New York Riesling Diary: Day 51

Here is Paul Grieco of restaurant Hearth and the Terroir wine bars in New York in full flight during one of two tasting-lectures on Riesling we gave yesterday at the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA). The CIA campus is a kind of gastronomic Harvard, and therefore in certain ways a bubble disconnected from the $10 – $12 per hour reality of the cooking jobs most of the students will take when they leave. Their interest and enthusiasm was wonderful to experience though and reminded me of my two semesters as a guest student at the Geisenheim wine school in Germany 2008/9.

Paul was right when he said that the age group of the students, some of whom were not yet 21 and therefore only allowed to sample alcoholic beverages at the CIA because it’s for educational purposes, is America’s Generation Riesling. They approached the wines with almost no preconceptions and the great majority responded immediately and strongly to the Rieslings from Michigan to the Mosel via New York and Austria which Jim Trezise of the International Riesling Foundation (IRF) had organized. The older group of predominantly local people who came to the consumer tasting and dinner that followed were obviously carrying some baggage in terms of convictions about Riesling – as Nietzsche famously said, “convictions are worse enemies of truth than lies – but it was striking how they responded to the exciting new Rieslings being produced in this continent no less than “classics”like the dry “Silberlack” from Schloss Johannisberg in Germany’s Rheingau.

I’d gone up from the City on Monday night and stayed in neighboring Poughkeepsie in order to meet Bob Madill of Sheldrake Point winery in the Finger Lakes. We spent several hours that night tasting through a big range of 2011 vintage Rieslings from Bob’s region. This was really quite a difficult vintage for the Finger Lakes because of fall rains, but about one third of the wines were still really good and there were only a couple of slightly problematic wines (premature oxidation being the cause). That confirmed the leap forward this region has made in quality consistency. It was also great to see how the once small Ravines winery has grown and moderated its once austere, steely wine style. At 42,000 bottles its impressive 2011 Dry Riesling (smoky bouquet, bold and substantial with moderate acidity) was the largest bottling represented in the tasting.

Once again the wines from Fox Run, Lamoreaux Landing, Red Newt and Sheldrake Point stood out. Still very young, the Sheldrake Point ‘Reserve’ Dry Riesling is surely one of the wines of the vintage with great concentration and great elegance. A few tank samples  from 2012 suggested that this is match superior vintage that we should look out for when the wines begin coming onto the market in a few months time. Then we will really see what the Finger Lakes can do with Riesling!



New York Riesling Diary: Day 49

As you can see I just took part in a very fascinating that explored the outer limits of cool climate grape varieties. It took place in the cellar of Rouge Tomate Restaurant at 10 East 60th Street and the wines all came from cool and high altitude regions in France, Italy and Switzerland. The idea was to identify which varieties might have a future in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, most specifically at the vine nursery run by Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards. This process was seriously complicated by the roller coaster ride which all the different winemaking styles took us on. From oxidative and vinegary 2006 Savagnin white from Michel Gahier in Arbois/Jura in France to the reductive (opposite of oxidative) funk of the red 2008 from the Petit Rouge grape from Grosjean Frêres in the Vale d’Aoste in Italy all kinds of strange smells and tastes were on offer. Most exciting of the odd-ball whites was the 2008 Cour-Cheverny from Francois Cazin in the Loire made from the Romorantin grape which was still vibrant and crisp with a fascinating mix of apple and dill pickle notes. Amongst the reds the wine which grabbed me was the 2010 Mondeuse from Louis Magnin in Arbin/Savoie, the interplay of   cherry and wild berry flavors and the slightly sappy dry tannins very distinctive and surely predestined for all manner of fatty foods. However, I still preferred the fragrant and elegant, but self-confidently dry and vivid 2010 Cabernet Franc ‘Reserve’ from Hermann J. Wiemer that set a very high benchmark for the tasting.

Now I must dash to Grand Central Station for a train to Poughkeepsie because of my all day and evening appearance at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park tomorrow. First I have a date this evening with Bob Madill of Sheldrake Point in the Finger Lakes for a Riesling tasting. What else?

