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.