Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oh Mosella, keep pouring your wine.... (from Old German drinking song, found on Schafer-Reichart Selections website)

I made a new discovery! An importer of Mosel wine approached us months ago when we had a German tasting. A couple of weeks ago he brought a few of his Mosel Ausleses, and they were excellent - and priced right. We're going to get these Ausleses in by July and do a tasting of them with our customers on Thursday August 21.

The importer is Christian Schafer and his company is Schafer-Reichart Selections. Here's their website: Great wine, nice guy - a nice discovery for us. I tasted through 5 Ausleses from great vineyards - Graacher Domprobst, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Urziger Wurzgarten, Wehlener Sonnenuhr. All very good wines.

German wines are always so exciting. Here's hoping I find as much excitement in wines from other parts of the world.

P.S. In map above, perhaps the explanation why I am so attracted to Germany and German wines: note the proximity of Nancy to the Rhineland. Coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday Musings - Persepolis, J Vintage Brut, and Who Knows What Else

There are not that many movies that I like, but a notable one that I watched recently was Persepolis, which I enjoyed on a flight to Vancouver. It was one of those flights which I love - where they have the movie screen on the back of the chair in front of you, and you can select which movie you want to watch. That is the BEST! On those flights, I hardly even need to have a great book. Reading is hard to do after some hours, and I find it exhausting on a long flight, unless it is a really great book. A nice movie is a treat, especially when I can choose the movie and choose when to start and stop it.

In other words, I am really hoping that the flights that I will be on in a couple of days will have this movie option.

So onto Persepolis. This movie was so good I was moved, and watched it again for the second time on the flight back. I recommended it to all. The movie is animated and in French. It is very cute but also political and historical, which I enjoyed. I didn't know so many things about Iran's history. I am lame for learning history through cartoons, but hey, I'm not perfect. I really enjoy history but have not been reading enough books or paying attention to this so far in my life, so I am trying to catch up. Being in wine makes me more prone to learning about history since it seems intertwined, or at least, it leads me there.

Persepolis is about a girl who grew up in Iran and lived through the revolution and subsequent government there, which, as the story goes, is oppressive. Her parents are progressive, but they still have to live within the contraints of society. So they send their only child to Austria to go to school. She lives there for several years and reaches adolescence. It is an interesting time for her and she has some good times, but ultimately doesn't feel like she fits in, so in a particularly bad moment, after days of living on the streets and contracting pneumonia (or some other lung infection), she returns home to Iran to live with her parents.

But life is not all grand at home either. She tries marriage; it fails. She tries university - it too is oppressive. Finally, the story ends when ... wait - you might want to watch it so I'll stop there!

It's a hilarious movie. There is reference to Sachertorte. I might have to try this just to say I have.

Okay, what else. I have put a magnum of 2000 J Vintage Brut in the fridge. It is too much for 2 people to drink, but we have not had the opportunity to have people over so I put it in there. I want to try some! It was part of a birthday present for Johan back in January. It' s the end of May! It is time to open it. I'll write notes on it. I have high hopes for it. I hope it tastes like vintage Champagne. :)

Final note: I wrote a short article about 2007 vs 2006 German wines for an online site called German Wine Estates. Here's their link: I have written for them before and they published and here's hoping they will publish this also. If they do, I'll mention it here and link over!

Friday, May 23, 2008

An Evening with Robert Eymael, Part II

After hosting a busy and bustling tasting with 49 loud and happy participants, most of whom bought bottles and asked Robert to sign, we rushed off to have dinner at Long Beach's famous steak house, 555 East. Located in downtown Long Beach, this establishment has a cozy decor that harkens to the days of old, full of dark wood, black and white tiles, and brass. I had dined here once before and noticed that they had a great and complete wine list. Tonight, we chose this restaurant because Robert Eymael loves California red wine - "full of fruit and alcohol, I love it," he says. So we put away our previous idea of Vietnamese cuisine and German Riesling, in favor of rotwein and steak.

The wine flowed, and so did the conversation. I found myself in that frame of mind where I felt, yeah, this is why I'm in the business! This is the best part, being in the midst of people that make great wine and the people that sell great wine, enjoying the best dining that money can buy, with fun people that truly love wine and that glorious experience that wine brings. If you don't like this part of the business, then there is pretty much no reason to be in this business, I say!

