New York Riesling Diary: Day 4 – It was indeed a very Long Night of German Wine

Who dunnit?

There’s been some noise in the twittersphere lately about me being crazy, and I have to admit that at the least some pretty crazy stuff happens around me. The reporter in my soul then grabs hold of things like the above. Suddenly in the early hours of this morning during the third Long Night of German Wines in New York there was this knife in the floor of Restaurant Hearth on East 12th Street at First Avenue and the piece of floor it was sticking in had been marked off – as a dangerous place or as a holy site? OK, maybe you have to be crazy to snap something like this, then publicize it.

Either way it was quite a night, although one of the conclusions I drew was a disappointing one. The three young winegrowers from Rheinhessen – Christine Huff from the Fritz Ekkehard Huff estate, Mirjam Schneider of the Schneider estate and Eva Vollmer of the eponymous estate – were the stars of the show, just as I’d hoped they’d be.  But again and again our guests fired the same question at them: where can I buy these wines? The problem is that they jumped to the normal New York Wine City (NYWC) conclusion that if the wine is this good it must already be imported to NYWC. This way of thinking is understandable when you see the gigantic range of French and Italian wines available here, but those wine growing nations have had powerful lobbies in the city for a long, long time. In comparison, German wines have only recently begun to attract that kind of attention (again) and many importers of German wines are still selecting what they import as if the recent quality revolution in places like Rheinhessen had not really  happened. That’s sad also because American consumers are missing out. Calling all young / dynamic wine importers: this is one big chance for you and whoever sticks their neck out first will get to cherry pick the new generation of German winemakers. I think the expression is go for it!

As you can see from this picture, also taken in the early hours of this morning, here was quite a buzz at the Long Night of German Wine.  It was the three winemakers standard quality wines as much as their top bottlings which amazed. In this category, the 2012 Riesling *** from Mirjam Schneider was enormously ripe for its modest price, with an aroma of yellow plums and considerable power. Christine Huff’s 2012 Riesling “vom Rotliegenden” was a total contrast with its sleek, lithe body and aromas of rose hips and  herbs. Just to prove that Rheinhessen isn’t only about dry Riesling Eva Vollmer’s standard quality 2012 Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) had a bouquet of freshly-picked green beans, was powerful and round, yet fresh and cool. The single-vineyard bottlings from the trio – the Rabenturm dry Riesling from Huff, the Edelmann dry Riesling and Silvaner from Schneider, and the ‘Kult’ wines from Vollmer – are all of a quality which ought to earn them plenty of listings in NYWC’s best restaurants.

Of course, the event got a little out of control at times, but frankly any evening which doesn’t get a little out of control in one way or another is lacking some life. I’m not sure why the soccer shirt (sorry, but knowing nothing about soccer I forget for which team it is) that Paul Grieco was wearing had a number 13 on the back – was it 13 German wine growing regions, or Riesling’s power to overcome evil magic? – but as you can see, someone found it as irresistible as the wines.

On that from there was general amazement about how well the dry and sweet Rieslings of the 2003 vintage which I brought from my private cellar showed. Sure, I had made a positive selection, but there were enough of them to prove that it’s no fluke when a 2003 German Riesling shows much better – more lively and elegant – than the reputation of the vintage would have you believe. However, even I was glad to drink a glass each of the dry 2011 “Schlank im Schrank” Riesling (from the Karlsmühle estate in the Ruwer) and the 2011 “Scheu im Heu” Scheurebe (from Winzerhof Stahl in Franken) at the end. These weirdly-named products – they translate literally as “Sleek in the Closet” and “Shy in the Hay’, but obviously this loses the musical quality of the names – are both house wines from the Weinstein wine bar in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin. Weinstein have been my partners in the Long Night of German Wine project since it began in 1997. Since then we have been doing this to collect donations to the HOPE foundation in Cape Town/South Africa, which works to prevent the spread of HIV / AIDS and to care for sufferers and their orphaned children. Last night we topped Euro 100,000, or at the present exchange rate just short of $135,000 total donations. All of this was done with rather small events like last night’s. Thank you Hearth and everyone there who works there for pulling your weight last night!

