On the Riesling Trail: Day 6 – Cherry-Picking in Vancouver

These cherries which I found today at the Granville Island market were my first sighting of the Okanagan Valley in unfermented form. The link between fruit-growing and wine- growing is something few non-winegrowers are aware of. Almost nothing is more destructive for the grape vine than frost just after its young shoots have emerged in the spring. This occurs simultaneously with apple blossom (and the blossoming of many other fruit trees is close to this date), and almost nothing is more destructive to apple-growing than frost during the bloom. Therefore, any region where apple-growing is a viable commercial undertaking is a good candidate for growing wine grape varieties suited to cool climate zones. This was something I learnt during my 2007 tour of Norway with German winegrowers who were checking out the potential for the grape vine there. Just a week before in Denmark I’d learnt that the flowering of the vine (though it depends upon the variety) is roughly simultaneous with that of the elderberry. To be frank I picked up this rather basic stuff way too late, so I’m happy to pass this gem of knowledge on to as many people as possible. I hope that it reaches you early enough!

Today’s final day of exploration in Vancouver has convinced me that the city could have been a healthy market for locally-produced wines during the twenty or so years before the collapse of the real estate market in 1913 and the beginning of World War I just a year later. That wine-growing in British Columbia did not develope at that point merely says that other new industries (the domestic and international demand for lumber and canned salmon at that time were clearly immense) were then more attractive and distracted those with the talent which could have founded a BC wine industry.

The opening of the Granville Island market (see the poster pictured left) in 1979 was a sign of growing interest in local produce and to my mind there’s always a close link between that and the demand for local wine. Sometimes the produce comes first, sometimes it’s the wine, but where fruit-growing flourishes the two almost inevitably go hand-in-hand. Just how far the Okanagan wine industry has got I will begin exploring tomorrow afternoon. Although I will – of course! – be focusing on Riesling, I shall cast my net as wide as possible. The fact is that in spite of the global Riesling revolution which is this website’s subject it is still, for example, easier to command healthy wine prices with high-end Pinot Noir red wines than it is with Riesling. Consumers are used to the idea that those wines have to coast something to be really good (lower yields than for Riesling of comparable quality are generally necessary and the wines often don’t reach the market until two years after harvest, another cost factor).   However, that’s also theory and it’s the practical reality which really interests me. Watch this space to find out more about the Practical Riesling Reality of Okanagan Valley!

 

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 5 – The Riesling Force is with me in Multicultural Vancouver

Everywhere I eat and drink in Vancouver/BC dry Riesling from the Okanagan Valley is available as if this stopped being something requiring any discussion a very long time ago. When I asked I was told that it’s one of the wines Okanagan does the best, full stop. And the first wines I’ve drunk have been really good. The excellent dry Riesling from Tantalus in Kelowna, is even available in the bar at my hotel, the Moda at 900 Seymour Street. Yesterday evening I was very impressed by the 2012 Thorny Vines Riesling from new kids on the block Synchromesh, which was just on the medium dry side of dry, was bristling with aroma ranging form roses to lime and had a challenging acidity which reminded me of wines from cooler areas of the Nahe region of Germany. So what’s Yoda doing at the top?

Well, it may not look like it at first glance, but this city is a wonderful example of cross-cultural pollination. The picture of Yoda was drawn by an artist belonging to what Canadians call the First Nations (with capital letters!), that is the Native Canadians, but of course Yoda was originally a creation of Hollywood, which could hardly be more White American. Perhaps you think I’m making a joke, but the truth is that I’m not (even though I find the photo funny, not least because my own face reflected in the glass of the store window has become part of the image). Vancouver wouldn’t look the way it does today without the huge influx of Hong Kong Chinese money into the real estate sector since the 1980s. Now, seen from the right angle, it seriously resembles Hong Kong. You scoff at me? Well, fully one quarter of the city’s population comes from that part of China!

It is in this multi-cultural matrix that the generally dry Okanagan Rieslings function so well, not in some unofficially segregated WASP Zone. They are part of the great cosmopolitan melting pot that is contemporary Canada. Sure you have the same thing in New York where I left on this long and winding Riesling Trail, but there it doesn’t feel nearly as relaxed or comfortable as it does here. My guess is that the social mobility here is also higher than in the US. However, that’s something I shall have to look into, like so many other aspects of this place which looks so much like parts of the US, but is clearly very different. I’ve already been digging into the city’s multicultural cooking pot. This lunchtime I had an excellent Shawarma fish sandwich from the Fresh Local Wild food truck (a dish which originates in the Levant), tonight I’m going to an Indian restaurant, but Korean, Japanes, French, Italian and many, many other options were available too. And the warm, but not hot sunshine, together with the fresh breeze are making me very hungry and thirsty!

