One of my friends was in a quandary about the wine to serve at a family holiday dinner. She likes white wines that aren't too dry, like a fruity pinot grigio. However, she also wanted to offer something sweeter. When she asked for a recommendation, riesling came to mind.
Riesling is considered to be one of the world's great white wine grapes. Native to Germany, the grape is known for producing delicate but complex wines that can range from dry to very sweet. The styles can vary widely depending on where the grape is grown and how the wine is made. For example, riesling wines from France's Alsace region are often quite dry, while German rieslings tend to be sweeter.
I thought that one solution to my friend's dinner challenge could be an off-dry riesling, and I remembered the good reviews I'd read about the 2010 Kung Fu Girl from Washington.
Although I'm not big on gimmicky labels or sweet and off-dry wines, my friend's situation, along with the positive reviews and a whopping 90-point score from Wine Spectator, convinced me to buy a bottle. I found the wine at the Ladue Crossing Schnucks for $12.99.
Kung Fu Girl comes from Charles Smith Wines in Walla Walla, Wash. According to the company's website, owner-winemaker Charles Smith spent 11 years in Scandinavia managing rock bands before coming to Washington State to make wine. He has garnered a reputation for producing inexpensive wines with a consistent quality. You've probably seen some of his eye-catching black-and-white labels: Boom Boom Syrah, The Velvet Devil Merlot and Eve Chardonnay.
I was surprised how much I liked the Kung Fu Girl. This is an off-dry riesling with a 12.5 percent alcohol level, but it's not cloyingly sweet. It does have an apricot and honey sweetness, but that's offset by notes of tart apple, lime and other citrus fruits. The wine has a zesty acidity combined with a touch of bakery spice. It would be a great match for sushi with wasabi and other spicy Asian foods.
For comparison, I bought a bottle of the 2010 Loredona Vineyards Riesling from Monterey, Calif., for $7.99. Loredona Vineyards grows only riesling, pinot grigio and viognier grapes, and none of its wines are oaked.
Its 2010 riesling was a pleasant surprise. This is a beautiful off-dry wine with lots of finesse, an inviting honeyed and floral fragrance and an alcohol level of 12 percent. While it's sweeter than the Kung Fu Girl, the Loredona is not overly sweet. It's delightful and crisp, tasting of peach laced with a little melon. I brought the Loredona to a Thanksgiving gathering of mostly dry red wine drinkers, and it was gone immediately.