"Powerful, focused, sings to the heavens, glorious harmony of sweet and crisp fruit flavors." No, these are not lines from the Iliad; they are my tasting notes on encountering this spectacular Riesling at the Critic's Challenge, a wine competition, where I serve as a judge, that's held every year in San Diego over Memorial Day weekend.
As you can gather, I thought it a pretty tasty vino. In fact, I gave it a Platinum award, an honor not lightly bestowed. My approval was only magnified when the results were announced and it was revealed as a humble $10 bottle.
I'm clearly not the only person who thinks Clean Slate is an impressive wine. In 2007 it was a gold medal winner at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
What I like is it has that essential slate-like minerality of wines from the Mosel River, a tributary of the Rhine in Germany. (The explanation behind its non-Germanic name is the wine is jointly produced by German vineyard owner Moselland, one of the region's largest wine growers, and Seattle's Click Wine Group.) It is difficult to overstate the importance of that slate, and the producers acknowledge as much not only in the wine's name but also by depicting on the label a cairn of thin platters of the grey stone.
Not only does this slatey quality dominate the flavor, thanks to the absorbent nature of the roots as they burrow around the flat stones into the poor soil in search of water and nutrients, but the stones on the surface reflect the precious sunshine back to the leaves and grapes, helping the latter ripen, always a struggle in a region this far north.
And ripe were the grapes that went into this wine. You can tell by the wonderful summer fruit flavors it radiates—peaches, pineapples, and crisp Fuji or Braeburn apples, all showing that fine balance of fruit and crisp acidity.
Ten is the key number here—the wine costs $10 and is only 10.5 percent alcohol. So it is light in weight, although not in flavor, and limited in its soporific effect—and as such is the ideal wine for a summer lunch by the pool. One might even, if one were particularly reckless, forsake the postprandial hammock and venture onto the tennis court—but I wouldn't advise it.
To find this wine near you try www.wine-searcher.com.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary
Food Pairing: Lighter fish and shellfish; pork.
Grapes: 100 percent riesling
Web Site: www.cleanslatewine.com