PS Stay tuned to this station for reports direct from Okanagan Valley where I arrive in just under 48 hours!

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 3 – The unlikely Mr. Finger Lakes

If it wasn’t for Canadian Bob Madill (pictured above) I wouldn’t have fully grasped how the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes/New York tick, or how the leading producers there reinvented those wines (primarily through improved viticultural methods) during the last years. The leap in quality here since my first visit back in 2005 is truly staggering, and fully comparable to that in Rheinhessen/Germany – the most dramatic and rapid turnaround of an entire region I so far saw in my home continent of Europe.

Bob also played two roles in that transformation, first at Sheldrake Point Vineyards on Cayuga Lake where he dramatically improved the dry Rieslings without being directly responsible either for the vineyards or the winemaking, and secondly as a kind of unofficial consultant to the wine industry of the region. Some of his colleagues sometimes found his continual enthusiasm, questioning and goading a bit nerve-wracking at times, but almost all of them who are genuinely committed to quality benefited rom those qualities to a greater or lesser degree. That’s quite a serious achievement!

One of the things this second Bob Madill was to organize a series of overview tastings of the region’s Rieslings for me beginning three years ago and concluding (for the moment) with the tasting yesterday evening at the excellent bistro of Red Newt Winery. Not only did this tasting show just how good  the Rieslings of the 2012 vintage from the established top producers are (particularly the Sheldrake Point Reserve and the Red Newt Sawmill Creek), it also demonstrated what exciting and totally distinctive wines some of the rising stars are. Here I’m thinking of the ‘Tanzen Dame’ wines from Bloomer Creek and Kris Matthewson’s wines for Bellwether (which is first and foremost a cider producer). With their rich textural quality and spicy aromas the former remind me of the wines of Heymann-Löwenstein in the Terrassenmosel and with their (reductive) funk and enormous vitality the latter seem like a reinterpretation of J.J. Prüm’s MIttelmosel wines. Lastly, the tasting also showed just how well some of the best wines of the overlooked 2008 (Fox Run) and 2009 (Heron Hill and Anthony Road) vintages have developed. That’s a quite a crop of new impressions for just one tasting!

I have to admit that today I’m feeling a little bit burnt out, but it was worth it to really get a handle on what’s happening in one the most important American Riesling producing regions. I am currently – circuitously – en route to Vancouver/BC from where I shall continue on to the Okanagan Valley/BC for my next Big Riesling Adventure. That is all new territory for me, so I can’t wait to get my boots on that unfamiliar ground!

PS My excitement about the discoveries to come won’t make me forget my last impression of the Finger Lakes (see above), a quintessential American landscape with which too many Americans are unfamiliar. Of course, one could say the same thing about the region’s Riesling wines.

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On the Riesling Tail: Day 2 – My Fourth of Riesling July

I had some serious problems with my computer system, which meant that the photographs for this posting only just went online. That’s very disappointing considering the considerable effort I made to come up with good photographs here in the Finger Lakes (FLX) New York, but there you go. I think that it’s more important to report than not to report because of technical failure…

The first photograph (above) is of Frederick Frank of DR. Frank on Keuka Lake/FLX with whom I tasted some spectacular Rieslings on the fourth of July. Frederick Frank is one of the few American winemakers to make the full range of Rieslings from almost bone dry to honey sweet, from still to sparkling. And all of these wines are really good. Even the sparkling Riesling is in the first league of American white wines and has creamed off a slew of awards at wine competitions. As Frederick Frank told me,  with a following wind you can win a Gold Medal here or there, but if they start stacking up this really means something. It was also interesting to learn how – without vineyard designating his wines – he does distinguish between his vineyards on Kueka Lake, from which his Dry Riesling tends to come (in the 2012 vintage a fairly austere, but refined and subtle wine) and Seneca Lake, from which his Semi-Dry Riesling originates. Then there’s the ‘Celebre’ sparkling Riesling, which has a wonderful balance of fruit, acidity and discrete residual sweetness (Medium-Dry on the IRF taste profile).

Mark Wagner of Lamoroux Landing on Seneca Lake (pictured above) has obviously done a lot of work to produce three single-vineyard designate Rieslings – ‘Yellow Dog’, ‘Round Rock’ and ‘Red Oak’ – which are extremely distinctive. All of these wines are clearly Medium-Dry (also on the IRF taste profile), but the 2012s are all beautifully balanced and really refined. I tasted a vertical of ‘Red Oak’ going back to the first vintage – 2008 (you can’t go back further than that!) and they were  all very impressive wines. Young vines? Yes, but the wines didn’t show it at all! That small row of wines showed very well how the leading winemakers of the Finger Lakes have achieved a big leap forward during the last few years. The 2010, ’11 and ’12 had so much more finesse than the previous vintages. These are world class wines!

