Celebrity Wine FAQs – Kunal Nayyar




Kunal Nayyar, courtesy CBS


A cool concatenation of circumstances are happening this week and next.  Anne is attending the Television Critics Association Press Tour, because Anne has another life as a TV critic (you can check out her TV blog at YourFamilyViewer.com).  So, in honor of the OddBallGrape Wine FAQ contest, she’s asking some of the actors she’s hanging around their Wine FAQ.

Up today is Kunal Nayyar – Raj on The Big Bang Theory on CBS.  (Anne did get a chance to interview Jim Parsons – aka Sheldon – but didn’t remember the Wine FAQ in time.)  But Kunal’s a really nice guy and was happy to share his question with us.

“What is a sweet red wine.  I love rieslings and gewürztraminer grapes from Germany.  So what is a sweet red wine that a white wine drinker would enjoy?”

Our answer:

Lambrusco wines from Italian producers have some sweetness and some fizz.  Okay, some re-treads from the 1960s – Riunite springs to mind – don’t have the fizz, so look for one that has the wire cage over the cork.

And there are red wines – Zinfandel comes to mind – where some of the fruitiness may be tied to residual sugar leftover from the winemaking process.  Ports are always an option as well.

One of the coolest part of this experiment is that even the folks who don’t drink had really great questions.  Which means some of you guys have great questions, as well.  So be sure and send us your entry.  The contest ends August 9.  Click here for more information and rules.

Nelson Family Vineyards 2007 Riesling

Mendocino County is famous for three specific grapes: pinot noir, more pinot noir and something other than pinot noir.  Okay, it’s more than pinot. Chardonnay and riesling are especially at home there as well. And many more good grapes abound in this region, but that’s another post or twenty down the road.

This is about the riesling from Nelson Family Vineyards. Riesling is another grape that has been given a bad reputation by growing in too many bad neighborhoods and hanging with the wrong crowd – winemakers without the right skill set for good Riesling production. The fact that the Nelsons grow their own doesn’t guarantee that a good wine could result. But this time it’s true.

The 2007 Nelson Family Riesling has a honey and flowery nose – think honeysuckle not gardenias. There is also a quality peculiar to riesling that smells slightly of petroleum or kerosene. That is a fusal compound in the grape and only the best fruit and proper care can tame or mute it. If your last Rielsing smelled like a gasoline can and tasted weird, don’t judge all Rieslings this way.

The Nelson has a lush mouthfeel and the spiciness known in the best rieslings. The overall quality of the Nelson makes it perfect for either sweet or spicy dinners.  Or both, such as spicy orange chicken (a fave around here) or maybe spicy tortilla soup with lots of corn.

The Nelson Family Vineyards

Missy and Greg Nelson
Missy and Greg Nelson

Talk about letting your wines speak for you!  We met Greg and Missy Nelson at the Mendocino Grape Growers event in Santa Rosa last spring, which we attended on a press pass.  We enjoyed chatting with Missy, but Greg kind of hung back and didn’t talk too much.

It’s apparently Greg’s style.  When Anne emailed him, since that’s whose card we had, his responses were terse, at best.  So is the website.  That’s fine.  The wines are a lot of fun and we’ve got a couple sweeter ones to feature this week.

The Nelsons have been farming in Mendocino County, California, since Greg’s parents moved there in the early 1950s, and Greg has been growing grapes all of his life.  According to the website, in addition to grapes, the family grows bartlett pears and Christmas trees.  But with 200 acres planted out in 11 different varieties, grapes are a major part of their business, with the line-up including zinfandel, carignane, pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon, viognier, petite verdot, petite sirah, orange muscat, riesling, and merlot.

Only five percent of their crop ends up in bottles with their family name on it.  Greg’s son Chris is the winemaker and according to Greg, it was Chris’s idea to start the winery.  This is truly a family business, with Tyler Nelson listed as the vineyard manager.