It’s almost too obvious to need pointing out, but New York Wine City (NYWC) is often a crazy place. Never more so than on a day like today when one big tasting (A.I. Selections) and another huge one (Michael Skurnik Wines) suck the entire wine and restaurant scene into confined downtown spaces. For a moment I wondered if the term “bull market” might apply to the sheer mass of highly energized people often gesticulating excitedly, but since prices aren’t rising except for a few very sought-after collectible/ investment wines I don’t think it really applies. Actually, I find this almost blinding intensity of interest in good wine a wonderful thing, even if I can only take a few hours of it at a go.
Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, pictured above the Michael Skurnik Wines tasting, certainly seems to have more stamina for this form of divine NYWC madness than I do, but then he has a long history of “working the market” and has developed his own inimitable way of coping with that. I think he has a much bigger problem with the American wine media and feels that they have never really taken him seriously. Certainly all five of the wines under the “Le Cigare” brand (regular and reserve white and red plus Vin Gris rosé) he showed me were expertly made, strikingly individual and would undoubtedly blow a slew of supposedly cool 90+ wines off the table. However, the really good thing about NYWC today is that exactly this kind of comparison is becoming unnecessary as much of the wine scene follows trail blazers like Paul Grieco of the Terroir wine bars and Restaurant Hearth who have struck out in a completely different direction called personal pleasure.
Although Riesling is a major part of this new NYWC, but until recently it was a bit disappointing to see how few of the new German and Austrian Rieslings (or for that matter other wines from those countries) were making it over to the US. That’s why someone like Volker Donabaum of A.I. Selections is an important new development. Stephen Bitterolf of Vom Boden is another smart new importer sticking his neck out and taking risks on wines some of the big well-established importers didn’t pick up during the last couple of years when they were still there for the grabbing. The Riesling ‘Proidl spright deutsch’, Proidl speaks German, from the Proidl estate in Senftenberg/Kremstal in Austria is a perfect example of this. Proidl’s other white wines – Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Traminer – are powerful dry wines that still manage to have a certain elegance thanks to the stony gneiss soil and careful winemaking. In contrast, this wine has high natural sweetness and high acidity, making it seem less obviously Austrian and rather more like a Gold Cap German Auslese. Hence the name.
And the most exciting wine of the day? For me it was the 2011 Gottessfuß Riesling from Roman Niewodniczanski of the Van Volxem estate in Wiltingen/Saar at the A.I. Selections tasting. It was incredibly powerful, yet had wonderfully light touch and very complex fruit aromas (everything from perfectly ripe apricots to forest berries and mandarine). But actually that description is way too prosaic for this wine, which was a piece of Riesling Heaven in NYWC!
PS Don’t tell anybody, but I also found a couple of Chardonnays (at the Michael Skurnik Wines tasting) which I really loved. The dangerously fresh and vivid 2008 Stony Hill from Napa Valley was completely unloaded with oak and malolactic baggage, and the 2009 Ritchie Vineyard from David Ramey in Sonoma County. It had a beautiful lemon curd aroma, great ripeness and concentration, yet stung at the finish like an electric eel; the complete opposite of Bullshit California Chardonnay!