Alba Winery ~ The Whites

Alba Vineyards - Tasting Room Entrance / Photo: Marguerite BarrettMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

A tasting at Alba includes your choice of six or seven of the 18 wines available for tasting: five whites, one blush, three reds, and six dessert wines produced under the Alba Vineyard label, and three reds produced under the Chelsea Cellars label.  Despite the fact that the Chelsea Cellars grapes are picked whole and shipped to New Jersey for pressing, aging and bottling, New Jersey law prohibits the winery from labeling them as Alba Vineyards wines as none of the grapes are grown locally.

I always find it challenging when forced to “choose my own” tasting menu.  On the one hand, and particularly if it’s my first visit to the winery, I want to select a range of wines that showcase the range and depth of the winery’s cellars and the winemaker’s art.  On the other, there are types of wines (blush, semi-sweet) and varietals (pinot grigio, riesling) that are not among my favorites, and I’ll tend to avoid them.   Always gravitating towards those tried and true varietals that I tend to drink more often (cabernet franc, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc) presents the opportunity to specialize at it were – comparing similar wines from winery to winery – but runs the risk of never discovering something new or sampling a local gem.

There’s always the fallback of simply asking the winery staff to select wines for you, but that does take some of the fun out of the experience.

As I’ve come across more and more wineries that allow you to create your own tasting menu, I’ve developed a few simple rules that have stood me in good stead: First, balance the tasting between whites, reds and dessert wines (if the winery produces dessert wines), allowing yourself the chance to sample the winery’s range.

Second, look for pairings or contrasts.  Often wineries will produce different “versions” of the same or similar wines, an oaked and an unoaked Chardonnay, for example, or an estate or reserve version of a wine.  Tasting these back-to-back will often prove to be one of the highlights of a winery visit.

Third, look for things that are different, particularly if they are unique to the area or region.  Part of the fun of winery visits and tastings is the chance to try something you’ve never or rarely had, and that you’d be unlikely to try if you had to purchase an entire bottle.

Fourth – CHEAT.  If you’re with friends or in a group, coordinate your tasting selections and pass glasses; the wineries certainly don’t mind, and you get to taste a bigger selection!

Alba Vineyards 2So keeping all that in mind, particularly rule #4, Maree and I made our selections.  We both opted to start the tasting with Alba’s most popular wine…

Mainsail White The Mainsail is described by the winery staff as being “like an everyday Pinot Grigio” in style.  The wine is actually a blend of Cayuga (very popular grape here in the Northeast) and Vidal Blanc with a bit of Riesling thrown in for  the “aroma.”  The lighting in the tasting room is soft and yellow-ish, so it was tough to get an accurate “read” on the color, but in the glass the color appeared pale yellow.  The nose was bright with distinct notes of melon and grapefruit.  In the mouth the wine is light-bodied, with definite grapefruit flavors and a nice balance of acid, particularly on the finish.   This is an easily drinkable wine, and I can see why it is so popular.

In addition to the Mainsail White, Alba has two white “pairs,” a more traditional Riesling and a Dry Riesling, and a Chardonnay and Estate Barrel Reserve Chardonnay.  Maree opted for the traditional Riesling but took a pass on the Dry Riesling, and in keeping with rule #2, I decided in favor of the Chardonnay/Estate Barrel Reserve Chardonnay pair.

2005 Riesling While definitely sweeter than the other whites, the Riesling is still tending towards a drier wine.  The nose is sunny, with strong notes of fruit, particularly melon.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth and velvety with distinct notes of melon.  Maree also noted honey, although I must admit I didn’t pick that out myself.  A nice wine and one that Riesling fans would definitely enjoy.

2005 Chardonnay The Chardonnay is initially oaked in a combination of French and American barrels and then moved to stainless steel for finishing.  The result is a light-bodied wine which has a very light nose with notes of green apple and grass.  In the mouth, the wine is clean, with crisp notes of apple and just a hint of citrus.  The oak is subtle, providing a touch of vanilla that smooths out the wine for a satisfying finish.

