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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Good news

Good news: Fora agreed to do a hunter's wild game dinner with Spatburgunder in the fall. Like mid-October. Chef/owner Hans is interested. This is great. Good stuff!

Today I tasted some 2007 Rieslings from Germany - this time from Stefan Gerhard. With Stefan Gerhard. Very nice wines, in particular the dry and off-dry ones. All the wines, Spatlese Trocken to Alte Reben to Erste Gewachs to Kabinett were legal Ausleses, and they felt like it too on the mouthfeel. But good. Real good and clean. Though not high in acidity, if one could find a criticism (which I'm sure someone will!)

Pics to follow. With just Stefan Gerhard. This time I didn't weasle into the pic.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My fantasy Spatburgunder & Wild Game Wine Dinner

Smoked Wild Salmon & Trout on Bed of Mixed Baby Greens
2006 Furst Spatburgunder Tradition
Terrine of Wild Boar
2005 Furst Klingenberger Spatburgunder

Seared Foie Gras with Brandied Cherry Marmalade
2006 Becker Spatburgunder "B"

Seared venison loin with Walnut Crust, served with Pearl Onion & Chive Spaetzle
2005 Becker Sankt Paul Spatburgunder Grosses Gewachs


$99 to $119 per person

If I can make this menu happen, that would be a lot of fun.

Mythical restaurant candidates:

Saddle Peak Lodge up in the Malibu Mountains

Fora just miles from my home

The Hobbit in Orange County (though I have not been there)

Delius, the tried and true restaurant

Finally, some pictures of Fritz Hasselbach visiting us at The Wine Country

I posted a while back about our very successful tasting with Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch when he was suddenly in town after visiting Canada where he consults from time to time, showing the British Columbians how to grow great Riesling.

Finally, here are the pictures we took when the tasting was over and the guests were filing out the door. Note The Wine Country friend, Jack, in the background.

Here's Fritz Hasselbach with The Wine Country owner Randy Kemner.
This week, when Allie Mitchell of Rudi Wiest Selections comes to town with Karina Stuhler of Robert Weil, she will bring a sample of Gunderloch's biodynamic Riesling from a Nierstein vineyard, and we'll see if we want to bring in a bunch of cases of that. Hopefully it will be good! We've had some customers looking for 2005s, and we've pretty much sold out of our 2005 Rieslings.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spatburgunder 2008

Back in December, we have an annual Wine of the Year taste-off, where the staff determine which wine deserves the merit for Wine of the Year. 2007's Wine of the Year happened to be my pick, an Oregon Pinot Noir called Quiotee's Lair 2004 from White Rose Vineyards. In my write-up of this very Burgundian-style Pinot, I said, "Yes, this year I voted for an Oregon Pinot Noir, even though I was thinking Spatburgunder. But that's okay, because 2008 will be the Year of the Spatburgunder."

Now we are three and a half months into 2008, and the Spatburgunder campaign is well under way.

I had to wait till 2008 because most of those great German Pinot Noirs that I had experienced were not really available in our store in 2007. No sense in promoting something that really wasn't there.

But now, finally, I have nine Spatburgunders in the German department, something completely legitimate! And we had a tasting of all 9 of these wines on Friday March 21.

Before the tasting even started, there was a positive energy about the wines. What happened was that 20 people had signed up for this tasting. At 20 people, we were not at full capacity, but we could not just open 1 bottle of each wine - we had to open 2. But what that also meant was that my fellow coworkers could taste each of the wine (we had enough wine so everyone could taste!)

This was fortunate because I don't think anyone else in the store knew what these wines were like. They noticed that at least two of them high high price tags - what was justifying these copycat Burgundies from Germany of all places to be $100? I'm sure in people's heads they are thinking "I can buy a real Burgundy for less."

I even got a question, "Are these sweet?" No, they Pinot Noir, they are all vinified dry.

Six of my coworkers, and the owner of the store got an opportunity to taste through all 9 Spatburgunders. The results were extremely positive. Especially flattering was the fact that Samantha, the Burgundy buyer, who has visited Burgundy a number of times and has a special place in her heart for these wines, said that these are lovely wines and very solid and very good, and very Burgundian. Yeah!!!

Owner Randy said they had come a long way.

