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
Rudi Wiest imports fine German Rieslings and Pinot Noirs (some consider him one of the pre-eminent importers of German and Austrian wine) and this tasting focused on the exciting 2010 vintage. The quality is extremely high and even the value-oriented Rieslings have muscle and minerality.
One of the standout estates was Monchhof. Monchhof owns parcels from several notable vineyards, including Ürziger Würzgarten (as seen in the photo). Even their simple estate Riesling has great acidity and slate notes. I think their best value is their Auslese. The wine should retail for about $30 for the 750ml and this makes it one of the most affordable on the market. Yet it has the zippiness and pleasure that you would ask for in a more expensive Auslese. Also, check out the photo and notice the slate covered hills. These hills have no topsoil and are steeply inclined. Germany averages three undocumented deaths a year during harvesting! So If you ever go to Germany and harvest grapes, please be careful.
After tasting through the Monchhofs, I moved on to a very popular table laden with bottles from many estates. These bottles are part of a category picking up steam among winos. For some people, kabinett must levels lead to a wine that is too sweet for their palate. Feinherb (literally “Fine Dry”) fits a great niche. Feinherbs possess less sweetness than most off-dry Kabinetts; the American term for these wines is medium-dry. These wines are extremely food friendly, especially since Trocken (Dry) Rieslings tend to have higher alcohol levels, sometimes as high as 14% which doesn’t pair well with spicy food. Medium-dry Rieslings fulfill the need to quench firey food without being too sticky sweet. My wife and I drink these commonly and there is always a bottle in our fridge.
The event took place at Lawry’s Steak House and since the chef is German, he whipped up some delicious German fare for the tasting. I was fortunate to fill my plate up with some of my favorites: pretzel bread (the standout for sure), as well as mustard, German meats and cheese, and cold meatballs. Riesling is versatile and there was a Riesling at the tasting that paired with each food item perfectly. Many people don’t think of drinking white wine with meat, with the exception of fish, but salty meats pair marvelously with German Rieslings.
Rudi also imports some great Pinot Noirs and several other lesser known varietals. German Pinot isn’t always held in high esteem, but Germany continues to modernize their winemaking techniques and the quality of their Pinot has increased accordingly. The small, incremental warming of the weather has also affected their Pinot, allowing the grapes to fully ripen, yet retain all the acidity and minerality we would expect from a good Pinot Noir.
Another even more unique wine I had the pleasure of sampling was a Scheurebe from the producer, Pfeffingen. This wine is fermented Trocken. It yields a wine that is creamy and fruity at the same time. Scheurebe is a hybrid grape created by Dr Scheu from Riesling and an unknown wild grape from Germany. Rebe means vine, so the word Scheurebe means the Dr’s vine. I find this wine fascinating; it shares so many nuances similar to Riesling, yet is a bit fuller and creamier.
If you are as excited as we are about German Riesling, please feel free to contact me via email: Brently@whwc.com. 2010 German wines will be arriving through out the year, but some have already hit the stores. I’d love to gab about your latest Kabinett you’ve popped…
Having just moved from New York City where I spent the last eight years studying and delighting primarily in European wine, I’ve arrived in Los Angeles with quite of bit of exploring to do. I came to California to expand my horizons, and immerse myself in the abundance of fine wine being produced here. It is quite the task! Often times I feel I’m treading water in the open ocean. So many AVAs, so few rules. But the inability to grasp it has rendered me more determined than ever.
Normally, once the weather gets warm I turn my enjoyment to the cool climate, light-bodied reds of the Loire (red Sancerre- how sexy!) Valle d’Aosta, the Pfalz, and Alto Adige, which of course we also carry here at Woodland Hills Wine Co. But I want more. Out with the old, in with the new. So over the past couple of weekends, I’ve dedicated myself to coming up with a short list of California reds that appeal to my relentlessly Old-World palate. These are the two wines that totally hit the spot.
Wow. What a beauty. This is one of those ephemeral wines that seems like it’s almost dancing above your tongue. I brought this wine to Monterey last weekend and had it with a friend who runs the wine program at my former store in New York City. The Knez knocked both our socks off. Produced from fruit of the Cerise and Demuth vineyards (arguably some of the best parcels in the Anderson Valley) this Pinot graces your palate with flowers, sour cherry and lavender. It is soft and juicy yet structured. While it is perfect on its own, it’s also exceptionally food friendly, and paired surprisingly well with the fall-off-the-bone pork ribs we were having in the back yard on such a lovely Central Coast spring afternoon.
The second was actually a big surprise to me. I’m not generally running after heady, full-bodied California Cabernets but the 2007 Forman Cabernet got to me. I opened it up, craving a bolder red on a cool canyon night and what I got was a bright, velvety Cabernet with excellent structure, complexity, and a firm backbone of acidity. So gorgeously balanced. It started out with cassis, smoke, and violets. As it opened up I began to enjoy its full, almost mentholated mouthfeel, licorice and undeniable earthiness. It reminded me of a fine Pomerol or St. Emilion, and for a fraction of the price.
There are more Old-World styled Cali wines out there I am sure of it. I’m keeping my senses