One of the problems for the Finger Lakes during the last years has been the small number of producers who are producing a serious amount of good Riesling with which they could attract attention to the region and it’s most important grape variety. Thankfully David Whiting of Red Newt Cellars has been working on this since the 2008 vintage with a wine called ‘Circle’. This wines comes from the same vineyards he draws the grapes for his single vineyard bottlings, so the grapes come from growers who really know what they’re doing. And you can taste that in the finished wine. Sometimes you can run into this wine for just $9.99 and for that price it is sensational value for money, particularly the 2012 vintage which is just coming onto the market. This is a medium-dry wine which has a great compatability with all manner of lighter, summer foods from salads to grilled meat.

What does all this mean? I think it means that the FLX have really made a big Leap forward and the reaction in the market seems to confirm this, because the wines have started appearing in places in NZwineC I thought I’d never see them. This means that they have already convinced a large number of sceptics. Sure these wines could and will become even better, but I think that the leading winemakers have cracked the FLX Riesling Code and are now in the business of refining their technique rather than trying to figure out where up and down are ( as it was a decade ago). Now I have to sign off, because a bunch of winemakers are about to walk in the door for a serious analytical tasting of their current wines, and they expect me to say something coherent. That doesn’t go without saying.

 

 

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 1 – Finger Lakes Revelation

In England where I grew up and was raised we say, “the proof is in the pudding”, meaning that theories are fine, but the crucial test is how things function in the real world. Last night Bob Madill of Sheldrake Point Vineyards here on Cayuga Lake in Upstate New York  and I undertook such a “pudding” test took place on the dinner table. Bob pulled out of his cellar two mature vintages of Sheldrake Point’s ‘Reserve’ dry Riesling, 2003 (the first vintage) and 2006. The point was not to prove that these wines can keep for that length of time, rather to show that dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes with a high natural acidity content which taste austere (but not unripe) as young wines can develop very positively in the bottle. The 2006 was always a sleek wine with a pronounced acidity, but it has gained a lot of elegance since I first tasted it in its youthful. The patina of mature aromas was delicate rather than dominant, in no way masking a lemony freshness that keeps the wine very lively. And it was that balance of fresh and mellow which made me linger long enough to find many subtle herbal and rooty (for example celery and parsley root) nuances in the wine. In my book that adds up to dry Riesling greatness, and I’ve tasted a bunch of dry Rieslings of this vintage from various part of Europe which were not as impressive as this wine.

In contrast, the 2003 was bone dry and had a slight bitterness in the back of the mouth. At first it seemed very mature, but, as so often happens with mature Rieslings, after leaving it some 20 minutes in the glass it became more lively (although this counter-inuitive, since contact with the air means oxidation and that ought to make the wine seem older/more tired). It was a good first shot at what the 2006 does so well, and has become the house style here. I can’t wait to taste the 2012 ‘Reserve’ dry Riesling again, which passed the “pudding” test with flying colors the first time I encountered it back in March. These are wines which show what this region can really do with dry Riesling, and as Bob Madill said last night, “we’re just scratching the surface”. More about the enormous potential of this region tomorrow.

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 5 – Wine of the Month July

2012 ‘Blanc de Noirs’ from Schlossmühlenhof for $13.99

Rich, but bone-dry Blanc de Noirs made from the Pinot Noir grape (called Spätburgunder in Germany) are hardly a traditional strength of the German wine industry. However, that’s exactly what this month’s wine of the month is. What makes this all the more astonishing is that this is something I “discovered” in NYwineC very recently. When I saw the name I thought, “who the hell is that?” and “why don’t I know this producer?” When I tasted the wine, which manages to combine a considerable amount of power with great clarity and near-perfect balance, I was doubly amazed. The color was very distinctive too, with just a pale hint of rose like some champagnes.

This wine is a testament not only to a talented young winemaker, Nicolas Michel of Kettenheim – “where the hell is that?” I thought – who has obviously learnt a great deal in very few years, but also to the region of Rheinhessen which a few of years ago I started calling the Dream Factory of German dry white wine. The reason for this piece of journalistic hyperbole is that no other German wine region has so dramatically turned itself around in such a short time. That wouldn’t have been possible without a great network of young winemakers there, and obviously this network has now grown to the point where it’s so large that even I’m not aware of all its members!

Congratulations are also due to NYwineC importer Savio Soares for discovering this one faster than I did!

2012 Schlossmühlenhof Spätburgunder ‘Blanc de Noirs’ is $13,99 at

Gotham Wines & Liquors

2517 Broadway (at W 94th Street)

New York, NY 10025

Tel.: (1) 212 932 0990

Internet: www.gothamwines.com

PS The umlaut (those two dots above certain German vowels) is actually easy to use. It just softens the vowel. For example, “ü” is pronounced “ue”.