Later, during the tasting, the customers in attendance were equally giving these wines the love. There was much love for Spatburgunder! Comments heard during the tasting included, "This is like a Grand Cru Burgundy but for half the price!" "This wine has that haunting Burgundian aspect." "This is better than a Bonnes Mares." Okay, maybe they were name-dropping a bit, but basically, they loved the wines!

Here are the 9 wines we tasted, in three flights of three, in this order:

1. 2005 Heger Pinot Noir

2. 2006 Meyer-Nakel Estate Spatburgunder

3. 2004 Rebholz Spatburgunder Spatlese Trocken Tradition

4. 2005 Furst Estate Spatburgunder

5. 2005 Furst Klingenberger Spatburgunder

6. 2005 Furst Centgrafenberg Spatburgunder "R"

7. 2006 Becker Estate Spatburgunder

8. 2006 Becker Estate Spatburgunder "B"

9. 2005 Becker Sankt Paul Spatburgunder Grosses Gewachs

Friday, March 21, 2008

What I found online about the wine I had last evening

WS 90pts. - Winemaker Notes - The 2005 Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia’s strong point is the equilibrium it achieves between bouquet and structure. Its color is bright, and at the same time deep and intense. The younger vines contribute fresh fruit accents to complement the spicy minty notes provided by the more mature vines. A sip stimulates the entire palate, with the ample entrance of the Merlot, which extends, supported by the structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and amplified by the freshness of the Petit Verdot's tannins.

Ah, so! No Sangiovese at all. I think we were expecting some. In fact, it is a Bordeaux-style blend predominant in Merlot (which I think I was right about!) Also, young vines. I prefer old-vines.

Given all this, I think for the money I would prefer to spend it on an old-school type of Italian wine, a Barolo, a Brunello, or a Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, or an Aglianico del Vulture, though these might be more expensive than the Le Serre Nuove.

And if I wanted a Bordeaux-style blend, I think I would prefer a Bordeaux.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2005 Le Serre Nuove dell' Ornellaia Bolgheri Rosso

So my husband and I bought this wine about a month ago, well, on February 21 to be exact, since we were off work and spent the day cruising wine stores that I don't work at. We bought this fine Italian super-Tuscan from a wine store in Tustin or Santa Ana called The Wine Club. The gentleman Jeffrey, who works there, gave us a great tour of the store and recommended this wine, the baby Ornellaia. Admittedly, I have not tasted the Grand Ornellaia, or the original Ornellaia, so I did not know what to expect, except a super Tuscan of some sort. I have tasted a Sassicaia at some point, a bottle that my husband's father gave him, so I did have an idea of what to expect. But yes, I still need more experience in this area, as I need also in Burgundy.

So we opened the wine, decanted it, and served it with a T-bone (Porterhouse) steak, some roasted red potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts with shallots. The wine has a beautiful nose suggestive of an Italian wine, filling the glass with a certain earthiness mixed with red fruits that also reminds me of a great Burgundy, but without any funkiness or barnyard or anything unclean like that. Just a clean, rich nose full of red fruits and clean earth and maybe a hint of olive.

The palate - soft, gently, fruit-forward, silky, smooth - almost too soft and smooth - both Johan and I agreed on this aspect. It was as though we were expecting a little bit more of a grippy structure, but we didn't get it. I plan to do some research (on the internet) on this wine, to see if it is rich in Merlot, because the wine is truly soft and fruity and round, though very enjoyable. On the palate this wine does have that blood-like iron-rich flavor I associate with Sangiovese, so I guess my personal guess with this wine is that it is rich in Sangiovese and Merlot. I would be surprised if it has a lot of Cabernet in it, but then, I could be wrong!

So now I will go look on the world wide web to see just how smart I really am...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Organizing Upcoming Tastings in my Head

We have a bunch of tastings coming up that I will be organizing or participating in. First up will be a tasting this Friday evening featuring Spatburgunder - the German Pinot Noir. These wines are very exciting because they are simply excellent. Now, I admit that I do not have extensive experience with Burgundy, but I have tasted some, and I love them. Spatburgunder is up there. Fantastic Pinot Noir at its best, old world style but with a lot of fruit and not too much new oak, at least, not in the ones I have brought in for the store. I love that old wood for barrel aging. We are going to be pouring 9 Spatburgunders, including 1 from Rebholz, 1 from Meyer-Nakel, 1 from Heger, and then 3 each from Furst and Becker. I don't even have the three from Becker yet but they are suppose to arrive this week, even today, maybe. Very exciting. The ones from Becker are my favorites, followed closely by the ones from Furst. These are two very exciting estates, Furst in Franken, and Becker in the Pfalz, and they make both red and white wines that are superior, in my humble opinion. I'm going to be looking forward to tasting these reds tomorrow. If only I had a cellar, I would definitely buy these for the long term. But then again, my fun German department at The Wine Country is my play cellar, so who needs a cellar? A dynamic, always changing cellar at that!

