FROM RAGS TO RICHES
There is nothing that I love more than a great underdog story. The rags to riches kind. It takes enormous dedication and talent to be a self taught professional Winemaker. Even more to go on and win NUMEROUS Winemaker of the Year Awards. Old school thinking would say it impossible… but that is exactly what Charles Smith of Charles Smith Wines has done, and his Kung Fu Girl Riesling is largely to thank.
Time and time again, this beauty manages to land in Wine Spectator Magazine’s Top 100 Wines. This is unheard of for a wine that typically retails for $12USD or $20CAD. But when you taste it, it will come as no surprise. This is INSANELY good value.
Charles Smith has never fit into a mold. He is edgy, and unappologetically himself. Love him or hate him, there is no denying he has made waves in the world of wine.
With his black T-Shirts, big silver hair, and jeans, it will come as no surprise that his road to winemaking involved manageing Rock Bands in Europe for 9 years. While managing the likes of bands such as the Danish Ravonettes, wining and dining clients became a calalyst for his future career. After reading a library worth of books, and returning to the US out of work, Smith purchased a small wine shop on Bainbridge Island, promising to pay the former owner in wine in the coming years. After taking a road trip to little known Walla Walla, WA Smith was convinced by a local Frenchman to take up winemaking. He released his first bottles of juice in 2001.
When most people think “Rock Band Manager turned Winemaker”, the thought of groupies and abundant funds comes to mind. However, unlike many ‘celebrity’ winery owners, Smith started his first venture as an unknown, with barely two pennies to rub together at the time. Dedication and perserverence paid off, and eventually he gained a big break financially, when he applied for a loan to build his own winemaking facility. Up until then he had been borrowing space from friends in the industry, and selling his wine himself out of the back of his van to local restaurants.
In 2006 The Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling brand was born. It was the first wine for the Charles Smith brand, and has become an iconic wine for high value, easy drinking, immediate consumption.
So why the name Kung Fu Girl? “Because Wine and Girls Kick Ass,” says Charles. But really the name was born in a little apartment, when Charles served up one of his first bottles to a friend, his marketing muse, while brainstorming over takeout Asian food – a classic pairing. The name pays homage to this, and the striking black and white label branding are every bit as Rock and Roll as Charles himself.
Riesling and Asian food go together like Yin and Yang, and this bottle works especially well with foods that feature ginger. I had the pleasure of pairing it with Social Supper’s Crock Pot Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken. The beautiful bird features ginger on the crispy skin, that caused this Riesling to absolutely sing!
Pale Lemon with discernible legs, this wine has a pronounced nose of classic cool climate Riesling. The scent of dried lime, lime pith, granny smith apples, and tea leaves jump out of the glass. Meanwhile a solid mineral backbone of slate and limestone give way to classic Riesling scents of light petrol and rubber. This wine is fruit forward on the nose and palate, and once you take your first sip you will notice racing acidity, and a flood of crisp apples. The wine has balanced residual sugar, and is off dry. Unlike many other Rieslings, this one is Medium/Full Body – largely due to 2 months of extended barrel ageing on the lees. It’s this lees ageing that adds a salty, saline like quality, to an already extremely mineral driven wine.
THE PAST AND FUTURE
When it comes to New World Riesling, this is a benchmark, Cool Climate contender, and it seems that the big names in wine marketing think so too. In October of 2016 Constellation Brands purchased the Kung Fu Girl Riesling brand, along with the other 5 Charles Smith
Wines. What does this mean for the wine? Nothing, Smith is still the winemaker. But what it does mean is that Costellation’s vast network will be making Charles Smith Wines more accessable to the public. If you are reading this, but can’t find Kung Fu Girl, hang tight – it is probably coming your way!
So next time you are looking for a delicious, high value wine – be sure to hunt this one down. And stock up, and drink it often! You will not be disappointed.