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 4 – What do Truth and Justice really mean Today?

Yesterday I was busy in NYC with the exuberant and joyful Gay Pride March, then the birthday celebrations of my friend Volker Donabaum (see below), but after reading the news early this morning there was no alternative but to postpone my next wine of the month until tomorrow and directly address the issue of the spying by the American NSA on the nation’s allies. You might wonder what this has to do with a wine blog devoted primarily to the Riesling grape, but in this situation I am firmly on Albert Einstein’s side. Shortly before his death in 1955 he wrote the following profound words in the draft of a speech to mark the 7. anniversary of Israeli independence: “In matters of Truth and Justice, there is no difference between large and small problems” / “Wenn es such um Wahrheit und Gerechtigkeit handelt, gibt es night die Unterscheidung zwischen kleine und grove Probleme”.

Truth and Justice are the twin principals of this blog without which it simply couldn’t function. My commitment to them sometimes brings me into conflict with authority in various countries, because I adopt positions which are uncomfortable for them – Despicable Me! That they may listen into my communications and keep files on me therefore doesn’t surprise me at all. It comes with the territory. However, the fact that the NSA not only spied on the private telephone calls, emails and text messages of the citizens of Europe, but also spied on EU offices in Washington DC, at the United Nations here in New York and possibly in Brussels, plus diverse European embassies goes way beyond that. We are talking about the loyal friends and allies of the USA whose politicians and diplomats were spied upon, also using bugs!

It strikes me as essential that at this point I clearly state my fundamental position. I am a child of the Cold War, and I never doubted for a moment that I grew up on the right side of the Iron Curtain (even though England and the USA indirectly bears some responsibility fort the creation of that Iron Curtain). It was a great moment when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and when US and Russian nuclear weapons were “stood down” in 1991 a miraculous transformation of the world seemed complete. All this would not have been possible without the historical commitment of the US and its allies to freedom, democracy, truth and justice. I therefore write as a friend of the American people and the USA who believes in the principals enshrined in the American constitution and its amendments.

Since 1949 when the Federal Republic of Germany’s constitution was written with at least one eye firmly on the American role model Germany has been a “natural” ally of the USA. But what should German people think when the American Secretary of State John Kerry says that, “every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities to protect national security”. This means that the American Government regards the EU politicians, diplomats and civilian populations as potential/actual threats to national security! I’ve written before about the arrogance and paranoia which lie behind this world-view before (see Riesling Road Trip: Day 5). To this Kerry has added a staggering disingenuousness by claiming not to know the truth of the spying allegations (which would mean his complete incompetence!) That makes it very difficult to take anything he says seriously, and I promise you until recently I was a John Kerry fan.

I just took another look at www.nytimes.com before writing this posting and by chance right at the top was an ad for the new Mike Nichols movie starring Daniel Craig called BETRAYAL. This is exactly how the Germans feel now. I was pleased to see that on Sunday the paper published a thoughtful piece by Malte Spitz entitled, ‘Germans loved Obama. Now we don’t trust him’. In spite of it’s publication in the Right Place I fear that President Obama, John Kerry and their teams still fail to realize the simple truths about German society which Spitz’s article lays out so clearly. Let me quote the most important section, “In the past 80 years, Germans have felt the betrayal of neighbors who informed for the Gestapo and the fear that best friends might be informants for the Stasi. Homes were tapped. Millions were monitored.” This is the background to how Germans perceive the NSA’s various programs that spy on them, for it is the deep tap root of their often intense commitment to freedom and democracy (according to the open-ended motto Never Again!)

On June 19th this year Barack Obama held an eloquent speech in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in which he talked about freedom, democracy and justice, that is the core American values. He took off his jacket saying that this was OK, “amongst friends”. This now looks as disingenuous as John Kerry’s claim not to have known what was going on. No wonder columnist Jakob Augstein of www.spiegel.de (Germany’s best news site) just wrote of the German people, “we can’t rely on this America any longer”. Whatever the politicians on both sides do now there’s already been catastrophic loss of trust by the German people, and many other freedom-loving people around the world, in the Administration of Barack Obama. America now has no alternative, but to rebuild that trust from the ground up.

I write all this with a heavy heart, because the German-American and European-American relationships are fundamental to the promotion of our core values and to peace  in this hemisphere, if not the world. The damage done to these things may be as catastrophic as that which the Financial Crisis wrought upon the global economy. It not only meant the demise of certain too-big-to-fail banks with ripple-on effects that are still clearly visible, but also affected the food and drink on people’s tables. It may sound like a detail in this huge picture, but the wine market was also fundamentally affected.

