Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2011
From among the multitude of inexpensive Charles Smith wines he showed me only his 2011 Riesling Kung Fu Girl and I simply could not find time to explore that range further. Despite its near ubiquity in U.S. markets, I had not tasted any previous installment of this Smith hit – generically-labeled, but in fact sourced entirely from 25-year-old vines in caliche- and basalt-ridden Evergreen Vineyard, 1,300 feet above sea level and overlooking the Columbia in the Ancient Lakes region (north of the Frenchman Hills Royal Slope). To say that I was pleasantly surprised would be rank understatement. I was disarmed, delighted, and amazed at the distinctively delicious performance this wine gives, not to mention its mind-boggling value. Almost as incredible is this wine’s production volume of 65,000 cases (So I’ll assume, notwithstanding Smith's explication of mega-assemblage, that not all bottles or releases of Kung Fu Girl taste identical; that said, I did control for – and confirmed – my enthusiastic opinion with a second bottle of 2011 from a different market.) Delectable scents of basswood (Germans would say "linden flower") mingle with honeydew melon, white peach, and lime that go on to render the palate sorbet-like in its combination of succulent richness and sheer cooling refreshment. The balance of acidity and sweetness (from 18 grams of residual sugar) is perfectly judged to support the aforementioned impression and – with the help of a lick of salt, mineral dust, and citrus zests – advances an invigorating, ultra-luscious and lip-smackingly lingering finish. Whether you need to drink this up over the next 12-18 months I can’t say from experience but I very much doubt it. (Not that cellaring will be on many purchasers' minds.) Smith says his sensibility for Riesling was honed on the Mittelrhein in the 1990s – that being the source nearest his then base of Copenhagen – and he certainly took-away some serious artisanal capital! Sounding a theme familiar from the Old World as well, he credits extreme diurnal temperature swings in the vineyard with this wine’s strikingly successful balance and overall quality. If you are interested in the future of Riesling; Washington State wine; wine value; or wine for the masses, this represents a huge glass of Hope you can drain with a grin to Charles Smith's health.