Archive for White
Loire Valley–this duo centered around the fact that I was able to get a bottle of the much heralded Guiberteau Saumur Blanc “Brézé” on my last trip to Seattle. My point was, while I really respect & appreciate superstar cuvees like this, I wanted to compare it to another producer’s top echelon Loire Valley bottling, Bregeon “Gorges”, just to keep things in perspective. The 2013 Bregeon “Gorges” hails from the western region of the valley, where the greatly under appreciated Muscadet grape variety calls home turf. While many of the soils are marine influenced, mostly sand & fossilized sea critters, this particular producer & his vineyards are planted on “Gabbro soils–an old, blue-green, volcanic rock, rarely found in vineyard land. Formed by magma eruptions under the ocean floor, it is said to impart intense complexity to Michel’s wine“. To add to this wine fulfilling its potential, Bregeon further ages this cuvee for at least 2 years (different vintage to vintage) in subterranean glass cuvees on its lees, all done with a very masterful touch. The 2013 was just SOOOO breathtakingly pure, minerally & delicately nuanced with a distinct, salivating salinity. Eventhough it is quite pricey at roughly $38 a bottle retail, I bought it just because of how good it really is.. In comparison, we poured the much heralded 2012 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc “Brézé”. This family has owned vineyards in the Saumur appellation for well over 100 years & today headed by Romain Guiberteau, who along with his father reinvented the estate & wines in the 1990’s. The single vineyard La Brézé is their crown jewel & is truly recognized as one of the most profound single terroirs in all of the Loire Valley. Their 1.2ha parcel, is sand & clay on limestone & today organically farmed. A little over 1/2 of the vineyard was planted to Chenin Blanc (the other half Cabernet Franc), planted in 1933 & 1952 (although I believe there are some younger vines scattered here & there). The juice is whole cluster pressed & wild yeast fermented in 1 & 2 year barrels & then aged on it lees for 18 months. This is an example of a SUPER wine. It seems every wine sooner or later features a similar standout. Yes, there is still Beaujolais–light, delicious, unpretentious & carefree….& now there are also SUPER Beaujolais, just as their is Loire Valley Chenin Blanc & now this SUPER version. This is an undeniably “tour de force’ bottling–so mega intense & concentrated, almost to the point of being liquid rock, with a resounding, bordering puckering structure & a strong oak presence, especially on the palate. I suggest those lucky enough to have this wine in their collection, put it away for at least 15 years before trying it. And, while I think the Guiberteau wine is a real trophy & deservedly so, for VINO, we think the Bregeon “Gorges” is much more appropriate, especially with our foods (& targeted price points).
German wines–This duo was to be the final pairing of the night. It wasn’t that long ago where Germany would ripen Riesling typically 2 to 3 vintages out of every 10. This encouraged scientists to work on finding grape vine crossings, which would offer Riesling nobility, but would ripen earlier. One of the most popular crossings developed was Scheurebe. In the old days, I sometimes would pair the quite exotic, fruity styled Scheurebe Spätlese with lighter foie gras dishes as well as with Asian inspired meat/fowl dishes such as Chinese Peking Duck. Not all Scheurebe, however, are equal & one therefore needs to be very selective when purchasing one. Plus, now, because we can essentially get ripe Riesling Spätlese & Auslese more regularly, the demand for Scheurebe for me is far less. Still I thought it would be fascinating to try 2 Spätlese–1 Scheurebe & 1 Riesling–both from the 2008 vintage. The 2008 Pfeffingen Scheurebe Spätlese “Ungsteiner Herrenberg” proved to be quite tropical/exotic fruited in aroma with some gewurz-ish spice & floral nuances. Eventhough it was a more classic vintage, this 2008 was filled with gorgeous, unctuous, ripe, tropical fruit (I suspect more Auslese than actually Spätlese) whose once obvious, apparent sweetness (despite the 10.5 alcohol level) had at least partially morphed into a more tactile, visceral mouthfeel/texture. The 2008 Dönnhoff Riesling Spätlese “Niederhauser Hermannshöhle”, in comparison , was decidedly more about slate/rock character than any kind of fruit–seemingly chiseled out of rock & done with precision & masterful workmanship. Dönnhoff produces wines of immense concentration, elegance & adulterated power with truly majestic pedigree (especially with this vineyard, revered as the finest in the Nahe region) & the innate ability to get better with age. The soils of Hermannshöhle are “mostly black slate with some igneous rock & limestone“. We really treasure vintages like 2008, especially in this day & age, as they can offer wines of such purity/transparency, elegance, refinement & filigree, as was the case here.
