New York Riesling Diary: Day 6 – To Tesch or Not to Tesch, that WAS the Question

The picture shows the scene around 4pm this afternoon in an upstairs room at Le Bernardin Restaurant on West 51st Street in Manhattan as guests at the tasting of dry Rieslings from the Tesch winery in the Nahe region of Germany studied at the 3D map of Dr. Martin Tesch’s vineyard holdings. Shortly afterwards, as they tasted the first of the wines, the bone dry 2012 Riesling ‘Unplugged’ (all of the Tesch wines are seriously dry) their faces would have made an even better picture: some delighted, some incredulous, others slightly shocked. The wine was as bright and sharp as a samurai sword and cut the air in the room polarizing opinion. However, I’d put my camera down to concentrate upon the wines and figure out what I could say next, so I stupidly missed that moment. It wasn’t a surprise for me though, because since at least 12 years when the first dry Riesling ‘Unplugged’ was released Dr. Martin Tesch has been delighting, overwhelming and shocking somms and normal wine drinkers alike. Everybody who tastes them, whether they end up drinking Tesch wines or avoiding them like the plague, mentions their pronounced acidity of his wines and their bone-dry balance. Their “finely-etched” were much less often discussed, not least because some people don’t get that side of them at all. None of this surprises Tesch any longer, because it’s been like that for so many years and this knowledge has shaped his character.  If all that suddenly changed, then he’d be the one who was shocked!

All this only hints at the man’s outsized personality, which is as big and taut as Tesch is tall and lean. It strike’s me that this image captures the energy of the Dr.’s delivery and the expansive, yet precise nature of the thoughts he expounded. Can you in the picture that although he doesn’t reject tradition – let’s face it wine is a product often over-loaded with tradition! – he considers it his right to pick and choose what traditions he’s going to reinvent? Maybe not, but he’s used to freely thinking his way through the maze that is wine growing, winemaking and the marketing of wine. Probably, the impression he made on most of the guests was doubled, because so few of them had met him or hear him speak and it was not what they were expecting. The Le Bernardin tasting was actually the second we did together today and it was striking that several people attended the afternoon event as well as the one at late breakfast time this morning. In No-Show New York that’s something so astonishing that it borders on the bizarre!

As both tastings proceeded it was striking how each time the mood in the room changed, and how much of the initial shock and skepticism melted away. People clearly got used to tasting Rieslings that speak a different dialect to most German wines and a completely different tongue to any of the wines France, Italy, California and the other usual suspects for the New York wine scene. By the time the 2012 and 2011 vintages of Tesch’s dry Rieslings from the St. Remigiusberg – all those citrus aromas and something exotic like the bright colored tiles of a mosaic, the wines’ acidity illuminating them like a shaft of sunlight – were poured most of those present were silently preoccupied with the wines, and the question was no longer whether to Tesch or not to Tesch, but how to Tesch and when to Tesch

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 5 – The GG Personalities of Idig & Morstein

This afternoon the tasting of single-vineyard Rieslings of the new ‘GG’ category at Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg/Brooklyn was one of most fascinating tastings I’ve attended in a long time, period. Steffen Christmann of the Christmann estate in Gimmeldingen/Pfalz, and president of the national VDP producers association that created this category just over a decade ago, explained in fascinating detail how his Riesling ‘GG’ from the Idig vineyard came to be what it is today, beginning with the history of this site that goes back to 1367. However, it only became important for the Christmann estate in 1988, when Steffen was able to lease (later purchase) a large chunk of it from the then much larger and better-known von Buhl property in nearby Deidesheim. With its combination of a south-facing slope, serious exposure to wind and heavy, slow-warming limestone-clay soil it is a real exception in an area dominated by gentle easterly slopes and sandy soils (generally derived from red sandstone).