Our event was one small part of the Summer of Riesling and we are proud to have been able to do our part for this wine “festival” which has time limits (the 94 days of summer), but knows no geographical limits. Riesling is a grape and a wine, but also a way of seeing the world and a spirit. Those things are way more difficult to pin down than the grape and the wine, but hopefully this blog manages to successfully convey them in a non-linear manner fitting to their own nature. Certainly the picture above seems to do that. I hope that my logo (below) does it too, for that would justify using it so often.

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 2 – Keep on Cruis’n !

“Which organization are you with?” asked the dark-haired not-quite-so-young-any-more woman sitting next to me on the deck of the USS Jewel yesterday at 7:55pm. “Organization? It’s just me,” I naively replied. “Oh, I’m with the Jewish Singles,” she explained, and than I realized that she had accidentally jumped ship. “If you want the Jewish Love Boat, that’s the one next door,” I told her gesturing at the boat next to us at the pier where people were gyrating on the dance floor even before it had set off. She just made it off the Jewel and onto the Jewish Love Boat before we cast off and headed down the East River for the German Riesling Concert & Cruise! To see my movie about last year’s event click on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhOm5OsOt0k&feature=youtu.be

This time I only took a still camera with me and in the cause of speed I’m reducing the text here to a series of longer picture captions. Above, of course, is pictured the Statue of Liberty, which I never saw in such great summer weather or such spectacular light. Everyone was agreed about that, but as you can see from the picture below, from the very beginning our spirits were high. Here are the stars of Thursday evening’s 3rd Long Night of German Wine NYC at Resaturant Hearth, from right to left, Christine Huff of the Fritz Ekkehard Huff estate in Nierstein-Schwabsburg, Mirjam Schneider of the Schneider estate of Mainz-Hechtsheim and Eva Vollmer of the eponymous estate in Mainz-Ebersheim, all in Rheinhessen. Click on the link below for more details of the event:

Long Night of German Wines invite 2013

By the time the Jewel had made it to the southern tip of Manhattan night was falling and the lights of city were doing a pretty convincing impersonation of a tourist postcard, as the below shows. I’ve attempted this shot a few times before, but it never looked so good before. If it wasn’t for a string of other shots like this which were all slightly out of focus I’d have started believing that I had talent as a photographer!

Of course, the cruise was all about German Riesling and a number stunning wines were poured. Given the temperatures up in the eighties I found the almost bone-dry 2012 Riesling trocken from Franz Künstler in Hochheim/Rheingau wonderfully refreshing. However, I could say the same thing for the 2012 Riesling Kabinett from Weiser-Künstler in Traben-Trarbach/Mosel, although this had a pronounced (and highly aromatic) sweetness. Riesling Kabinett of this filigree and playful kind is one of the styles in which the 2012 vintage wines really shine. Slightly less sweet, more savory, but similarly crisp and refreshing was the 2012 Riesling ‘Tradition’ from Robert Weil in Kiedrich/Rheingau.

Then I got carried away with dancing although I was already feeling a bit tired when the evening began. The band had played well right from the beginning, but when they suddenly threw in a Chuck Berry number the dance floor ignited. My picture captures the moment it started to fill up.

I write this kind of story not to document these events (although these stories also do that), but to convey to the widest possible audience the special spirit of them. Joyful and hedonistic they are, but there are almost never any drunks and almost nothing stupid happens that people regret the next morning. Many people take the wine seriously, but more importantly everyone enjoys it without any pressure to drink more than they want. You may be surprised to hear it, but I’m not entirely without sympathy for the anti-alcohol lobby (alcohol is a drug and alcoholics are drug addicts, as this blog has always made clear), but in situations like this their arguments fall almost totally flat. Conviviality of a special kind, of the Riesling kind, ruled the evening.

See you Thursday night at Hearth. Keep on Cruis’n !