2004 Estate Barrel Reserve Chardonnay In contrast to the Chardonnay, the Estate Barrel Reserve is aged completely in oak and subjected to Sur Lies aging by stirring the wine during fermentation to increase contact with the yeast.   The Estate Barrel Reserve is, as a result, very different from the Chardonnay.  The nose has an earthy smokiness and in the mouth, the wine while smooth and lush, is also very smoky with strong notes of burnt toast.  It’s an interesting contrast with the Chardonnay, but I found the oak to be too overpowering for this to be a really compelling wine.

Priam Vineyards ~ Reserve Tastings & Dessert Wines (Connecticut)

Priam Vineyards, Colchester, CT

Priam Vineyards, Colchester, CT

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I’ve probably mentioned before that I know many people who won’t even try dessert wines, saying “I don’t like sweet wines.”  I was one of those people for a long time, then I tried Ice Wine and realized that dessert, late harvest and ice wines are a different breed.  Richer and more decadent, the sweetness in a good dessert wine is never cloying, and only enhances the depth and character of the wine.  There are definitely examples of not-so-good dessert wines, but the benefit of a tasting is that you can try many without having to commit to the price of full bottles.  And when you do find a good one, it’s heaven.

Priam produces two excellent Dessert Wines, the Essence of St. Croix and a Late Harvest Riesling.  Both are available on the tasting menu for an additional fee, and I strongly recommend adding them both to your tasting.  

Essence of St. Croix is the 2005 Vineyard Reserve St. Croix pressing.  It’s fashioned as a port-style wine, and aged for two years in oak barrels which help provide the depth, richness and smokiness that give this wine so much character.  The nose has strong notes of spice and smoke and a touch of cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is rich and deep with notes of cherry and blackberry that provide the sweetness one expects of dessert wines.   This was hands-down my favorite wine of the tasting.  This would pair exceptionally well with strong cheeses, perhaps even more so than it would with a sweet dessert.  As with amost all of Priam’s wines, the Essense of St. Croix is a multiple-award winner, garnering A silver Medal in the 2007 Amenti Del Vino International Wine Competition and Bronze Medals in the 2008 and 2002 Amenti Del Vio Internaitonal Wine Competions, and the 2006 Amenti Del Vino-Eastern States Wine Competition and the 2003 International Eastern Wine Competition.

The last wine on the menu that day was the 

Late Harvest Riesling Gary Crump, owner and winemaker, mentioned the Late Harvest Riesling is one of their favorites.  Slightly drier than the Essence of St. Croix, the Riesling has lovely notes of honey, peach and pear in both the nose and the mouth.  A nice level of acidity lends a crispness to the wine which nicely balances the sweetness.  I did like this wine, but not as much as the Essence of St. Croix, which I found to have a bit more depth and character.  But both wines are excellent, and the Late Harvest Riesling would be lovely paired with fruit desserts or paired with chilled cheese and fruit on a hot summer evening.   The Riesling won Gold Medals in the 2008 and 2003 Amenti Del Vino International Wine Competitions, a Silver Medal in the 2006 Amenti Del Vino-Eastern States Wine Competition and Bronze Medals in the 2008 and 207 International Eastern Wine Competitions and the 2004 and 2007 Amenti Del Vino International Wine Competitions.

With that, I ordered a few bottles shipped off to Gretchen and Kevin and grabbed a Westchester Red and a Salmon River White to take home for myself, said my farewells and headed back up Route 2 towards home.

Lynfred White Wines

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I know what you are thinking, “The building is lovely, but how is the wine?”

And just so you know? I am getting there. Just in my own good time. I like savoring the sites and sounds as well as the tastes of a new adventure in wine.

As Kevin and I got ourselves settled for a tasting it was recommended that we start with the white wines.

The first wine that we tasted was the 2007 Gewurztraminer. I loved the smell in this glass. Flowers and tropical fruit, which continued into the drinking of it! I thought that the smell was like bananas with a touch of green apple and the taste was more like mango. The wine was overall dry but had a bit of sweetness that mellowed.

