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…
It started at about 11:30 AM on Sunday morning. At the generosity of a close friend, I caught a red eye for one night and two days of drinking wine and running around sultry, sticky New York City. The air in July clings to you like a sweater.
If only every day in Manhattan were Sunday morning! Empty streets give the feeling that the city belongs to you, not the reverse. After a coffee at Cafe Select, I tapped on a friend’s door on St. Marks and 1st. Crackly buzzer, indecipherable words, perspiration dripping down the back of my knees on the 5 floor walk up. He had prepared a feast. Home made jalapeno poppers, baked eggs with Irish Cheddar, roasted potatoes, imported truffle Dijon, homemade Romesco sauce, and French press coffee from freshly ground beans. The Pièce de Resistance: Breakfast Riesling. 2007 Prager Klaus Smaragd. Austria at its fullest, richest, and fattest. Pure delight.
We hit the streets. In Thompson Square Park we looked at hipbones and forearms, New Yorkers scantily clad. At Goat Town we polished off a glass of Olga Raffault Chinon Rosé, darker, like a cerasuolo, and jalapeno-y. So cold and quenching against the heat. Then to a big competitor retailer for market research. But we ended up buying the Andrea Calek ‘Blonde’ – funky, spritzy, Chardonnay & Viognier blend from the Ardèche. Back at the flat we sacked out with AC and the cidery Blonde watching Women’s World Cup final till another friend came through to sweep me back out along the streets.
Down to another retailer in the South Street Seaport where a friend was giving out free shots of Aquavit. After 2 anisy blasts to the gullet, I bought the Reverdy Sancerre Rosé 2010 and the Domaine de Bagnol Cassis Rosé 2010 as gifts (which would eventually get opened by me, in intoxication). In summer in New York, it’s too hot to drink anything but rosé and clean white. Well…maybe not. We drifted to The Randolph to see a friend bartending. He hugged me, dipped me, and poured an icy cucumber mint gimlet down my throat. Then a White Port & soda. Other friends arrived. It came together out of nowhere. It’s easy to make a call, reluctantly ditch your AC, and head out into the streets. We sat at café tables on the sidewalk on smelly Broome Street and smoked.
Back at the loft on Wooster Street we tried to recover ourselves for a long dinner at L’Artusi. But the rosés got opened anyhow. Once we arrived at the spot on W. 10th street, a friend who works there poured us glasses of the Lini 910 Lambrusco Bianco , which we had with scallop crudo and a salad of anchovy and vinegary chicories. With the La Crotta di Vegneron Pinot Noir Bianco Vallee d’Aoste came delicate Hamachi tartare, then spaghetti with parmesan and green chilis and crispy sweetbreads with sunchokes. We stumbled sated back out onto the sweaty streets.
Sleep? Not much. The second day was a lot of walking. 60 blocks to be exact, after half a hangover cheeseburger at Burger and Barrel on Houston St. And… I missed my flight back to LA. Sacked out on the couch back at the loft dripping in perspiration, I woke every hour or so, until finally my friends got home from the bar around 4:30 AM. My (new) flight was at 7 AM so the timing was perfect. As I was presented with a glass of breakfast rosé, a Vin de Pays de Mediterranée called ‘Vrac’, it dawned on me that though it was early morning for me, it was still last night for them. I sipped the icy pink juice, and made myself a ham sandwich.
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