Any survey of the world of Riesling (including the recent one by yours truly) would logically focus on Germany and Alsace, with a nod to upstart regions such as Washington State, New York’s Finger Lakes and Australia’s Eden Valley. California would rarely be on the radar screen, due to a warmer climate and widespread consumer apathy. And the Napa Valley? As they say in Brooklyn, forget about it.
Against this backdrop, the Louise Riesling from Palmaz Vineyards is a delightful surprise. Prior to Prohibition, the property was known as Cedar Knoll; it was purchased in the late 1990s by Julio Palmaz, a physician who invented the Palmaz Coronary Stent (possibly one of the few things better for the heart than wine). The winery focuses on producing Cabernet Sauvignon from estate vineyards. Their 2012 Cabernet ($125, reviewed here) is sumptuous and structured, a seamless match with steak, lamb, stews and game dishes.
The 2014 Louis Riesling ($55), named for Jessica Louise, the daughter-in-law of Julio Palmaz, offers whiffs of citrus, melon and candied fruits on the nose, along with a distinct mineral underpinning. In the mouth, the wine is bright, lively and bone dry, with a strong mineral backbone; hints of honeysuckle and ripe tropical fruits emerge in the mid palate. Echoes of citrus and white pepper emerge on the long finish.
What to drink it with? The Palmaz family has answered the question with a stunning, two-volume set of books designed to grace the most upscale coffee tables, available from Mad Dash Press for $130. Volume One (Tradition, Terroir and Technology) is a retrospective look at the history of the estate, going back to Henry Hagan and Cedar Knoll in the 19th century. Volume Two (At The Table & Around The Fire), written by daughter Florencia Palmaz, takes the set off the coffee table and places it firmly in the kitchen.
Among the dishes recommended for Louis Riesling are Spicy Melon Shooters with Prosciutto Straws; Asian Pear and Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese Canapés; Smoked Trout Lollipops, and Southwest Chicken Salad on Apple Slices. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, the photography is beautiful, and the dishes are close to irresistible. “Without bread and wine,” runs a Latin proverb quoted at the beginning of the book, “love goes hungry.” Sage advice.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is now available from Black Opal Books. For more information, go to amazon.com