The 2011, ’09 and ’07 vintage Idig ‘GG’s which he showed were rather rich and texturally complex dry Rieslings, but with an underplayed power, intense herbal aromas and serious freshness. That is also a long way from the ripe, fruity norm of the region, but this difference is not the result of any kind of “freaky” winemaking techniques that pretend to turn the clock back to a time when wine was supposedly more “natural” than it is now. For him taking a minimalistic approach in the cellar is just the best way to preserve the quality and character of his wines. Likewise, Steffen’s vineyard cultivation is biodynamic, but this is no dogma in his case, rather a pragmatic decision to take the path which he believes leads to the best possible grape quality. The only agenda is the openly declared one of making wines in which  sophistication and originality are balanced. Too much sophistication might result in an affected or overly cerebral wine; too much originality might taste brutally authentic.

When Philipp Wittmann of the Wittmann estate in Westhofen/Rheinhessen – the region historically most closely associated with Liebfraumilch, but today “the Dream Factory of dry German white wine” (my quite frequently quoted words) – spoke about his ‘GG’ wines from the Morstein site of Westhofen he emphasized the word personality. I think you can see from the photograph that he used that word very precisely, and that what he meant is that a special vineyard site should give a wine of a special character that cannot easily be confused with that of other wines, “what makes  a vineyard a Grand Cru is that you get this personality every year.” In the case of the Morstein this has to do with the limestone bedrock that is covered by a layer of clay-loam that looks heavy, but is often only a thin covering over the bedrock. This is a high-altitude site (up to almost 800 feet above sea level) and the grapes typically ripen five days later than in the Idig, just 20 miles south.

After the 2007 vintage Philipp moved the style of his Rieslings from dry to bone dry and the mineral – almost reminiscent of brine – flavor in the ’12 and ’11 vintages is much clearer as a result. They also have plenty of ripe yellow fruit aromas and the tension between them and the mineral character, no less than between richness and freshness makes them amongst the best Riesling ‘GG’ wines produced today. Both vintages are still very young and the more air these wines get (without becoming too warm) the better they show. Of course, like Christmann’s Idig the Wittmann Morstein isn’t cheap, but compared with the bubble-prices for Premier Cru and Grand Cru white burgundy they look rather friendly. And in quality terms that’s certainly a fair comparison, because ‘GG’ is conceived of by the VDP as the dry “Grand Cru” of Germany, Spätlese and Auslese from the top sites being the equivalent for sweeter wines.

What we had today was two “case studies” that were both fascinating and, for anyone looking for sophistication and originality, delicious. For information on the other dry Riesling ‘GG’ wines that belong in the same league turn to BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Thank you Alex Alan for making this great seminar tasting possible!

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 5 Meet the Riesling A Team

Here they are at Terroir Murray Hill at the end of yesterday’s launch of BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH (aka #BWWOE), the Riesling A Team. As you can see, there were some surprise additions to the advertised line up, from left to right Steffen Christmann from the Christmann estate in the Pfalz, Fred Merwarth from Hermann J. Wiemer in the FLX of Upstate New York, Bob Betheau of Chateau Ste. Michelle & Eroica in Washington State, Ernst Loosen of Dr. Loosen in the Mosel and Eroica in Washington State, (that’s me behind him, of course, but I’m no winemaker), Sean O’Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse on the OMP in Michigan, Philipp Wittmann of the Wittmann estate in Rheinhessen, Dr. Carl von Schubert of Maximin Grünhaus in the Ruwer (a tiny sub-region of the Mosel), Jochen Becker-Köhn of Robert Weil in the Rheingau, behind him Chris Williams and on the far right Janie Heuck Brooks both of Brooks in Oregon. Unfortunately, Oliver Haag of the Fritz Haag estate on the Mosel had to dash to JFK for a flight and couldn’t be in the picture. Obviously, some of them are a little distracted by the FIFA World Cup football match between Ghana and Germany that was screened during our event. Although the tasting was no competition, I would say that Germany showed better yesterday at our tasting than on the soccer field, and the USA team will have to be on top form to match the performance of their leading Riesling producers yesterday afternoon.