As I enjoyed Volker Donabaum’s birthday party on the rooftop of 360 TriBeCa yesterday afternoon my thoughts were far away from the future of the ideals I hold most dear. As usual Volker (who works for NYwineC importer A.I. Selections) was more than generous and his high spirits were infectious. The atmosphere was as open and as peaceful as it’s possible to be; the best side of New York. Looking back, that was the result of everybody present more or less sharing the same democratic ideals and believing in the fundamental importance of free speech, etc. Those things don’t need to be stated to have an effect, for as long as the great majority believe in them they infuse all manner of situations with mutual respect, creating an arena where creativity and innovation flourish. For a long time they were the basis of America’s dynamism and wealth (although that may no longer be the case due to the profound economic change of recent years). I fear that we’ve reached a point where the imperative of “National Security”, which actually means Governmental Invulnerability at All Costs, may also threaten these things. Paranoia is a terrible poison which can kill creativity no less easily than freedom. From 360 TriBeCa we had a spectacular view of the almost completed Freedom Tower which the picture below rather inadequately conveys.

Freedom Tower. Those words remind me of 9/11, to which the developments I’m focusing on today all go back. Those events also touched me. A few days later whilst traveling on a train in Germany I found a list of all the known victims of 9/11 in ‘The Gaurdian’ newspaper, which at that point was basically a list of the people on the three airplanes. Because they were listed alphabetically I immediately noticed the first name was that of a good acquaintance, Christian Adams, who I knew through his excellent work for the German Wine Insitute (DWI). Seconds later there was a series of thudding noises from under the train and it ground to a halt. We all sat there in fear wondering what on earth had happened, what would happen, then an announcement came over the PA that someone had just thrown themselves under the train. Those were dark days. Sadly, these are too, because of what the “Good Guys” have turned themselves into since 9/11. Where is all the Change we can believe in?

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Guest Column / Gastkolumne: ‘Wonnegau Story: Finally / Endlich’ by / von Thorsten Jordan

Here – “endlich”, finally –  is the last part of Thorsten Jordan’s ‘Wonnegau Story’ delayed by the Riesling Road Trip during which I had to use the little internet time I got to report on our adventures while crossing the continent from Venice Beach/LA to NYwineC. In it he turns to the question of what makes the Wonnegau area of Rheinhessen special.  This is serious stuff for an 18 year old who’s still (just) at school. My apologies that I didn’t have a free week to translate all four sections of this story into English!

Mein “Auftrag” war es, den neuen Jahrgang im Wonnegau zu bewerten und der grundlegenden Frage nachzugehen, warum der Wonnegau so besonders für den Weinbau sein soll, bzw. ist. Diese Arbeit hat mir besonders viel Spaß bereitet und dementsprechend kann ich auch einiges sagen.

Der Jahrgang 2012 im Wonnegau präsentiert sich allgemein saftig und kräftig, wenn auch deutlich opulenter als der vorige Jahrgang, büßt dabei aber keinesfalls an Finesse ein! Da fällt mir zum Beispiel der Riesling trocken2012 (Gutswein) vom Weingut Keller in Flörsheim-Dahlsheim ein, der herrlich nach Grapefruit und Zitrone duftet, im Mund aber diese Butter-Note hat und eine Power und Mineralität mitbringt, die fesselt. Trotz dessen bewahrt er seine kühle Seele, die einen förmlich ans Glas fesselt! Der 2012er Nierstein Riesling vom gleichen Weingut vereint all das, was man von einem rassigen, auf Schiefer gewachsenen Riesling erwartet. Er zeigt sowohl saftige Cremigkeit als auch diese steinige, ja, man kann sagen schiefer-artige Nuance.

„Wir im Wonnegau sind ein offenens Völkchen. Dementsprechend ist auch der Austausch sehr groß und wichtig, wir rudern alle in die gleiche Richtung und kommen somit schneller und besser voran! Noch dazu haben wir hier besonders viel Kalksteinböden, die guten Wein hervorbringen und ideal zum Klima passen“

Das Weingut Dreissigacker in Bechtheim kann mit einem hervorragenden Geyersberg Riesling 2012 punkten. Der Wein vermittelt durch das Holz eine gewisse Rauigkeit bringt aber gleichzeitig auch Cremigkeit mit vom langen Kontakt mit der Gärhefe. Die frische Säure gleicht den herben Gerbstoff sehr gut aus. Der Wein wird mit jedem Schluck spannender! Favorit #2 hier ist der Weißburgunder 2012. Der erste Gedanke bei diesem Wein war: Blumen. Nach einiger Zeit wurde es dann präziser, ich legte mich auf Veilchen fest. Auch hier konnte ich wieder finden, was mich am Geyersberg so fasziniert hatte: Das Spiel zwischen belebender Säure und charakterstarkem Gerbstoff, Wahnsinn! Einer kleinen Anmerkung bedarf es jedoch noch: Sowohl der Geyersberg Riesling als auch der Weißburgunder waren zum Zeitpunkt meines Besuchs nur als Fassproben verfügbar. Der „Geschmack“ könnte sich also noch etwas verändert haben. Der WB stand aber schon kurz vor der Füllung, der Unterschied dürfte bei ihm also wenn überhaupt nur geringfügig sein.