More sophisticated palates than mine might say lychee (nuts?) fruit. I think I have to eat more of them to pull that from my memory.

I love to drink wines like this with Asian or spicy food, or even better, spicy Asian food. (just writing that is making me miss the Tipsuda that used to exist in Hyde Park, a million oh, about 20 years ago.. of course back then I wouldn’t have had the sense to have a good Gewurztraminer with me, but rather a bottle of Canei…. Yes, you can). The tasting notes also suggest curries, pork, sauerkraut (choucroute garnie anyone? I make my own sauerkraut!) baked potatoes, Muenster cheese, turkey, salmon and fruit desserts. I concur.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately for me) you have to be a member of the wine club in order to purchase this wine. I am a member, so this is great! It is easy to join. Sign up here. It is easy peasy!

Next we had the 2006 Viognier, which to me tasted of honey and fruit which I thought orignially was peach. The tasting notes indicated apricot which I thought was pretty close.

I prefer to think that I blocked out the sense of it being apricot. See, I once suffered an apricot disaster when my cat, Clyde, sat himself in a cooling apricot tart (to show me who was boss). The subsequent weeks of pushing Valium down the cat’s throat has quite put me off of apricots… but clearly I vaguely remember their flavor.

The Viognier had a nice balanced taste of fruit and acid and a wonderful rich finish. The winery recommends serving it with seafood, such as prawns, salmon and swordfish as well as salads and antipasto.

The last white wine that we tasted was the 2007 Late Harvest Riesling. It had a beautiful golden color and the aroma of honey and pear. It was a heavier wine in terms of its viscosity, enhancing the mellifluous sense of the wine and felt velvety in my mouth.

Late harvest wines are often served with dessert and I can imagine this wine standing up to the acidity of lemony flavors and angel food cake. I can also imagine it being ideal with tangy goat cheeses.

Oh by the way? Lynfred has a wonderful bakery on premises and makes bread to use during tastings. BUY THIS BREAD. Particularly if you get a chance to try the Goat Cheese Mushroom Swiss. You won’t be sorry.

Up next: Red Wines

Dead Soldiers

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve, Editor

Here are some of the wines that we consumed with our Christmas feast. Before you get too judgemental, there were five adults at dinner and it was a leisurely dinner. Most of the wines that we had were red, including a Tablas Creek Syrah, a Warm Lake Estate Pinot Noir (which didn’t get photographed) but also a Riesling from Luxembourg. These wines were drunk with my homemade Turducken (a chicken stuffed into a duck and then stuffed into a turkey), salad, scalloped potatoes, Cajun dressing and creamed spinach.

After dinner, it was coffee, a cranberry and orange trifle (made with pannetone) and my homemade liqueur, Fiori di Sicilia…

I hope that your holiday feasts turned out as well!

Happy Holidays!

Win(e)ding Trails: Continuing Adventures on the Connecticut Wine Trail


Sunset Meadow Vineyards
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Heading south on Route 63 from Canaan into Goshen, the Sunset Meadow Vineyards

are on your left. The Tasting Room is a 1-story building with a porch running the length of the front and a large patio area with outdoor seating on the side. Everything about Sunset Meadow is welcoming, from the seasonal decorations on the front porch
to the large open tasting room.

The tasting room itself is paneled in wood with a large bar running along the entire length of the back wall. Comfortable bar stools are spread out across the bar area, and there’s room to accommodate at least 12-15 tasters at a time. Behind the bar, wine racks line the walls, and off to your right French doors lead onto the patio area. A tasting is $6 and includes a Sunset Meadow Vineyards glass for you to take home. The staff is extremely pleasant and will stop and chat. When I stopped by last week, the Tasting Menu consisted of 5 wines:
Riesling – a nice Riesling; crisp with hints of apple. I’m generally not a big fan of Rieslings, and so passed quickly onto the Cayuga White.