We enjoyed two bottles of California rotwein. One of them gave me a "wine moment," which I really had lately. The first of the two reds we had was 2005 Justin Isosceles. You might recall that I did blog about enjoying a 1994 Justin Isosceles about 2 months ago at a wine dinner, a finely cellared wine that had great complexity and flavor. Last night's 2005 was not like that at all, and was in fact, more like what one would expect from a Paso Robles wine, very extracted, very grapey, very thick-appearing in the glass. I burst out laughing when Randy described it as creme de mure (blackberry liqueur). It kind of was! The aroma was of sweet brown sugar sizzling on a pan, that sweetness one gets from toasted American oak barrels. The wine wasn't bad, it had sippability, and it grew on a person the more one sipped on it. But I didn't end up finishing my glass.

Robert Eymael liked it - he said he really liked California's style of reds, and they were relative bargains next to France's wines. Of French wines, he said he prefers Chateauneuf du Pape, in particular, he mentioned Vieux Telegraph. He also said he likes Bordeaux, but to get the quality of wine one desires, the wines are too expensive. We nodded in agreement. Robert also mentioned that he was not a fan of Burgundy or Pinot Noir in general.

Now, onto the second wine. That was the epiphany moment - this was a wine not on the wine list - a last bottle. Randy ordered it and it was decanted. When I stuck my nose into this glass, I could not get it back out - it was that kind of wine that demanded to be noticed and enjoyed with ample time by the olfactory senses. Just smelling the wine over and over again made me fall in love with it. It made me want to be just with this bottle of wine and Johan and that was it. It made me want to know the name of this wine. Napa Cabernet? You've got to be kidding! The aroma told the story of a French wine. Before I could see the bottle, Robert Eymael was already saying it was like a Pauillac. That made sense. The aroma was like what you want all Cabernets to smell like. Not like berries or jam, not like eucalytus or mint or green peppers. Just pure Cabernet, at its most elegant and refined and perfectly aged and not a day too old or young. Just like that. And that was still before I put it to my lips.

And so when I tasted it, it did not disappoint. The texture was there, a touch of earth, a touch of gravel but not too much, and just silkiness and medium body, a bit more richer than one would expect a Bordeaux to be, but so unlike Napa Cabernet or Southern Hemisphere Cabernet that we are used to tasting. Of course, that's an unfair comparison - I don't typically get to taste 1997 vintage Cabernets from anywhere.... maybe Don Melchor or Penfolds Bin 707 after 10 or 11 years of careful aging will give me that - in fact, I'm pretty sure that I can get that good feeling with those wines after a decade. But at any rate, the wine that made me fall in love with wine again was 1997 Clark-Claudon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. What structure, what finesse! And of course, fruit was there, but in a non-bomb fashion, nice savory-style fruit that lingers on the palate.

After smelling and drinking this wine, the other one, the Justin smelled and tasted even more clunky and fruit-bomby.

Ah, what a night! All the elements of fun, rolled into one. Wine geekdom, wine maker, wine sellers, and eatin' and drinkin'!

An Evening with Monchhof's Robert Eymael, Part I

Yesterday afternoon, we had the privilege of hosting Mosel superstar Robert Eymael, owner of the estate Monchhof and now producer of the Joh. Jos. Christoffel wines. It was nothing short of wonderful.

It was a quiet day at The Wine Country, until 4:30 came and fans literally piled into the store to meet and re-meet Robert Eymael. It was a tasting to reveal the new 2007 Monchhof Estate and 2007 Monchhof Mosel Slate Spatlese, tasted right next to their 2006 counterparts. We ended with a 2006 Monchhof Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese which of course showed wonderfully, with that rich honeyed pineapply Botrytis goodness that so marked the 2006 vintage.

So many of our regular customers came in to say hi to Robert. Many knew him already from a big tasting we hosted with him last year, where we tasted 10 wines from Monchhof, including the 2002 Monchhof Erdener Treppchen Eiswein and the 2005 Monchhof Erdener Pralat Auslese, both of which we no longer have in stock. That tasting had been a sit-down seminar where Robert regaled stories of his storybook vineyards and rich history behind them. Yesterday, he had a different set-up where we had a stand-up tasting much more casual and personal in nature, where he had a chance to converse with many of our loyal customers.

In all, it was a huge success, with the 2007 vintage winning more fans than ever. Tasted side by side, the 2006 and 2007 showed such distinct differences that were fun and educational to experience - the 2006s rich and long and honeyed and frankly delicious, with some petrol development already showing in the 2006 Estate, while the 2006 Mosel Slate showed tons of Botrytis; in contrast, the 2007s were so fresh and clean as a whistle, with brighter acidity and clarity and focus.

