Wine Review: 2009 Eroica Riesling

17 10 2011

Named after the Beethoven song, not the Madonna song...get your head out of the gutter.

In the car on the way back to Calgary from Edmonton yesterday, we decided to have Chinese food for dinner.  The problem:  I didn’t have any off-dry everyday-drinking Riesling (my pairing of choice for basically any Asian/Indian cuisine) in my cellar.  The solution:  a quick side trip to Costco in Red Deer to stock up.  Avid readers of this blog with photographic memories may remember the luck I had at the Costco in Grande Prairie earlier this summer; I’m not sure if visiting small-city Alberta Costco liquor stores now qualifies as an official PnP theme, but I can guarantee anyone from Red Deer that they’re not finding better wine at better prices anywhere else.  I was fully ready to walk out with a $17 German Riesling when I was stopped in my tracks by this wine, which I’ve had before in prior vintages, but which I’d never seen on sale for less than $40.  At Costco, in Red Deer:  $27.  Sold.

It is almost impossible for this to be a wine that I dislike, seeing as how (1) it’s made from my favourite grape (Riesling) and (2) it’s a joint venture between power producers from what may be my two current favourite wine regions on Earth:  Germany’s Mosel Valley and Washington State.  Back in 1999, Ernst Loosen of the Mosel’s renowned Dr. Loosen winery (who make the value-tacular Dr. L Riesling that I reviewed here) and Washington’s vinicultural giant Chateau Ste. Michelle joined forces in an effort to create high-quality Germanic-styled Riesling in Washington’s Columbia Valley.  Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the largest Riesling producers in the entire US, but makes a wide range of wines all over the price spectrum; they are also no strangers to partnering up with known European wine powers, having previously launched another joint venture in the state, Col Solare, with the world famous Italian producer Antinori.  Eroica, the Riesling JV, is named after a Beethoven symphony of the same name (which is Italian for “heroic”), and is not, as I initially suspected, a typo of something considerably more risqué.

Cork Rating: 8/10 (Classy, elegant, interesting, awesome cork. Too bad the website makes an appearance on the back side.)

The German influence on this Washington Riesling is basically all-pervasive, which for me is only a positive — why not learn from/imitate the best place in the world for this kind of wine?  The first noticeable thing about the Eroica was that there was a slight spritz to it on opening, a little extra CO2 to keep the wine fresh and lively.  It was (no surprise) a transparent pale lemon colour in the glass, and on the first sniff its Teutonic nature started to assert itself:  sharp notes of green apple, grapefruit and lemon-lime overlaid an amazing level of minerality for an American white and Mosel-esque aromas of slate and wet pavement.  It was fuller and rounder on the palate than the average Mosel Riesling (though still light-bodied) but was strikingly sharp and precise thanks to daggers of piercing acidity that permeated the entire flavour profile.  On the palate the same pattern of green/citrus fruits predominated, still supported by pristine mineral notes, but there were also new floral and rubber undertones; while the Eroica definitely featured some residual sugar (a key reason why it worked with my sweet and spicy ginger beef at dinner), you almost wouldn’t know it on a casual sip due to the wine’s seamless acid balance…anyone who “hates” all sweet white wines should give this a shot and have a chance at repentance.  At 12%, there was considerably more alcohol here than the average off-dry Mosel Riesling (which in almost all cases would be under 10%), but it was seamlessly integrated and didn’t stand out or interfere with the wine’s clean, long finish.

This is a tremendously enjoyable bottle of wine and an interesting bridge between New and Old World sensibilities — kudos to a mammoth producer like Chateau Ste. Michelle taking such an artisanal approach to this side project.  If you can find this at your local (or Red Deer’s local) Costco, you should jump on it without hesitation, as it’s a huge bargain at under $30.  At its standard Canadian retail price of $40+?  You can get some pretty incredible single-vineyard Mosel Rieslings for that price (like, say, this one), and while the Eroica is a dynamite comparison reference, it’s not quite up to that standard…you don’t drink RC Cola when you can pay the same for Coke.  This is not at all an indictment on Eroica’s impressiveness as a stand-alone wine and is much more an encouragement to you to pay 30% less and go the Costco route on this bottle if at all possible.  Now that I know this will be waiting for me, I may be heading to Red Deer more often.

90+ points

$25 to $40 CDN 

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