Cayuga White – This is a crisp, fruity white that would be great with chicken or fish. I was quite impressed; the wine has a complexity that is interesting in the mouth. The tasting notes indicate grapefruit, melon and peach. I must admit I wasn’t able to discern any specific fruit, but the medley of flavors that balanced nicely, and in the end I find prefer wines that balance to those that have strong notes. The Cayuga was awarded a Bronze Medal in the 2008 International Eastern Wine Competition.

Merlot – I must admit I was less impressed with the Merlot than with the other wines. I’m finding that with respect to reds, Connecticut does better with blended wines. Perhaps it’s the climate, perhaps it’s the soil, but Connecticut Merlots don’t really stand up to the western coastal wines or even those of Long Island. The tasting notes indicate cherry and hints of black pepper and butter. I picked up more of the pepper and less of the cherry, and that could also have influenced my overall opinion of the wine.
Twisted Red – This wine is a blend of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger and Chambourcin and is aged in French Oak. It’s a full-bodied red, and on tasting my first thought was “Interesting, but probably needs to be aged a bit.” As it turns out, I was right. The tasting notes indicate that while it can be drunk immediately, it can also be saved for a few years. My impression is that if you leave it for a couple years before uncorking, you will a really rich, mellow red. I’ll let you know in a couple of years when I pour the bottle I bought after my tasting. This wine won a Bronze Medal at the 2008 Eastern States Wine Competition (the “BigE”), and was my favorite of all the wines featured in the tasting.




St. Croix – The tasting concluded with the St. Croix, a limited production, full-bodied red. This is an interesting wine: smooth, with a fruity bouquet, I detected notes of spices and pepper, and the wine grew more complex as I sipped. The tasting notes indicate the wine can age up to an additional 4 years, and I think this wine will definitely benefit from waiting a few years before uncorking.
I’ve been to the Sunset Meadow Vineyard Tasting Room twice now, and both times really enjoyed myself. It’s comfortable, with pleasant hosts and good wines. I’m looking forward to returning when the weather gets warmer, buying a couple bottles of wine and sitting on the patio with a few friends watching the sun set over the hills.

Note to Kevin & Gretchen – United has direct flights from O’Hare to Bradley every day!

Summer Wines from Vinoverve

Of the 5 themes of this just passed 777 week I think ‘Summer’ was my favorite. After all, Chicago is finally showing signs of the season. I walked by Quartino’s full outdoor cafe, and the Dana Hotel is showing off the outdoor patio with what looks like an opening party of sorts. And I just got home, thirsty, perspiring appropriately, in need of a refreshing beverage to take the edge off. A beer? Not tonight. I am thinking riesling. From Austria. Rudi Pichler. Yum.

Anyhow, I thought it appropriate to recap some of the fun ‘Summer Wines’ that were featured during the 777 wine week and that may provide some alternatives for consumption on the deck, by the pool, in the park (if legal), at the beach (same), or on a picnic.

Wolffer Reserve Chardonnay, The Hamptons 2005
I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t like Chardonnay”. Or maybe, “Long Island? Chardonnay?”. Or, like me you are thinking, “why would I drink anything that is not Riesling?” Honestly I can’t counter that last one. Unless you consider the place. Sag Harbor. The Hamptons. No, not P Diddy’s white party. The beach, the sand, the ultimate summer destination (actually I prefer Montauk but Wolffer is only a little more than an hour away.) And Wolffer makes a clean, mineral driven style that feels more Burgundy than California. And if you ask me, winemaker Roman Roth is the class of NY State.

Lechtaler Lagrein Rosato, Trentino Italy 2007
Rose and Summer are like Christmas and eggnog. This fresh and fruity yet mineral expressive rosato is from northeastern Italy, where german is spoken as much as italian, and where the little known but relatively available Lagrein varietal makes it’s home. Usually a sommelier favorite on all-italian wine lists, Lagrein makes a medium bodied red that I liken to merlot, perhaps with more spice. This pink version is a fun summer quaffer that will take food or please all by itself.