Robert was signing bottles like crazy, with requests left, right, and center. He was definitely the rock star of the evening.

Stay tuned for Part II of this story when The Wine Country owner Randy Kemner takes us Robert, Rudi Wiest representative Allie Mitchell, my husband Johan and me out to dinner! An evening with Robert Eymael indeed!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gearing Up for Austria

It's a week before I take off to Vienna, and I am very excited. I'll arrive on the Friday morning, a day before the official Vie Vinum wine fair, be able to get into the hotel and check in and relax for a moment, then the evening holds a soccer game (footballmatch) - the VieVinum Cup - a prelude to EURO 08 - the international journalists vs the Austrian wine growers playing football, followed by what appears to be a dinner at a typical Viennese Heuriger called Mayer am Pfarrplatz.

The following morning will begin the VieVinum wine fair, held at the palace in the center of town. It appears we will be milling about learning and tasting the wines on our own. That evening, there will be a big Austrian wine party hosted by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, with what they promise to be good music, nice people, and more wine!

Sunday will be another day of the VieVinum event, more wine-tasting and learning about Blaufrankisch and much more.

Monday - free morning! Maybe by this time I will have somewhat acclimated and will go for a run through Vienna. That will be nice. I remember logging 2 runs during my trip last year to Germany, the first in Ahr along the Ahr River, and the second in Nackenheim in the Rheinhessen.

Monday at noon we will be departing for Krems, with a detour first at a winery where we will have lunch and do a tasting of three producers. This winery is one I am not familiary with - Schwarzbock, but I am familiary with one of the other producers who we will be tasting there - Hofer. The third producer is Ecker.

That evening, after checking in the hotel in Krems, we will attend dinner and a party at Schloss Gobelsburg. I am not familiary with this house either, but it sounds fabulous!

Tuesday morning we set out to Langenlois to taste Hirsch, Brundlmayer, Schloss Gobelsburg and Hiedler.

Wow, I seem to be setting myself up to love these wines. Yikes!

In the afternoon, it looks like we will be going to a place called Salomon.

Wednesday, the itinerary suggests we visit Nigl, Berger, and Setzer, followed by Jamek and Alzinger, then later, tasting and dinner at Nikolaihof.

And wow, there's more! Thursday, we're heading for Carnuntum to taste Glatzer and Sattler, and surprise! Hungary! We're crossing the border to by boat across the Neusiedlersee to Hungary to taste with Heidi Schrock, Prieler, and Lehrner. Followed by dinner in Hungary at the old border station hosted by a 2-star Michelin restaurant called Taubenkobel!

What a line-up!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Taking a Brief Break from Reading About Robert Mondavi's Life to Tell You About Last Evening's Ausleses

Wow, lots of great stuff to read about the amazing life of Robert Mondavi, who died yesterday at the age of 94. I had read some things about this man's life, but I am not intimately knowledgeable about the details as many who love wine are, but I am fascinated with the stories. The passion and the dedication to California fine wine, before there was California fine wine - now that is foresight and trail-blazing at its best! I love stories like that.

Now, back to Auslese. Last evening we hosted an event with only a mere 9 present to taste the wonderful category of German wine known as Riesling Auslese. We featured 10 wines, 9 from the Mosel, and only 1 from the Rheingau.

Our first flight included 2 from the Monchhof winery in Urzig - the 2006 Monchhof Urziger Wurzgarten and the 2006 Monchhof Erdener Pralat. Both wines showed well, but the Erdener Pralat won hands down in terms of elegance and complexity. The Wurzgarten was nice also, but more fruit-driven, with tons of tropical notes - pineapple-type ripeness filling the glass and lots of sweetness on the palate. The Pralat, on the other hand, had a balance of minerality and restrained fruit, and much more focus and precision.

The second flight was also from Robert Eymael, in conjuction with Hans Leo Christoffel - 2003 JJ Christoffel Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese* and 2002 JJ Christoffel Erdener Pralat Auslese**. Both wines showed development, but the 2003 showed more petrol on the nose and on the palate, with savory notes of slate along with still-present fruit and sweetness. The 2002 was fresher, with brighter acidity and just a hint of petrol on the palate. Both wines were very nice overall, and showed the development of these wines with some age. They certainly made better food wines than the 2006 Ausleses.

