Vienna Riesling Diary: Day 0 – My Austrian Riesling Top Ten

I just arrived in Vienna after 3 intense and taxing, but also inspiring days tasting Riesling and Grüner Veltliner (plus a few specialities) in Lower Austria. I just had time to check into my hotel and run over to Weibels Wirtshaus in the Kumpfgasse/1. District to present my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story for the first time ever. For this event I put together a list of my Austrian Riesling Top Ten and I reproduce this below for those who couldn’t attend. I would point out that this is not a hit list of the best 2013 vintage wines, rather reflects the last five vintages I was able to taste and the winegrowers are listed in alphabetical order. Pictured above is Willi Bründlmayer of Langenlois/Kamptal. Don’t worry he didn’t win the crazy cat trophy he’s holding with a Riesling, it was for his ‘L + T’ Grooner. I hope that this list provokes serious discussion, just as my book is already beginning to do here in Vienna.

Bründlmayer (Langenlois/Kamptal)

Johann Donabaum (Spitz/Wachau)

Hirsch * (Kammern/Kamptal)

Neumayer (Inzersdorf ob der Traisen/Traisental)

Nigl * (Senftenberg/Kremstal)

Nikolaihof * (Mautern/Wachau)

Rudi Pichler * (Wösendorf/Wachau)

Franz Proidl (Senftenberg/Kremstal)

Stadt Krems (Krems-Stein/Kremstal)

Wieninger * (Vienna/Wien)

* Included in the „Riesling Global Top 100“ in

BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story

Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in NYC on June 17th, 2014

 

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 12 – Dear NSA, Dear GCHQ (Part 8 – As Time Goes By)

Here, much delayed by technical problems with the back end of my blog which prevented me from putting it up as planned on Friday, June 6th is the next installment of this series with no direct connection to Riesling or even wine in general. I make no apologies for that, because this is a matter with such far reaching implications that it connects with almost everything else on our planet.

This story may get lost in the crowd of other stories appearing on this, the first anniversary of the publication of the first Snowden revelations, but that prospect doesn’t deter me from reporting on some of the most important consequences of the fact that since 9/11 both of you have been trying to gain access to all electronic communications, and often succeeded in obtaining all the data of a particular type in a specific territory (e.g. tapping all the cellphone calls in the Bahamas for a period).

One of those consequences is particularly obvious to me, because I’m British, also a frequent visitor to the US and a long-term resident of Germany. My travel between those places frequently confronts me with a very different situation to that I was just in.  This keeps reminding me how both in Britain and the US some people are critical of what we now know you did, but the so-called silent majorities in both countries accept it, because they feel it is making them more secure. In contrast, in Germany there is almost unanimous condemnation right across the social and political spectrum, although this is often tinged with resignation and a feeling of helplessness. Did you guys get that yet?

For me, the current and decisive phase of what most Germans call the “NSA Affäre” began with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to US President Barrack Obama in Washington DC at the end of April and beginning May. The New York Times (NYT) story of May 1st, ‘U.S. and Germany Fail to Reach a Deal on Spying’ explained how talks between the two governments had totally failed, because, as one nameless American official was quoted, “What the Germans want, and wanted, is that we would never do anything against their laws on their territory.” By inference, what the US Government wanted from the Germans was that they turn a blind eye to NSA and other American secret service activities in Germany even when these contravene German law. At the TV press conference with Merkel, Obama smiled and said that the US is one of Germany’s best friends and the NSA is not snooping on normal Germans, therefore they have nothing to worry about. The fact that no kind of agreement had been reached between the two governments gave those words a hollow ring for Germans, and only increased their sense of disillusionment with Obama. Effectively the British position is the same and Cameron’s smile is no different to that of the American President. Suddenly, the Germans feel as if they have no friends left, at least none they could rely upon if they suddenly really needed help.

However, there are also implications of all this for America and Britain. Did anyone in the British or American media point out that if the German Government turned a blind eye to illegal NSA and GCHQ activities on their territory, then it would have compromised both the principals of equality before the law and the separation of executive and judiciary; vital elements of the German Basic Law? I certainly didn’t see anything like that in print or on my computer screen. What makes this shocking to me is that those principals, along with others such as free speech and the privacy of the citizen’s home, derive from the US Constitution and from the British democratic system with its “unwritten” constitution.  The American and the British governments are expecting the German government to compromise on are the core values of their Basic Law which have roots that go back to America’s founding fathers and their equivalents in late 17th and 18th century Britain. This is perverse and says something about how respect for those principals has been eroded by the British and American governments in recent years.