Pio Cesare Grignalino, Piedmont Italy 2006
Reds for Summer fall into a difficult area for sommeliers. You have your Summer Wine checklist: Riesling? Check. Rose? Check. Light bodied red? Uh, check, I think. Well, here is a light bodied red called Grignalino. Not Barbera, not Nebbiolo, this red grape of Piedmont produces a very pleasant light red with a cherry note, earth, some spice and structural element. Burgundy-like indeed. This wine was very well received by guests of the 777 Summer Wine day.

Martray Cote de Brouilly Beaujolais 2005
I have been looking for a cru Beaujolais to knock my socks off for some time. Wow. Look out for 2005 Beaujolais. This is really a Burgundy substitute (technically it is in the department, but this is Gamay, not Pinot Noir). David Burke’s Primehouse is selling it for $45 a bottle. Top value.

Betts and Scholl Riesling, Eden Valley Australia 2007
I have been poked and teased about my love affair with Betts and Scholl wines. Richard Betts was here last week and hosted a late night tasting at The James Hotel. The room was hot. No literally, it was. The air was not working. So rather than revisiting the OG Grenache, The Chronique, Black Betty, California Syrah, Hermitage Rouge, I was sipping Riesling. I think it was Richard who coined it the ‘Margarita’ of wines.

There are so many great wines for Summer and these are just a few that may prove interesting, enjoyable, and practical. I am still working on that bottle of Rudi Pichler Terassen Smaragd 2000. If you can get your hands on that and want to fire up the grill, give me a call.

Rory

Wine and Sushi

Is wine really the best way to go when eating sushi?

To test this thesis, your intrepid team at VinoVerve made our way to a local treasure, Katsu, to eat some sushi and drink some beverages.

Initially, we began with beer. That is certainly traditional. And those Sapporos went down very nicely with wasabi, soy sauce, rice and fish…

We moved on to wine. Rory brought a half bottle of the Colette Faller et ses Filles, Domaine Weinbach, Alsatian Grand Cru, 2004 Reisling Schlossberg. How is that for an estrogen packed wine! I have had wine from these ladies before and enjoyed it. The 2004 was not where the 2003 was in terms of flavor and depth, but it was certainly tasty with a light burnt caramel flavor and scent. The wine, while dry kept had enough fruit to stand up to the umami of Japanese food.

Next began our experiments with sake. Sake is produced by the fermentation of rice along with a mold, Aspergillus oryzae or kōji-kin as it is known in Japan. This mold is also used in the fermentation of soybeans, potatoes and other grains in order to make soy sauce, rice vinegars, miso and other alcoholic beverage such as shochu. The rice for sake must initially be milled, or polished to remove proteins and oils from the surface. The finer the milling, the finer the finished product. Fermentation takes place in multiple steps as the starch remaining in the rice is converted into sugar although these steps occur simultaneously. The fermented sake is cloudy and is often filtered to eliminate the milkiness that comes from the rice.

Sake grades are based on the amount of milling and the ingredients used in the process. The most typical grades, Junmai, use rice or molted rice alone. Other grades may allow the addition of distilled alcohol or special brewing processes. Additionally the type of rice and yeast are important considerations as well as the types of water (soft, hard) as well as the brewer and the school of which he is part.

All this being said, we proceeded to taste three separate sakes (hey! They come in 300ml bottles…) The first was the Tomoju which is a Junmai Ginjo (prepared with rice that was 40%-50% polished away and only with rice or molted rice). It was a smooth, medium dry sake that smelled of melons (I thought cucumbers which I think is a potato, potahto scenario)

The next was one that Kevin and I have enjoyed before… the Suijin or God of Water was a crisp dry and tastes of rice, which I find somewhat refreshing. The last sake that we tried was selected for us by our hostess, Hiroku Romanov. Hiroku is the co-owner of Katsu and wife of its chef… She runs the dining room and is responsible for the selection of the wines (viniferous and rice) on the menu. I must admit (in the spirit of full disclosure that she and Katsu are friends of ours and that it is a friendship born out of love of food and its excellent preparation…plus I have cute kids who know how to behave in restaurants!) that her choice was the perfect selection to match with what we were eating and drinking… it was mellow and mild, with some richness and medium dry. And for the life of me, I have no recollection of which sake it was. Is that because we drank too much (well that probably didn’t help) or because I failed to write down what we were drinking because I was taking pictures of the bottles… and I forgot to take the picture. Yes, that was the answer…