The third flight consisted of JJ Prum: 2006 JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich and JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr. The Graacher was much more open for business, filling the glass with rich aroma of yeast/beer and underlying white peach fruit and slate. The Wehlener was more closed and had a more sulfury aroma, even though I explained that this is likely not due to a higher sulfur addition to the wine, but more due to prolonged lees contact. I thought the wines were solid and quite fantastic, especially the Graacher showing so well, but members of the audience were less impressed, and at this juncture, more folks were impressed with the Pralat from the first flight than they were with the more highly celebrated JJ Prums. Shrug! And yes, everyone discussed that JJ Prums are more for aging than drinking at this embryonic age...

The fourth flight consisted of two very big wines from Reinhold Haart: 2006 Reinhold Haart Wintricher Oligsberger and 2006 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtropchen. Both wines are Erste Lage (First Growth) wines and they were huge, showing tons of tropical fruit and red fruits on the nose and palate, ripe, dripping yellow peaches. The Piesporter showed somewhat better than the Oligsberger, and would have been my choice if I were to buy one of the two.

The final flight pitted one big boy from the Mosel against the lone Rheingau Auslese: 2006 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr and 2006 Wegeler Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg. Let's say first that the Wegeler was a disappointment. Perhaps I should have put this wine earlier in the line-up, but given that it was a Rheingau, I thought final place should be best - I was somewhat wrong. It was not as bold and firm as it could have been - instead it was merely sweet and fluffy and fruity. One tasting member commented that this is not Wegeler's best property - the Wegeler Mosel's Berkasteler Doctor Auslese would have been a better choice. I agree. I did try to purchase the 2006 Wegeler Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese but the importer was out of this wine at the time. Alas, I will have to try to order it again.

Now, the Fritz Haag Auslese - that was excellent, and perhaps arguably, the wine of the night. It showed power and elegance all in one - so different from the other wines - so much depth and length and fruit and minerals - it had everything. Sure, at this point I was all sweeted out, but I could still appreciate the greatness of this wine. Fantastic.

So if I were to rate the 10 Ausleses from best to poorest performing last night it would be in this order:

1. 2006 Fritz Haag BJS

2. 2006 Monchhof EP

3. 2006 Reinhold Haart PG

4. 2006 JJ Prum GH

5. 2006 Reinhold Haart WO

6. 2002 JJ Christoffel ET

7. 2003 JJ Christoffel UW

8. 2006 JJ Prum WS

9. 2006 Monchhof UW

10. 2006 Wegeler RBS

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Beer can be so good

I had a few good wines this week but for the most part they were German Auslese, so rather than say the same great things I always say about German wine, I thought I would just fast forward all that and talk about Beer.

This is not going to be a comprehensive talk about beer, but rather, a brief note of admiration for Belgian beer in general and for Father's Office, a beer hall that I appreciate, specifically.

Last evening, I picked up my husband from the airport and our plan was to hit Culver City, where a new Father's Office has opened up, a copy of the original Santa Monica Father's Office, which we have enjoyed on many occasions.

I heard about the new Father's Office from a wine account manager who was visiting me and showing me 2006 Clos de los Siete, among other Argentine wines. At any rate, the recommendation was great - the new Culver City Father's Office was a delight and a perfect after-hours beer place with great food - a veritable Gastro-Pub if we were to use the British term - a pub with a relaxed atmosphere that serves upscale, better-than-usual-pub-fare food with specialty beers.

I enjoyed a fresh-from-the-tap Chimay Tripel which passed my lips with delight and I was reminded of a Belgian saying that my father-in-law taught me and that was "it is as though an angel pissed in my mouth." You gotta love Belgian humor - you just gotta!

With my refreshing and flavorful beer I enjoyed some comfortable patio seating, nice down-time with hubby, and the following yummy grub: sweet potato fries served a la carte - which means it comes in that cute metal shopping cart that I remember so well from the Santa Monica location, and a Duck Confit Salad. Johan had the classic burger for which they are famous - fresh ground Angus beef in a hogie bun along with applewood smoked bacon, Maytag blue chese, arugula, and sauteed sweet onions. He had a couple different Belgians, the first was a Maredsous 8 (dark beer) and the second was the Delerium Tremens (a golden). We both had a delectable and satisfying meal and it had the relaxed atmosphere we so enjoy in pubs.

