Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Tasting

Last Friday, we hosted a Mosel-Saar-Ruwer tasting to a full house. That in itself is exciting because we are getting such a following for German wines that we can do special regional tastings and still get a crowd who is interested. A crowd who knows the difference between Mosel and Rheingau and wants to taste just one region. Completely awesome. We're getting to almost that level reached by France and Italy, where people will flock to us to just taste Rhone wines, or Bordeaux, or Burgundy, or Tuscany, or Piedmont.

We started the tasting off with just one wine, a Qualitatswein by Saar producer Zilliken, the 2006 Zilliken Butterfly Riesling Medium-dry. This was just an intro wine to get people's palates adjusted to what they were about to experience. I didn't get much of a reaction from the audience on this one, just a general acceptance. I had a feeling this crowd was looking for much more tonight than some estate Rieslings, and I was right. Medium-dry Qualitatswein was not why they ventured out in the cold story night tonight. They were looking for Spatleses. Fortunately, I had 6 of them ready to be tasted.

But first, Kabinett wines. We tasted one from the Mosel and one from the Ruwer. We compared 2006 Schloss Lieser Estate Riesling Kabinett with 2006 Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Kabinett. Two very different wines. The Schloss Lieser was full and rich and sweet with peaches and red apples and almost a bit of strawberry. The Karthauserhof was like light mineral water with a spritz of nectarines. This showed the difference between the warmer Mosel and the cooler Ruwer.

Next we had 3 flights of Spatlese. The first flight paired two wines from Piesporter Goldtropfchen, the 2006 Reuscher-Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Spatlese and the 2006 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Erste Lage Riesling Spatlese. This was to demonstrate (a) there are many different owners of a piece of Goldtropfchen, (b) why Reinhold Haart reigns supreme here, among all these different owners, (c) why Haart is in both names (the Haart family has been in Piesport for 600 years) and (d) the similar flavor profile (though different intensity) of these two Rieslings from this same famous vineyard. Needless to say, the Reinhold Haart stole the show. I thought there might be one or two tasters that would argue that the Reuscher-Haart at half the price was a better bargain, but no one said this; more said that though they appreciated the Reuscher-Haart, they could tell why the Reinhold Haart was much, much better. More integrated, more beautifully put together, with a mouthfeel that went on and on, delivering a lot of good stuff.

Next flight was two Fritz Haags - the 2006 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese versus the 2006 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese. Both showed great, but the Sonnenuhr was a bit closed on the nose and probably needed some decanting (which I didn't do with any of the wines.) Both wines were well received, as they showed sweet fruit along with great structure and roundness, lots of extract.

The final Spatlese flight was two Joh. Jos. Prum wines: 2006 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese versus the same wine but 3 years older - 2003 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese. There was some disagreement among the tasters as to which wine they preferred, the one with more age on it or the newly released one. It seemed there was slightly more in the group who preferred the 2003 with its slightly more developed character. The 2006 of course had that characteristic sulfury aroma, though it was not overpowering, but it was so young it didn't show too much of anything. This flight didn't seem to blow anyone away nor did it seem to show anyone the magnificence of J.J. Prum wines so perhaps it was a bust and a waste to open these - but hell, it was fun anyway. And a learning experience.

So after 6 Spatleses, we moved onto a flight which included an Auslese and an Auslese Goldkapsel (GKA). We had 2006 Monchhof Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese and 2006 Milz Trittenheimer Leiterchen Riesling Auslese GKA. Both were nice with blue cheese and pate, but did not really stun anyone in the audience. There was good botrytis in both wines and a whole lot of sweetness, but maybe not the mouthfeel folks were looking for. I tend to agree. I think up until this point, more people were impressed with the Reinhold Haart Spatlese and the Haag Juffer Spatlese.

Finally, the final wine of the night was to be revealed. It was the 1979 Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Kronenberg Riesling Auslese which is pictured above. I asked the group to remember the taste of the Karthauserhof Kabinett that was wine #3 earlier when they tasted it, so they could compare what this house did with this wine which is 29 years old now. The aroma of this wine filled the glass with pie spices, celery, honey, mandarine orange, and toffee. On the palate, the wine is medium-full in body, rich in flavors, medium-dry, fresh, developed, and complex. The wine reminds me a bit of old white Burgundy. This was turning out to be the Wine of the Night, with the crowd going wild and really savoring this very different wine. It was great fun to show this wine after an evening of new releases. This wine could be enjoyed with a great meal featuring foie gras, pheasant, sweetbreads, wild boar or all the above - it could hold up to those.

All in all, it was a great night of stunning wines from a magnificent region. We'll have more of these regional tastings, the next being Wednesday March 26, when we taste wines of the Rheingau region, and have guest speaker Karina Stuhler from Weingut Robert Weil lead us through a tasting of the world-renown Robert Weil Rieslings.

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