Truth be told, we were having a great evening. We were talking amongst ourselves with Katsu and Hiroku and their staff… and my 12 year old daughter… What? Don’t you take a preteen with you when you go out for a wine tasting dinner? Well, we do. The Angel was with us and she is developing her palate at restaurants by smelling what we drink and eating what we eat. I am proud to report that she has moved beyond descriptors other than “grape-y”. If we had been home, I would have allowed her to try a sip, but out of respect for our hosts, we skipped that.

Which wine did we prefer overall? It was a toss up. The Alsatian Cru was wonderful and fruity and a great choice if you want a grape wine. Of the sakes, I my favorite was the Tomoju. Kevin and Rory? Well I can’t speak for them…. Maybe they will give us a heads up.

Dry Wines of Germany Tour- Rudi Wiest – "Trocken is Rockin!"

The photos in this post are courtesy of Lyle Fass, Chambers St. Wines

Even though I am known as Champagne Rory this time of year I jumped at the unique opportunity to attend a tasting and discussion hosted by Rudi Wiest Selections (Rudi seen left) and Maverick Wine Company at the Custom House in the South Loop. Over 52 dry German wines including Riesling, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Scheurebe, and Pinot Noir from 19 producers were presented in a lightening quick and remarkably efficient method. Champagne Rory can sometimes morph into Riesling Rory, and when asked by his friend Laura Maniec to choose a desert island wine (a common question among wine geeks) on her winetalk.typepad.com blog , Riesling Rory showed his German Riesling affinity and replied as such. However, the German Riesling that I love tends to be balanced sweet stuff, the 8 to 9 percent alcohol green flutes from the Mosel, or my absolute favorite producer, Helmut Dönnhoff from the Nahe. Rudi Wiest’s German Dry Wine Tour, in its second year, is meant to introduce a message to restaurant and retail buyers (and market influencers) in 7 american cities; the true expression of German terroir is in the unadulterated dry wines from top vineyard sites and that Pinot Noir from Germany can compete on the world stage.

Germany is one of the truly misunderstood treasures of the wine world. Considered to be the northern most outpost of fine wine making, Germany has a wine tradition as long and rich as any nation in Europe. There are visible reminders of that history today, for example, an ancient Roman press house in pristine condition can be visited in the town of Piesport on the Mosel, and more Roman wine artifacts have been discovered on the Pfeffingen estate in the Pfalz. The next important arbiter of viticulture and vinification after the Romans were the Benedictine and Carthusian monks that proliferated throughout Europe around 1100 AD. The Pinot family of varietals and its various mutations like the Noir, Blanc, and Gris were transported by the Carthusians around this time, and there are records of Pinot Noir in Germany some 300 hundred years before any mention of Riesling. Yet, many of us think that wine from Germany is always sweet Riesling, and sweet wines carry a stigma these days that preclude many Americans from experiencing them.

Rudi Wiest is touring to spread the message that the sweet wine phenomenon is a very recent one. According to Gault Millau The Guide to German Wines,
“Looking back at the last century, one can say that there was a reasonably uniform style that was applied in the fist half of the century: At that time, apart from a small number of naturally sweet exceptions, German wine was usually fermented dry.”
Scientific techniques and modern equipment in the cellar allowed producers to change styles and produce sweet wines on a consistent basis. Chaptilization, or adding sugar to increase alcohol levels and retain fruity sweetness is still permitted in Qba, or Quality wines throughout Germany. The German Dry Wine Tour message speaks to the focused purity of soil expression that occurs in dry wines, and in fact, the majority of discussion as we raced through the 50 plus wines was regarding the loess, loam, red slate, blue slate, limestone, volcanic, iron, sandstone and red clay soils. Manipulation in the cellar through techniques like chaptilization, Rudi preaches, adulterates the quality varietal expression from top sites. Several efforts to organize, classify, and re-classify the wines of Germany may have contributed to quality control, but unfortunately the wine law changes of 1971, 2001, and the designations by the VDP (Verband Deutscher Pradikatsweinguter) to recognize sites as Erstes Gewachs (First Growths) and Grosses Gewachs, (Great Growths) in certain regions do little to clarify expectations for the consumer. So, the tour marches on and people like me are invited to carry the torch of the German dry wine message. A compelling message perhaps, but I took something else from the event; German Pinot Noir may now be carving out an intriguing identity and style (even though Germans have cultivated Pinot Noir for over a thousand years).