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 48

From my seat at Café Tallulah (240 Columbus Avenue at 72nd Street) I was looking right at her, so I had to take a picture of her. After all she is so very photogenic. I was sitting there with Frederick T. Merwarth and Oskar Bynke, the double act who’ve run Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard in the Finger Lakes/NY since Hermann retired in 2007. We’d just had dinner together down the road at Nice Matin (201 West 79th Street at Amsterdam Avenue) and tasted a couple of really interesting German Rieslings – most notably the 2011 Leckerberg from Stefan Winter in Dittelsheim-Hessloch/Rheinhessen – next to their Wiemer 2011 Dry Riesling ‘Reserve’. The latter was clearly the best dry Riesling from 2011 which I so far tasted from the Finger Lakes having a creamy quality in spite of the pronounced acidity typical for this challenging vintage. It was at the upper limit for residual sweetness in a dry wine, but the 10 grams per liter (1%) did not stick out, rather they helped to balance the floral honey note which undoubtedly came from a little bit of noble rot (botrytis). After a hearty meal and by turns serious thinking and serious laughter Oskar felt it was time for a drink and moved us down the road to Café Talulah. And then the two of them with the assistance of the manager Tom, who clearly has been run off his feet since the joint opened on Monday, told me a series of dangerously funny stories about someone in New York Wine City called Max. It sounded as if Max is not the kind of guy who ever goes hungry or thirsty, so the reasons for him wanting to hunt wild turkey with a bow and arrow are obscure to say the least. However, the real problem for Max doesn’t seem to have been in handling the bow and arrow, but in finding any wild turkeys at all. The poor guy seems not to have seen even one of the creatures, although people have frequently said to him, “go that way, there’s loads of them there!” Thankfully finding good Riesling in New York Wine City is a lot easier than the, also thanks to the great Rieslings which Oskar Bynke (left) and Frederick T. Merwarth (right) have been making the last years. And I had the feeling from everything they said that they are only going to get better, at least that would be the logical result of their combination of passion, commitment and attention to detail.


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 46

I was just at Restaurant Hearth down the road at East 12th Street and First Avenue for a tasting of Rieslings and other Chilean wines from aromatic white grape varieties. Not only do few people think of Chile for Riesling, but this type of aromatic un-oaked white wine is the least well-known and exposed side of Chilean wine altogether. In contrast, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is huge in consumer perception, but often those wines (particularly at lower price points) are just standard Global Sauvignon. That’s one of my least favorite wine styles in spite of the fact that they have pronounced acidity and bright aromas like Riesling. Both of these aspects of Global Sauvignon tend to be simplistic or banal regardless of region/country of origin. My advice: forget Global Sauvignon!

So what does Chilean Riesling taste like. Well, the wines are more or less dry and there are a slew of different styles although everyone seems to be using the same kind of cellar technology (reductive winemaking in stainless steel tanks). Clearly the winemakers are only beginning to find out what the special characteristics of the wines from each region are. The 2012 ‘Reserva Especial’ from Cono Sur was clearly the best wine on the table with a complex bouquet of grapefruit, white peach, passion fruit and flowers. It was quite concentrated and properly dry, but was also succulent with a wonderful freshness and an almost filigree finish. It’s still youthful and will undoubtedly improve with at least a year or two in the bottle. This wine replaces the ‘Vision’ dry Riesling from Cono Sur which was recently wine of the month on this site and is even better. It too comes from the Bio Bio Valley close to the southern limit of viticulture in Chile.

The 2011 Dry Riesling from Meli in the Maule Valley was more discrete, but also very clean and full of character. More mature, but still in good shape, the 2009 Miramar Vineyard Riesling from Casa Marin was more powerful with ripe grapefruit and petrol notes, and the balance was still good in spite of the maturity (all wines, Riesling or not, red or white, tend to become leaner and drier with aging). They proved that Chilean Riesling is far from only being Cono Sur. There are already 333 hectares / 821 acres of Riesling in Chile.

Some wines from the other varieties represented in the tasting were no less startling though, most importantly the amphora vinified 2012 ‘Vieja Tinajas’ Muscatel from De Martino, which managed to be a white “natural wine” with an orange color from long fermentation and aging on the skins with little or no sulfur, but appealing too. Although it had an interesting grape skin tannic-textural quality it certainly didn’t taste taste aggressively tannic like some wines of this type, nor did it have any ugly funky aromas (the hamster cage smell which I loathe). Hopefully it tastes just as good as this after bottling.

In the short row of Gewürztraminers it was once again Cono Sur which shone with their 2011 Gewürztraminer ‘Reserva Especial’, which had a great bouquet of yellow roses and rosewater, was rich and elegant just like their Riesling. Here too 13.5% alcohol was barely perceptible, which is another reason why this is a Gewürz which even this Gewürzraminer sceptic would gladly drink. Was some acidity added? If so I couldn’t taste that, so it doesn’t really matter to me.

