This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Jan. 7, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20080107.php.
Cork, screw cap, glass stopper?
It has been almost a decade now since alternative wine-bottle closures started to gain traction in the marketplace as potential solutions to the enduring problem of musty, moldy "taint" caused by defective natural corks.
The once-maligned metal screwcap has become so widely accepted that only the most recalcitrant wine snobs still resist it; and synthetic plastic stoppers have also found a significant niche, particularly among wines not meant for long aging.
But one particularly elegant solution still remains far enough out on the fringes that I finally encountered my first specimen just the other day: The trademarked "Vino-Lok" closure, developed by Alcoa Co. with support from the German government, is a modern variation on the ancient glass stopper used in old-fashioned apothecary jars.
Made to ensure that the wine in your bottle never encounters anything but pure glass (a plastic liner seals the stopper-to-bottle interface but does not appear to touch the wine), it may be the "cleanest" alternative yet.
At first glance, the bottle of 2006 Schloss Vollrads Rheingau Riesling appeared to be closed with a very short metal screwcap; but a quick turn broke the seal to reveal that the metal cap is there simply to protect the clear glass stopper. As noted, it's very much like an old-time apothecary jar stopper, with a more modern neutral plastic lining to make a tight seal. The stopper pries out easily to reveal a fresh, clean wine untouched by cork.
The wine? Well, it's okay, a decidedly modest Rhine Riesling from an old-line Rheingau producer that's now under the corporate umbrella of giant Schmitt-Sohne. There's nothing wrong with the wine, at least in its 2006 edition, which is simple and fresh, clean fruit nicely shaped by crisp acidity and lightweight alcohol. It may not show the subtle minerality and singing acidity of the fancier Rieslings that make German-wine aficionadoes moan with pleasure, but it's a decent "entry-level" Riesling that offers a benchmark sample of the Rheingau.
For more about Vino-Lok, read the manufacturer's press brochure online at http://www.vino-lok.de/
Schloss Vollrads 2006 Rheingau Riesling Qualitätswein ($14.99)
Very clear, very pale straw color shows glints of gold. Sealed with a glass "Vino-Lok" apothecary-style closure, its simple but fresh aromas speak of ripe apples and distant wildflowers. On the palate, fresh apple fruit, just off dry with a very slight petillant prickle, is nicely shaped by crisp but not overwhelming acidity and lightweight 10.5% alcohol. Apples and a fresh citrus character linger in a medium finish. Good benchmark Riesling at the entry level. U.S. importer: Schmitt Sohne Inc., Wellersville, Md. (Jan. 6, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: It was perfect with a quick variation on an Alsatian Coq au Riesling, using a bit of the wine with heavy cream in the sauce.
VALUE: No real complaints, although it's a testimony to the times and the strength of the Euro to find a simple Qualitätswein going in the middle teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: Riesling is an ager, but simple Qualitätswein isn't really meant for cellaring. Drink it up fresh, or try keeping a bottle or two under good cellar conditions as an experiment in aging.
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The Connoisseurs' Series: Showing off the glory of West Coast wines
As regular readers know, I usually offer my notes every month on the current offering from California Wine Club's limited-membership Connoisseurs' Series.
These exceptional wines, selected each month by Connoisseurs' Guide publisher Charlie Olken and California Wine Club Proprietor Bruce Boring, give wine lovers the opportunity to sample the kind of rare, limited-production California jewels that are often available only on tightly allocated mailing lists.
Connoisseurs' Series members may subscribe for monthly, alternate month or quarterly packages. Each shipment includes two to four bottles of California's top wines, with detailed background information. Monthly shipments average $125-$175, including all shipping and handling. There's no membership charge, no long-term commitment (cancel any time), and every wine is guaranteed.
Visit www.cawineclub.com/connseries or call The California Wine Club at 1-800-777-4443 to join or learn more about The Connoisseur's Series. Feel free to tell them that I sent you ... and, if you join, please don't hesitate to contact me by E-mail and tell me what you think.
Members received a bonus box containing four excellent California wines last month. Here's my report on the first I opened, a delicious, high-octane but beautifully balanced Russian River Valley Zinfandel from Carol Shelton. Predominantly Zin, it's an old-vines field blend whose actual proportions in each year's wine can only be estimated. Shelton says the 2004 contains about 85% Zinfandel with 7% Alicante and 4% each Petite Sirah and Carignane, with a very small amount of the white California heritage grape Palomino to lighten and lift the flavors. Although I'm not usually a Zin fanatic, I could get used to having this wine around.
Carol Shelton 2004 "Karma Zin" Rue Vineyard Russian River Valley Old Vines Zinfandel ($39 retail; $33 per bottle for half or full case orders by Connoisseurs' Series members)
Full and ripe, luscious fresh berries on the nose and palate, blackberries and a shot of framboise raspberry liqueur, with hints of cinnamon and black pepper as aroma accents. Mouth-filling, juicy fruit with subtleties that follow the nose; dry and acidic and just barely perceptible tannins, a balanced and food-friendly structure that sets it apart from the pack of California Zinfandel. The label says 14.9% alcohol; wine maker's specs on the Website say 15.4%. Either way, it's a high-octane item, but Shelton handles this ripe Zinfandel fruit with an artist's hand. I don't sense out-of-balance alcohol on the nose or the palate. Outstanding with beef short ribs, a hearty and robust comfort food for a hearty and robust comfort wine. Only 670 cases were made. Winery Website: http://www.carolshelton.com (Jan. 4, 2007)
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
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