New York Riesling Diary: Day 11 – Juliette Pope of Gramercy Tavern is the First Riesling Queen of New York!

When I first got interested in German wine and Riesling just over 30 years ago – at that point the two almost seemed synonymous to me, so horrible weak was my knowledge – the German Wine Queens used to make me cringe. These young women who’s job was to smile for the wines of their country, were so obviously a piece of pseudo-tradition that provided male and middle-aged regional politicians seeking reelection with photo opportunities, and also a crude marketing strategy to sell more mediocre wine with a bit of below the waterline sex appeal. It was often pretty gross and sexist too.

So when, beginning in the 1990s, a new generation of young women flipped this thing around and turned it into a method of advancing their careers, and put some real wine content into this hitherto hollow, stereotypic role I was seriously surprised. That development also got Paul Grieco all excited about the German Wine Queens as an ironic device for making Riesling look cool, and I have some video material that proves this actually worked. All that set my head spinning, and after throwing many ideas around during the last year I decided to create an award called the Riesling Queen/King of New York for a somm or someone else involved in wine professionally who has exceptionally advanced the cause of Riesling in a manner that is neither elitist or nerdish. The beginning of the Summer of Riesling seemed like the perfect moment to announce this, but there was just too much going on to give it the space it deserved, so here is the official announcement on the last day of New York Riesling Week. Juliette Pope, the Wine Director of Gramercy Tavern at 42 East 20th Street is the First Riesling Queen of New York!

How did it take me so long for me to wake up to what Juliette Pope has been doing with Riesling at Gramery Tavern? Well, her self-assured, but naturally modest nature has something to do with it, but also the status of this restaurant as an established classic, or even, in some peoples eyes, an establishment place. Gramercy Tavern has been around for two decades, Juliette have joined it in 1997 as a cook, then worked her way “up” (although it might not have felt like that at the beginning) to become Wine Director 10 years ago. The single page of the Gramercy Tavern wine list devoted to Riesling might seem too cautious to some fanatics, but what a page it is! I would be happy with any wine on it, the diversity of styles and places of origin being such that I could keep going back every day for a couple of weeks, order Riesling every time and still not get bored. It is a near-perfect introduction to the Big Wide World of Riesling that is my subject in BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story.

In common with the rest of the list, there are no status wines for the sake of having status wines, nor are there self-important looking verticals of cult wines. Juliette and the restaurant sometimes take some flack for those things, which, to my mind, is a sure sign that they are not establishment. “There is so much other more interesting stuff out there,” she told me when I asked her about that. She’s a self-confessed “bad salesperson”, which means she would much rather excite a customer with a bottle Riesling, or wine from another grape, at the lower end of the $50 – $100 core of the list than persuade them to go for something higher priced that could end up pleasing them less. Last, but not least, there’s nothing strident about her commitment to Riesling, no posturing or egotistical role playing. For her, it’s simply a special wine that deserves a special place and gets it for that reason. She’s an extremely knowledgable ambassador of Riesling who would simply like to introduce those customers open for it to this remarkable source of drinking pleasure, and to expand the pleasure and awareness of those who have already been introduced.  As it says on the award certificate:

It doesn’t get better than this!

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 10 – Welcome to Sean O’Keefe’s American Riesling Time Machine!

When it’s not full of hipsters, and I didn’t see any of them there late Wednesday afternoon, then Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg/Brooklyn really looks a bit like a time machine. Of course, it only feels like a historic hotel saloon bar, and when those hipsters are there in force the coolness is no less artificial than the patina. I was there for the last of the series of special tastings held in conjunction with publication of my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story, which have been called Welcome to the American Riesling Time Machine. The host was Sean O’Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse  close to Traverse City/MI, pictured above, who brought with him two boxes of Riesling from his family’s winery going back from the just bottled 2013 vintage to 1984.