Viognier is even less my thing than Gewürztraminer and I might react to a bottle from this grape variety appearing on the dinning table by begging for Chardonnay instead! Honestly, I hate the stuff. However, the 2011 Viognier ‘Reserva’ from Nuevo Mundo was discrete enough in the nose (a lot of lees character moderated the apricot and floral notes) and had a rich texture without being too massive or oily. It was another piece of evidence in favor of the argument that Chile’s image as a wine producing nation is too one-sidedly shaped by the (often impressive) reds and all that Sauvignon Blanc which the world is still screaming out for. Let’s hope that at least some of those victims of Global Sauvignon wake up to Riesling, also to the Rieslings of Chile. Clearly they are going somewhere!

Many thanks to Wines of Chile in New York for organizing this fascinating tasting!


New York Riesling Diary: Day 45

Yesterday evening I tasted a revolutionary Australian Riesling, which didn’t taste like any other Australian Riesling I’d ever encountered before. The packaging was also very striking – an all gold label that actually looked good! – but like a fool I forgot to photograph it. As you can see from the above my first visit to American Flatbread TriBeCa (205 Hudson Street at Canal Street – official opening probably Monday) was pretty exciting. Maybe the so-called “revolutionary” pizza I had wasn’t that revolutionary, but it was extremely tasty, the crust exactly as crisp as I like it, the toppings a great swirl of flavors. The large airy space is really ideal for a restaurant of this kind.

But back to the Riesling. I refer to the 2012 ‘RS14′ from Mac Forbes who’s based in the Yarra Valley of Victoria/Australia, but drew most of the fruit for this wine from the Strathbogie Ranges, which seems have an even cooler climate than the Yarra. It had a yeasty note that’s rare in Australian Rieslings (where many of the big companies fine that kind of stuff out of the wines before bottling), but also interesting apple and floral notes and only a hint of the lime aroma that can be so intense in some Australian Rieslings. 14 grams per liter of residual sweetness (i.e. 1.4%RS) is equally untypical, but it worked really well in this wine, due to its enormous freshness and vivacity. It was sublet, but if it had been a hot steamy New York summer day I could probably have downed the bottle half an hour! Mac has clearly gained a lot of experience of German and Austrian wine growing and winemaking, but instead of copying Europe has adapted a bunch of European ideas to the local conditions in his part of Australia. LONG LIVE THE AUSTRALIAN RIESLING REVOLUTION ! By the way, Mac’s Chardonnay was also unusually grapey and refreshing, his Pinot Noirs strikingly different from the Yarra Valley norm, the regular bottling having just 12% alcohol, yet no hint of unripeness. Thanks go to Volker Donabaum of A.I: Selections for saying, “you have to taste these wines!”

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 44 – Assessing the Wines for President Obama’s Inauguration Luncheon

Monday, January 21st 2013 is a great day for Riesling in the United States. Why? Above are pictured the wines for the luncheon following the inauguration of President Barack Obama for his second term in the Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol/Washington DC on January 21st, 2013. News of this choice has been out since a couple of hours, but so far nobody commented seriously on the selection or assessed each of these wines. This they deserve, since the choice is strikingly different from previous years when California dominated. Both wines for the forthcoming presidential inauguration hail from New York State and one of them is a dry Riesling! On the wine front this is as significant a change as the introduction of serious gun control would be for law and order in the US.

There is no question that this selection reflects how far New York’s wine industry has come during recent years. The image of the state as a producer of foxy Concord wine and “odd” wines from French-American hybrid vines has been fading fast as the premium quality wines from Vitis vinifera varieties (the European wine grape in its many forms) have steadily improved in quality, and even more rapidly gained ground in the market. The choice of varieties, a Merlot red and a Riesling white reflects (both dry wines) the twin strengths of New York State. The 2009 Merlot from Bedell comes from the most important red wine growing region in the state, the North Fork of Long Island, and the 2010 ‘Tierce’ Dry Riesling comes from the Finger Lakes in the north of the state, where this variety just celebrated its 50th anniversary of commercial production.

Let’s consider that Riesling first. The 2010 ‘Tierce’ Dry Riesling is a joint venture between three of the Finger Lakes most talented winemakers, Peter Bell of Fox Run, German-born Johannes Reinhardt of Anthony Road and David Whiting of Red Newt. They first blended Riesling wines from their separate cellars for a joint bottling under this brand name back in 2005 and this vintage is the best so far. With its intense aromas of lemon curd and ripe apple this is a Finger Lakes Riesling with the racy, refreshing acidity typical of the region, but there’s no a hint of aggressive tartness, instead it tastes ripe and elegant with a hint of salty mineral flavor in the aftertaste. Pairing it with lobster and a clam chowder sauce was an inspired decision, not only because that seafood is a tradition of the Northeast, but also because it will undoubtedly be a great combination of flavors. The retail price of this wine is about $30.

