Thirsty Thursday: Refreshing Riesling from High Desert: Mercer 2012

Damn. Summer and record droughts will not go away.  I tire of sweating in bed (as does my wife).  Therefore, chilled whites are still required to fool me into imagining myself cool.

Oddly, let’s go to a hot, sandy, desert: Yakima Valley, Washington:

Washington Yakima Valley MapPrehistoric floods left silt for vine-friendly drainage.  But this is high desert with six inches of annual rain.  Nonethless, Riesling can work here thanks to hills floating 3,000 feat above sea level (aka cold nights) and enough water irrigated from Cascade Mountain snow melt.

The Mercer’s have been farming these deserts for over a century.  They turned to wine-making a bit ago. To cool the day down we open their Riesling from Yakima.  Yes, the vintage is 2012. Yet Riesling has a propensity for aging gracefully, thanks in part to its high acidity. Let’s see:

First up, a matcha green tea wafer from Bourbon in Japan is our pairing.

APPEARANCE: looks a clear, pale, dried hay color, with lime juice highlights…promising.

AROMAS: smell powerfully lime peel, salt, peach, honey, and…well…linseed oil, paraffin, wax, hell, let’s call it petrol: the holy grail of German Riesling (or anathema to those who blame poor grape pressing). These free terpenoid alcohols (geraniol, linalool, and nerol) are clearly here.

PALATE: feels off dry, but the medium plus acidity tells you not to care and actually be happy some sugar resides to tame it. The 13.3% alcohol registers as viscous and medium bodied.

FLAVORS: lead with moderately intense honeyed peach lifted by lime juice and a wee bit of salinity. Yet that viscous, fabricated, tuetonic petrol carries a medium plus length.

CONCLUSIONS: Yes, Mercer’s 2012 Riesling could benefit from higher acidity and less residual sugar.  But complaining so, shows how far this Washington wine has come.  I cannot help but compare it to German and Alsatian Riesling.  That is compliment enough.  The Yakima Valley is too hot to garner the taut, high acids of the Mosel.  Yet this Mercer remains refreshing yet complex and magically reminiscent of its Germanic heritage: very good (4 of 5).  Also, it deftly pairs with a green tea wafer from Japan.

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Gulping Gulpener Beer and Gross Grolsch While Touring Amsterdam Holland

This may be 2015, but bear with me as I hopelessly attempt to cram the drinks and experiences from Wayward Wine’s EU Austerity Drinking Tour.  We covered thirteen countries in seven months spanning the winter of 2012-2013.

Aaron EindhovenToday, you find us 168 days in.  Constant travel and drinking on a dime has ravaged our sanity (and livers). We last spent New Year’s Day with Dutch family friends Tineke and Dirk (read post here). Now we enter Amsterdam:

EU Map New York To Amsterdam Day 168Amsterdam is not a city. It is an endless spiderweb of canals, facades, and brothels.

Amsterdam Canal

A rare moment of Bike-less respite.

Between these, we trundle our luggage along, not realizing the menace that surrounds us: the bicycle.

Yes, bike-ists swarm like bees, ready to cut you off at intersections or jam a handle bar in your side.  At least in Italy you can hear Vespas coming. But the bicycle is a silent ninja of hate. Here, your apartment contract includes a bike. They persist at fishing out 20,000 a year from the canals…hopefully to burn them.

So let us turn to drink.

We last enjoyed Holland’s only Trappist brewery: La Trappe. Since this is Amsterdam (and we must ferry to our stay in the burbs), let’s go grocery on this! We reset our palates to “low class” with Bolognese Chips:

Bolognese ChipsNow our souls are prepared!


Probably the best unintended city name (Gulpen) for a beer ever, we begin gulping with Gulpener’s Korenwolf:Gulpener Korenwolf Witbier HollandThe more eagle-eyed may have noticed the beast ravaging Europe: the most adorable hamster pest, the Korenwolf (or grain wolf):


ADORBS!!! It’s wearing a black vest with white gloves!

This Witbier (wheat beer), from Gulpen, Holland costs. 90€ / 30cl bottle. APPEARANCE: looks an apt, hazy, medium intense yellow gold, with white head. AROMAS: smell full of lavender, honey, pastry dough, and lemon. PALATE: feels dry, tart, a bit grainy, with mild 5% alcohol, a medium body. FLAVORS: taste richly of grapefruit juice, honey, cardamon, and lavender again. They last a medium plus length. This is a very good (4 of 5), refreshing, varmint-inspired wheat beer.

Other solid Gulpener offerings included their:

Gulpener, Dort (€0.70/30cl):

Gulpener DortAPPEARANCE: a medium amber gold color with cm of white head. AROMAS: ripe watermelon, malted barley, molasses, and dried mint. PALATE: dry but fruity, with mild acid and some bitterness, 7% alcohol, leading to a medium plus body. FLAVORS: remind of watermelon, malt, golden sugar syrup, and corn flakes. Length is medium. Quality is good (3 of 5). Great value.