Dal Forno Romano & Quintarelli are the 2 iconic winemaking legends of Italy’s Veneto region, up in the northeast. As I once read somewhere, they produce “monster” Amarone red wines, which are not only very hard to get, but they are also quite pricey.
Interestingly, both producers also produce small amounts of insanely unctuous dessert styled passito wines when the conditions are right, which are even harder to get!
While Dal Forno produces a RED passito wine, named Vigna Seré (produced from mainly Corvina with some Rondinella, Coatina & Oseleta blended in & then aged for 36 months in new barrique), which he refers to as his crowning jewel…every now & then he also produces a white passito from mainly Gargenega with smaller amounts of Turbiana & Trebbiano Toscano blended in & then aged in barrique for 30 to 40 months. The 1997 is a decadently unctuous, thick elixir with all kinds of crazy, idiosyncratic nuances from white chocolate, vanilla bean creme brulee to marzipan, honey & beeswax. It really is as decadent as can be, & still so amazingly youthful. I cannot even begin to think what this wine will be like when it has a chance to resolve itself, not only in the residual sugar/sweetness front, but also what is preserved & hidden underneath, just waiting to emerge once the sweetness resolves.
“The rarest of all the Quintarelli wines—the current vintage is 2003 and the previous vintage was the 1990. It is named after a lost barrel that was hidden under food stores and undiscovered during a Nazi raid of the property during WWII. The barrel was discovered years later and the wine had aged beautifully“.
Just as Dal Forno & Quintarelli go head to head with their Amarone & Valpolicella wines, the battle continues with their passito wines. Amabile del Cerè is also mainly Gargenega with some Trebbiano Toscano & a smidgeon of Sauvignon Bianco, Chardonnay & Saorin. Typically, there is 30 to 40% noble rot & the wine spends 5 to 6 years in French oak. Yes, this is another amazing, completely decadent, rich, unctuous white wine.
Here is a tasting we put together recently for a group of young sommeliers.
As I have noted in previous writings, one of my jobs as a restaurant wine buyer is to provide expertise…….enough so that I can sift through the myriad of wine offerings & better & hopefully smartly determine what we will buy for the restaurant.
I therefore think to get better at this skill, it really helps to establish & grow a strong foundation. In the case of sommelier-ing, this includes having a bank of really solid, “good” wine choices. By doing so, you have a base to measure others by.
Several of our chefs are headed for Japan, mainly on a food inspiring trip. When asked what restaurants they should look to eat at, my comment was to find smaller, unique “hole in the walls” who have garnered a niche & respect from true foodies for serving solid foods which come from passion, hands on dedication, culture, heritage & authenticity. I think then one can taste & experience more traditional ingredients & techniques & therefore better understand a sense of purity & of where they came from culinarily.
From this base, we can look to add our touches.
Why would one want to morph already morphed foods?
One can apply a similar thought to wine. I therefore look to establish a base of well made, pure, more traditional styled wines of any given category. From there I can create different sub-categories such as “internationalized”; “superstar”; modern; “country/food friendly” or whatever.
Over the years, there are at least 8 Sauvignon Blancs from France’s Loire Valley, which really standout to me amongst the crowd. Interestingly, I would have thought that at least a few would have been replaced by now. Here are 5 of them–
Domaine du Salvard Cheverny–Sauvignon Blanc (& some Sauvignon Gris with up to 16% Chardonnay permitted) grown in sand-chalk-limestone soils. This cuvee typically showcases exotic fruit nuances, passion fruit & even guava in some vintages (perhaps from the Sauvignon Gris), with a rounder middle & a distinct minerality on the palate, much more so than in the nose. I generally refer to this wine as being more “country”ish in style–meaning delicious, unpretentious, light, food friendly, gulpable & perennially over delivering for the dollar.
Trotereau Quincy “Vieilles Vignes”–sand, silex, pink limestone soils. This vineyard also still has a surprising number of 100 year old vines I am told. As a side note, Quincy was but the 2nd AOC granted back in 1936. The old timers must have known there was something special or unique in the soils here. I poured this wine next, because, it has a more flinty character in the nose & seems more nervier with more bracing acidity.