Although the 2009 Merlot from Bedell on Long Island is a little less exciting than the Finger Lakes Riesling chosen for the inauguration luncheon, there are many things about this wine I find positive. Firstly it has a forthright aroma of redcurrants without a lot of oak masking this fruit character from the grape. Then there’s the fact that it’s not overly heavy, in fact it has a lightness of touch which I find very appealing, particularly in a dining context. Although it’s bone dry there’s a discrete impression of sweetness as it rolls over your tongue, but it ends bright and clean, if slightly bitter. Here the retail price is about $20 and I should point out that it’s not the top red wine from owner Michael Lynne and winemaker Richard Olsen-Habid. That is their “Musée” blend.

Taken together these are very good choices which also reflect important trends in the wine market. Red wines that are lively and charming instead of heavy or too oaky have been gaining ground, just as very clean and pure tasting dry Rieslings having been winning over more and more Americans. The inauguration luncheon will be fully in step with the rapidly evolving taste of US consumers and in tune with the new Riesling Spirit in America. That is really positive news in comparison to most recent headlines.

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 42 – Blue Cheese and Sweet Riesling, a Marriage made in Heaven?

Is it a myth or does blue cheese have a special affinity for sweet Riesling? Is this combination even one of that rare breed the food and wine no brainers? As much as we at STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL love Riesling we’re not clueless cheerleaders in ultra-short skirts for our favorite grape variety. We want to know what works and the only way to find that out is to test. We therefore conducted a series of testes at our HQ in the Hotel of Hope in New York City’s East Village.

From the local grocery store came the Bel Gioioso crumbly Gorgonzola from Wisconsin, which is what most Americans think of when you say “blue cheese” to them. However, in case you think this is just any old cheese I should point out that the American Cheese Society awarded it best of class in 2012. Then we headed down to Saxelby Cheesemongers in Essex Street Market and purchased pieces of Bayley Hazen Blue, a creamy unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese made by Jasper Hill in Vermont and Ewe’s Blue, a pasteurized sheep’s milk blue of the Roquefort-type from Old Chatham Sheepherding in New York’s Upper Hudson Valley. Finally I crossed Essex Street Market and obtained a chunk of Stichelton, the only unpasteurized Stilton type cheese produced in England (to be precise in Nottinghamshire) from Formaggio.

Next to them on the laboratory bench we placed two Rieslings each from rising star New Zealand winery Framingham in Marlborough and from Germany’s legendary Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau. In each case one wine was lighter in both sweetness and price, the other a high-end sweet Riesling of the kind fancy restaurants have on their wine lists and wine nerds lust after. The driest of them was the 2011 Riesling ‘Gelblack’ from Schloss Johannisberg, which is at the dry end of medium-dry on the IRF scale, then came the medium-sweet 2012 ‘Select’ Riesling from Framingham, next sweetest was the 2011 Riesling Spätlese ‘Grünlack’ from Schloss Johannisberg at the dry end of sweet on the IRF scale, and finally the frankly sweet 2012 ‘Noble’ Riesling from Framingham. All of these wines had a healthy acidity content, though this was rather more pronounced in the New Zealand wines than the German ones.

Four wines and four cheese gives 16 possible combinations, which means plenty of tasting, but on the other hand doesn’t tell you everything about blue cheese and sweet Riesling. To fill out the picture the results of earlier tastings with different wines and cheeses were also taken into account.

The first thing to point out is how very different blue cheeses taste. For example, although the Ewe’s Blue is a Roquefort-type it is neither as oily nor as salty as actual Roquefort. The high alcoholic content, moderate sweetness and underlying tannins of Sauternes makes them a better match with real Roquefort than most sweet Rieslings. Only the most unctuous late-harvest Rieslings (e.g. SGN from Alsace or TBA from the Pfalz) can cope reasonably well with Roquefort. Would the less extreme style of Ewe’s Blue help it match the Rieslings, or not?

