesling. Itís one of those wines that when itís good itís very, very good: crisp with apple and melon and vanilla flavors in lemon honey water base. But when itís badÖ itís sweet and cloying and fake, like a salesman with a bad toupee and too much cheap cologne. And unfortunately much of whatís imported from Germany and Alsace falls into this category. But as American wine lovers develop a taste for rieslings, better imports will reach our shores. But donít let me discourage you from searching out fine German and Alsatian Rieslings.

My all time favorite white wine was; the 2001 Bernkasteler Badstube from Dr. H. Thanisch. This wine was labeled halbtrocken, or semi-dry. I snapped up two bottles, but at $13.49, the store sold out fast. I never could find it again. I did try the 2002 vintage, but it was kabinett style or slightly sweeter, and nowhere nearly as delicious. This is and example of why German wines havenít really caught on in America: uneven year to year quality and undecipherable labeling due to complex wine laws. Meanwhile there are some great domestic products that are readily available.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Washington State riesling is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen Estates, a large German vineyard is surprisingly tart with green plum taste notes and a touch of brown sugar sweetness. Perfect with kielbasa and sauerkraut. $16.99 and no, the name means Heroic not Erotic.

Firestone Riesling Santa Ynez $13.49- Before the Firestoneís made wine they made tires, and starred on ďThe BachelorĒ. From Californiaís Central Coast region north of Santa Barbara. This oneís a little sweeter and needs to be paired with something spicy like; Spicy Trout with Tamarind and Chilies, a Thai classic thatís easy to make if you can find tamarinds and fresh trout. If you canít try it with Cerviche or any spicy Mexican food thatís chicken, not beef based.

Two notable rieslings from New York vineyards are:

Dr. Konstantine Frank Johannisberg Riesling, juicy and lush with a touch of cinnamon spice for $14.99 and Salmon Run Vineyards riesling $13.99, a bit neutral on itís own, but glorious with chicken and other fowl. I had this on in the Berkshires at The Old Inn with roasted partridge. (Incidentally, Johannisberg riesling is the same varietal as riesling and has nothing to do with South Africa. It is also called Rhine. It takes its name from a town in Switzerland where itís blended with the Silvaner grape to make deep, serious whites. If you ever come across any Swiss wines from the Valais region youíre in for a treat.)

Some other cooler weather wines Iíd recommend are

Chateau Carbonnieux $22.99 from the Pessac-Leognan region of Bordeaux. Though mostly sauvignon blanc, a summer white, this wine contains semillion and muscadelle which impart an earthiness to this wine.

Orlando Reserve Riesling from Jacobs Creek. This Australian  reserve is a bargain at $12.99. From the Barossa Valley region. Youíll taste kiwi, pineapple and custard flavors.

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óTim Protzman

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