Shortly after her return to Germany Angela Merkel gave an interview to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). There she was quoted as saying“…I have repeatedly made clear to the American President that when it comes to the data collection by the NSA we expect that on German soil German law will be obeyed. The ends cannot justify the means.” Perhaps because she realized early on that America would not be willing to sign a no-spy agreement with Germany, that’s been Merkel’s bottom line for quite some time. Because of that, she’s has been repeatedly attacked by German politicians of all parties (though less loudly by those of her own party, the CDU) and taken a lot of flack from the German media for being too friendly to the US Government.

It strikes me that her position was indeed friendly to America. “Germany cannot wish for a better partner than the United States,” she said in that FAZ interview last month. It was simply the latest statement of her long-standing belief in America as a force for good in the world that was shaped by her youth in totalitarian East Germany and the events following the fall of the Berlin Wall a quarter of a century ago. That’s why she bent over (almost) backwards to accommodate President Obama, but neither he nor anyone else in the US Government seems to have realized that fact, otherwise they wouldn’t have treated her as they did when she last came to DC. Seen from Germany, it looked just short of a public humiliation. Once again, the British position seems to mirror the US one, although Cameron hasn’t made such a show out of it.

Sadly, the situation is much worse than all this suggests, and that’s something you can only appreciate if you have spent some time in Germany, Britain and America recently, as I did. The mantra of the US Government is that the NSA’s job is to protect national security, and for most Americans that means avoiding another 9/11. American politicians officials have repeatedly played on this fear according to Richard Nixon’s principal that, “people react to fear, not love”. The problem is that the NSA’s hovering up of data is not only about protecting American lives. As the NYT times story of May 20th, ‘Fine Line Seen in U.S. Spying on Companies’, pointed out, “…the government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage, which is part of it’s broad definition of how it protects American national security.” Clearly, in recent years the definition national security has become elastic and been expanded from the defense of Americans lives to include propping up the US economy. In this case too the position of the US Government seem to be that the ends justify the means.

Bit by bit the Snowden revelations have made clear to the Germans and anyone else not gripped by paranoid fear of terrorists, how the US Government has expanded the meaning of many key terms such as “national security” far beyond their traditional definitions. This, no less than finding out that the NSA routinely spies on Germany’s political leaders and can read their email if it chooses to, has shaken the Germany. For the great majority of them it therefore seems only right that the Chief Federal Prosecutor Harald Range has finally opened a criminal investigation into the hacking of Angela Merkel’s cellphone as the NYT reported in the May 5th story, ‘Germany begins Inquiry of U.S. in Surveillance Case’. It notes that, “German politicians have come under strong public pressure,” and of course that’s true, but it isn’t the real reason for this new development. The actual one is that a felony has been committed and the Chief Federal Prosecutor has a constitutional duty to investigate all felonies committed in Germany.

America and Britain have both failed to realize that the Germans would abide by their constitution, rather than adopt the elastic approach to constitutional principals which the US and Britain have. They failed to appreciate the deep and lasting effect of Germany’s history – the Nazis de facto abolition of civil rights, then their many crimes of which the Shoa (Holocaust) was only the largest – on their entire world view. The German constitution is the foundation of their categorical rejection of all that, and their commitment to principals on which American and British democracy was built. It is impossible for them to compromise on that and they won’t do so, even for a best friend. Consequently, Germany and America/Britain are moving ever further apart, and for all the wrong reasons. As someone with stakes of various kinds in all of three countries, and who can clearly see how much of their culture are common, I find that deeply worrying and depressing. Don’t worry though, my next posting will have a more cheerful tone!

By the way, I am not going to rescind the offer I made to the NSA and GCHQ in Part 1 of this story that you can both read, watch and listen to all my electronic communications and that I will not prosecute you for this. That invitation still stands. Hi guys! Welcome to the Back End of my life! Please don’t ignore the Front End, most importantly my new book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story which will be published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in New York in just 8 days.