„Das derzeitige Klima in der Region begünstigt eine gute Reife. Außerdem haben die Winzer hier enorm viel Motivation und Begeisterung für guten Wein und um solchen auch zu machen. Die ganze Region stand schon mit dem Rücken zur Wand und kann nur noch in eine Richtung – nach vorne! Und man weiß ja: Wer rastet, der rostet!“

Weinreich – Marc Weinreich (aus Bechtheim)…  wer schon so heißt, der muss doch guten Wein machen! Und das trifft auch zu! Der 2012er Riesling trocken zum Beispiel, der einfach Grip hat und selbst mit einem leichten Anklang von Feuerstein frisch und bodenständig bleibt. Nach einem wechselreichen Finale folgt ein angenehmer Nachgeschmack der Lust auf’s nächste Glas macht. Ein Wein, der mich gleich komplett auf Wolke 7 gebeamt hat war der Chardonnay&Weißburgunder 2012. Dieser Wein hat mich schier so beschäftigt und in seinen Bann gezogen, dass in meinen Notizen dreimal hintereinander das Wort floral auftaucht. Aber diese Note, das Florale und ein herrlicher Geschmack nach süßer, geschlagener Sahne, fast schon in die Richtung Karamell machen ihn einfach unvergleichlich! Chapeau lieber Marc, der Wahnsinn!

„Wir haben hier eine der wärmsten und trockensten Regionen, die sich gut für Burgunder und eben DIE andere Art Riesling eignet. Alle gemeinsam haben wir einen ganz ähnlichen Leitgedanken, der hilft, die ganze Region nach vorne zu treiben. Auch die Ausbildung ist hier phänomenal! Diese Aspekte gelten aber für das gesamte Anbaugebiet Rheinhessen!“

Nach Käse und Kiwi riecht er nicht nur, nein, er schmeckt auch so. Hinzu kommen sowohl eine schöne straffe Säure, die der Wein auch braucht, als auch eine wunderbare Creme hintennach. So würde ich den Chardonnay 2012 vom Weingut Spiess in Bechtheim beschreiben. Ein Kandidat für den Sommerabend aus dem Bilderbuch oder auch den etwas wärmeren Herbstabend ist sicherlich der Riesling feinherb 2012. Er überzeugte durch seine zugleich schmeichelnde, spritzige und erfrischende Art und die lebhaften Aromen von Apfel und Nektarine. Er eignet absolut als Dauerbrenner!

„Gut für diese Region ist vor allem das Klima, das seit dem Jahr 2000 besonders günstig ist. Die Beeren wachsen, werden reif und es werden gute Weine daraus. Was wir heute aus dem Weinberg holen ist fast schon perfekt, bedarf nur noch ein bisschen Fürsorge! Das war nicht immer so…“

Mit dem Weingut Weinreich hatte ich ja schon einen zertifiziert ökologischen Betrieb inne. Mit dem Besuch beim Weingut Wittmann in Westhofen konnte ich jetzt auch einen Haken bei „biodynamisch“ setzen. Mit dem Jahrgang 2012 ist man bei Wittmann sehr zufrieden, sowohl was die Menge betrifft, als auch die Qualität des Leseguts. Doch konnte man das auch in die Weine bringen? Wie schon in Teil drei dieser Wonnegau-Serie beschrieben verbindet mich mit der Scheurebe von Wittmann etwas für mich sehr wichtiges! Die 2011er Scheu war etwas schwerfällig, aber genial! Der Jahrgang 2012 jedoch stellt den letztjährigen in den Schatten. Joghurt, Rhabarber und eine elegante Würze verleihen dem Wein bei all seiner Simplizität doch viel Klasse! Apropos Klasse. Als klassischer Riesling präsentiert sich 2012 ebenso. Der Riesling trocken 2012 (Gutsriesling) steckt voll frischer Säure und Aromen von getrockneten Früchten wie Apfel und Aprikose.

