Israel Riesling Diary: Day 5 – The Other Wine Israel

No doubt, I’m not the first to comment upon the way a lot of Israeli wines are now well made, but taste pretty much like a bunch of wines made in the so-called “New World”. The modern Israeli wine industry isn’t as old as those of California, Australia or Chile, never mind South Africa (founded in 1659), and given how recent the reorientation towards the production of dry table wines here, perhaps it’s not surprising that much of the industry adopted models from over the seas and far away instead of from the nearby nations around the Mediterranean that have a broadly similar climate. This is the main reason why the fruit-driven and lush wine styles that dominate in most of the “New World” wine countries also dominated here until recently. It was also easier to focus on the grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay that are well-known to consumers at home and around Planet Wine, rather than to take the more risky path of committing themselves (vines live 30 years plus) to more obscure grape varieties that are possibly better-suited to the Israeli climate. However, that is now changing fast.

There was a pioneer for this, and for much else, who remains at the cutting edge of the process of redefining what Israeli wine can be. He is the larger-than-life Zeev Dunie, the founder of Seahorse winery in Moshav bar Giora up in the Judean Hills, pictured  above. I say all this although Seahorse produces a number of exciting wines that have nothing directly to do with the Mediterranean region, like the ‘James’ dry Chenin Blanc, one of the best wines I’ve tasted made from this grape outside it’s homeland in the Loire/France. I can’t begin to explain how barrel-fermentation and extended lees contact leads to a dry white this fresh, as well as texturally exciting and aromatically complex. No less remarkable is the ‘Lennon’ Zinfandel, which has more vitality than this variety has in California, with which it is most closely associated, but every bit as much spice as a Zin from Sonoma or Paso Robles. Every wine from Seahorse that I’ve tasted here, regardless of its color or type, had as much personality as their maker, even if I wasn’t wowed by every one of them. In fact, I think it’s ridiculous to expect that from any winemaker and if it did happen, then it would make me a bit skeptical.

The photograph of Zeev above shows the former film director in front of his freshly harvested Counois grapes, a “lesser” Southern Rhône variety that he feels may have an important role in adding subtlety to his Grenache and Syrah-based red blends. He’s also exploring the possibilities of Cinsault, another grape that features in many Chateauneuf du Pape reds. Our visit was the first time I’d tasted both of these varieties as grapes, rather than as elements of blended red wines. The Cinsault grapes had surprisingly little flavor, while the Counois were off the other end of the taste-intensity scale and reminded me a bit of certain North American wild grapes I’ve tasted. Somebody has to do this practical research and Zeev Dunie’s non-intervention winery seems to me to be an ideal place. Before this work is done nobody will know if ignoring these grape varieties has meant a significant loss to the Israeli wine industry. It is part of the long, elliptical and exciting process of figuring out what grape varieties works best here, that is what gives the most interesting and distinctive top quality wines, as well as what gives the most pleasing everyday wines. At the moment many of those new wines aren’t well-known, much less mainstream, but they are making waves that will expand on the surface of the global wine pond and, in the long-term, completely change the image of Israeli wines.



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Israel Riesling Diary: Day 3 – The Taste of the Future

This blog rarely devotes a great deal of space and praise to red wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon and the other so-called Bordeaux grapes, because many of those wines are already showered with (well-earned or ill-deserved) praise, and some of them are also grossly over-priced due to their prime role as the fetish objects of wine cults and investment commodities. Today at the cellars of the Margalit estate in Binyamina I encountered the best Israeli wines I ever tasted, and they were all made exclusively or primarily from those Bordeaux red grape varieties. Pictured above is the father (Dr. Yair Margalit, right) and son (Asaf Margalit, left) team responsible for these remarkable wines.

What makes them so special? As the Margalits explained to me, the problem in Israel is not to ripen the grapes, rather to avoid getting jammy over-ripe aromas and flavors in the wines, but to end up with beautiful ripe flavors, and in the case of red wines, the right kind of tannins. On the basis of today’s tasting I’d say they have been doing this with great success since 2000, the oldest vintage we tasted. All the Margalit red wines have great harmony and subtlety, never being even slightly rustic, much less loud or overly demonstrative. At one point I asked myself, which do I really prefer, the  2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 Petit Verdot or the 2011 Cabernet Franc? Not only did I fail to reach a decision by the end of my visit, the list of those favorites had grown to include the super-elegant 2008 ‘Enigma’ ( a cuvée of those Bordeaux grape varieties). However, by that time I had realized how Margalit Snr. and Jr. have thought through and explored a great many of the possibilities of this wine style. Their answer to the question how wines of this kind should taste is one of the most convincing on Planet Wine, not just in Israel.