Regis Minet Pouilly Fume “Vieilles Vignes”–clay, limestone, marl at 750 feet elevation. We adore this wine’s purity & cleaner, fresher, minerally approach. This was one of the first true artisan, “boutique” Loire Valley wines which caught my attention as a young professional. I really find it so incredible that in all of these years I have yet to find another which has at least equally caught my fancy. Deliciousness certainly has something to do with that.
Roger Neveu Sancerre “Clos des Bouffants”–a relatively new star on our radar screen. I am always so amazed at how many diners easily recognize the word Sancerre on the winelist, yet it has been so challenging for me over the years to find really good Sancerre. My “go to” rendition is by Hippolyte Reverdy, because of how ethereal & delicately refined it can be. Now, of course, the Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre is quite allocated. Leave it to wine importer, Kermit Lynch, to thankfully find yet another jewel. The Bouffants parcel is roughly 700 to 850 feet in elevation, with a steep, southern exposure & a limestone bedrock (40% active limestone). Here is one you can make lots of friends with.
Denis Jamain Reuilly “Les Pierres Plates”–The village of Reuilly is also located in the Central Vineyards of the Loire Valley. I poured this sauvignon last because I typically find it the most ethereal of the five. I am told the soils is Kimmeridgian limestone, very similar to what one can find in Chablis, complete with fossilized oyster shells & other sea critters. My wife Cheryle, in fact, noted in this blind tasting how much it smelled of seashells in the nose. Plus, on the palate, it is more refined & ethereal with a lime edge & definitely not flinty like those above who have more marl to their soils.
Quite an interesting learning opportunity AND on several different levels. Thank you to all who came.
In some parts of the world these would be classified as dessert wines…..in other parts “stickie’s”….for me, pure nectar. AND, the amazing thing is that these 3 wines may have started out as sweet, but now because of the considerable bottle age of each, the once apparent sweetness has turned into more of a visceral creaminess/viscosity AND the wine’s minerality is thankfully once again clearly visible. Really quite fascinating wines.
1983 JJ Prum Spatlese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”
Here is the idiosyncratic genius of Manfred Prum & his iconic vineyard in one of his best vintages. (Manfred also produced one of the best Eisweins I have ever had in 1983). Such great purity, filigree & pinpoint balance, all in great harmony, after 32 years of bottle age.
I still vividly remember all of the hoopla created, when this wine was released. At 32 years of age, it is still an adolencent. It still has much more to resolve & therefore a LONG way to go. Save your bottles.
Talk about obscure! This is 45 year old Chenin Blanc from France’s Loire Valley! And, unlike Vouvray & its limestone soils, this estate’s vineyard has more rock & schist (& some clay & limestone) to its soil composition, which results in a VERY different character, which is plain to see now that the high residual sugar levels have had a chance to resolve itself after 45 years. There are all kinds of smells, layering, nuances & intricacies, beyond just fruit & spice qualities. I suggest you serve such a wine in a big 22 ounce glass, so you can swirl & sniff for a long time so it has a chance to open up. Wines like this don’t come around too often. Yes, in a previous blog, I noted that this winery had been controversial at one time on the authenticity of its winemaking claims & ageworthy prowess, but I suggest you smell & taste this wine & judge for yourself.
Boy, it is hard to keep this blog current, with all of the wines we fortunately taste. Our VINO restaurant seems to draw in a wine crazy group of friends, who are so bent on sharing. We are sooooo grateful to say the least. Here are some of the highlights–
2008 Coche Dury Meursault Premier Cru “Perrieres”
As avid wine collectors well know, Coche Dury produces TWO of the most celebrated collectible white wines–the Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne & the Meursault Premier Cru–Perrieres. Over the years, I have heard so many insiders say how Perrieres should be a Grand Cru vineyard & these 2 wines certainly support that thought. I am often a skeptic with such clamour but these 2 wines are majestic, glorious wines of remarkable intensity, power, intellect, grandeur & pedigree. The 2005 is a monster, so virile, masculine & with surreal intensity & immensity. What a real shame it was to drink at a mere 9 years of age. The 2008, on the other hand, has a riveting, mesmerizing, clearer purity/transparency, eventhough it too was mega-intense & well structured. I often scratch my head in wonderment of what could be, when I see adjacent parcels of Yves Boyer Martenot on one side & on the other side a parcel sourced to Maison Latour.
