Monday, March 11, 2013

Back to the Biltmore

I’ve written about wines from Biltmore Estate Winery once before. Back in July, I went to a conference in Asheville, North Carolina – home of the aforementioned Biltmore Estate. When I returned from the trip, I found samples of their “Century Red” and “Century White” waiting on my doorstep. While I didn’t have a similar crossing of paths this time around, I recently snagged some samples of their “sweet sipping” collection.

One of these samples was my second go-round with the Century White. The others were a Riesling and a sparkling wine. I’ve not had much of a wine-related sweet tooth these days, but I was bound and determined to give them a fair shake. So, let’s take a little trip to Carolina in our minds. (Perhaps we can swing by the Dean E. Smith Center, where the wailings of demoralized UNC-CH fans still echo through the rafters a after their basketball teams’ twin weekend demolitions by the Devils from Durham…)

Biltmore Estate (NV) American Riesling – My favorite Rieslings are typically those from the French region of Alsace. Alsace Riesling typically has lots of minerality, light body, lean fruit, and a slight alkaline flavor in its dry finish. American and German Rieslings tend not to have those particular qualities, as they’re generally made in a “heavier” style. This offering from Biltmore is a pleasant exception. I found that this wine had plenty of those Alsatian characterics, except they’ve left a little residual sugar to make it more…interesting to the American palate.

The result is a very quaffable, yet still complex white. It’s got some nice floral aromas and a little sweetness on the palate that gets calmed down by an interesting minerality. Melon and peach flavors abound, followed by and a semi-sweet finish. It’s OK on its own, but I tried it with both a spicy Thai chicken soup and a flavorful turkey chili. Both pairings were quite nice. I’d think it would be a nice choice to go with almost anything spicy. ($11)

Biltmore Estate (NV) Century White Wine – My reaction to this one was a bit different the second time around. The last time I tried this blend, I thought it made a pretty decent glass. This time, it wasn’t nearly as friendly with the ol’ palate. I discovered that they’d changed the grape blend. Last time, Gewurztraminer was the primary grape. This time around, it’s Muscat Canelli, which often creates a heavier, sweeter still wine. I thought it was cloyingly sweet and very heavy on my tongue. There’s fruit, fruit, fruit and sugar, sugar, sugar. As our neighbor Minnesota Marlene put it, smacking her lips, “This has got lots of apricot,” and that’s it. (If Marlane ain’t talkin’, it ain’t workin’.) It’s a substantial wine that works with spicy cuisine well enough, but is too heavy to be enjoyed on its own. If you like really sweet wines, perhaps give it a try. Otherwise, give it a pass. ($16)

Biltmore Estate (NV) Pas de Deux Sparkling Wine – Pink is the dominant color of the packaging and there’s a pair of ballet slippers on the label. The back label promised a wine that’s “slightly sweet,” and I saw that it was made from 100% Muscat Canelli. I mentally braced myself for “tooth aching levels of sugar” as I prepared to pop the cork. Sweeter sparkling wine usually says “brunch” to me. As a result, The Sweet Partner in Crime and I decided on “breakfast for dinner” to go alongside: a scrumptious “trout benedict” concoction.  We plated it up, poured, let the bubbles settle – and the Pas de Deux caught me completely off guard. It’s downright tasty. Yes, it’s a little bit sweet, but not overly so. I thought it exhibited some really nice tropical fruit flavors with a surprisingly crisp finish. It reminded me of a more highly carbonated Moscato, and this is not a bad thing in the slightest. I thought it was a fun wine and I’d consider giving it another run for brunch sometime. Nice work. ($19)

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