New KFG!! Mid-year is an exciting time for oenophiles, because that’s when many white wines from the previous year’s vintage start appearing on store shelves, and since this particular white is one of my all-time favourite value wines, its release turned an otherwise-mundane outing to Superstore into a cause for celebration. My love for Kung Fu Girl is partly predicated on my adoration for both Riesling (my all-time favourite grape) and Washington State (one of my go-to wine regions, still criminally underrated despite producing world-class wines) and partly just due to the fact that it’s an awesome bottle of wine for under $20 CDN. And my excitement obviously not an isolated phenomenon: my review of last year’s 2010 Kung Fu Girl Riesling is Pop & Pour’s second most popular post of all time, with 2,444 unique views and counting. I guess when you make something of high quality that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is priced to sell, people pay attention. Charles Smith, I salute you.
Kung Fu Girl is a single-vineyard Riesling sourced from the Evergreen Vineyard in Washington State’s Columbia Valley, a site located further north than most of the key vineyards in the State, almost directly between Seattle and Spokane. The vineyard is known for white varietals and provides Riesling grapes for multiple top Washington producers. The thing that instantly caught my eye about the 2011 KFG was its alcohol level: at 11%, it was a full percent and a half lower than last year’s rendition of the wine (12.5%). Vintage conditions likely had something to do with this, as the 2011 vintage in Washington State was marked by winter frost, a cool summer and later ripening, making for lower sugar levels in the harvested grapes and thus lower alcohol levels across the board in the finished wines. Although it’s quite rare to see a New World wine clock in at 11% alcohol, I think it actually worked in this bottle’s favour; I remember thinking the alcohol was a bit too noticeable on the 2010. Riesling doesn’t need a lot of booze backup to shine.
The 2011 KFG was a clear pale lemon-straw colour and gave off a fresh and bracing aroma that initially just smelled like…mountain air, like taking a deep breath on some rocky path by a mountain stream on a brisk morning. Less metaphorically, it was crisp fruits like tart Granny Smith apple and lemon-lime mixed with bath salts and slate, all in a chilled, pristine sort of form, but I’m sticking with the mountain description. A similar array of flavours come out on the palate: lime, Asian pear, crushed ice, something sweetly floral like cardamom, and wave after wave of rocky minerality that crashes into a prolonged finish. At 11%, you have to expect there to be some residual sugar left behind after fermentation, and it is present, but on a quick sip and swallow you almost wouldn’t notice it because any sweetness is more than offset by the wine’s searing acidity (when doing a post-swallow acidity check on the KFG, tilting my chin down and relaxing my jaw to see how much my mouth was watering due to the acid in the wine stimulating saliva production, I almost drooled on the table). The sugar starts standing out more the warmer the glass gets, but where I most notice it is on the finish, where it keeps the more austere elements of the wine from taking over, keeping it casually drinkable throughout.
This is simply not your average bottle of $19 Superstore wine. It’s a standout in the value wine category and a consistent performer year over year, and I’m happy to discover that 2011 is no exception. Whether you’re a Riesling lover or not (though you should be), it’s the kind of wine that it’s always a good idea to have on hand: enjoyable from start to finish and never disappointing.
$15 to $20 CDN