„Junge, engagierte Winzer, die die Meinung der älteren Herrschaften nicht kümmert und die ihr Ding machen, einfach komplett neue Sachen ausprobieren. Das sind die Pioniere, die die Region voranbringen. Und dann gibt es da noch die Betriebe, die schon etwas länger im Fokus stehen und die Stabilität beitragen.“

Nur in Fassproben erlebte ich den neuen Jahrgang bei Stefan Winter vom Weingut Winter in Dittelsheim-Heßloch. Nichts desto trotz hauten mich die Weine vom Hocker! Der Riesling 2012 fesselte mit einer Sponti-Nase, wirkte aber ganz leicht, grasig-kräuterig-grün mit einer schönen Struktur. Einzig und allein hintennach wirkt er, als hätte er etwas viel Gerbstoff. Dann fiel mir der zweite Favorit der Runde auf und langsam fragte ich mich, ob ich nun auch noch zum Weißburgunder-Fan würde. Der Dittelsheimer Weißburgunder 2012 hatte zwei Dinge, die mich von vornherein an ihm begeisterten: Da war einmal diese Exotik, angeführt von Pfirsich über Ananas bis zu Mango. Zum anderen besaß er zum Finale hin eine stärkende Strenge, die vorher geschickt von der frischen Säure kaschiert, nein, sagen wir zugunsten des Weins unterdrückt wurde. WAHNSINN!

„Wir haben in Rheinhessen und besonders hier im Wonnegau einfach geile Böden und gute klimatische Bedingungen! Diese ermöglichen unterschiedliche Reifeverläufe. In der einen Lage wird der Riesling zwei Wochen früher reif als in der anderen zum Beispiel. Das ermöglicht einem unheimlich viele verschiedene Stile zu schaffen. Das und die Tatsache, dass so viele Winzer einfach Bock darauf haben geilen Wein zu erzeugen, das macht diese Region so einzigartig für den Wein, für den deutschen Weinbau!“

Zu guter Letzt komme ich nun zu meinem Praktikumsweingut, dem Weingut Helmut Geil in Monzernheim.  Für die Probe des neuen Jahrgangs gab es hier keinen richtigen Termin, dort fand alles zwischen den anderen Weingutsbesuchen und spontan statt. Es wurde mal an dem Abend ein Wein getrunken, mal an dem. An wieder einem anderen wurde zusätzlich noch diese oder jene Flasche von diesem oder jenem Weingut parallel getrunken und verglichen und geurteilt. Es geschah alles sehr interaktiv, was mir erstens riesig Spaß machte und zweitens auch etwas half, wenn ich das behaupten darf. Aber nun zum ersten Kandidaten! Der Bonus Riesling 2012 (Gutsriesling) besticht durch wunderbare Aromen von Apfel, Kiwi, Cassis und Stachelbeere. Er ist strohig, frisch und wirkt am Gaumen wunderbar belebend. Nur hat man den Eindruck, dass er etwas zu wenig Alkohol für die taffe Säure hat. Trotzdem kann man sich ihm nicht mehr entziehen, wenn er einen einmal gefangen hat! Ähnlich fesselnd aber doch ganz anders ist da ein Wein aus einer in Deutschland eher seltenen Rebsorte. Eine Rebsorte, deren Name nicht nur Ampelographen in Ekstase versetzt! Auch mich hat es erwischt! Es handelt sich hier um die Melior Albalonga Spätlese 2012. Honig, Melisse, weiße Traube und Orange. Er ist saftig, cremig und besitzt viel Extrakt. Zum Thema Nachgeschmack kann ich nur eines sagen: HAMMER!

„Die Region lebt vom Austausch untereinander genauso wie von der Diversität der verschiedenen Geister und Meinungen! Nicht zuletzt auch die Kommunikation unter den jungen Winzern, die die Betriebsfeindlichkeiten ihrer Eltern zugrunde gelegt haben hat diese Region zu dem gemacht, was sie ist. Nicht nur mehr der eigene Betrieb ist das einzig Wichtige. Wie die ganze Region dasteht, das zählt auch. Trotzdem ist jeder Betrieb immer noch für sich sein eigener Typ und auch die Weine, die er hervorbringt sind einzigartig. Die Vielfalt ist es, die den Wonnegau ausmacht.“

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 1 – Shooting from the Hip in Brooklyn / New York Wine City (NWYC)

There were whales beneath those gentle-looking waves, but finally I thought it was safe to go back into the water. What I mean is that I naively imagined that once I’d return from Riesling Road Trip’s coast-to-coast tour (or was it a race against the clock?) to NYWC “normal life” would begin again. It did, but only for about 15 hours. Then this morning I rolled out of bed rather too late and found a text message which told me that the shoot for my ultra-low budget, ultra-alternative movie WATCH YOUR BACK (a Riesling movie) planned for the Brooklyn Bridge this morning wouldn’t work, because no commercial traffic’s allowed on that bridge. Ouch! That’s not the sort of quiet breakfast I’d been hoping for.