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 1 – The Four Stars of the 3rd Long Night of German Wine NYC

Here are three of the four stars of the 3rd Long Night of German Wine NYC which kicks off at 11pm on Thursday evening (July 25th) at Hearth Restaurant on East 12th Street at First Avenue. They are, from left to right, Mirjam Schneider of the Schneider estate in Mainz-Hechtsheim, Christine Huff of the Ekkehard Huff estate in Nierstein-Schwabsburg and Eva Vollmer of the eponymous estate in Mainz-Ebersheim all in Rheinhessen. No other wine growing region in Germany has so successfully reinvented itself during the last decade as Rheinhessen thanks to the creativity and deduced hard work of young winegrowers like these. It used to be the homeland of Liebfraumilch (yawn!), but now I call it the Dream Factory of Dry German Wine. Groupings of young winegrowers like this are now the norm in Germany, because “we” is a better basis for building a better future than “I”. This is so both for practical reasons, for example, a group of three can do three times the number of experiments in vineyard and cellar per year than one, and because the combination of mutual support and peer criticism helps to develop talented winemakers. Each of this trio has already developed an entirely distinct wine style and has pushed quality up significantly although they’ve only been working on this things for about five years. My guess is that they are all headed for fame, even if they don’t yet have US importers. Who knows, maybe that will have changed by the weekend…

This is the other star of the evening: Riesling. Who could resist a wine as beautiful as this? Well some people still resist even trying it for dogmatic reasons, often saying that any white wine which isn’t a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc isn’t worth taking seriously. This is usually harmless nonsense, but sometimes it sounds like a form of wine racism. Of course, there will be nothing like that on Thursday night at Restaurant Hearth. Quite the opposite. Everywhere Riesling grows around Planet Wine (and there are many, many places where it thrives) it grows next to grapes of other varieties at least some of which also give exciting wines. Rheinhessen is no exception so there will be some white and red wines from other grapes to taste too.

This time my contribution is a selection of wines from the 2003 vintage, which early on was trashed for being “untypical”. Sure it was the hottest summer in Europe since decades, but then so was 1959 (a close match both for the climatic data and for the analytical stats for the wines), and that was the first European vintage to be widely reported in the American media. All those vintage charts tell you it was great too. The 1959 wines which were unbalanced or went wrong have long since been forgotten and today everyone remembers or dreams about the best. This is a rare chance to taste a range of German Rieslings of the 2003 vintage, dry and sweet, to see what happened to them. Why do I donate these valuable bottles from my cellar in Berlin to the event? Why does Paul Grieco of Hearth and his team make so much effort? Why are trio of young winemakers from Rheinhessen in New York? In order to have a great time and to collect donations for the HOPE foundation in Cape Town/South Africa, which does work to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and to deal with its effects in one of the worst hit places   on the planet. For further information about the event please click on the link below. If you can’t attend, but want to help, we will gladly accept donations. Please contact Hearth.

Long Night of German Wines invite 2013

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 15 – Cool Burn-Out in Monterey

Not only have I been on the road for a good two weeks, but I’ve also been away from Berlin for two full months, much of that time traveling at speed or with a dense schedule. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve experienced some kind of cool burn-out here in Monterey/CA. Mostly it was foggy, but today the sun shone on the sea with all its might and my mind drifted in the special way it does when I’m burnt out in this way. Time to look back and take stock of what the last months have brought. Firstly, although I’m not finished with my research of the New Rieslings of North America I’ve got a long way with this work and discovered some amazing wines I had no idea existed, most notably in British Columbia/Canada. I also met many winemakers with a longstanding commitment to the grape variety who had raised the bar very substantially since I last encountered them, like Ted Bennet of Navarro Vineyards in Mendocino/CA. To read more about this all you need to do is scroll down and retrace my steps as I circled this continent. Nothing I’ve done is in itself remarkable, and I’m sure that many of you know about many of the winemakers I’ve visited and the wines I’ve tasted. The sum of them does seem to be more than the parts though and finally makes me feel really confident about the section of my forthcoming book which report on the New Riesling of North American. Not only are there enough exciting wines to fill those pages, there are enough stories of daring and dedication to make this an exciting story. In many places those stories also add up to the rebuilding and reinterpretation of the Riesling tradition that was lost decades ago, whereas in others it’s a genuinely new and dynamic development. Everywhere this process still has some way to run before all the potential is realized and a peak is reached. Following developments like these is what has maintained my excitement for wine alive for more than 30 years. All things will change!