There are still a couple of places left at this afternoon’s dry Riesling ‘GG’ (the new category of hi-end single-vineyard wines) seminar. It takes place at Hotel Delmano, 82 Berry Street in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn (just a couple of blocks from the Bedford Avenue station on the L subway line). Anyone seriously interested should turn up there at 2pm and announce their intention of coming by sending an email to alexthealan@gmail.com beforehand. See you there!

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 4 – JOIN US NOW on Planet Riesling at Terroir Murray Hill!

New York is the place, now is the time!

“It isn’t cold and there’s no creek!” Bob Bertheau just told me about the Cold Creek Vineyard from where one of his best 2013 vintage Rieslings came. The chief winemaker of Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State, the world’s largest Riesling producer, was doing some straight talking about the delicious mystery of the wines from my favorite grape variety. The truth is – I speak from personal experience – they seduce you, suck you in, and before you know it there’s no going back, not that you’d ever think about such a ridiculous thing. Just look at Bob’s face, it says everything about what Riesling can do for you. If it can do that for him it can the same for you – I speak from personal experience. Forget all those alternative therapies, those expensive vitamin and nutrient supplements and the promises of politicians of all varieties! JOIN US NOW on Planet Riesling at Terroir Murray Hill (439 Third Avenue between 31st and 30th Streets) in New York!

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 4 – Trapped on Planet Chardonnay or on an Asteroid called Sauvignon Blanc / Pinot Grigio? JOIN US TODAY on Planet Riesling at Terroir Murray Hill!

You don’t need to be a card carrying Riesling Fan or even a fellow traveller to join us between 2pm and 4pm today at Terroir Murray Hill (439 Third Avenue between 31st and 30th Streets) in New York for the launch of my new book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story, aka #BWWOE. If you are currently trapped on Planet Chardonnay or on an asteroid – those barren chunks of rock! – called Sauvignon Blanc / Pinot Grigio or even just lost in wine-space, then come and visit Planet Riesling for an afternoon. Defectors and the freedom-hungry of all kinds are welcome.

ALL ARE INVITED!

No academic qualifications are required for entry, you just have to be of the legal drinking age (21 for those in doubt). However, we do ask you to make a donation to the HOPE foundation that does everything from HIV & AIDS education to the care of the orphans of AIDS victims in Cape Town/South Africa as you come in the door. Their need is greater than ours!

Don’t worry, Riesling does not exclude the FIFA world cup. The Ghana vs Germany game will be screened, although I personally still don’t really understand how this foot-ball thing which the Americans call soccer. In fact, Riesling doesn’t exclude anything else except violence of all kinds. Just to clarify one point, I am not anti-Chardonnay, or anti-Sauvignon Blanc, or even anti-Pinot Grigio. There are some beautiful wines made from those grapes. However, I am anti-Bullshit Chardonnay, anti-Industrial Sauvignon Blanc and anti-Industrial Pinot Grigio, because that stuff is just schlock. The thing about Riesling is that so little schlock is produced from the grape and so much wine that’s refreshing for body and soul, that’s inspiring for the spirit and also seriously sexy. That’s what you can experience today if you come to Terroir Murray Hill in New York. JOIN US!

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 4 – YOU ARE ALL INVITED! That’s One Small Step for Riesling, One Giant Leap for Riesling-Kind. JOIN US TODAY at Terroir Murray Hill!

#BWWOE has landed on Planet Riesling!

New York is the place, now is the time!

Between 2pm and 4pm this afternoon, Saturday, June 21st, BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (aka #BWWOE) is officially launched at Terroir Murray Hill (439 Third Avenue, between 30th and 31st Streets) here in New York Wine City.

That’s one small step for Riesling and one giant leap for Riesling-kind!

We, the global network of fans of the best white wine on earth are finally, are finally not only acknowledged, but our culture has started to be chronicled and we must gather to celebrate. YOU ARE ALL INVITED! Please note that there is no registration procedure, there are no tickets, and there is no admission price. However, we humbly ask you to make a donation to Wein Hilft, the organization I founded almost 20 years ago to collect money for the HOPE foundation in Cape Town/South Africa that does vital HIV/AIDS prevention work, cares for victims and their orphans. Their need is greater than ours!