PS The US flag pictured above is an exhibit in the National Museum of the Native American in Washington DC. It is the work of Native American artist Jenny Anne Taylor and is called ‘Nations’. It incorporates the names of 456 Native American Nations, and thereby documents an America almost invisible to most white Americans, although it’s history extends much further back than the Pilgrims of Plymouth/MA or the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

 

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 4 – Wine of the Month June 2014

2013 Villány Rosé from Hummel for Euro 7,50

Of course, everybody is now drinking rosé, because the sky is often blue and the sun is often shining (an interesting color combo there). I admit I sometimes do the same, although never obsessively or compulsively as I do with certain other wines. There are several different types of rosé, each of which has its place, but it is really only the bone dry ones drunk with food that ever leave a lasting impression on me. Often they’re rather full-bodied (I’ve nothing against Bandol rosé as long as it still has a certain freshness alongside all that power), and that does limit the quantity I can get down, or even want to get down. This month’s wine of the month is a bone dry rosé with a rather low alcoholic content that makes it a great food wine, but light enough that given enough time (and an adequate supply for the number of people at the table) I could drain the bottle with ease. I know, this is one of those hypothetical arguments that food and wine writers frequently on the basis of little experience, or in this case none. What I mean is that the wine makes me feel that way when I drink it, and this is inspiring. I hereby make the dangerous (for my journalistic credentials) claim that the combination of inspiration and full disclosure is more better than narrow-minded correctness and correct posture without pleasure!

Regular readers have bumped into wines from the Berlin lawyer and Hungarian winegrower Horst Hummel here before. Sure his proximity to me when I’m here in Berlin means that I taste his wines more often than would otherwise be the case. However, I certainly  wouldn’t taste them so often if they weren’t so strikingly individual  with the reds rarely showing perceptible oak, and always tasting elegant but decisively dry tannins, and moderate alcoholic contents. This is Hummel’s best rosé to date and every bit as good as his reds. It’s got just 11.5% alcohol along with a healthy acidity and tannin content, which makes it seriously refreshing and seriously full of character. There’s a touch of bitterness and a very salty mineral aftertaste that seriously accentuate those qualities. In short, this is not a rosé for the those looking for a teddy bears’ pick nick in a glass, nor for those who want Barbie to give them a suggestive smile. This is a grown-up wine for grown-up wine drinkers, and having made it to 54 just a few days I feel obliged to point out that aspect. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

2013 Villány Rosé from Host Hummel is Euro 7,50 from:

Horst Hummel – Villány Berlin

Buchholzer Strasse 9

D 10437 Berlin

Tel: (49) / 0  30 445 3444

Email: hh@weingut-hummel.com

Internet: www.weingut-hummel.com

 

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 3 – New Friends, Old Friends, the Riesling Future and the Riesling Past

There’s nothing I enjoy more than mixing old friends with new friends and Berlin is one of the best places on Planet Riesling for that, because here it can lead absolutely anywhere as the picture above shows. Pictured left is on old friend who wishes to remain anonymous because he turned into a Riesling Monster in front of our eyes, and right is my new friend Peter Barry from Jim Barry Wines in Clare Valley/South Australia. Peter Barry has a reputation for “bad” behavior including speaking truths that other winemakers won’t publicly acknowledge. I’d finally got to know Peter Barry properly during the International Riesling Symposium in the Rheingau where he’d pointed out that Riesling’s strong niche status and limited mainstream success means that big Australian wine companies did not and are not developing wines from my favorite grape on the basis of the Nielsen sales figures (as they clearly are and have with other grape varieties like Shiraz and Chardonnay). Then I bumped into him on the ICE train from Frankfurt to Berlin the next day and invited him, his wife and a friend to join us in Weinstein, the best wine bar of East Berlin.