Talk about having a wine at an ideal time of its life!!!! Pure mineral, with lots of pedigree, precision, refinement & ethereal-ness. Brilliant! Wow! I know some discount the 2003 vintage in France some, but I must say that this wine really showed me otherwise. Furthermore, where Raveneau’s Les Clos & Blanchots bottlings seem riper & more showy, I typically find his Valmur to be much more ethereal, as was the case here. I prefer to believe producers of this echelon really can show different perspectives on a vineyard because of vintage growing conditions……rather than me choosing a specific vintage I like. Here is a case in point!
2001 Francois Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Charmes”
I am & have been an avid fan of the Meursault wines from Francois Jobard. I am finding more & more, that the numbers of believers like me are dwindling. This style of old fashion winemaking is just not en vogue. I am sorry for Francois & his son Antoine, for the undeserved under appreciation, but selfishly, it means more for me & at far better pricing. I guess I am shooting myself in the foot for even writing about this calamity, but I cannot help myself. Every time I am fortunate to have an older bottle, & after 2 1/2 hours of breathing, I am just completely taken by wines like this. The Jobard Charmes & especially his Genevrieres bottling, in my humble opinion, deserve Grand Cru status, just as the Coche Dury Meursault Perrieres does. Charmes seems finer, more delicate & the Genevrieres more stately with more grandeur. I suggest you use a big glass, so you can swirl & swirl to coax out the magnificance. It really is worth it.
This was yet another BYOB dinner in our VINO restaurant, where our guests brought in some eye popping wines! We are so lucky to have so many regulars who come to the BYOB dinner with an attitude to share something special & to enjoy with the group. The night’s foray of wines, therefore, included a 1993 Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”; 2001 Ogier Cote Rotie; 1993 Ceretto Barbaresco “Faset”; 1990 Shafer “Hillside Select”; 1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia; 1995 Chateau Calon Segor; 1983 Chateau Lynch Bages; 1996 Chateau Pichon Lalande; 1995 Noel Verset Cornas & 2000 Chave Hermitage, just to name a few red wines, AND 2009 Blanc de Lynch Bages; 2001 Kunstler Riesling Spatlese “Hochheimer Holle” Trocken & Chateau d’Epire Savennieres just to name 3 white wines. Yes, it was quite the night.
To end the evening, 4 bottles of sweet wines were opened & shared.
2001 Gunderloch Riesling Spatlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”–The town of Nackenheim is located in Germany’s Rheinhessen region, right on the Rhein river. Rothenberg, a steep hillside of red slate soils, is considered the finest site of the town & shares the hillside with other Crus, such as the Pettenthal & Hipping vineyards of the adjacent Niersteiner appellation. I believe Gunderloch owns the biggest parcel & I say, thank goodness for that. Fritz & Agnes Hasselbach have steadily brought their domaine & vineyards to high acclaim through their tireless efforts in the vineyards, winemaking & personal, grass roots marketing. I am always so thrilled to see this really special couple (& now their son/winemaker, Johannes) receive all of the acclaim & accolades for their truly superb wines. I vividly remember, when this wine was released, thinking “oh my goodness, too much extract, too showy & over the top”, after all the grapes were harvested somewhere between 95 & 100 degrees Oechsle with a total acidity at around 8 grams per liter. I felt the ripeness took away from the minerality & transparency of the wine. That may have been true then, but having this wine 13 years later was a true revelation. It really was now all about red slate & profound minerality. I also loved how seamless, complete, well textured & especially how long it was on the palate. I thought it was a standout & certainly one of my favorite wines of the night!!!! That is saying alot, when one stops to think about all of the other star studded wines opened during the night.
1983 Chateau Suduiraut–this is an estate with 92 hectares of vineyards located in the Pregnac commune of Sauternes, adjacent to the iconic Chateau d’ Yquem. The sandy-gravelly soils & the atumnal mists from the convergence of the Ciron & Garonne rivers help to encouage the growth of botrytis cinerea, a beneficial “noble rot” to produce a standout Sauternes (designated as Premier Cru in the 1855 official classification). While 1983 was a a very well received vintage by the media, I believe this wine should be put away in the cellar for considerable more time, so it has a chance to resolve itself more. It really was a waste to open it.