That's it. Lots of love and praise for Belgian beer, pubs, and summer-like evenings out on the patio of a posh yet still relaxed place called Father's Office. Go there some time. Best fries around (regular or sweet potato) and NO KETCHUP, just aioli for dippin'.

Monday, May 12, 2008

This Week's Auslese Seminar

This coming Friday, we are going to do an Auslese tasting. Just Auslese! Here is the proposed tasting list:

2006 Monchhof Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese

2006 Monchhof Erdener Pralat Auslese

2003 JJ Christoffel Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese*

2002 JJ Christoffel Erdener Treppchen Auslese**

2006 JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Auslese

2006 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese

2006 Reinhold Haart Wintricher Oligsberger Auslese Erste Lage

2006 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Auslese Erste Lage

2006 Fritz Haag Brauneburger Juffer Sonnenuhr Auslese

2006 Wegeler Rheingau Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Auslese

10 Auslese, served with pate and cheeses - should make for an enlightening evening, indeed! Can't wait.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Creative, but Ultimately Good Wine Service and Experience at Trendy Restaurant

So, I used to live in the city of Los Angeles, and used to be used to the hub-hub of traffic and constant people everywhere and everything new was around me, and thankfully there were the tranquil Santa Monica mountains and beaches were one could escape fairly easy on the weekend morning for a brisk run in the natural surrounding. So I used to live in this environment where hip restaurants sprang up everywhere, but for the last 3 years I have lived in the more mellow and laid back beach city of Long Beach, where things are quieter, a tad less trendy, but very comfortable indeed.

Last evening, my husband and I ventured into the city to meet a friend and try a trendy restaurant in town of which I had heard considerable good things, Osteria Mozza. The atmosphere of the restaurant is what I would describe as Manhattan Urban (or what I think of Manhattan, a place I have never been), with a brisk and professional service, and a chic sort of clientele. The food is interesting, an intermingling of traditional and contemporary flair. Nothing too modern, no foams or things like that I could see. I enjoyed for my appetizer a crab-cake shaped disk which was supposed to be Crispy Pig Trotters, which came with a frissee salad, while my dining companions had a tripe dish and soft shell crab. For our main courses I choose what friend Samantha had recommended, a ravioli filled with soft egg yolk and ricotta cheese, while Johan enjoyed his favorite, sweetbreads, and Nati enjoyed a duck ragu pasta.

For wine, Johan suggested something from northern Italy, opening the page of the wine book to Barolo.... we ended up with an interesting choice, a 1996 Odderro Barolo which was very enjoyable. It was brickish in color, with an aroma of a well-aged but not over-the-hill wine. I could detect smoke, mushroom and a touch of red fruit in the nose, while on the palate, the wine was silky, savory, and quite easy to drink. We enjoyed our choice, a nice change from a younger wine.

The interesting thing about the wine service was that after they decanted the wine without us requesting it (great), they brought three Burgundy glasses (great) which each had a drop of the wine in it (???). I was stumped, and turned to the others and said "tres bizarre!"

I still couldn't figure it out after discussing with the others if they had ever seen this before. No one at the table had. I looked for the wine waiter for a bit, but he never returned to the table, so I asked our regular waiter about the practice. He answered, "We put a bit of the wine you ordered in the glass as a way to season the glass. It is not done much around here, but done often in Europe. It helps to absorb whatever aromas that are in the empty glass so that when you do get a pour, you are getting the aromas of the wine and not of the glass which may have impurities such as chlorine or whatever."

So, the three of us at the table having been to Europe, and two of us (excluding me) having lived some time in Europe, and one of us having been born in Europe, and one of us having lived in Italy for a year (the place where the Osteria might have learned this practice) all denied having ever seen it in Europe. Hmm. Perhaps it gives validity to a new and innovative practice if one states it is practised widely in Europe?

Perhaps when I sell wine I also use this tactic? ie. Yes, people do this often in Europe?

Perhaps I also have customers who roll their eyes or stare blankly when I tell them what happens in Europe? Perhaps they also might at times know better than me what is done and not done in Europe??

Food for thought. But overall, nice wine service, great evening, and fun was had by all.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Double Feature Thursday Enjoys Roaring Success!

Happy to report early this Friday morning that last evening's events were a thorough success!