PS Don’t forget the Long Night of German Wine on Thursday, July 25th in New York. Click on the link below for more information:

Long Night of German Wines invite 2013

 

 

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 13 – Dancing Lessons with Helmut Dönnhoff and Hard Water with Charles Phan

To be completely frank I’m not the kind of guy who leaps at every opportunity to sit in fancy restaurants. So many of them are pretentious, disappointing, and over-priced if you’re the one picking up the tab for the chef’s ego-trip at the end of the evening.  Yesterday at the ‘Auberge’ in Carmel/California I not experienced some of the most amazing food I’ve tasted in years, but some of the most exciting food and Riesling pairings I’ve ever had. I didn’t manage to get a shot of the chef Justin Cogley, partly because he’s actually a little shy. However, at the end of the evening the winegrower responsible for the Rieslings, Helmut Dönnhoff of the eponymous estate in Oberhausen/Nahe didn’t mind me pointing my camera at him and his wife Gabi (above).

To be completely frank I’m not a genius at describing these things, but Justin Cogley’s combination of braised peach, corn and a smear of turbot roe emulsion was already startling, and pairing it with Dönnhoff’s 1994 Riesling Spätlese from his monopoly Brücke site was sheer genius. At nearly twenty years of age this wine’s sweetness had receded far into the background (a normal result of extended aging) and was just enough to match that of the peach. Slightly less daring, but equally delicious turbot cooked on the bone with a wilted miniature turnip which had a hint of hotness reminiscent of horseradish (pictured below). It was paired with Dönnhoff’s 2003 Riesling Spätlese from the Hermannshöhle site was served, which I already described in my last posting (see immediately below), which is amazingly fresh for its age and amazingly elegant for the hottest vintage in Europe for decades. Helmut Dönnhoff described the balancing act in making Rieslings of this kind by saying, “acidity and sweetness must be dancing!” In this case I’d say it was definitely tango, but the flavor and texture of the fish were more than a match for this lasciviousness.

The night before I was at ‘The Slanted Door’ in San Francisco’s Ferry Building to meet Charles Phan (pictured below), the founder of what is now a restaurant and bar group employing 650 people. The Slanted Door is not only a very stylish and lively Vietnamese restaurant with great food in a gloriously multi-cultural city, it’s also one of the largest grossing restaurants in the US. That means many thousands of people from all over the country and all over the world at least see it’s great list of Rieslings every year. A new section devoted entirely to dry Rieslings is the next step in its evolution. There’s another side to this though, which is Charles Phan’s philosophy of, “no Rum ‘n’ Coke, no Cosmopolitan, no Chardonnay!” In fact, there’s no cola at all in the entire place.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t reject Chardonnay out of hand whatever some people will tell you, because next to the Bullshit Chardonnay wines there are some very elegant dry whites. When it comes to Cola I have more mixed feelings, because I’m very critical of those aspects of the business philosophy of the big companies dominating the market which ignores the health implications of high sugar consumption. It’s therefore important that there are high profile restaurants like the Slanted Door proving you can do things very differently and still be very successful. A lot of Riesling’s remaining difficulties are due to the fact that many restaurants and wine stores are frightened of doing things differently from the crowd of their colleagues and competitors. This is robbing thousands of people per day of their first (hopefully life-changing) taste of good Riesling. Just to show that this blog is anything but narrow-minded and it never says that you have to drink Riesling I have to tell you that when Charles Phan showed me his new bourbon bar, ‘Hard Water’ (just a few doors down from the Slanted Door) I ordered a glass of Pappy van Winkle’s bourbon. I was amazed by the originality of this totally American taste. While I savored it Charles Phan explained that he’s fascinated by all food and drinks behind which there’s a real story. Exactly!