1983 Chateau Rieussec–This highly revered Premier Cru was purchased by the Domaines Barons de Rothschild (also the owners of Chateau Lafite) in 1984. The 93 hectares, located in the Fargues commune of Sauternes, borders Chateau d”Yquem to the west. Like the Suduiraut listed above, I felt it was a real waste to open & drink this wine at such an early age. It really does need much more time to resolve itself–quite closed, with too many rough edges, bitterness & alcohol poking out.
1994 Gunderloch Beerenauslese Gold Kapsule “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”–I am sure Mike brought this wine, because Fritz & Agnes Hasselbach, owners of Gunderloch, were in attendance. I also thank you, because I was fortunate enough to also be in attendance to enjoy this monumental wine! In speaking with Fritz, they produced TWO BA’s in 1994, this being designated as Gold Kapsule, because it was harvested at well over 200 oechsle (3 separate passes through the vineyard), with 10 to 11 grams of total acidity & finished at 8 degrees alcohol. This wine was certainly unctuous, BUT NOT over the top so. The wine’s once apparent sweetness has really evolved with the 20 years of bottle age, & there is so much more tactile elements developing rather then pure sweetness. Plus, I love how, because of this evolvement, the stoniness & terroir is once again resurfacing to the forefront. This was truly a magnificent wine. Thank you Mike for sharing!!!!
Sweet wine is an interesting topic.
How does one get such ripeness & sweetness in the wines?
One answer is to simply leave the grapes on the vine longer or until they start to raisin. This is a very tricky line to walk. As the sugar rises, the acidity lowers. If you are therefore not careful, you could end up with a cloying or flabby wine. A simpler way is to stop the fermentation early, so the finished wine has residual sugar. Another way, would be to dry your grapes, such as they do in Italy, on straw mats. Yet, another way, is to encourage botrytis cinerea to infect your grapes. This beneficial mould will essentially get rid of water & thereby concentrate the extract & acids in the grapes. Or, one could do a combination of the above. The point being, there is more than one way.
These 3 wines feature very different & interesting approaches & it is a reminder why the resulting wines are so VERY different, especially with age.
Furthermore, I personally don’t talk about sweet wines too much, mainly because the wines are really about super ripeness & sometimes botrytis, especially in their youth & the terroir therefore often gets masked. It is true, however, after considerable age & the sweetness & the ripe fruitiness has a chance to resolve, the terroir can make an appearance again. Such is the case with this trio of wines.
Chateau de Fargues has been owned by the Lur Saluces family since 1472. They are the same family which also owned Chateau d”Yquem, which they sold off in 1999. This estate has 15 hectares of vines planted on a clay-gravel plateau, roughly 4 kilometers southeast of d”Yquem. Typically their blend is at least 80% Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc AND the yields are often lower than d’Yquem’s. The grapes are harvested through many vineyard passes (sometimes as many as 12) & are aged for at least 3 years in once used barrels from d’Yquem. This 1983 had lots of dried fruit nuances, honey, beeswax, stoniness, apricot, earthiness & a real waxy feel to it. One could see that this wine also had started making the transition from sweetness to a more tactile quality on the palate, which is also part of the resolvement. I felt, however, with the drying of the fruit, the alcohol & a bitterness poked out in the finish, which makes me better understand why many love to pair these kinds of wines with richer, fattier foods such as bleu cheese, pates & even foie gras. Thank you Michael for sharing this treat!
Now, this is a VERY unique & interesting wine, which is remarkably still under the radar screen for most wine aficionados. The appellation is Anjou in France’s Loire Valley & is actually located in the heart of the Coteaux du Layon, which is famous for their late harvest Chenin Blanc based whites. This 145 acre estate has been in the Touchais family for 8 generations (1787). My first experience was a 1947, which I tasted in the mid 80’s. I was blown away how unique & interesting this wine was. These wines are reputed to live as long as 100 years & the 1947 tasted so surprisingly youthful. I suspected this 1975 would therefore be an infant, but was still anxious to try it. The soils are schist, clay & limestone. The most curious aspect of the Moulin Touchais wines is how they are produced. (It wasn’t that long ago, no one was allowed in the cellar, & people therefore questioned the authenticity of its longevity). They say, 20% of the grapes are harvested only 80 days after flowering, when the grapes are essentially unripe with high acid levels. The other 80% is then harvested 120 days after flowering (dehydrating on the vine). (Botrytis is rare in this neck of the woods, which at least partially explains the nose, taste & color of the resulting wines). The wine is fermented in stainless & aged at least 10 years before release. The 1975 has a surprising freshness with baked apple, quince, mint, apricot, honey nuances. It was amazingly precise, fine, refined, intrguingly minerally with balanced acidity. Because of the bottle age, the wine’s once apparent sweetness had changed considerably to a much more tactile sensation. It was fabulous!!!! AND so interesting! Thank you Brent, for sharing.
