Passion You Can Taste: Elena Brooks’ Dandelion Riesling

elenaElena Brooks doesn’t look like all the other winemakers at the crowded trade tasting. Gender aside, she’s certainly the most animated winemaker, smiling broadly and gesturing for emphasis.

Elena is an Australian winemaker by way of Bulgaria. And oh yeah, she’s a Spanish winemaker, too. Confused?

Elena Golakova grew up in Bulgaria, where her mother worked in the library of their local state-owned winery. Elena’s passion must have started there, and it took her to Australia, where she studied Enology and learned winemaking.dande

When we met her, she had a bottle of Dandelion 2010 Riesling in her hand, which was getting flung about dangerously as she talked with her hands. It’s not often you see the ubiquitous weed on a wine bottle (like, never), so we were intrigued. Stranger yet, the wine’s full name is “Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling.” Quite a mouthful. But since I’m always happy to taste anything Australian, we short-stopped the bottle long enough to grab a glass.

It opened with a classic aromatic Riesling nose — classic for Germany, that is. There was that hint of petroleum with bright apple and pear fruit, and a hint of minerality — like all good cool-climate Riesling.


Wow - a 100-year-old Riesling vine.

The palate showed the same snappy, tangy fruit flavors, suggesting pears, tangerines, and maybe a touch of honey. There was body here, but again, the classic acid supported it all. Dry, crisp and clean, this Riesling would be a great food pairing wine.

So I checked out Elena’s Dandelion Vineyards and discovered that Eden Valley is a cool-climate growing region. The fruit for this wine comes from 100-year-old Riesling vineyards. Those are some serious Old Vines. And the bunches for Dandelion’s Riesling are chosen virtually one at a time to ensure perfect ripeness and varietal correctness.

That’s a central part of Elena’s philosophy: she wants “to capture variety, vintage and vineyard.” Once the grapes are picked, she stays out of their way as much as possible, letting the terroir and fruit come through. With this terroir, that means acid, minerals, and crisp, tangy fruit.

This will age like a classic European Riesling, too. But why wait? I’d pop a bottle now as an aperitif or with some killer spicy Thai Coconut Curry. Yum for the wine, Yum for the food, and Yum for the pairing.

Thanks to Elena for making it possible. Cheers!


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