Don’t forget that the Germany vs Ghana game will be on a screen, but that at 3pm I will request a moment of quiet to present to you the First Riesling Queen of New York. Of course, the main attraction is the stunning line up of producers from the two most important nations on Planet Riesling who will be pouring their world-class wines.

Representing Germany, the original homeland of my favorite grape and today still clearly both the largest producing and drinking nation on Planet Riesling:

Steffen Christmann of the Christmann estate in the Pfalz

Oliver Haag of the Fritz Haag estate and

Ernst Losen of the Dr. Loosen estate both in the Mosel

Philipp Wittmann of the Wittmann estate in Rheinhessen.

Representing the United States of Riesling, which recently became the second largest producer of wines from my favorite grape, and has long been the biggest market for these wines outside Germany:

Janie Heuck Brooks of Brooks Wine in Oregon

Sean O’Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse on the OMP in Michigan

Bob Bertheau of Chateau Ste. Michelle & Eroica in Washington State

Fred Merwarth of Hermann J. Wiemer in the FLX, Upstate New York

You will, of course, be able to purchase the book (published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and I am happy both to sign and personalize books in accordance with your wishes.

Terroir Murray Hill may be huge compared with the tiny original Terroir in the East Village, but it is still a small place in a big city on a huge planet. However, from this point this afternoon the Riesling Spirit will spread out in all directions without any limit or hindrance like the rings which expand on the surface of a pond after a stone is dropped in.  JOIN US this afternoon to experience that moment or attend one of the other #BWWOE events during the coming days! Scroll down this page for more info.

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 3 – YOU ARE ALL INVITED! The Hitherto Untold Story of the United States of Riesling

Don’t get me wrong! Posting this startling image is not a sign that I’m abandoning my pacifist beliefs, much less that I’ve gone over to the Dark Side and now support the NRA (aka the guns and ammo industry). Pictured above is Janie Heuck Brooks of Brooks Wine in Oregon, a heroine of the recently formed United States of Riesling, on the day construction of the new Brooks winery began (April 1st this year). And yes, she actually fired off that AK47 which used to belong to the winery’s founder, her brother Jimi Brooks who suddenly passed away back in 2004. Knowing nothing about either the wine industry or winemaking she immediately took over the running of the then 2,500 case per annum winery on Jimi’s death in 2004 aged just 35. Since then she has expanded production, which is dominated by Pinot Noir and Riesling, to 12,000 cases with the help of winemaker Chris Williams. The remarkable things is that this wasn’t achieved by softening or dumbing down the “against the grain” wine styles Jimi had doggedly pursued since the winery’s foundation back in 1998.  You can meet Janie, along with three other leading American and four leading German Riesling producers at the launch of my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (aka #BWWOE) between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday, June 21st at Terroir Murray Hill (439 Third Avenue between 30th and 31st Streets). YOU ARE ALL INVITED! For more information scroll down on this page.

Janie and Chris’s achievements were amply proven at the Brooks wine dinner yesterday evening at the Auden Bistro in Manhattan’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, sort of the ‘Phenomenal Femmes’ series. Although I loved the Brooks Pinot Noirs (the 2011 ‘Janus’ was at once dry and silky with a slightly sappy freshness, the 2008 ‘Red Letter’ powerful and tannic, but also subtle), the elegant, just off-dry 2012 Oak Ridge Vineyard Gewürztraminer and the 2011 ‘Amycas’ blended dry white (still really youthful for “regular stuff”), the twin high points for me were the two Rieslings. The dry 2010 ‘Ara’ Riesling is a very striking and daring wine that will either excite you with its electric brilliance and understated power or sending you running for the cover of soft and “safe” Industrial Pinot Grigio (which is also produced in Oregon). Even at this age it is still just beginning to unfurl its apple and white peach aromas like a long banner fluttering in the wind. The 2012 ‘Sweet P’ Riesling is a beauty that doesn’t seem challenging, instead brimming with all manner of white fruit and floral aromas, but behind the transparent veil of grape sweetness is a core as firm and razor-sharp as a samurai sword. Together these dramatically contrasting great wines say everything about how in recent years Riesling has put down deep roots in Oregon and in America and quality has improved in leaps and bounds by winemakers taking learning from Riesling’s homeland in Germany, Austria and Alsace/France.