The records show this estate has been around since 1561. Most of their vineyard holdings have red slate soils–Nierstein (Hipping, Pettenthal & their monopole Brudersberg) & a little in Nackenheim Rothenberg. This wine was the most gracious of the 3 “stickies” tasted tonight.. NO hard edges whatsoever AND had the most finesse. I had always previously thought Oelberg was a grosslagen (large collective site), but on a recent map, I noticed it was a single vineyard, past Hipping, down the hillside some. This wine was rich, lush with tropical fruit character, some botrytis & a distinct stoniness. One could also see that the once apparent sweetness is changing to a more tactile creaminess on the palate.
Today’s winetasting VINO was an opportunity to explore…AND hopefully have some fun along the way.
2012 Chateau Feuillet Petite Arvine
A VERY unique white wine from Valle D’Aosta at high altitudes & hand built stone terraces to hold the soils & vines in place. I believe that is why they planted vines too….so the roots would help hold the soil in place.
“The vines actually sit in a very shallow sandy soil, but their feet wriggle into crevices in the solid granite bedrock. Any rain is quickly dried out by cleansing winds. And the vineyards are planted on an ancient riverbed, where over the millennia the Dora Baltea River has cut through the mountain, creating the current river valley and leaving behind mineral deposits that the wines happily lap up. The trump card, however, may be the exposition of the vineyards, which in combination with the chilly climate, high altitude, and drastic diurnal temperature shifts provides the magic charm sought by vignerons everywhere: extremely long hours of gentle sunlight”.
“Maxime Magnon is part of one of the most revolutionary wine movements in France should give him a justifiable swagger to his step. Born & raised he Burgundy, because he could not afford land there, he founded his domaine down in Corbieres, amid a rocky, limestone-schist terrain, thankfully already the home to a series of organically farmed, really old vines, from heirloom grape selections. La Begou is currently his one white wine—primarily a blend of 50 to 60 year old vine Grenache Gris & Grenache Blanc, wild yeast fermented & so VERY unique in character”.
wild yeast fermented, partly in stainless, though mainly in old demi-muids….& aged for 16 months in 12 year old barrels.
As VINO regulars well know, we are big fans of the wines from Maxime Francois Laurent & Domaine Gramenon. He is part of the vanguard who are passionately & dedicatedly looking to grow & produce their wines as naturally as possible. Here is one that is truly unique!!!! 80% Clairette, 20% Viognier, 30 year old, organically farmed vines grown in clay limestone. The wine finishes its fermentation in the bottle
When I mentioned German wines, most people make funny faces in response. It has become very apparent to me, the words “German wines”, conjure up images of sweet, syrupy wines for many.
There are many things I would love to say about that, but we’ll save that discussion for another day. I would prefer to instead focus on the thought that ALL wines can be made dry, medium dry, medium sweet, sweet & dessert in style…….depending on what the winemaker wants to do…..whether it is Cabernet, Chardonnay, sparkling, red or white.
While it is true that there are many German wines which are made sweet, there are also many wines vinified DRY. For many years, VINO regulars have been asking us to do a German wine tasting.
Well, here it is. We chose to do a DRY white wine tasting first, because it is regarded as the purest form of German white wine.
Great producers believe any flaw in a dry white wine can readily be seen, smelled & tasted in their dry wines. The growing & selection of grapes is therefore of paramount importance.
In addition, for this tasting, we looked to feature 4 of the VERY best dry wine producers out Germany…..kind of a dream team!!!! The goal is to show tasters what excellence is. Wines like these don’t come around too often….just another opportunity to learn!