The new friends I’d reckoned with were two Finger Lakes/NY winemakers, Kelby Russell (left) of Red Newt in Hector and Bob Madill (right) one of the founders of Sheldrake Point and now consults for several wineries in the region. It was Bob’s cellphone that captured the Berlin Riesling Monster’s appearance. In this picture of mine he and Kelby are seated in a corner table of the Kurpfalz Weinstuben, the best wine bar in West Berlin. We talked a lot about history and the way it gets a stranglehold on the present if you don’t face it squarely, something our home countries (the UK in my case, the US in Kelby’s case and Canada in Bob’s) haven’t been good at in recent years. We also faced some recent dry Riesling history, the enormously vibrant 2009 ‘Turm’ from Riffel in Bingen-Büdesheim/Rheinhessen, the mellow yet refreshing 2008 Saumagen ‘KT’ (Kabinett trocken) from Koehler-Rupprecht in Kallstadt/Pfalz and the distinguished and mysterious 2005 Berg Rottland from Georg Breuer in Rüdesheim/Rheingau. Of course, by “faced” I mean that we drank them. That Riesling History has become part of us and will through us it will alter the Riesling Future.

Sadly, those winemakers are now all birds that have flown, but I know I’ll see them all again quite soon, because they are members of the unofficial Global Riesling Network. You too can join by purchasing my new book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (Stewart, Tabori & Chang from June 17th) or by using the hashtag #BWWOE on the so-called social media.

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 0 – Anarchy in the UK, the USA, the FRG and Everywhere Else on Planet Riesling

Riesling is anarchy!“ The words were like an electric shock that was administered not just to me, but to everyone sitting around the long table in Restaurant Marcorbrunn in Hotel Schloss Reinhartshausen (Rheingau/Germany) yesterday during the press lunch of the International Riesling Symposium. “Growing up in England during the late 1970s the concept of anarchy, if not the practice, was very appealing to me,” continued Andrew Hedley (pictured above), the winemaker of Framingham winery in Marlborough/New Zealand since 2003. “I found anarchy in Riesling and it changed my life. If it can happen to me, then it can happen to anybody, and be something positive in the world.” For a moment there was stunned silence, then spontaneous applause from the entire table. I’ve put some bold statements about the Riesling Spirit up on this blog, but Andrew’s words suddenly made all of mine seem horribly hesitant and cautious.

All of this occurred against the backdrop of the excessively restored architecture that makes Schloss Reinhartshausen a kind of Disneyland dedicated to Prussian history (it used to belong to the Prussian royal family). This gave Andrew’s words a piquancy like that which the Sex Pistols hit ‘God Save the Queen’ had when it was released in Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee year of 1977. Nobody doubted the rightness of his words at that moment for two reasons, most importantly because the tasting of dry European Rieslings that Cornelius and Fabian Lange had just expertly presented had forcefully reminded us all how Riesling’s enormous diversity cannot be reduced to a simple formula of any kind. Also, in the back of all our minds was how the day before at the end of the tasting of “New World” Rieslings I presented the 2013 Auslese “F” from Framingham had stunned everyone with its enormous racy elegance. It was the revolutionary behind that Riesling masterpiece who said those daring words.

Of course, I could have tweeted all of this straight away in so-called “real time”, but the advantage of this blog over twitter is not only that here I have more space than twitter’s pulp-fiction-haiku format allows, but also that the “time-lag” between the events and my reporting of them is time for reflection. During that time it occurred to me that even though the logo on my masthead was developed by young German designer Alexandra Weiss (Danke, Danke!) in the spring of 2012 it is in a tradition whose roots lie in the punk rock graphics of the late 1970s. I fear that it’s often been the most daring thing about this blog! Allowing more of the life-giving anarchy of the Riesling Spirit to express itself here is something I’ll be working on during the coming weeks as the publication of BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in New York on June 17th approaches. As always I’m open for your ideas, particularly if they turn out to be better than my own. That is in keeping with the fundamental nature of anarchy. It’s striking how in everyday situations where theoretically there’s no room for anarchy it keeps breaking through the grid of rules and regulations with which officialdom seeks to force truth, beauty and all that’s good in this world to submit to the stultifying influence of rigid planning and at least play dead. Dear Riesling fans, is that what any of us want?

