Pennsylvania Riesling




Photo by Nino Modugno, view his photos

You probably all know by now that when given the choice, we do like to go with locally produced goods, especially with food. With wine however, the discussion becomes a bit more complicated. We are not sure that we agree with Mark Bittman when he says that drinking only US wine “may be pressing the point because it’s only about a thousand miles more to Paris than it is to Seattle, and the wines to our east are on average better, and not more expensive, than the wines to our west” but we do constantly ponder the definitions of sustainable wine consumption.

This is what we were discussing when, on our way back from a weekend in Pennsylvania, we stumbled upon the Lehigh Valley wine route.   While we have been familiar with Pennsylvania wines for a while now, our last tasting dated back to a former life where, believe it or not, we poo-pooed most of the wines we tried. Maybe our palates were simply not used to different tastes and terroirs and we quickly dismissed the few bottles we tried as sweet grape juice?

There are tons of wineries to explore in Pennsylvania but since we were in a hurry (it was the day of the Olympic’s US vs. Canada gold medal hockey game) we decided to stop at the big, modern looking Clover Hill tasting room. We quickly made our way to the tasting bar and were quite happily surprised by some of their driest wines. After a quick taste, we thus left the winery with high hopes and a Riesling from Clover Hill’s Generations line, named this way as it is produced by the second generation of winemakers in the family.

This is a very light but surprisingly well made wine.  There are strong apple and pear smells and it does not have as much of a petrol aroma, a hallmark characteristic of Alsacian or German Riesling. In the mouth, flavors of apple juice almost make it taste like a non-sparkling, light cider. The green apple tartness is definitely pronounced from start to finish. This is a dry, low alcohol wine,  making it very versatile.

Our first thought was that this wine could make a great apperitive and we envisioned it served as a spritzer to kick-start a local-themed dinner. It is also excellent when paired with light dishes.

We decided to pair it with Merrill’s Polenta with Wilted Escarole and Olive Oil recipe that we had bookmarked on Food52 a few months ago. Unsure of how this ultra-light wine would fare with the eggs, we left them out. The result was an almost perfect pairing, with the wine responding fantastically to the garlic and the polenta acting a bit as a backbone, wonderfully supporting the action.

This wine definitely does not require food but we were impressed by how well it worked with the garlicky greens. Other good pairings? Probably an apple pork tenderloin like the one Elise makes on Simple Recipes or  a simple sausage with grapes or apple dish like the Alchemist’s (make sure you go with light sausages).

While locally produced wines may sometimes demand an open-mind – especially in the North East – they are definitely worth a try and Pennsylvania wines are no exception.

Clover Hill Generations Riesling 2006 | $19 at the Clover Hill Winery, Breinigsville, PA.

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