WinterVrund Winterbier (€.90/30cl): a darker amber ruby color, with juniper berries, musk, coffee, and apple pie aromas, a mildly tannic palate, with warm 8.5% alcohol, extra body, with extra flavors of French roast coffee, Whisky, and a juniper berried finish that lasted a medium plus length. Very weird, kinda wild and musky but very good (4 of 5).

Gulpener’s, Herfst Bock (€.90 / 30cl) is a tart, tannic, rich, peachy, malt focused beer with lovely roasted hazelnut, caramelized pear and vanilla shell of medium plus length and very good quality (4 of 5).

They even have an organic range. Gulpener’s Ur.Amber biologisch beer for (€1.20/30cl) is a caramel, red apple, lettuce, and citris intense amber. Simple but solidly good (3 of 5).

Gulpener’s organic sibling to the Korenwolf weizen is Ur.Weizen, biologisch beer (also €1.20): a bright, buoyant, yet herbaceous, spicy, and round, with pronounced pear, grapefruit, orange puree, clove, basil, oatcakes, and amber honey flavors and very very good (4…. screw it, 5 of 5) OUTSTANDING!

But let us all rise for Gulpener’s Giganten Gladiator Robuust Bier:

Gulpener Giganten Gladiator BeerI wonder what the alcohol is…

At €1/50ml and 10% alcohol, Gladiator wastes nobody’s time.  APPEARANCE: looks a clear, mild gold, with thin white head, and small, slow fizz. AROMAS: smell like Pillsbury croissant dough or Twinkies. PALATE: feels dry and full bodied. FLAVORS: Twinkies dominate (scary thought), with ethanol, mint, malt, and steel supporting? Really, this is just a good (3 of 5) way to get wasted but ridiculous.

Maybe an 11.6% beer might be better. More is more-er…right?

Grolsch Kanon BierFor €1.59 / 50 cl can you get a clear, richly golden, fizzy beer. AROMAS smell of “sweet” ethanol, honey wheat, and pear. PALATE: feels dry and mildly structured. But the disastrously high alcohol, at 11.6%, means a massive body and medium FLAVORS of…alcohol, burn, ugliness, caramel, and dry oatmeal that last too long a medium length. Grolsch is Gross. Acceptable (2 of 5).

Completely hungover, we tour Amsterdam with limited zeal.

The Neoclassic-tastic Royal Palace is magnificent and aspirational.

Royal Palace AmsterdamThe marble map floor is a fantastic snapshot of early America and Holland’s limited imperial ambitions:

Royal Palace Amsterdam FloorThey even had a gold clock based on a favorite David painting:

Davide Clock AmsterdamBut Amsterdam is truly for wandering. We pass countless merchant apartments with false, ostentatious facades akin to Hollywood wild west sets. We shop for antiques and Delft tiles. We sample Reypenaer cheeses. Then finally we find Anne Frank’s house.

Anne Frank House AmsterdamThe massive line and expensive tickets sends our Austerity Tour away.  But we find the real entrance, gaining closure for poorly written high school essays.

While my wife slips into a hotel desperate for a restroom, I make small talk with a couple in the foyer.  Leaving, they give me two days worth of their boat tour tickets. Score!

So instead of more museums, the next day, we get on a boat.

Tracy and Aaron on A BoatNot desiring worse beer and worse headaches, we drift past Heineken brewery.

Heineken Brewery Boat TourAs our tour continues, my wife dreams of living on a river boat. I revel in not having to dodge bikes.

As night falls, hotels and riverfront restaurants blaze.

Amsterdam Hotel NightThe next day we do it again, but take a different boat route. It feels nice not to have to plan more visits, deal with people, or think for once in six months.

Amsterdam TunnelsAmsterdam is intricate, dirty, seedy, fabulous, and strange.  Touring it by boat, twice, took the edge off the bicycle crammed, manic streets.  We found Gulpener to be a reliable beer, as long as one avoids its malt liquor like, 10% + alcohol manifestations in can.

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A Cut Above: Grape Vine Pruning at Home Vineyard

Sorry Internet, but between three weddings and a funeral I have been a bit busy. To bide your time, share in my moment of vine-cutting trauma:

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#Beer Between #PinotNoir at #IPNC Thanks To #HeaterAllen

After half a day of blind tasting variant Pinot Noir clones, followed by all of Winter Hill Wine Estate’s reserve wines paired with a lunch, the snappy light maltfest Bohemian Pilsner from Heater Allen cools things down. 

 Yes, this may be the 50th International Pinot Noir Celebration, but sometimes,  you just need a solid lager from the brewer.

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Coffee After a Day of #PinotNoir at the #IPNC

The best part of the International Pinot Noir Celebration must be the free Cappuccino.  

 Thank you Nossa Familia! 

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