The Margalits have opened up new possibilities for Israeli winemakers, not least the possibility not to define themselves solely as Kosher wine producers (I have nothing against Kosher wines), rather to see themselves firstly as makers of excellent Israeli wines. This is something which inspires the new generation of winemakers like Yael Sandler of nearby Binyamina Winery, one of Israel’s largest producers of Kosher wines. 2014 is her first vintage in Israel after getting into wine while working in one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants in London, then studying winemaking in Australia, and finally working both in the Australian and in South African wine industries.

Like many of her generation, she is trying to make wines with more freshness and vitality than those of the past, and from the cask samples (some still fermenting) of the 2014s I tasted at Binyamina (where it is her first vintage) I’d say that she is already well down the path to that goal. This will surely help Israeli wines achieve wider international recognition, since it will make them taste less like correctly made “New World” wines and more like wines from an old land with a new and distinctive personality. I can’t wait to taste her 2014s after they are bottled. Watch out Wide Wine World, Israel is coming!

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Israel Riesling Diary: Day 2 – They Don’t They Make Them Like These Anywhere Else on Planet Wine?

Why don’t winemakers elsewhere make Cabernet Franc Blanc de Noir or blend Gewürztraminer with Sauvignon Blanc like Tulip Winery does?

This is David Bar-Ilan, the winemaker of Tulip winery since the 2012 vintage. He didn’t come up with idea of blending Gewürztraminer with Sauvignon Blanc to make the bone dry ‘White Tulip’ of Tulip Winery with it’s wonderfully vibrant bouquet of grapefruit and discrete tropical fruit notes, but he was the man who perfected it’s seriously refreshing personality (with just 12.5% alcoholic content!) that perfectly fits the Mediterranean climate of Israel. He also didn’t come up with the idea of making a Blanc de Noirs from Cabernet Franc and a dash of Sauvignon Blanc to add crispness to ‘White Franc’ and balance the hint of grape sweetness in this wine from Tulip Winery, but he perfected the style and color (see the photo below) of that wine too.

Actually Tulip Winery, an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv on the inland side of the northern tip of the Carmel Mountains, is best known for its red wines. Quite rightly so, for they are technically impeccable and full of personality right across the range from the fruit-driven and supple, modestly-priced 2012 ‘Just Merlot’ right up to the imposing and tannic, but still elegant (in spite of 15.5%) 2011 ‘Black Tulip’, a red blend that doesn’t quite fit into any of the established international stylistic categories.

It was a difficult tasting for David, because his right-hand man in the press house kept bringing samples of the 2014 red wine that was being pressed right then for him to follow the progress of the pressing, and he had to make some important decisions about it. Then, just as we reached the last of the red wines in the tasting, a truck loaded with French Columbard grapes (some of the last of this year’s harvest) rolled up. That’s the reality of the sharp end of winemaking!

All of this was quite a contrast to my first Israeli Riesling Moment (IRM) and an astonishing choc-non-choc experience at the Imperial Craft Cocktail lounge in Tel Aviv. Not that I expected any of this when we parked the car, because this bar is in the Imperial Hotel located in an odd part of Downtown Tel Aviv. The electrical system of the building next to the parking lot where we left the car was hanging out all over the facade like so much spilled guts. Across the road was an historic building that was in a depressing state of dusty decay and boarded up as a result. That nullified the effect of the astonishing news that this had just been voted the best cocktail bar in the Middle East and Africa – interesting, but so what? Once I got into the imperial all of this was instantly forgotten.