In spite of abundant evidence to the contrary, white Americans keep telling me that America is not old and – they ring their hands as they do it – that it is chronically and appallingly lacking in tradition. Of course, they’re telling me that because I come from “Old Europe” the mythical home of all important traditions and the only Good Deep Roots on the planet, tantalizingly far away on the other side of the Diving Waters. Sometimes there’s a hint of desperation in their voices which makes me feel like somebody’s acutely ill, and I should call can ambulance or even attempt mouth to mouth resuscitation, although – should I feel embarrassed? – I don’t know how.

In the US when it comes to wine those 30 years seem like half an eternity and might easily be considered evidence of tradition in winemaking although this one part of the US that Americans associated least with winemaking (hell, it’s the home of automobile industry and “failing” Detroit)  and with a grape variety many older white Americans still stubbornly refuse to take seriously (a bald prejudice based upon the idea that it comes from the wrong part of Old Europe, i.e. Germany). So, this was not just an interesting wine tasting, rather we all entered Sean O’Keefe’s American Riesling Time Machine Sean to discover the truth about this Other Wine America which few somms or other wine professionals know much about.

By chance it happened to be the 16th anniversary of Sean joining Chateau Grand Traverse and becoming the second generation of his family to run the company (he does so with his brother Eddie), following his father Ed O’Keefe. Ed was nicknamed the Ayatollah of Riesling for planting this grape, then widely considered totally unsuitable to the Northern Michigan climate back in 1974/5, and he relished being considered a maverick. He still does, just like Sean. By the time we got started explaining all this background stuff to the audience just after 5pm Sean was dripping in sweat, because he’d lugged the wines over from his Manhattan hotel, arrived late due to the traffic, then rushed to get all the wines onto ice before the first guests arrived. “I feel like Meat Loaf on encores!” he quipped as he went on to tell his own story, of which the most important episode was spending a year the the famous Geisenheim wine school in the Rheingau/Germany, “the Hogwarth’s of Riesling.”    He returned to Traverse City in the summer of 1998, since when he has been developing a series of wines that flew and continue to fly in the face of the dominant wine fashions. Our tasting focussed on the most important of these, the medium-dry, medium-bodied ‘Whole Cluster’ Riesling of which we tasted the 2013, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07, ’06, ’05, ’04, ’02, ’01 and the first vintage ’98. Parallel to this we also sampled the more powerful and usually slightly drier ‘Lot 49′ Riesling from ’13, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’09 and the first vintage ’08.

There was nothing approaching the holy preciousness – don’t breathe or you might smash something metaphysical! – of the atmosphere in which many professional tastings take place, not least because much of the audience was mad up of young women somms, who “don’t do that stuff”, as they might put it. Nobody hesitated to say that the 2001 ‘Whole Cluster’ was oxidized, or to enthuse about the youthful vitality of the racy and herbal-mineral 1998. Everyone stayed to the end too, perhaps because the wines were so very different from anything else on Planet Riesling that they were familiar with. “Fennel and licorice,” are the words Sean uses to describe the distinctive style of the wines from what he and other Northern Michigan winemakers refer to as the OMP (Old Mission Peninsula). This strip of glacial deposits is almost the same size as Manhattan and extends into Grand Traverse Bay, which is part of Lake Michigan. That might sound like the Middle of Mid West Nowhere, but luxury homes compete with vineyards for every piece of lakeside or close to lakeside real estate.

A lot of the vineyards which went in recently were planted with Riesling, and as you can read in my book, the area planted with that grape in Michigan consequently soared 180% during the decade 2001 – 2011. Sean’s ‘Whole Cluster’ Rieslings success was one of the reasons for this boom. New York Wine City (NYWC) is just beginning to wake up to the existence of these wines, and clearly given their absence at the tasting in Hotel Delmano some of the city’s older somms would prefer to pretend that these wines don’t exist. The current vintages of the ‘Whole Cluster’ make that attitude look very narrow-minded, even look like the opposite of the openness which those older somms theoretically stand for. Sure, the 2013 still has some tropical fruit aromas and an up-front juiciness which are the equivalent of puppy fat in Riesling, but it is also racy with that salty-mineral quality so sought after by NYWC somms. The latter qualities are much more pronounced in the 2012 vintage, which ought to age like the 1998.