It started with Mendoza Wines drawing in around 40 participants eager to taste the wines of Argentina. We had a Sauvignon Blanc, which was fresh and citrusy, with no grassiness that one finds in New Zealand and Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, followed by a tasty Malbec Rose, which refreshed with its juicy fruit. After that, three reds: 2 Malbecs, in different styles (the first, unoaked and showing good acidity, the second, the rich, limited edition Tremila with its big yet elegant style), and lastly, a red blend called Bates which combines Malbec, Merlot and Syrah. People loved the wines and the Commuter Tasting hours were festive.

Fast forward 60 minutes and we were well on our way to an informative sit-down tasting of wines from a totally different continent. The charming and well-spoken Dorothee Zilliken of Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken, in town all the way from the Saar Valley in western Germany, put on a fantastic presentation to an all-star audience. When I say our audience was all-star, I mean that - we had Al Rudis, reporter for the Long Beach Press Telegram and German wine enthusiast, Abbe Rabenn from Mendoza Wines who stayed after her presentation to catch up with some of Germany's finest Rieslings, and a great group of German wine fans including Dunbar, Jack, Frank, Lyndon, Kami, Drew, Sue, Jeff, Lona, Jim & his wife, my husband Johan & a bunch of other folks! Allie Mitchell of Rudi Wiest Selections was also present as she brought Dorothee, and helped me pour for all the great folks.

We started with 2 vintages of Butterfly Riesling, the Qualitatswein that is made in a medium-dry style. People asked what vineyards the grapes for Butterfly were sourced from, and Dorothee said they came mostly from the famed Saarburger Rausch. She explained, and I learned for the first time, that Qualitatswein level wines (QbA), those without the Pradikats of Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese and so forth, were not allowed (by VDP regulations) to carry single vineyard names. ie. you cannot have a Saarburger Rausch Butterfly QbA, or a Monchhof Erdener Treppchen QbA - interesting. I believe the rationale for this is that a QbA should not reflect too much of a distinction such as a single-vineyard distinction.

The next flight consisted of 2 Kabinetts, both from 2006, one from Okfener Bockstein and one from Saarburger Rausch. I have to admit that I neglected to take great notes on the differences on these two wines since I was running back and forth making sure that cheese and bread adorned the tables, and a sudden call came into the store which I had to take...

After that, it was Saarburger Rausch all the way - a 2006 Spatlese, then a 2006 Auslese, and I have to say the Auslese was fantastic - great aroma filling the glass, clean, bright, fresh - stone fruits and minerals. That kind of brightness that refreshes the mouth instead of weighing it down. Dorothee, of course, attributed this to the great Saar acidity and minerality owing to steep vineyards made from grey slate.

A couple of featured flights followed (wow, alliteration!) First, the Goldkapsel flight. We showed a 2006 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Auslese GKA AP #8 followed by a 2006 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Auslese LGKA AP #6. The fun thing here was Dorothee's description of the secret numbering system - the best wines of each vintage are ranked, so #1 is the best (probably an auction wine), so the #6 Long Goldkapsel was 6th best of the vintage and the GKA the 8th best. These wines were amazing. I could drink one of these LGKA every evening of the week with a plate of cheese. Dorothee estimated 50% botrytis for the GKA and 70% for the LGKA. Amazing, delicious, aromatic and joyous stuff!

We didn't go on to pop Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese at this point, though we did have a couple bottles of each for sale. We did go on to taste some older vintages of Zilliken, which were kindly given to us by Dr. Cary Feilbleman. He couldn't attend, but gave them to us anyway, offering them for when "Hanno's daughter is in town." Very generous and thoughtful! Dorothee said, "That's so generous of him, I am almost speechless."

Here are the notes on these older wines:

1990 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett

Dorothee stated that 1990 was a good vintage for the 90s, probably the second or third best vintage of that decade. The nose is clean, with a hint of petrol and smoke and slate, and a touch of mint, which is classic for this vineyard, said Dorothee. The palate is rich with honeycomb, great acidity, succulent, with present fruit, lime and lemon custard. A delicious medium-dry palate cleansing wine that would probably go well with a fish with a cream sauce, or trout pan-seared in butter.

1983 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Auslese GKA

Tropical fruit, eg. pineapple on the nose, intermingling with just a touch of petrol. On the palate, rich and viscous, fleshy and complex. This is the wine the Zilliken family pulls out as an aperatif wine at Christmastime, so it brought good memories for Dorothee. Dorothee recommended these food pairings: Lobster, buttery scallops, bouillabaise.