This photo is one of my many attempts to capture the atmosphere in the Imperial, I think the best, because other images my be slightly sharper (I mean more in focus), but they don’t quite capture the civilized, urban hedonism of this remarkable bar. Not being a cocktail person, and being too thirsty to risk refreshment through a high-alcohol cocktail, I decided to order a glass of white wine before I moved on to one of their complex creations. Then the IRM happened. “Do you want Sancerre or Riesling?” asked the barman and, of course – what else could I do? – I went for the latter. It turned out to be the ‘Dr. L.’ from Dr. Loosen on the Mosel, and it was indeed as titanically refreshing as I had hoped it would be. Then I was in exactly the right mood to move on to the ‘Tobago’ cocktail pictured below.

Although the ‘Tobago’ contains no chocolate at all it had an aroma which reminded me totally of the best Venezuelan bitter chocolate (e.g. Domori Puerto Mar). And I loved the presentation which half-pretended that it was a cup of coffee, and half-pretended that it was some kind of exotic chocolate-based chai. I apologize for the quality of the photo, but the low lighting in the Imperial pushed my new camera (an Olympus Pen EP-5) to the limits of its capability. This comes with the territory if you are a hard-core blogger trying to capture things as they happen in their full unruly and mind-bending “thisness”. If you want to do that seriously, then you need to roll with those punches and hit those curveballs, somehow. But, to be honest, that’s great training for life as a whole.

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Israel Riesling Diary: Day 1 (Part 2) – Living Together

This is the sunset at Jaffa, on the southern edge of Downtown Tel Aviv, and as you can see it has an orange glow. That makes complete sense to the child in me, because when that child was all of me in London during the 1960s one of my absolute favorite things was the Jaffa Cake chocolate and orange biscuit. As beautiful as this image is, it cannot compare with the most beautiful thing that I experienced today, but no single photo, or even, a short series could do that. I’m referring to the entirely peaceful intermingling of (mostly young) Israelis and Arabs on and around the Tel Aviv beach. This is something that none of the countless press reports about Israeli life I read during the months between deciding that I would come to Israel and stepping out of the plane just over 24 hours ago. The only aggression I experienced was between two Israeli car drivers trying to go in opposite directions along the narrow harbor side road in Jaffa who got stuck into a stupid macho face-off.

By lunchtime I’d realized that the Israelis and  the Palestinan Arabs are about as different as oranges and lemons – two fruits that are so closely related that some varieties of one look more like the other – so above is a picture of lemons. They’re preserved lemons at Manta Ray Restaurant where we had a delicious lunch. With it we drank a glass of the ‘Cuvée Blanc’ from Flam winery, which I’ll be visiting later on during my visit. It is the perfect answer to those people who say things like, “Israel can produce some good reds, but the climate is totally wrong for white wines.” In just 24 hours I’ve come to the conclusion that although Israel may be a small country (about the size of New Jersey, I think), it is far too complex to be reduced to any simple description along the lines of, “Israel is…”

Even the oranges and lemons metaphor I introduced above is way too limiting, so I thought I’d throw another fruit into the mix. I drank the sweet, tart and slightly tannic juice of these pomegranates as a mid-morning refreshment outside the Baroque Catholic Church of Jaffa. While I drank it, and thought about how the apple in the Garden of Eden was probably actually a pomegranate, I noticed that on the recently modernized square in front of the church I saw a sculpture by the British artist Henry Moore from the 1950s and a cannon that had been used in Jaffa during the Ottoman period (1515 – 1917). Here the religions and historical periods mingle in a way they don’t either in New York or Berlin. And in spite of all these realizations, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this crossroads of so many cultures and eras.


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Israel Riesling Diary: Day One – UNIS Spectacular!

Last night I arrived in Israel for the first time. It’s my worst jet lag in years, perhaps because I’m used to those 6-8 hour flights back and forth across the Atlantic. Flying east for more then 10 hours threw me, and it’s a long time since I’ve been in a mediterranean-type summer. Then we headed to the local gas station in Even Yehuda, a short drive north of Tel Aviv, but not for gas, to put more air in the tires or even a car wash. No, we were there for a restaurant called UNIS, and the local food was spectacular!

The humus (the plate with the chick peas swimming in olive oil) was the most delicious that I ever had, delicate in flavor with a creamy-dreamy texture.

I feel sorry that the bread is only partially seen in this image, because it was also something special. No doubt, I ate too much of it and everything else on the table too!

