Yesterday’s Dry Wine Tour hosted annually by Rudi Wiest Selections pulled a quite a crowd. And thank goodness, because the 35 dry German wines reds and whites we tasted ranged from superb to absolute knock outs, rife with the power, intensity, and the sleek minerality that only cool climate wines can amalgamate.
Dry Wine Tour (for whom LA was their 7th stop in 10 days) featured the wines of 7 different houses, and represented the gamut of regional styles, from elegant Rheingau, to exotic Pfalz, Mediterranean Baden, and fresh, fruity Franken. Palpable passion exhibited in the words and gestures of these German wine makers shone through any language barriers. It was a pleasure to listen to Markus Mleinek, winemaker at Dr. Heger/Weinhaus, who is a zaftig sort of guy, giggle about how important food-friendliness is to him in the Pinot Gris & Pinot Blancs he crafts. “As you can see by looking at me, I like to eat, I like to cook [pause] with a lot of butter and cream [laughs, audience laughs] and I want my wines to work well with the foods I cook.” We tasted through his Baden lineup and the whites were like no wines I’ve ever had from Germany, weighty, with some caramel and roasted notes, and lots of hazelnut.
Carl Erhard of Kunstler buzzed like the electric minerality and piercing acidity of his Rieslings. I got a chance to speak with this tall, gentle character briefly after the event to congratulate not only his wines but also his passion. I told him that one really can taste the love and joy that goes into his wines. “With wine it’s all about the passion you put into it,” he said with a smile, “that’s how you make good wine.” I was particularly taken with this man’s inspiration; though he spoke a bit more at length than some of the others, he wrapped by saying “My wife says, ‘when you talk about wine, you talk too much!’” The whole room had a good hearty laugh.
And it’s not all about Riesling. I was pleasantly surprised at how much good dry Pinot Blanc there is for quaffing and also at the richness and density of the Pinot Noir. For varietal expression, Rebholz in the Pfalz that stole the show. Each wine was unique and had its best characteristics teased out expertly. Wines were well-made, balanced, bright, and harmonious. Their 2009 Pinot Noir exhibited characteristics of smoke, red licorice, cinnamon candy, and tea leaves which coalesced in an integration whose result was both pleasurable and intellectual.
The large majority of the German dry wines were make organically and biodynamically. And frankly the more I pay attention to wines made without pesticides and in a sustainable environment, the more I notice how much better they taste, not only from mass produced wines, but also from smaller production wines that spray or fertilize with harsh chemicals. Below is a selection of my favorites – some of which will soon be available here at WHWC. Stay tuned.
2010 Pinot Blanc Estate: Bright, bold, dry, crisp, one of the better Pinot Blancs I’ve had. Guzzlable.
2010 Riesling GG Ganz Horn – Pepper, mineral, spicy, medium-bodied, big finish.
2010 Riesling GG Im Sonnenschein – Briny, saline, lime flower, & white rose.
2010 Riesling GG Kastanienbusch – red slate soil, hay, tea, dusty summer earth, dry herbs
2009 Pinot Noir Spatlese Dry Tradition – Smooth, velvety, sweet fruit, dense, cinnamon, clove
Wagner Stempel Reinhessen
2010 Riesling GG Hollberg – Gardenia, concentrated, ripe, stone fruit, mouthcoating
2011 Heger Pinot Gris Estate – Heavy Loess soil, medium body, round, lower acidity, drinkable, Food friendly, Rhone-ish
2010 Pinot Blanc Estate – Mouthfilling, delicious, ‘sweet’ fruit, lanolin, peach
2008 Pinot Noir GG St. Paul – Beachy, brambly, bright, orange rind, Campari, food-friendly
2011 Riesling GG Kostheim Weiss – Closed upon opening, after 15 mins steely minerality, beeswax, lemon curd, white flowers
2009 Pinot Noir Estate – Slate, smoke, currant, like a good Bourgogne rouge, woodsy, candied fruits, bright
Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Austria Uncorked, an Austrian wine tasting at the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel. This event was very well put together, with literally hundreds of wines available for tasting. The experience was eye-opening for me; there were so many different styles of Gruner Veltliner. Also, the Rieslings from Austria are quite different from their German counterparts. After sampling most of the whites we carry in the store, I was able to branch out and taste some delicious reds and dessert wines that pretty much rocked my world.
There were many standouts among the Gruners and Rieslings. Some of my favorites were definitely from Nikolaihof. These wines are full of complexity and many see extended aging on the lees, which gives them a full mouthfeel. Nikolaihof has been a wine estate for over 2000 years and has been biodynamic since 2004. We carry their 2007 Riesling from the Wachau region. This wine is fermented almost to dryness and has rich flavors of lime and nectarine, with stone and subtle yeasty aromas. I also became a big fan of Schloss Gobelsburg and their fabulous line of Gruner Veltliner. They have created a delicious reserve Gruner from the Kamptal region. This wine has great intensity of fruit and crisp minerality; it’s a very balanced package, dying to be paired with anything that contains salty bacon. Gruner is also one of the few wines that handles asparagus and artichokes and does a good job of it.
Some Austrian grapes that are even less spoken of than Gruner are the three main red grapes of Austria: Blaufrankisch, St Laurent, and Zweigelt (A cross between the former two grapes). These grapes produce some delicious wines that are extremely food friendly. We carry one such red: Umathum Zweigelt from Burgenland. This wine is delicious: full of spice and everything nice. In the glass, the wine is dark red with aromas of cherries, plum, spice and crushed rock. Filled with terrific acidity, fruit, and minerality, these wines pair extremely well with chicken, pork, tender beef, and other hearty dishes.
If you are still hungry to explore Austrian whites, I have a suggestion for you. One white grape stood out to me because it was fairly different than the lean Gruners and Rieslings I was tasting. Roter Veltliner, a pink skinned grape that is thought to be the grandparent of Gruner Veltliner, has great body and fruit. On the nose, Roter smells sweet. This is referred to as having an aroma of sucrosity, yet yields none of these foretellings in the wine itself. This makes the wine sly and delicious, similar to Torrontes from Argentina. We carry one Roter Veltliner: Mantlerhof 2007 Roter Veltliner from Reisenthal.
I hope my enthusiasm for Austria and and this marvelous tasting excites you as well. Feel free to come in and talk to me more about these great wines. You can also email me if you have any questions: email@example.com