Great night!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bracing Myself for Tonight's Double Feature

Once in a while, we do two tastings in one afternoon/evening, and this is usually due to a sudden impromtu visit by a German winemaker.

Because, you see, we already have weekly Thursday afternoon "Commuter Tastings" planned weeks and months in advance, where we invite guests such as winery reps or importer reps or brand managers to come and show their stuff. Then out of the blue we get a call to see if we can host a world-renown German producer and of course, I answer, "Sure!"

The last time this happened was when Fritz Hasselbach was in town, and we had only one week to assemble an audience of almost 30 folks come and listen and learn and taste and savor the best of the Rheinhessen.

Tonight, we are hosting Dorothee Zilliken of Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken, one of the best houses in the Saar region of Germany.

But before that, we are hosting a Commuter Tasting put on by my friends Susan Sykes, importer and owner of Mendoza Wines and Abbe Rabenn of the same company, who will show their line-up of Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and other fine wines from the foothills of the Andes. That will be from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

When the clock strikes 6:30, we will fold everything up and rearrange and clear and get ready in a matter of 30 minutes for the next event, which will start at 7:30. Very soon I'll have to start putting all the wines in the cooler...

Here's hoping we have a smooth and fun Double Features Night!

Tasting notes will follow.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fabulous Charity Event Last Evening Featuring German Wines

So last night at The Wine Country, we hosted a charity event for an organization called Su Casa, which helps victims of domestic violence seek shelter during crisis times. This is the third year in a row that we have hosted this event, which is a wine-tasting and party which helps raise money for the cause. I have never worked this event, until last night, when the theme was "A Tour of Germany," for which I put together the wines being poured.

Let me just say it was a huge success! And it contrasted so starkly, for me, with a German tasting I put on at the same location, The Wine Country, just a few weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon. That Saturday afternoon tasting was a tad dismal. I didn't post about it but I will mention it here - it was the Saturday during the Long Beach Grand Prix, and the event was advertised as "Great German Wines for Under $20" which may have had limited appeal, but at any rate, we had a poor showing of only about 30 some-odd folks and though the wines were great in my opinion, I didn't get a lot of oo's and ah's (except for the Spaetzle and sausages I made, which were practically inhaled by the group - that got a lot of positive feedback!)

I basically showed very similar wines last evening, and there were tons of oo's and ah's - people literally LOVED the wines! I sold out of a couple, including a 2006 Schlink Haus Dornfelder from the Nahe region, which is a semi-sweet, simple quaffer that is quite grapey and drinkable, perfect for a beginning wine drinker who has a taste for something pleasant and low in tannins. The second wine I sold out of was a 2006 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett which showed great, delicious, complex and long. It had a nose of a slight bit of petrol intermingling with minerals and stone fruits, followed by a palate that had depth and character - awesome. Sold out. May need to get more. Ironically, this wine had not been selling itself, but last night, it showed its pedigree.

Other wines that showed very well and received a lot of praise included 2006 Becker Estate Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) which people thoroughly enjoyed - it was showing great cherry fruit in the nose and a good amount of earth and berries on the palate. Sold a ton of this! Another surprisingly tasty wine was the under $10 2006 Rudi Wiest Rhein River Riesling which honestly I didn't expect too much from, but last night it was brilliantly balanced, with a great nose of honeysuckle and citrus, and a palate that was quite full-bodied for a Riesling at its level. I'm glad I nabbed the last few cases of 2006 from the importer!

Other stars were the 2006 Dr. L Riesling from the Loosen Bros., which performed well above its meager $12 price point, and the 2006 Hans Wirsching Estate Silvaner Dry which we were serving from the Bocksbeutel - the guests loved the onion-shaped bottle, and the wine within - the dry wine lovers gravitated toward this one.

All in all, the people who attended this function were fun and joyous, friendly and sincere. They seemed to love life and they did good to show it. I was happy to have our place of work imbued with their positive energy, their appreciative comments, and willingness to try new wines. Wow. What a breath of fresh air! We hope those folks who found us for the first time will return and visit us often, for they are just the kind of wine lovers we love.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sunday dinner and a new wine discovery from Italy

Yesterday it was Sunday, and I worked at the store, enjoying a rather brisk day of friendly folks coming in to stock up on wine for the week. Afterwards, there was a dinner at a local restaurant where a friend had invited us along with a group of others whom Johan and I had never met. It was a wine pairing dinner during which I learned about a wine I quite liked.