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 11 – Rendezvous with Destiny

Riesling Rendezvous has just ended and as you can see from the photo above of the winemaker partners in the Washington State Riesling project ‘Eroica’ and guiding spirits of the event Ernst Loosen of Dr. Loosen in Bernkastel/Mosel (left) and Bob Bertheau of Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville/Washington State a lot of fun was had. There was also a lot of serious tasting and discussion. In particular, this morning’s overview tasting of medium-dry to sweet Rieslings  brought many surprises even the wines from well-known producers like Helmut Dönnhoff of the eponymous wine estate in Oberhausen/Nahe. In his case it was the 2003 Riesling Spätlese from the Hermannshöhle site which wowed us by being incredibly graceful and fresh for one of the hottest vintages on record. The medium-dry 2012 Abtsberg ‘Superior’ from Dr. Carl von Schubert’s Maximin Grünhaus estate in the Ruwer was a super-elegant and hyper subtle wine in style most people didn’t realized he even produced. Once again Andrew Headley of Framingham in Marlborough/New Zealand showed a Spätlese type wine, the 2012 “F”, which was up there with the best Mosel wines of this style. Then there was the stunning first vintage of ‘Eroica Gold’ (the 2012) from the pair of winemakers pictured  above, the first spot-on Auslese style Riesling I’ve tasted from Washington State. How a sweet wine from a semi-desert climate taste so delicate? For me meeting dozens of Riesling producers I’ve been exchanging my thoughts and impressions with for years or even decades was also a great experience. Thank you Ted Baseler, the President of Chateau Set. Michelle for taking Riesling so seriously, and for making that wine and this great event possible!

It was a good thing that I was swept along by all of this, because since I arrived here I ran into couple of problems including an allergic reaction (in my case the main symptom is abdominal cramps) that made it difficult to deal with the other issues. It makes me think that life is a lot like winemaking. There’s a standard theory as to how you should do it, and although some winemakers fiercely deride that theory there’s much to be said for it. But then there are moments when you definitely need to throw all the theory overboard and do exactly the things you normally wouldn’t. I’m an inherently cautious person who’s first instinct is to steer away from the storm, but suddenly I ended up in the middle of a horrible storm…

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 9 – The Riesling Show Must Go On!

OK, so the weather in Seattle is beautiful and the sun is shining brightly (doing its very best to make the billows smooth and bright), but the Riesling Rendezvous begins today and for Riesling producers from around Planet Wine this is the equivalent of Christmas Eve. I have just one more hour left for my prep and as usual I’m scrabbling to pull everything together at the last moment, but there’s no alternative since that’s the only way I can speak well in public. At least this afternoon in the grounds of Chateau Set. Michelle just outside the city I don’t need to speak, only taste some wines make notes and exchange impressions with colleagues and friends. That’s the easy part. Monday and Tuesday will be very intense, so please be patient for the next posting. I promise that when it comes it will be packed with serious surprises!

I must also tell you about the Long Night of German Wine 3 which takes place in the late evening of  Thursday, July 25th at Hearth Restaurant in New York City. It features a trio of young winemakers from the Rheinhessen region of Germany, which in recent years has become the Dream Factory of Dry White German Wine. They are, from left to right, Mirjam Schneider of Schneider estate in Mainz-Hechtsheim, Christine Huff from Weingut the Ekkehard Huff estate in Nierstein-Schwabsburg and Eva Volmer of the eponymous estate in Mainz-Ebersheim. From my cellar there will be a slew of German wines from the forgotten 2003 vintage (in my view a dead ringer for 1959) plus the amazing house wines from the Weinstein wine restaurant in Berlin. For more information click on the link below.

Long Night of German Wines invite 2013

My last day in Okanagan Valley/BC brought one of those serious surprises. From the producers I’d visited during the first days I’d got the impression that the Bladerunner Riesling’s of this region in Canada represented the Wild West of my favorite grape. At the producers I visited the acidity levels were high to off the scale, alcohol levels were low to moderate yet the wines tasted astonishingly big and bold for those numbers. Then it occurred to me that these producers were nearly all based (and growing their grapes) in the cooler northern end of the region. How did Riesling from the warmer south of the Okanagan Valley taste. There, close to the US border where most of the Merlot and Cabernet are grown, so theoretically the Rieslings should also have more ripeness and less acidity. Was that the case and if so did it taste good? More importantly, how on earth was I going to answer that question in my last half day in “The Valley”?