Bayley Hazen Blue is sometimes described as being a Stilton-type cheese, but it is not as dense and creamy as Stichelton. Would that lead to significant differences in their ability to harmonize with sweet Riesling? And how much sweetness is necessary for Riesling to have a real chance of matching blue cheese? We wanted to find out and in order to do so we left our preconceptions in the closet as we came into the tasting lab.

Since the Bel Gioioso crumbly Gorgonzola was the mildest of the cheeses we started there. It is certainly a well-made product, but a bit young and simple in flavor with a discrete blue taste in spite of the strong blue color. It would definitely be best served crumbled over a salad, in which form it would probably also go rather well with the 2011 Riesling ‘Gelblack’ from Schloss Johannisberg. This is a juicy, peachy Riesling that still finishes pretty dry and crisp. Tasted directly with the Bel Gioioso it was barely sweet enough to match. All of the other wines went much better with the cheese, but their combination of higher sweetness and ripe aromas were really too much for the cheese. Being too dry is obviously a pitfall for Rieslings under “classic” Spätlese type (about 5% – 8% residual sweetness) when pushed up next to blue cheese. And if you want to drink a medium-dry Riesling, American or European, with blue cheese, then I suggest you need to crumble something like this mild Gorgonzola over a salad with a not too tart dressing (watch out for the high acidity in cheaper balsamic vinegars!)

Next was the Ewe’s Blue, which the 2011 Riesling Spätlese ‘Grünlack’ from Schloss Johannisberg matched beautifully; a classic example of a well balanced salty-sweet combination. Indeed, the cheese seemed to unlock another dimension of spice in the wine, which is already complex and tantalizing by itself. The 2012 ‘Select’ Riesling from Framingham also did rather well with this cheese though the wine’s acidity was a little strong, whereas the much more concentrated 2012 ‘Noble’ Riesling from the same produced sailed though the cheese almost effortlessly. Sure, these are “First World Problems”, but we found all of this really fascinating. Blue cheese and sweet Riesling is definitely not a no-brainer if you want a perfect match.

Even the moderate creaminess of the Bayley Hazen Blue overwhelmed the medium-dry 2011 Riesling ‘Gelblack’ from Schloss Johannisberg, which tasted much tarter with this cheese and the Stichelton than drunk by itself. We liked both the cheese and the wines, but this was definitely a mismatch.  All three sweeter wines did much better with Vermont’s best known premium quality blue cheese, but the cheese emphasized their citric side and the 2012 ‘Select’ Riesling form Framingham became one-sidedly citric. None of them was quite perfect with this cheese, but it was always the cheese which came out on top. It was pretty much the same situation with the Stichelton. Here the 2012 ‘Noble’ Riesling from Framingham had the edge over the other wines purely because of its density and higher residual sweetness. However, a vintage port with a decade or more of bottle age would have been even better thanks to its greater body, warm tannins and moderate acidity.

So obviously one rule is that if in doubt go for a wine with more sweetness rather than less. Moderate acidity is also a plus when matching sweet Rieslings with blue cheese. Either ask your  friendly wine merchant for a wine of this type or go for the last vintage with softer acidity (in Germany, Austria and Alsace this is 2011, in North America 2010). At the end I found myself impressed by the American cheeses, but hankering after a piece of ripe Fourme d’Ambert, a creamy cow’s milk cheese from the Auvergne in France and a bottle of mature sweet Mosel Riesling Spätlese. Now that really is a food and wine no brainer!


New York Riesling Diary: Day 40 – I meet the Schnitzel King of New York

The New York Post says that there’s a Schnitzel Mafia in New York, and that may well be true, but although Volker Donabaum is an Austrian ex-pat (from Spitz in the Wachau) he’s definitely not a member of any kind of Mafia. However, when he prepared Wiener Schnitzel for me yesterday evening it was an offer I couldn’t refuse, so good did they taste. So the only Austrian dish I had so far in a New York restaurant which tasted similarly good was the Backhendl (fried chicken) at Blauer Gans in Tribeca. Volker, who works for importer A.I. Selections, also opened a slew of Austrian wines to go with his made-in-heaven Schnitzels. Although I liked the austere and minerally 2011 Bruck Riesling from Martin Muthenthaler in the Wachau, frankly Muthenthalers distinctly cheaper 2011 Grüner Veltliner with its combination of discrete creaminess and harmonious dryness was much better with the Schnitzels. The deep, spicy and mellow 2008 Seeberg Grüner Veltliner from Matthias Hager in the far north of the Kamptal region was even better; a near-perfect match. By the way that wine is a current release not a rare bottle from Hager or Donabaum’s private cellar you couldn’t go out and buy! Afterwards Volker, his wife Amy and I sank deep into some German Rieslings, most notably the rich yet very elegant 2011 Saar Riesling from Van Volxem. If only every peach tasted as ripe as that! And then I made the difficult decision to go home and sleep in the city which never sleeps happy in the knowledge that I’d met the Schnitzel King of New York!