The wine is from Umbria, and the cool thing is that our store stocks it - it is brand new to us, and probably to this local restaurant. It was 2004 Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso Di Torgiano made from Sangiovese and Canaiolo and is a tasty, inexpensive Italian wine that caught my attention. While it is no Barolo, its price tag isn't either (a nice $13.99), and it probably blows away a whole lot of other wines at that price point. Maybe I just like Sangiovese. But I think that other grape, Canaiolo contributes here too, as I have had 100% Sangiovese wines that I didn't much care for.

I think I might pick up a bottle today for tonight's dinner. This is one of those weeknight wines that are a gem to have around, like 2006 La Cabotte Cotes du Rhone or 2005 Zenato Valpolicella. Wines that are perfect with pasta or any chicken/meat & veggies combo and television! Or surfing the web, if you prefer (which I sometimes do).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

South African Wine Dinner Last Evening

I attended a South African wine dinner organized by one of the e-Robert Parker bulletin board local members (also a great customer of The Wine Country) last evening, and decided to take notes on the wines since I do have a South African department at work, and thought this would be a great opportunity to taste what was out there.

Unfortunately, since I was taking notes, I felt compelled to taste all the wines, and since we were at the dinner, I didn't spit. So I'm suffering a little bit this morning. There were so many wines!

Here are my notes, copied from a post I just made on the bulletin board. Not really detailed notes, but one can get a gist. I think the Hamilton Russell wines showed really well, as did a few others.


NV Graham Beck MCC Brut

A nice, dry, crisp sparkler made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, made in the Champenoise method. Enjoyable in the early evening light on the patio at the Springbok.

White Wines:

2006 Solms-Delta Amalie

55% Viognier, 45% Grenache Blanc - a delicious blend - fruity and balance, showing delicacy and good flavor. One of my two favorite whites of the bunch.

2006 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay

My other favorite white of the bunch. Well-made, almost Meursalt-style Chardonnay with good acidity balanced with up-front new oak, rich, with some Granny Smith apple notes

2006 La Motte Chardonnay

Also a nice Chardonnay, very fresh, with stone fruits and oaky spice, a more New World style of Chardonnay, could have come from California

2005 Cape Point Semillon

Rich and textured, with some green flavors, and low in acidity, but very varietally correct.

2005 Morgenhof Estate Chenin Blanc

Fresh and savory at the same time, with evidence of oak aging.

Red Wines:

2001 Hidden Valley Pinotage

From Stellenbosch. A bit rough and grippy, with some green flavors.

2005 Kanonkop Estate Pinotage

Silkier texture compared to Hidden Valley, balanced with good fruit and bit of structure, a good Pinotage for those looking for Pinotage.

2004 Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon

Berry fruit intermingling with green pepper.

2003 Rust en Vrede Red Wine

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 10% Merlot. Deep and rich red blend with some oak spice, not the significant green pepper found in the 2004 Cabernet.

2006 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir

Powerful Pinot Noir though seemed young and a little disjointed. Bold fruit, bold oak - might need more time in the bottle.

2005 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir

Much more integrated, silkier texture, gorgeous perfume, gentle oak framed the cherry-rich fruit well. One of my favorites of the reds.

2006 La Motte Pierneef Shiraz-Viognier

Ricardo helped me with this description - this wine has tons of coffee! A rich cup of chocolatey mocha coffee. Heavy mouthfeel.

2004 Spice Route Flagship Syrah

A tad unbalanced it seemed to me. High alcohol and tons of fruit.2003 Sterhuis MerlotPleasant and richly flavored with very low tannins, some development of complexity and some green flavors. An enjoyable red.

Non-South-African Wines:

2006 Noble Storm Le Bon Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills

According to Mark, made by the brother of the winemaker at Hamilton Russell (if I recall correctly). A nice bold New World Pinot Noir with a full body and fruit. Contrasted with the South African Pinots tasted earlier.

2005 Jalama El Capitan Santa Ynez Valley

47% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 23% Cabernet. A very floral wine, tons of crush rose petals on the nose and on the palate. I liked this wine.

Sweet Wines:

2006 Fiddlehead Sweetie Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez

Nice acidity, aroma of botrytis, palate of fresh stone fruits and citrus.

? vintage Kathleen Late Harvest Chardonnay Paso Robles

An odd-ball sweet wine but interesting to try, not sure how to describe...