Yes, these are a kind of shish kebabs, or rather several kinds of them. The one I liked best was the chicken hearts, something I’d never had cooked this way before.

And, no, yesterday I drank no wine of any kind. Two small beers plus all this food were enough to knock me out for almost 11 hours.

The wine tasting starts tomorrow, so please be patient! My apologies in advance for any names I spell incorrectly. This is bound to happen.


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 26 – FLX Top Secret

However well you think you know the wines of a region there’s always another surprise out there waiting to make you fall off your chair, and that’s the real reason that I do this strange, ridiculous, arduous and fantastic job. As those of you who follow me on twitter (@PigottRiesling) already know, last weekend I was in the Finger Lakes (FLX) on a Top Secret mission, and this involved exactly zero wine tasting. After I arrived on Friday afternoon, I had to concentrate on that mission to the exclusion of all else, and thankfully it appears to have been successful. All will be revealed when I know if that impression turns out to be correct. When I’d done all I could, I realized that there were a couple of hours “free”, so I headed out to Red Tail Ridge winery between Geneva and Penn Yan on the western bank of Seneca Lake. I’d already tasted a couple of good wines from this producer, but I hadn’t got a clear picture of the winery and its products, because the time interval between those experiences had been rather large. In my experience, this always makes it difficult to come to a conclusion, so there was no substitute for tasting a long row of the wines in all one go at some point; better sooner than later.

At 3pm on Saturday afternoon the Red Tail Ridge tasting room was hopping and I was lucky they could fit me in at one of the three tasting tables. I was already impressed by the 2013 “Sans” unoaked Chardonnay and the barrel fermented Chardonnays, which are both very honest and well made wines with far better balance than a slew of the competitors from the West Coast. Then, when I got to the Rieslings they figured out who I am and suddenly there was the winemaker Nancy Irelan (pictured above with her husband Mike). Together we tasted the 7 different (!) Rieslings ranging from properly dry up to dessert and they were all pristine, aromatic and elegant.

How many FLX winemakers are equally talented at making dry Riesling as making sweet wines from my favorite grape? Very few and Fred Merwarth of Hermann J. Wiemer heads that short list, which means that Nancy is in the very best company! How does the California native who founded this winery just a decade ago do that? Attitude and attention to detail are the answers, I think. As she told me, “drinking a glass of wine should be seamless. It shouldn’t interrupt the conversation or anything else you’re doing.” Note Nancy’s omission of the obsessive-compulsive, pseudo-science of wine pairings and her mention of that old-fashioned analog activity, conversation.

Then she poured the 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Blaufränkisch, which were two of the most expressive and polished red wines I ever tasted from the FLX. There were no green aromas in either of these wines, no edgy tannins (Blaufränkisch easily gets those in regions as cool as this), no inkiness or chewiness due to over-extraction (frequent Pinot Noir problems in this region) that distracted from the positive aromas and flavors, much less excessive oak masking those things. Red winemakers of the FLX please take note that this is your stairway to red wine heaven; forget power, go for balance and fragrance!

On top of this, Red Tail Ridge is the most energy-efficent winery I ever saw (I mean anywhere on Planet Wine), exclusively using geothermal energy. The investment in that technology was considerable, which requires a leap of faith that few are willing to make, but the payback can be enormous. This system paid for itself in just two and a half years and the monthly energy costs for the cellar are below $500. That’s something not only the local wine industry could learn from.

PS If you already found out what my FLX secret, either by chance or deduction, please don’t spread it around, but please spread the word about these joyful FLX wines!


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 22 – My Answer to Jancis Robinson’s Question, “Will Riesling ever catch on?”

Riesling grapes in Cave Spring Vineyard in Ontario, Canada. Riesling is in the process of overtaking Chardonnay to became the No. 1 white vinifera grape variety in Ontario.

Jancis Robinson’s just posted a story called ‘Riesling – will it ever catch on?’ that addresses the central theme of this blog and of my recently published book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and therefore has to be answered. From the title it’s clear that she feels deeply skeptical about our favorite grape’s chances, an impression the full text completely confirms.  Coincidentally, during the last weeks I was thinking a lot about why Riesling hasn’t been doing better recently in certain markets, so I’m glad to have been prodded into getting my thoughts out there.