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 9 – The Riesling Rumors Story

Rumors are always a bit ugly, because nobody can control them, and this time is no exception. Suddenly there’s such a swarm of them flying around New York Wine City (NYWC) that I feel like I could swat them until the walls were running with bug juice, but it wouldn’t make a darned bit of difference. Somebody just said that somebody had told them (that’s the way you know it’s a rumor) that I’ve written something in my new book – ‘BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story’ – that will get me into very serious trouble, that is the kind of trouble nobody can slither out of. This person, who shall remain nameless in order to spare me yet more trouble, was utterly convinced of that and nothing I could say – wine is a just a beverage and with 1% of global wine production Riesling is hardly the most important beverage on Planet Wine – could sway them one iota. Although they couldn’t tell me what this terrible thing I’d written was, they were nonetheless convinced that doom and destruction were on the march and headed in my direction.

What can I to do? The book’s been printed and is in the warehouse of my publisher Abrams Books of New York (it appears under their imprint Stewart, Tabori & Chang on June 17th) and there is no way they’re going to reprint it  – the expense would be considerable – on the basis of what they will rightly deem gossip and hearsay. I feel sure I’ve done nothing wrong, but for some reason I still feel like I’m hanging on the edge of a precipice. Maybe that’s because I’ve been here before, by that I don’t mean in NYWC, rather this situation. Back in 1994-5 my first German language book whipped up a storm of controversy. There was a civil suit seeking enormous damages and the winegrower behind it (no names mentioned) also got a criminal investigation into my work started, although this was dropped almost immediately. That was an ugly moment though.

As I was I’ve been reading and rereading my advance copy of the book trying to figure out which page, paragraph or sentence it is that’s supposed to be dump me in the crapper, another rumor came to my attention. Some people in NYWC are spreading the story that the reason I wrote a book about Riesling is that it’s the only subject I can write about, because I can’t taste other wines in a professional manner. Any regular visitors to this site know that I’m actually interested in everything happening Planet Wine, and taste the greatest possible variety of wines, red white, rose, sweet, dry, oaky, orange and whatever. My belief in the importance of this diversity goes much deeper than my love of Riesling.

There is yet another rumor about BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH going around, and that is that it’s already available at Kitchen Arts & Letters on Lexington Avenue between 93rd and 94th street here on Manhattan. However, I didn’t have the time to check that out because I’m currently packing my bags to jump on a plane to Germany this afternoon. As usual, I’m not making any promises I can’t keep. That also means that the next posting won’t be online before late Tuesday, or possible even Wednesday. My apologies for that unavoidable gap, but on Monday and Tuesday I’m attending the International Riesling Symposium at Schloss Reinhartshausen in the Rheingau. That will, of course be my next subject.

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 3 – Important Dates in June for Your New York Riesling Diary!

Here with one small correction – the time for the tasting on June 22nd.

Here, finally, is the program for the series of events immediately following the publication of BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story by Stewart, Tabori & Chang (an imprint of Abrams Books) on June 17th. I will also be circulating and mailing a printed version of this during the coming days. Where it says “by invitation only” there’s always an email address which you can write to and if you have a good enough reason why we should admit you, then you will get a seat at the table. Please understand that for the two events at Hotel Delmano there is very limited seating and we must give somms first shout for them. There is still some planning to do for all the above, but all the basics have been covered. The Riesling Show is coming to New York Wine City!

PS Many thanks to all those who are making this possible!

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 2 – #RieslingRoadTrip FLASHBACK (Key West/FL to New York Wine City)

Did you see us or this bizarre vehicle somewhere, somehow between Monday, May 5th in Key West/FL and May 16th in New York Wine City (NYWC)??? Above is my first glimpse of our Riesling Whale – my nickname for our bizarre vehicle – when I arrived in Key West on the first of those dates to meet up with the RRT2 team. It really is very hard to miss us if we pass you on the road or if the Riesling Whale is sitting in the same parking lot as your car. Wines of Germany USA are the only people around who have something like this, as some of you know, because you’ve been in the belly of the Riesling Whale with us.

This second Riesling Road Trip was rather easier than the first one back in June 2014, when we drove from Venice Beach/LA to NYWC in just 9 days, which required one thru the night drive of 25 hours from Phoenix/AR to Austin/TX. Sure, this years trip was also a serious piece of work, and that’s how we all treated it, but we wouldn’t have signed up for roles in this Road Movie if we didn’t all love Riesling & Co.