2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY
The Scheurebe grape variety was an attempt to have a grape variety which had Riesling-esque nobility but would ripen earlier. It was created by Dr Scheu in the 1916, when he crossed the Riesling grape variety with what is now believed to be a wild grape variety. While it has had its moments over the years in production, I would say, most thought of it as a secondary grape variety, used for bigger production. Part of it can be attributed to its seemingly lack of acidity & its real citrus like flavors. To date, for me, the finest Scheurebe’s are undoubtedly produced by Hans Wirsching of the Franconia region. Their estate vineyard sites are high in gypsum content. The 2012 was harvested at 88 degree oechsle & 5.9 total acidity. Wirsching Scheurebe has some “quietly” exotic fruit, along with the minerality….with a little more roundness, which would appeal to a wider spectrum of wine drinkers, without taking away from its wonderfully friendliness. Well worth checking out to say the least!
2012 CF Wines Muller Thurgau DRY
Next in the line-up is the CF Muller Thurgau, which is a wine crafted for DK Restaurants by Paul Furst of Franconia, Germany. The Muller Thurgau grape variety was created in 1882 by DR Muller…..by crossing Riesling with what is now believed to be the Madeleine Royale grape variety. This resulting grape variety was one of the other Riesling crosses which caught quite a few eyes for its potential. The finest is undoubtedly produced from Paul Furst, under his family’s label Rudolf Furst. Their estate has but ¾’s of a hectare (red sandstone soils) planted to this grape variety. One cannot help but be amazed at how ethereal & effortlessly light in weight it is, which is further enhanced by the innate minerality from the red sandstone the vines grow in.
Here is a DRY Riesling from one of Germany’s true iconic Masters—Helmut Donnhoff of the Nahe region. Sourced mostly from Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg (90%) the rest comes from his Niederhausen Hermannshöhle & Leistenberg vineyards—both steep,, rocky hillsides which has lots of porphyry rock soils. Wonderfully pure, captivating & remarkably food friendly!!!!
The Rothenberg Cru is a gentle, red slate soiled slope rising from the Rhein River, which produces some undeniably powerful, masculine Rieslings. The 2011 GG was harvested at 95 degrees oechsle & 5 total acidity. Despite the power & immense concentration, I marvel how unboastfully this wine comes across. In the 90’s these GG styled wines from this estate were MEGA-intense, tight fisted & unyielding. What a change!!!! Truly masterful. This estate is really in the “zone” right now.
It’s NOT that often we run across white wines from California, which have the weight of Chardonnay, with unique-ness & interesting-ness, especially on such a high level as these 2 display. You should, therefore, take a serious look at these 2.
2011 CARLISLE “THE DERIVATIVE”
Winemaker/owner Mike Officer has made quite a name for himself through his big, full throttle red wines, many of which comes from really old vineyard sites. If you look at the scores & ratings his wines perennially get, you will be astounded, as he seems to do it below the radar screen. Curently he produces but 2 white wines. The 2011 Derivative is 66% Semillon (from Monte Rosso vineyard, which was planted in 1886) on a steep, rocky Mayacamas hillside, on the Sonoma side, fermented in 37% new oak; 24% Muscadelle (from Pagani Ranch, planted in 1920) fermented in stainless steel & 10% Palomino (from Saitone Ranch, 118 year old vines) fermented in old oak. Yes, it is safe to say, this is an Old Vine cuvee! Leave it to someone like Mike Officer to have the discipline & dedication to collect & produce a wine like this.
2012 LINNE CALODO “CONTRARIAN”
As you may know, we are avid fans of the great potential Paso Robles has for making interesting wines. A lot can be attributed to the limestone/silaceous soils of the westside. These poor soils not only help to slow down sugar ripeness, but also help to deftly create buoyancy in the finished wines. While many of the region are looking to Viognier, Roussanne & Marsanne to produce whites, we have seen even more potential for interesting-ness so far from grape varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Picpoul & Vermentino. I think most aficionados would agree one of the 2 leading the charge of moving Paso Robles onto the world stage is Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo. Here is his one 2012 white wine.
“I planted Grenache Blanc and Picpoul in 2007. My older Contrarians were Roussanne Viognier blends, but I felt like they lacked the acidity to be refreshing on a hot day. Basket pressed whole cluster for 48 hours with some skin soaking contact. pressed into a concrete 2000L tank. Native fermentation, co-fermented as the different picks come in. I can only handle 1-2 tons at a time for pressing, but I make so little of this white that I can take my time. I leave it on lees til 1 month prior to bottling then clarify by racking. Unfliltered, unfined. No barrel for this vintage. Viognier for this vintage is from Denner. I use the Viognier to just slightly round out the acidity. I’m planting a half acre of Vio on the new piece to either use in this blend or with the reds”.