Of course, we were all hanging on the edge of our seats for those wines from the 1980s, which were made by Roland Pfleger of the Pfalz/Germany, who was Chateau Grand Traverse’s first winemaker. Although a tad sweeter than Sean’s ‘Whole Cluster’ wines the 1985 ‘Semi-Dry’ Riesling bore a certain resemblance to them and was still very much alive, if a little rustic. By the time we reached that wine nobody present expressed any more doubt that Northern Michigan can producer drier style Riesling wines that are of a quality and distinctiveness which merits their being taken seriously by NYWC. We all thanked not only Sean, but also Alex Alan who writes the (excellent) wine list of Hotel Delmano that we could use their back bar for our own dangerous purposes. At least, I’d say that the demolishing of myths is a dangerous purpose, whether it takes place in a hipster bar in Williamsburg or on the pages of a book like BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story!

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 7 – Heaven & Hell at Momofuku Ssäm in Manhattan

There were several moments yesterday evening at Momofuku Ssäm, 207 Second Avenue in Manhattan, when I felt that like the best solution would be just to run for the exit. “Let me out! Let me out!! Let me out!!!” The problem was the way the “service” kept creating problems, were barely capable of grasping what those problems were even when this was pointed out to them, then hesitatingly and reluctantly tried to solve them, often botching this.  They weren’t actively trying to insult us, but they still came damned close to doing so. David Chang, what went wrong? Your restaurant may not square with the traditional concept of fine dining, and that’s one of the things I like about it, but it is a high profile place with prices to match. Then there’s no excuse for staff behavior so crass that it makes it difficult to focus on the food.

Obviously the joint is jumping, both because the food is so (mostly Asian) creative and so delicious. Let me briefly describe a few of the dishes we had last night. Pictured right are the sardines on toast, which sounds as simple as it looks, but the flavors, textures and freshness of this dish are spectacular. Optically more in tune with the world of “fancy” restaurants was the smoked liver mousse with currants, maitake mushrooms and red mustard, left, and I was glad we also ordered the bread and butter in order to have some baguette type white bread to spread that smoked liver mousse on. That was so delicious. Not pictured are the incredibly refreshing fluke with cucumber, lily bulb and amaranth or the simultaneously cool and spicy Uni with tofu, trout roe and wasabi peas, both of which were really memorable. Even the flat iron steak with ramps pesto (non-Asian and non-fancy) was spot on. Why then let hellish service take away the heavenly impression left by dishes like these? I really don’t get it! It was never like this during my previous visits to this restaurant, quite the opposite. Each time the service was at once relaxed, competent and attentive, adding to the pleasure of the experience.

The NYWC person who invited me to Momofuku Ssäm last night thought they knew what the problem is and expressed themselves rather more abruptly than I did. Of the service personnel they said, “they all think they’re so fucking special, because they work for David Chang and they know that he’s something fucking special.” If that’s what it is, and I fear that is exactly what it is, then it could very quickly lead to what my NYWC friend calls the, “asshole problem”, as in, “the problem if you employ assholes, is that people think you’re an asshole! That’s why at my place we have a zero asshole quota; zero asshole tolerance.” Having once employed an asshole on one of my projects in Berlin, only realizing my mistake when it was way too late, then having had to pay a hefty price to disassociate that person from my project I think I know what my NYWC friend was talking about.  That project was my one cast-iron business failure! David Chang, don’t let this situation do anything like that to your business. You’ve provided me with too many moments of gastronomic inspiration for that!

PS I am not a restaurant critic, nor do I ever want to have one of those jobs!

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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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