Janie and Chris are far from being the only examples of winemakers lacking family heritage in Germanic Europe who have no difficulty being inspired by it’s wine culture. I know that might sound a bit strange, but that has to do with a profound cultural divide between America and Germany that opened up several times beginning almost exactly one hundred years ago. That divide has now been finally closed and we are fast approaching the point where it is normal for America winemakers to be inspired by German-speaking wine culture. This, and the comparable developments in other fields, are a great gain for America since they greatly enrich the range of cultural possibilities, just as they did a century and more ago (just think of eating hotdogs and drinking beer outdoors, which is of Germanic origin).Next to that one of the other important threads running through my book is the truly global nature of the contemporary Riesling phenomenon. As a colleague recently put it, “Cabernet producers tend to hate each other, only seeing each other as competitors and enemies and avoid communicating with they if can possibly avoid it. Riesling and Pinot Noir producers tend to regard each other as colleagues, and therefore want to exchange information and experiences with them.” That is making Riesling strong and weakening Cabernet.

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 2 – YOU ARE ALL INVITED! New York is the Place, this is the Time for #BWWOE!

Yesterday at the David Bowler tasting of wines from Germany, Austria and Alsace yesterday afternoon I clocked this mighty vessel, which is possibly – to quote a wine magazine that will remain nameless – “the ultimate bottle of Riesling”. Fritz’s Riesling is produced by Fritz Haselbach of the Gunderloch estate in Nackenheim/Rheinhessen, and as you can see it is also available in 20 liter kegs which look like small submersibles. We won’t be cracking any of these at the launch of my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (aka #BWWOE), but there will be more than enough great Riesling to refresh and stimulate stimulate the minds and bodies of those who make it to Terroir Murray Hill (439 Third Avenue, between 30th and 31st Streets) between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday (if you are trade, then you can some one hour later. By sure not to miss the crowning of the first official Riesling Queen of New York at 3pm! There are no tickets and there is no admission price, but we are asking you for donations to the HIV/AIDS foundation HOPE in Cape Town, which I have supported for almost 20 years.

The Terroir Murray Hill event is a great chance to taste a slew of the best Rieslings from Germany and the USA, but the atmosphere will (of course!) be celebratory. For those of you seeking in-depth knowledge and Riesling enlightenment the tasting between 2pm and 4pm on Sunday, June 22nd at Hotel Delmano, 82 Berry Street in Williamsburg/Brooklyn (just a couple of blocks from Bedford Avenue subway on the L line) is a MUST. Steffen Christmann of the Christmann estate in the Pfalz, who is also the national president of the VDP, and Philipp Wittmann of the Wittmann estate in Rheinhessen, of which region he is the regional president of the VDP, are two of the leading producers of the new single-vineyard ‘Grosses Gewächs’ (GG) wines. They will not only be explaining exactly how this new high-end category of dry Riesling functions, but also showing their GG wines and those from the Rebholz estate in the Pfalz. The climax of this tasting will be the Idig GG from Christmann, the Morstein GG from Wittmann and the Kastanienbusch GG from Rebholz from the 2007 vintage. This is a UNIQUE chance to experience the finest GGs at optimum maturity (though they will surely keep another decade or more); 21st century German Riesling “Grand Crus”! There is no charge for this tasting either. However, you must show Alex Allan (alexthealan@gmail.com) that you are a member of the trade or otherwise have a good reason to attend. Please HURRY before all the maximum 17 seats are taken!

By the way, although the name and packaging may be a gimmicky ‘Fritz’s Riesling’ is a very pleasant medium-dry Riesling which has some real character from the Roter Hang or red slopes of Nackenheim and Nierstein in Rheinhessen. There are very few wines on Planet Riesling which actually taste gimmicky, which is quite a contrast to all the Bullshit Chardonnay, Industrial Pinot Grigio and Industrial Sauvignon Blanc sloshing around global markets, (although I must add that, of course, some lovely wines are also crafted from those so often bastardized grapes).