It seems to me that just as Riesling is a many-sided wine in terms of its taste characteristics – from feather-light to ton-heavy, from bone-dry to honey-sweet and every conceivable combination of those things – it is also many different things to many different people in many different places. A glance at the vineyard statistics confirms this on the production side, the numbers telling a very different story in each winegrowing region and nation where Riesling plays a significant role.

In Australia, for example, in spite of all the changes in image, marketing and styles for the entire wine industry during the last decades, (which enormous fluctuations up and down), the Riesling vineyard area has remained remarkably stable for almost half a century. Bone-dry wines have also remained the dominant style for the grape. Riesling seems as firm a feature of the Australian landscape as Uluru, and no other country on Planet Wine confirms to this pattern.

The situation in the US is an utterly different one, Riesling having been completely overtaken by the explosive growth in the popularity and vineyard area of grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot during the 1970s and ‘80s. Then, largely under the radar, Riesling has grown remarkably since the turn of the century due to dramatically improved winemaking, grass roots interest (also far outside the cool East and West Coast cities) and a healthy dash of guerilla marketing. This story is all about the American spirit of innovation.

Pictured below is Mike Beneduce of Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown, New Jersey for whom 2013 was the first vintage of estate vineyard Riesling. I did his Blaufränkisch too!

Sure, there are global trends in wine consumption, but even when exactly the same wines are being drunk around the globe, they are drunk in different ways in different cultures and mean different things to those very diverse drinkers.  This strikes me as being at odds with Jancis Robinson’s conclusion that a world-wide Riesling bubble, which was only ever partially inflated has burst, because, “Riesling just has too strong a personality to appeal to enough consumers to gain global traction.” Sure, Riesling hasn’t grown in every market lately and has fallen back a bit in some places as moods and fashions have changed, but even in those places it isn’t hard to find elements of the global Riesling network. That, as much as the wines from the best white wine grape on earth, is the subject of this blog and my book.

Globalization, in the sense of truly global trade, dates back almost exactly 450 years, (see Charles C. Mann’s book 1493). However, its new instantaneous electronic form has obviously radically changed what that word means very fast. Even in the 21st century wine is a cumbersome product to transport, so it’s remarkable how it has become part of global-social-media-pop-culture. Even more extraordinary to me is how “little” Riesling (not quite 1% of the global vineyard area) has been particularly successful at this. In contrast, Cabernet Sauvignon has not done well as a social media phenomenon, rather the wines of that grape seem locked in rigid hierarchical structures that prevent them creating a viral buzz. I feel sure that the lack of a global community of Cabernet winemakers (unlike either Pinot Noir or Riesling) and the high prices and elitist image of many of the wines reinforce this effect.

My guess is, that it is precisely because Riesling is so open to different uses and interpretations that it has been able to connect with so many people in so many places. The generally modest prices and free global exchange of ideas amongst winemakers clearly encourage the feeling that Riesling is a democratic wine to spread. Only older consumers who have a fixed notion of Riesling as sweet and bland, and younger status-orientated consumers who take their cues from the older generation (in order to feel secure in their judgments, I think), seem completely unable to find a new use or positive interpretation for Riesling. As Jancis Robinson rightly notes, she and other writers can only have a rather modest influence upon these deeply-seated prejudices.

Why do those consumers cling to an outdated idea of what Riesling is? I think the answer is that it is often linked to a macho conviction these mostly male consumers have that they knows about wine in some decisive or even absolute sense. What they actually know is a particular conception of wine that more or less fitted reality at some now rather distant point in time, usually the late 20th century which was dominated by Chrdonnay, then big reds. All those Parker points only reinforced this, even after wine fashions and styles had begun moving in very different directions (elegant, more aromatic dry whites and fresher less inky reds). As the Canadian media philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said, most of the time most of us see the world within the comforting frame of the rear-view mirror, rather than through the windshield.

Pictured right is Peter and Brigitte Pliger’s ‘Kaiton’ Riesling from the Eisaktal/Val d’Isarco in Südtirol/Alto Adige. Anyone who wants to know how minerality in wine tastes is recommended this Italian Riesling (and yes, it is a real Riesling, not a Riesling Italico). I was never able to buy a bottle of this wine from the them, because it was always sold out, so I was bowled over to find it on the list at Hearth Restaurant in New York where this picture was taken.  Seen through the bottle is Janie Brooks Heuck of Brooks Wines in Oregon, one of that state’s leading Riesling producers. The 2003 Willamette Valley dry Riesling from Brooks was one of the most exciting white wines I tasted this year!