Then I got lucky. Lindsay Kelm of the BC Wine Institute had gathered together a slew of Rieslings from producers I couldn’t visit and many came from the south. Of these, the wines from Gehringer in Oliver proved conclusively that a richer, riper style of Riesling is not only possible Down South, but can taste surprisingly like a ‘Grosses Gewächs’ (GG), the new category of high-end single-vineyard wines from Germany. Amongst the wines from further north there were also some serious surprises, most notably the dry wines from 8th Generation. They married a sleek, cool climate wine style to less strident acidity than established top producers like Tantalus, that is they seemed to offer a serious alternative to that Bladerunner path. Then there was the 2011 ‘Farm Reserve’ Riesling from Lang Vineyards, which like the Gehringer wines had over 13% alcohol, but is lush and tropical like no other wine from that vintage.

But now I must dash to the opening of Riesling Rendezvous. Watch this space!

 

 

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 8 – Okanagan Bladerunner Rieslings

 

 

Every time I visit a new region I arrive with heavy baggage in the form of preconceptions about the way it ticks. My current visit to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia/ Canada was no exception. In global popular imagination Canada is a land of igloos and polar bears, but from my time in the Niagara Peninsula/Ontario I was well aware that there were places where wine growing functions very well here. This and a bunch of photographs I’d seen before leaving had prepared me for a warm and sunny region, but the Rieslings I’d tasted (all light to medium-bodied with intense aromas and high acidity) had convinced that this region must have a cool side and moist side to it. It was therefore a shock to discover that it is actually a semi-desert where much of the precipitation falls as snow in winter. Then there were the beaches, quite possibly Canada’s only reliably warm and sunny beaches, which clearly have something to do with the real estate boom here. As chance would have it as I stepped off the plane unusually strong winds buffeted me and have continued to do so. Then there’s the way the lake looked the first night I was here (see above) which was about as far removed from any photo of the valley I’d seen as I could imagine. I’m still trying to make sense of all of this.

Then there are the wines, by which I mean the Rieslings and others (including the reds), which are all blessed with a generous acidity which ranges from bright to piercing in taste. Alcohol levels in the Rieslings are low to moderate, whereas the high-end reds 14% is as common as it is in many other regions that are officially “cool climate”. I still find that combination pretty confusing and difficult to explain. Even the Rieslings which taste dry to me had some residual sweetness, often qualifying as medium-dry on paper. Indeed,  some wines 2.5 to 3% / 25 to 30 grams per liter natural grape sweetness tasted almost dry, perhaps due not only to the remarkable acidity of the region, but also surely because of their low alcoholic content (10% or less) and perhaps other less obvious factors (low tannin content too). This may sound like a recipe for thin and mean wines, but those Bladerunner Wines I’m talking about actually tasted big and bold.

Pictured above is Alan Dickinson of Synchromesh Wines in Okanagan Falls who served me the most extraordinary Bladerunner Riesling I’ve tasted in a long time, his 2012 Storm Haven Vineyard. He gave up just about everything except wife, dog and car (an MG) to found his start up and has already pushed the envelope on this kind of wine a heck of a long way to great effect. However, it’s not only me who thinks that. The 2012 Storm Haven Vineyard Riesling sold out within 5 weeks, although it is definitely not the kind of dry wine which the Big Wide Market would prefer to have. He’s not alone in striking out in this direction as the 2012 ‘Platinum’ Riesling from Cedar Creek shows. The analytical numbers for that wine are even more extreme, that is further from anything which I’m familiar with. And even the striking and extremely consistent wines from the region’s established star producer, Tantalus, are not much closer to any norm I know.

All this adds up to a very remarkable region that is far from having realized its full Riesling potential, although the best wines are already very impressive and like nothing else you’ll taste on Planet Wine. And there’s no time for a detailed discussion of the equally interesting Pinot Noirs and a handful of other wines which seemed to redefine the possibilities of other wine categories. Although this is a playground for Vancouver it’s not easy to reach from Europe, and most of the production goes to Vancouver, so it will be a while before these wines get out of this Canadian province.

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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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