We reached out to many hundreds of enthusiastic Riesling fans and converted a many of you who were long attracted to German Riesling (also Spätburgunder, Silvaner, Weissburgunder and Scheurebe), but were hesitant. We couldn’t cure everyone out there who’s suffering from Riesling Deprivation Syndrome (RDS), because we are regular guys and gals, not wine superheroes. On the plus side, along the way many beautiful things that we didn’t seek out suddenly wandered into our field of vision, like these birds at gas station we were refueling in Florida. We won’t forget either them or the German Riesling & Co. fans in a hurry.

For the child in me, seeing the Saturn V moon rocket at the Kennedy Space Center was one of the highlights of the trip. No less than the Disney cartoons I loved as a child, Nixon’s visit to China and the Watergate scandal on TV, it helped shape my image of America. It strikes me that with the appearance of the cool Jungwinzer or young winegrowers and their innovative wines, German Riesling fits into America’s success culture better than it did back then. Importers: we need more of these wines in the US!

OK, I didn’t to meet Mickey at Disney World/FL, but that didn’t alter or diminish an important aspect of the message we were bearing. Yes, German wine can be subtle and sophisticated, but it is often just great fun to drink. Riesling Road Trip 2 confirmed my conviction that Riesling has no problem fitting in with the exuberant, in-your-face, fun-loving aspect of America, as expressed at Myrtle Beach/SC in the picture below. There’s still plenty of work to be done to inform the many Americans who still think it is just a sweet, foreign beverage that it is so much more than that!

My apologies that I find it impossible to pick a single image which adequately conveys either the historic beauty of Savannah/GA and Charleston/SC, or the rapidly developing food and wine culture of the Southeast. For that reason I picked an image of a German wine I discovered while I was there. I already knew some of the top wines produced by Jungwinzer Stefan Meyer of Rhodt/Pfalz, but was completely amazed by his basic dry Silvaner bottled in Liters (roughly a quart). It is a joyful, but modestly priced wine!

Maybe I’ve been a little bit unlucky with Washington DC. I always enjoy my visits, but these brief glimpses were never enough for me to connect with the city emotionally. However, I have realized – like the city’s inhabitants – that you can eat and drink well there, also without throwing a ton of money out of the window. The Riesling Spirit seems to have bonded with DC, even if I haven’t yet. I will try again until I succeed.

As you can see from the above photo towards the end of Riesling Road Trip 2 heavy clouds rolled up and just a few hours after this picture was taken it began to rain heavily. Thankfully this didn’t hold us up to much, but it literally dampened the spirits of those we had invited to be our guests. Riesling rightly has the image of being a spring and summer wine, but choose well and there are wines which also work in driving rain like that in which I photographed our two drivers, Mike (left) and Danny (right). Without them we wouldn’t have rolled so effortlessly northwards, but they also entertained us and sometimes challenged us with unexpected thoughts. When you’re on the road as much as we were it’s important to laugh and you’ve got the time to do some serious thinking. Thank you guys!

During Riesling Road Trip 2 I finally gained something approaching an overview of the Southeast of the US and I realized that it is a natural match with Riesling’s profoundly refreshing personality. It ought to be one of the best markets in the world for German Riesling and this will not be the last time I visit these states with that message. Thank you everyone who took us seriously enough to come along and enjoyed!

 

 

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#RieslingRoadTrip: Day 11 – Lobster Loves Riesling, and Mosel Riesling Kabinett feels at Home in DC!

It’s hardly original to suggest that lobster loves Riesling, but back in Europe lobster is generally a luxury food and saying that could be interpreted as an elitist statement. Here in the land of the lobster roll that isn’t necessarily the case. Pictured above is the lobser roll (with red beats and goat cheese) that was my lunch yesterday at the Thames Oyster House in Baltimore/MD. It was the most delicious lobster roll I ever had, not only because the lobster meat was perfectly cooked, but also because that roll had a delicately sweet taste and a wonderful texture that made the whole damn near perfect. What was missing? Only a glass of medium-dry Riesling feinherb  from the Mosel, Nahe or Mittelrhein regions. That would have been an electrifying combination and if carefully chosen the wine would not have turned the whole into a luxury food experience. Feeling slightly disappointed by not being able to enjoy that combo we headed off to DC.