I think there’s a logical conclusion to all this, which is that the more an individual, group or culture is open to the taste of wine (and what it can do for the drinker) the better Riesling tends to do.  The more they are ruled by ideas of status and/or ”face”, the greater the uphill struggle that the wines will have, and in extreme cases that might be like the North Face of the Eiger. Perhaps this is why, as Jancis rightly points out, Riesling does so well in Norway.

Let’s have a closer look at Norway. On the 2014 United Nations Human development index it places first (compare with the US fifth and the UK 14th). The Economist Intelligence unit produces a Democracy Index every two years and in the 2012 edition Norway was first (compare with UK 16th and US 21st). Reporters Without Border publishes a world press freedom index and Norway is 3rd in the latest edition (compare with the UK 33rd and the US 46th). When I went to Norway in 2007 I certainly didn’t like everything I found, but the openness of many, many people was remarkable. That is the kind of air which Riesling likes to breathe and in which it flourishes.

By the way, none of the world’s leading Riesling producers have much problem selling out each year and even I have to be sharp in order to buy some wine directly from German winemakers like Helmut Dönnhoff in Oberhausen, Nahe and Klaus-Peter Keller in Flörsheim-Dalsheim, Rheinhessen, or their colleagues in Australia like Jeffrey Grosset of Clare Valley and Hermann J. Wiemer of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York.



New York Riesling Diary: Day 14 – Wine of the Month October 2014 is the New York Yankees Riesling

‘New York Yankees’ Dry Riesling from Anthony Road in the FLX for $24.99

Of course, as no-sports Englishman (currently) in New York I am not able to fathom all the intricacies of baseball, but then I cant do the same for cricket, the British equivalent, either.  It wasn’t difficult to get what the New York Yankees mean to the people of this fair city. That happened without me going to one of their games, or even watching a whole game on TV, so fundamental is it to what being a New Yorker means. Now the Yankees have their own Riesling, from Anthony Road in the Finger Lakes (FLX), which is literally a game changing development for my favorite grape here in New York Wine City (NYWC). When I first learnt about that my jaw literally dropped in shock: baseball and Riesling!? I thought it was baseball, hotdogs and beer.

That the Yankees have their own Riesling is a big surprise to me, but not the choice of Anthony Road. It was one of the most consistent Rieslings producers in the FLX over the decade that I have been closely following developments in the region due to the winemaking talents of Johannes Reinhardt (now of Kemmeter Wines just next door) and the successor he trained, current winemaker Peter Becraft. They are also one third of the ‘Tierce’ dry Riesling, a blend of dry Rieslings from Fox Run, Red Newt and Anthony Road, the 2010 vintage of which was served at the lunch for the 57th Presidential Inauguration (the beginning of Obama’s second term) at the Capitol in Washington DC on January 21st 2013. That and the Yankees Dry Riesling are a sure sign of mainstream acceptance and success for the FLX and the region’s Riesling wines.

The way the wine tastes is the final confirmation of the rightness of all this. Although 2013 is a less consistent vintage than 2012 and the ripeness was sometimes clearly less than ideal this wine has generous apple and lemon aromas, lively rather than dominant acidity and great balance. And if you want to have a similar taste experience without the Yankees label for slightly less money, the regular 2013 Dry Riesling from Anthony Road is $16.99.

2013 ‘New York Yankees’ Dry Riesling is $24.99 from

Anthony Road at their FLX tasting room at 1020 Anthony Road in Penn Yan/NY

or at their stand on Saturdays at the Green Market in Union Square/NYWC

or by going to:

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 12 – The Last Summer of Riesling Ends, but Riesling’s Sparkle Lives On & A Last Word on the New York Wine Riot

All good things must come to an end…

Yesterday evening was almost the end of the 7th Summer of Riesling festival in America. The self-proclaimed Riesling Overlord Paul Grieco did not pose in front of a banner declaring “Mission Accomplished”, in fact there was no photo opportunity at all and I had to furtively snap the picture of him below with Irene Vagianos (left) of Wines of Germany USA. The central points of themodest celebration at Terroir Murray Hill, were the first NYWC screening of my WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie (Part 1) and a magnum of the 35oth anniversary bottling of 2011 Berncasteler Doctor Spätlese from the Dr. Thanisch (VDP). The audience included several Finger Lakes winemakers, German wine importer Andrew Rich from Boston, MA and Mani de Osu of the Neodandi fashion label, now based in NYC.