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 1 – YOU ARE ALL INVITED! New York is the Place, this is the Time for #BWWOE!

YOU ARE ALL INVITED to the official launch of my new book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story just published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. New York is the place, this is the time! To be precise the Cool Location – pictured above – is Terroir Murray Hill, 439 Third Avenue (between 30th and 31st streets) is the place and 2pm thru 4pm on Saturday, June 21st is the perfect time (unless you are trade or press, in which case you can come one hour earlier). There you will be able to see and purchase the book, meet and taste the wines from eight of the world’s leading Riesling producers.

Steffen Christmann from the Christmann estate in the Pfalz, Oliver Haag of the Fritz Haag estate and Ernst Loosen from the Dr. Loosen estate both in the Mosel and Philipp Wittmann from the Wittmann estate in Rheinhessen will be representing Germany, largest producing nation on Planet Riesling. Janie Heuck Brooks of Brooks in Oregon,  Sean O’Keefe from Chateau Grand Traverse in Michigan, Bob Bertheau of Eroica/Chateau Set. Michelle in Washington State, Oskar Bynke and Fred Merwarth of Hermann J. Wiemer in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York will be present from the second largest producing nation on Planet Riesling, the United States of America.

At ??pm I will be crowning the first official Riesling Queen of New York. Who will it be? And the Ghana vs Germany game will be on a screen from 3pm if you don’t want to miss the World Cup. There are no tickets, so all you need to do is come along. We are not asking an admission fee, but we are collecting donations for the HOPE foundation (HIV & AIDS prevention, care of victims and their orphans) in Cape Town/South Africa. $10 is not very much to give, and $50 really makes a difference.  To find the other events in our program just scroll down this page to the announcement of New York Riesling Week.

I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU ALL!

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London Riesling Diary: Day 1 – T Minus One and Counting! #BWWOE is Published Tomorrow!

Yes, it’s just one day until the publication of BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (aka #BWWOE) tomorrow by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in New York Wine City (NYWC) and I have to admit it feels strange announcing this from a Starbucks just off Regent Street in London’s West End! However, tomorrow I climb on the back of a Big Silver Bird and let its wings take me across the Big Pond to NYWC in time for a celebratory dinner there. Riesling Global research for #BWWOE began on February 1st, 2012, and the entire process was seriously inspiring from that day thru to the on-going campaign to achieve world domination – I quip, of course, in the spirit of the book’s title – with the team at Abrams Books, of which Stewart, Tabori & Chang is an imprint. During this time my life has changed more dramatically than even regular readers can imagine. That story will slowly make its way into these electronic pages, but the vital elements of the backstory can all be found within the 208 pages of #BWWOE. The book’s basic principal is that you can’t say everything about a subject this vast in that compact space, but all the things you really need to know about Riesling are in there.

So, dear citizens of Planet Riesling, I am asking you to actually read my new book. That may seem like an absurdly banal thing to say, but I’m sure a bunch of people in the NYWC scene and the comparable communities around the Planet Riesling are going to buy the book and put it on their bookshelf without reading it. That will be a terribly mistake, for they will thereby miss the very things which make #BWWOE not only different, but also revolutionary, outrageous, funny and – I hope – inspiring for you. My goal is nothing less than to promote an enormous expansion of the democratic and joyful Riesling Spirit.

That will also be communicated in a more concrete form by the events during the New York Riesling Week which begins on the afternoon of Saturday, June 21st, the first Day of the Summer of Riesling 2014. JOIN US at Terroir Murray Hill from 2pm thru 4pm on that day for a spectacular afternoon celebrating Riesling and what it can do for body and soul. BY THE WAY several of the other events are marked down as “by invitation only”. Please feel free to write to the email addresses given and ask to be invited. I can’t promise that we can fit you in, but I’d say your chances were really good.

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