At the tasting were 16 very youthful German Pinot Noirs, or Spatburgunders from 2004 to 2006 (including some yet unbottled barrel samples). All were produced in a very precise style with light ruby to orange color, subtle strawberry and raspberry notes, and a green, stemmy structure that may be indicative of youth. Because of that ‘stemminess’ that I picked up from the first Pinot Noirs shown, I wondered about the ability of German Pinot Noir to display fruit expression and potential for harmonious balance. But as I tasted on there were some very interesting and potentially great wines that I would like to revisit in five or ten years. I began to see a continuity to the wines shown and found a sharp contrast to what most American and some Burgundian Pinot Noir has come to be in the very clean and ethereal Pinot Noir of southern Germany, particularly:
Meyer-Nakel Pinot Noir Dry Estate “Blue Slate” Ahr 2006
Rebholz Pinot Noir Dry “Tradition” Pfalz 2004
Rebholz Pinot Noir Dry “vom Muschelkalk” Pfalz 2004
Becker Pinot Noir Dry Estate Pfalz 2006 (barrel sample)
Becker Pinot Noir Dry “B” Estate Pfalz 2005 (barrel sample)
Becker Pinot Noir Dry Grosses Gewachs “St. Paul” Pfalz 2005
Furst Pinot Noir Dry “Tradition” Franken 2005
Furst Pinot Noir Dry Klingenberger Franken 2005
Furst Pinot Noir Dry “R” Gresses Gewachs, Burgstadter Centgrafenberg Franken 2005

Fritz Becker Jr, whose three Pinot Noirs all showed great potential, told us that some of his family’s best vineyards are actually on French soil and that because it was in Germany when the Beckers acquired it, it can continue to be used for making German labled wine. Becker jr. also explained that the choice of wood from the German oak forests, which he says are often passed on as French Barrels from cooperage houses in France, is the most suitable vessel for slowly developing the intricate nature of Pinot Noir.

After conclusion of the tasting I asked Scott Larsen, General Manager and Owner of Maverick Wine Company and local Rudi Wiest wholesaler, as to what he thinks the identity of German Dry wines, including Pinot Noir, can be in the ever more competitive wine market. Through a brief discussion that linked the Riesling and Pinot Noir as delicate varietals that, with care and respect for terroir by quality producers, can transcend all others (at least I think so, and don’t forget that Champagne is in large part Pinot Noir says Champagne Rory) I learned that Scott and Maverick are planning a tasting that features the two varieties for some time in 2008.

German wine is misunderstood indeed and there is much more to offer than libfermilch and sweet Qba wine. Germany offers distinctive wines and traditions that deserve to be mentioned in the conversation of the top wine making regions of the world. I will continue to treasure sweet Riesling from Germany, especially from that Stradivarius maker in the Nahe named Donnhoff, but will also look out for quality dry whites and will seriously follow the development of Pinot Noir from Pfalz and Franken.

www.rudiwiest.com
www.gaultmillau.de

Rudi Wiest also recommended a book by German wine authority Stuart Piggot that has yet to be translated to english. I tried to find out more about Piggot and found a few YouTube clips (see next post below).

Panelists from the tasting included
Rudi Wiest – Importer of International Recognition
Felix Buerklein – Franz Künstler Estate
Christoph Graf – von Buhl Estate
Max von Kunow – Hans Wirsching Estate
Hansjörg Rebholz – Rebholz Estate
Fritz Becker Jr. – Becker Estate
Sebastien Fürst – Fürst Estate