The Great Riesling Whale, i.e. the 20ft shipping container customized as a mobile tasting room by Wines of Germany USA for promotional events (pictured above) has no windows and hence would not qualify as an recreational vehicle, or anything else non-commercial. Let’s face it a shipping container is a shipping container even if it has a cool bar inside and is plastered with German wine logos! A moment of panic was followed by a more sober telephone discussion with cameraman MarcarthurBaralla (of Defendshee Productions in Brooklyn) and we made a snap decision to switch to the Williamsburg Bridge. When I spoke to Devin Brignoni, the driver of the powerful automobile which pulled the Great Riesling Whale coast to coast I found that – thankfully! – he was half an hour behind schedule just like Marcarthur and I, so none of us hung around waiting for the others in spite of the sudden change of plan.

Devin Brignoni (pictured above) showed the same determination that took Riesling Road Trip across the entire country in barely more than a week mostly on time and without missing a single of our appointments. Likewise, Marcarthur Baralla (pictured below) was his usual serious, but relaxed self and as at our two previous shoots for WATCH YOUR BACK we were on the same wavelength not only for picture composition, but also on the crucial Question of whether a particular take was good enough or not. In fact, today we only once needed a second take and that was due to our ambition to get a shot in the can of the Great Riesling whale on the Williamsburg Bridge while a subway train was also using it to cross the East River. Art for Art’s Sake! But we cracked that too and by 1pm everything we needed was in the can thanks to my hard-core shot-from-the-hip team.

Today, working with special people like these two is crucial to all my work regardless of the medium and none of my stuff would be much good without their influence. Also, it really is a pleasure to work with non-neurotic perfectionists. I say that as an obsessive-compulsive person who struggles to remain in the present moment, but often then flips  off somewhere else in his head. Today there was no question of my flipping anywhere until everything was in the can. Now it really is safe to go back into those NYWC waters!

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Riesling Road Trip: Day 7 – The Eagle has Landed in Manhattan / New York Wine City!

FINALLY, WE MADE IT!!!

As you can see the Riesling Road Trip made it to Manhattan and by some miracle we were also on time. How could that possibly function? I still don’t understand it that once again I’ve got both feet firmly on the ground in Manhattan after more than a week of being welded to the seat of an automobile (sometimes night and day). Until just a few minutes ago I felt like one of the pieces of fast-food trash or fragments of styrofoam which have been rattling around our GM Suburban since we left LA last Wednesday. However, almost every day began this way, and each time our journey and tastings energized me. There were also some playful hours like the one in Birmingham/Alabama during which the picture below of our driver Devin and I with Spätburgunder from Huber in Baden in our glasses was taken.

Dazed and confused from many thousands of miles of travel right across America we Riesling Road Trip survivors just rolled into Manhattan and this divine madness came to an abrupt end. Last night (see below) we gave our last tasting next to a Washington DC sidewalk. But, let’s complete the story before euphoria overcomes me. Last night we gave our last tasting next to a Washington DC sidewalk (pictured below). The entire thing was of questionable legality, but it wasn’t our fault that two cars illegally parked in our space in front of the restaurant where we would have been on the right side of the law. They left us no alternative, but to move down the street and thankfully neither the local cops or the secret service didn’t spot us.

None of this mattered to the great group of somms and other wine professionals who became the last group to enter the belly of our Great Riesling Whale for a tasting (see below). Like a rock group on the final night of their tour Paul Grieco and I threw everything we had at it and they loved it. One young somm even asked me if she could work for me. I said she could if she’d start unpaid, a demand which saved me from having to start playing the role of employer. Then the super-exotic,enormously rich, but beautifully balanced 2006 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese from S.A. Prüm in the Mosel blew everyone’s minds.

Now I’ve got the time to draw a few initial conclusions. On the practical side, and a project of this kind stands or falls on practicality,  a schedule which was barely feasible was made to work thanks to the indomitable spirit of Irene Vagianos (pictured below) Andrea Davidoff from Wines of Germany in New York. They threw themselves at this thing as if their lives depended upon it and never demanded thanks for that, much less a moment in the spotlight. They also kept their cool when we were suddenly confronted with serious problems. I found that seriously amazing. Our drivers Devin and Alfonso never complained although the demands upon them were enormous. Hats off guys!

Perhaps the most important thing about the string of tastings we held was that we reached a bunch of important people in the American wine scene who almost certainly would never have come to a tasting in New York or San Francisco. Our unusual set-up certainly made a big impression on most of our guests, and the form of direct eyeball to eyeball communication (with a bunch of serious content) we cultivated within that framework was also welcomed with open arms by nearly all our guests. We reached out to people and we actually reached the great majority of those people too. The Riesling Spirit was everywhere we were, the agents of the Bullshit Chardonnay lobby didn’t manage to intimidate us as I feared they might, and somehow we managed not to get arrested anywhere!

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