Friday, March 28, 2008

A great tasting of Rheingau Riesling & the next day, a great wine dinner with the E-Bob people of Long Beach

A couple of great wine events the last two evenings, and today, I am taking a day to just drink water and Jamba Juice.

First off, Wednesday evening went fantastically with Karina Stuhler leading the class through a tasting of 10 Rheingau Rieslings. She charmed the crowd with her deep understanding of German wines, dating back to when she was crowned Wine Princess in her home region of Franken. She also attended enology school and worked several harvests with Robert Weil before becoming their international spokesperson. She expertly handles questions about why the Robert Weil wines command such high prices, reiterating how German wines on the whole are values compared to First Growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundies.

The wines were stunning and absolutely delicious. My favorite of the night was the 2006 Robert Weil Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Spatlese. I just love that laser beam focus, like all the elements of the wine all aligning themselves in the same direction for the same noble purpose - to taste like nothing else tastes. The elements I picked up on were mineral (of a diamond-like quality, if there could be such a mineral taste), mango, peach, cherry, key lime, kiwi fruit, and apple. And the finish on each tiny sip is 5 minutes long.

Runners-up for the evening included 2006 Kunstler Hochheimer Kirchenstuck which had a rich golden color which I took to be a lot of botrytis. This wine showed aromas of chalk and nectarines, while on the palate, it was lush, honeyed, and minerally. Not the focus of the Weil wine but nonetheless very enjoyable.

I also enjoyed the two wines from Wegeler, both the Kabinett and Spatlese from Rudesheim. I thought they were full of delicious primary fruit and very easy to like. Owner Randy Kemner, who was not at the tasting that night, has called the Wegeler Rheingau wines the Monchhof of the Rheingau, ie. easy to like, enjoyable, fruit-forward wines with character.

The aged Wegeler Auslese 1992 did not show as stunningly as I hoped, and I didn't end up selling any of this wine, though I enjoyed it. It was golden and honeyed, with beeswax and just a hint of petrol. Maybe it didn't have as many nuances as other older Rieslings we have tasted before, such as the 1979 Karthauserhof.

Overall, the Rheingau tasting was a huge success.

Last evening, I attended a Long Beach off-line put together by one of the Parker board members, who is also a good customer of The Wine Country. The dinner was at the Starling Diner and it was fabulous! Eight of us convened to bring wines we could tell a story about. Johan and I brought Champagne since it was a wine region we visited during our honeymoon. We brought two of our favorites Non-vintage Agrapart Blanc de Blanc and 1996 Duval-Leroy Brut. Both Champagnes were delicious, and a great start to the evening. The Agrapart was crisp and fresh, but also had enticing yeasty notes, which I liked. The Duval-Leroy was more bold, with firm yeasty flavors balanced with good fruit, hardly showing its age of 12 years. Tasting this wine again made me want to buy the rest of what is remaining in the store - I think there are only 8 bottles or so...... maybe my name should be on them...

Other wines that other members brought were fantastic - there was a 2005 Lucia Pinot Noir Garys' Vineyard from the Santa Lucia Highlands, which showed nice sweet fruit and reminded me that I do love Pinot Noir. There was also two older wines both from vintage 1994 - 1994 Angelus St. Emilion and 1994 Justin Isosceles Paso Robles. I surprised myself by liking the Justin Isoceles a lot - what a great wine! - and I don't think of myself as usually liking Paso Robles wines. But this Bordeaux-style blend was fantastic and not at all old-tasting, but instead smooth and rich and flavorsome. I developed a new appreciation for Justin and for Paso Robles, and also reminded myself that I also like L'Aventure wines from this region also.

It was a good reminder also to never write off a region!

Also very memorable about the evening was the great conversation and group dynamic. Eight people for a wine dinner is quite enjoyable. The company was interesting and fun-loving. I got to know people better and that simply makes wine and food perform its divine function!

Oh, the food - fantastic. I have been to Starling Diner before and had good meals and so-so meals - last evening they were ON! My appetizer of crab cake hit the spot - tender morsels of crab meat held together with a moist yet crisp crumb - and then the main dish took my breath away - a deliciously roasted half of duck - very, very nice. Rich but not too much so, flavored just right, with the doneness that didn't take anything away from this very nice fowl. I am a fan of duck when it is done right, and the last few times I have ordered duck, I haven't been this satisfied. This duck I enjoyed last evening was so good it reminded me of a great restaurant that used to exist but no longer does in Santa Ynez - the Cabernet Bistro, a tiny place owned by a French couple who specialized in duck. I was sad when this restaurant closed for no apparent reason. But that duck I had last night brought me back!

In conclusion, it was an exciting couple of nights for me and wine. Today, I'm taking a break, because reliving those last few evening will be enough to quench any thirst.

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