On the one hand there was the sense of an era ending. When I began work on my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) on February 1st 2012 the idea of the Summer of Riesling ending two and half years later seemed so absurd that I never even considered it. However, during the summer of 2012 I got to see a variety of problems with this project as it broadened its appeal and started to get watered down by half-hearted participants who just wanted to ride a wave. There were also “musical differences” between members of the “band” running it. On the other hand, yesterday evening there was also a strong sense that the cards are being reshuffled, and something new is already taking shape that will pick up where the Summer of Riesling leaves off. The Riesling Invasion in Portland, OR and the City of Riesling in Traverse City, MI both of which I was lucky to be part of showed how events tailored made to locations are the way forward.

I have been requested to provide the text of the 60 second Riesling Slam which I delivered at the beginning of each of my 12 Riesling Crash Courses during the New York Wine Riot. Here it is as:

It’s RiEsling not RIesling, the correct pronunciation of German-Born grape variety that gives the BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH!!! Riesling is unique amongst all wines, white or red, in being everything from featherlight to ton heavy, from bone-dry to honey-sweet, and every conceivable combination of those things. Every good Riesling tastes of where it grew, the season which ripened the grapes and the people who made it. Seductive aromas and dazzling freshness are what give this enormous diversity of wines a family resemblance. Riesling Fan Numero Uno, Paul Grieco, says that DRINKING RIESLING MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON. I say MAYBE. But if you drink Riesling then some of it’s sparkle will surely rub off on you. MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!!

Racing against the clock here in my sun room here on West 16th Street I certainly can say all that in 60 seconds. However, I never managed it at the New York Wine Riot. Thanks to everyone who endured my attempts to do so!

For the final blast of the final Summer of Riesling in America head to any Terroir wine bar tonight, Monday, September 22nd where all by the glass Rieslings are $8 per glass during happy hour and $10 per glass for the rest of the evening. See the following link for the final thoughts of the Riesling Overlord:


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 11: Riesling Fans of New York unite at Wine Riot! / See you Tonight art the New York Premier of WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie

My strong belief in the power of the new generation of Riesling fans was enormously strengthened by those I met at the New York Wine Riot yesterday and the day before. I don’t know the names of any of these people, but I do know that even if they didn’t all yet love Riesling when they walked into the New York Wine Riot they certainly all do now!

Sometimes people called me the “Pope of Riesling”, the “Emperor of Riesling” and similar stuff, but all I’m really doing is being a catalyst that brings these people together in a peaceful and, hopefully, exciting way. Maybe, sometimes, I give them some nugget of information that helps to stimulate their interest and curiosity. If so then that’s great.

In fact, this time they all did me a great service, because they forced me to fill the space that was provided and gave me the energy to do so. I used to laugh when people talked about “Rock Star Wine Guys”, but now I’m beginning to see that it’s literally possible. Why did I make this discovery at Wine Riot? Because the average age of those who took part was just under 30!

What the Wine Riot convinced me of is that it may “only” be wine and “only” Riesling at that, but if you do it right you can crank up the volume and turn that into a rock culture phenomenon, and those rock culture things all grow the largest size in America! You can be sure that I intend to part of this thing whatever it gets called.

That all seems to me to be some kind of omen of things to come, although what they might be I certainly can’t tell you know. Tonight at 10pm at Terroir Murray Hill (439 Third Avenue, between 30th and 31st Streets) when my WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie receives its NYWC premier. Below is a picture of the amazing daredevil Riesling Road Trip driver Devin (left) and my cameraman Marcarthur Baralla setting up one of the shots for the movie’s final scene. Hope to see you there.

PS If anyone decides they don’t like appearing on my blog just let me know which image you’d like to remove and I will do so.


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