Just a few blocks from the Capitol we had a totally different lobster experience at the James Beard Award winning Rasika Restaurant which has the finest Indian food I’ve eaten in the US. The lobster dish is the one in the late white bowl in the middle of the table. Thanks to somm Simon Stilwell there’s a great Riesling list here, most of it German. The 2012 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett form J.J. Prüm in the Mosel was just perfect with that lobster in its creamy sauce with a gentle spicy warmth thanks to its great balance and enormous vitality. That’s a combination it would (sadly) be extremely difficult to experience in the many fine restaurants in India as that nation’s burgeoning hi-end gastronomic culture has yet to discover what German Riesling can do for their food.

Our tasting yesterday evening was outside Plume Restaurant in the Jefferson Hotel and for the first time on this Riesling Road Trip it rained and our whale got wet. The group of somms and distributors inside were OK though because of the angle the rain struck the container, but water was running down the outside of the metal grill that covers most of the “open” side. In the steamy heat of DC, which the rain didn’t make any better, the 2012 Leiwener Klostergarten Riesling Kabinett from Carl Loewen, also Mosel, really shone. I’m beginning to understand how well this category of German wine fits this climate. Medium-sweet they are, which is one of the least sexy wine descriptors going, but the taste under these conditions is seriously sexy!

PS Riesling Road Trip 2 is fast approaching it’s end in New York Wine City. It may take me a day or two, but after I return to NYWC I will write one more story that about our adventures that tries to draw conclusions about what we experienced. Be patient and watch this Riesling Space!

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#RieslingRoadTrip Diary: Day 10 – My Fond Memories of the Southeast, it’s Charm and Hospitality

I’d been to the Southeast of the US several times before, but to be frank I didn’t really get it until Riesling Road Trip 2 forced me to spend a long week in this part of the country that I realized what makes it special and fell in love with it. I found that there was much truth in the clichés of Southern charm and hospitality, for example at our Riesling & Co. dinner at Petit Pois Restaurant in Charlottesville/VA pictured above. We were not nonly made very welcome, there was also great openness for our message, and almost everyone who attended our events enjoyed the wines to the full without any trace of hesitation. For all these reasons, I will be returning, probably in early December.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not idealizing this world. Savannah/GA is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen anywhere, but I can well understand how the city got the nickname Slowvannah. It clearly has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to match the blossoming gastronomic culture of Charleston/SC. There the downside was the way the tourists dominate parts of Downtown such as the Market Steets (North and South). I have to admit that apart from enjoying dinner at Poole’s Restaurant and our two trade tastings in Raleigh/NC I didn’t see much of the city, but the spirit (a combination of hedonism and professional curiosity) at those tastings delighted me. That is really the Riesling Spirit, and when you consider that the range of German Rieslings obtainable in the cities we visited is rather limited the wines have clearly connected with a good number of people already; another reason to return. How many more places are there like the Social Wine Bar in Charleston? I don’t know. I could only stop there for an hour, but managed to consume a big glass of 2011 Riesling Kabinett from J.J. Prüm in the Mosel with crispy shrimp spring rolls; a delicious combo that perfectly expressed the contemporary gastronomic spirit of that city. The cost? Just shy of $20 plus tax. The atmosphere? Relax, don’t do it!

Of course, being a good distance north of the Mason-Dixon line our stop last night, Baltimore/MD, doesn’t qualify as part of the South, even if at the beginning of the Civil War there were a lot sympathizers for the South there. To this day, at least on the gastronomic level, Baltimore has as much to do with the South as the North as our trade tasting yesterday evening confirmed. There is something unashamedly sweet and/or fatty about so much Southern Food, and the many variations on this theme combine beautifully with medium-dry and medium-sweet German Rieslings. That’s a no-brainer, also was at Baltimore’s Fleet Street Kitchen where we had dinner before our tasting.

PS We’re now en route back south to Washington DC, although part of the team is slightly delayed by an appointment with the Baltimore Police. Honestly, we didn’t do anything more last night than enjoy a glass or two of good German wine (as at the picture above proves). However, some idiot drove into the vehicle that pulls our Riesling Whale while it was on a Downtown parking lot last night, denting it slightly. If this is the worst that happens during 12 long action-packed days on the Riesling Road, then I’d say we were lucky, and maybe the cops didn’t always have their eyes open!

 

 

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