New York Riesling Diary: Day 38 – My New Year’s Resolution

Yes, I made a New Year’s resolution this year while I was out in the ice and snow of the Berkshires staying with Caitlin Harrison and her boyfriend Frank. I got the idea at MASS MoCA art museum in North Adams where I saw the extraordinary sight pictured above. When I saw the 6 maple trees which Natalie Jeremijenko had suspended upside down (the title is ‘Tree Logic’) I decided that in 2013 I will never hesitate to say when things are upside down however much confusion or consternation I cause. Last year I dodged this kind of situation a few times too many, it was never a smart move and I always regretted it afterwards. It’s astonishing how much in our world is actually upside down and I don’t mean just the obvious examples like the National Rifle Association’s argument for more guns in schools, that simply repeats the Cold War argument which said that the more nukes there were the safer the world would be. I’m also thinking of the way that for some years the dominant paradigm for wine in America was the most massively extracted and massively over-priced California Cult Cabernets. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Califronia Cabernet Sauvignon, only against the most extreme of these wines being held up as the ideal which every patriotic American wine should try and live up to, and every other fermented grape juice on Planet Wine should aspire to. This is turning everything upside down, because in America there are plenty of places apart from Napa Valley where exciting wines which taste very different to the Terminator Cabs grow. This diversity strikes me as equally positive as the nation’s complex social and cultural make up, its landscapes and history. Of course, this argument applies equally when we turn to the whole world of wine. The old saying that, “every white wine’s job is to be (like) a red wine” is complete bullshit and lead to an ocean of supersize-me, choke-on-the-oak Chardonnays. After going to MASS MoCA another friend in the Berkshires invited us to dinner and served a Californian Chardonnay from Scribe Winery in Carneros which was so fresh and elegant, so invigorating and fascinating it filled me with hope. However, if I see things which are upside-down this year, then I’m saying.


PS My preferred wine paradigm is, of course, Riesling. It stands for clarity and transparency, intensity and elegance. However, one paradigm is definitely not enough for the whole of Planet Wine. I find it really helps to have several to choose from, like different pairs of shoes for various weather conditions and to match different clothing.


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 37 – Back from the Berkshires

Obviously,  Ive put a lot of work into this blog thing the last month or so, but as you can see it hasn’t stopped me from hanging loose sometimes. The last two days I was way north of New York in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts staying with Riesling fan Caitlin Harrison of  Restaurant Mezze in Williamstown/MA. Hard as it may be to believe shortly after the above photograph was taken of me with Caitlin’s cat Scout I was almost bursting with excitement as we watched the 1971 James Bond film ‘Diamonds are Forever’. Although I’ve seen this, my favorite James Bond films, many times and know some of the lines by heart (“that’s a nice piece of nothing you’re almost wearing” Bond says to a beautiful girl in a neglige at one point) it was only the evening before last that I realized how it must have provided an important source of inspiration for Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ of 1972. As different as the two works are they both feature a “shark” of a red car driving too fast through downtown Las Vegas, an ape at a casino called Circus Circus and a bunch of other stuff. I don’t see how that can be mere coincidence with only one year between the two.

I’ve nothing startling to report on the Riesling front, but I do on the art front. Yesterday we went to MASS MoCA in North Adams, a remarkable museum of contemporary Art in an ex-industrial facility where there’s currently an astonishing show of work by the Chinese artist Xu Bing. It is named after a pair of monumental sculptures of mythological birds made from steel salvaged from Beijing construction sites titled ‘Phoenix’. My photographs barely hint at the scale and originality of this work. Thankfully my small camera did much better at capturing a piece by Xu Bing called ’1st Class’ made up of half a million cigarettes forming the gigantic image of a tiger’s skin. I wish that there was some contemporary art of this quality which dealt with wine, but the lack of this is no big deal. Xu Bing expanded my horizons and I thank him for that!

Immediately before leaving for the beautiful Berkshires I managed to do some very interesting tasting of sweet Rieslings with blue cheese, which really is a food and wine marriage made in heaven. Tomorrow or the day after the report on that subject will go online. BEST WISHES FOR 2013 TO ALL RIESLING FRIENDS!


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