The day after that, Saturday, will be our Easter tasting, where Randy buys ham and lamb and serves this along with the wines. Usually we feature a lot of Vouvray, Alsatian wine, and German Rieslings at this event. I will also try to sneak a Canadian Pinot Noir in there, from Konzelmann. This is an unoaked Pinot Noir that is an inexpensive value wine that is actually quite drinkable and I think would go well with an Easter meal featuring lamb and/or ham. I'm also planning to pour three German Rieslings - so far in my mind those will be the 2006 von Buhl Armand Riesling Kabinett from the Pfalz, and two older German Rieslings, which are not currently in my possession, but should arrive this week - 1994 Hauth-Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese and 1996 Hauth-Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, both of which I reviewed earlier in this blog.

Next week, on Wednesday, Karina Stuhler from Weingut Robert Weil will be a guest speaker at our store, and helping me to host a tasting of Rheingau Rieslings. I plan for us to pour 5 Robert Weil Rieslings, along with 3 Wegeler and 3 Kunstler. That should do the trick. We'll do both dry and sweet Rieslings and a good time should be had by all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Meeting Ernst Loosen

So today was my day off, so I decided to spend part of it trekking up the 405 freeway to that canyon-like area between the hill range that separates L.A. from "The Valley." The reason? To attend a trade tasting given by a distributor called Chambers & Chambers, a company whose rep is very nice and has shown me some nice wines from Domdechant Werner, Langwerth von Simmern, and Dr. Loosen.

The location was the Skirball Center, which I have passed by many times on the freeway and heard about, but never set foot inside. When I arrived, I was glad I came. It was a nice location, great feng shui, a serene feeling to the place, generous underground parking, friendly people working there, a little garden, and a pleasing, chiselled stone courtyard, where I found the tasting room to one side. The tasting room was bustling, and immediately I saw my coworker Bennett who was already tasting away. He showed me that the outside ring of tables were all domestic wines and the inside ring was the imports. It looked like I was going to have an easy time, because 75% of the wines there were domestic, and I didn't have to taste those!

I was here for the German wines, and began tasting through the Domedechant Werner wines. I really liked these, especially the dry wines. I asked the winemaker, who was pouring, if the estate specialized in the dry wines, and she said, no, they did both, but of course the German market preferred the dry, while the export market still preferred the sweet. I love my sweet German wines, but from this estate I seemed to love the dry ones and especially the 2006 Domedechant Werner Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken. The vineyard name escapes me now, but at any rate, this wine was a buy. Captivating nose full of flower petals and stone fruits, it gave way to a palate that was delicately balanced in that special way that a Halbtrocken can be. A really stunning wine.

The second group I tasted were the wines from Langwerth von Simmern. Here, I like the 2006 Langwerth von Simmern Estate Dry and the 2005 Langwerth von Simmern Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Spatlese. The dry wine here was much more steely than the examples from Domedechant Werner, with a firmer core and less aromatic nose. Very fresh and solid though. The Spatlese is one I have had before and I just love the weight and the lemon curd and that great length that goes on and on.

Finally, I got to the final German station, that of Dr. Loosen. Ernst Loosen himself was there, and I managed to get a photo with him. Seems like a dynamic character, with his long hair and his red scarf, he was eager to talk about Germany and wine and the Pacific Northwest and conservation and Pinot Noir and many other interesting topics. It was fun to spend this much time talking with someone whom I had only heard about or read google notes on. His wines were very nice and interesting, especially a Pinot Noir that was made from 90% German fruit from the Pfalz if I recall correctly, and 10% Oregon fruit. There were also some wines from J.L. Wolf in the Pfalz which were dry and feinherb style, which were nice. But of course, my favorites are the Mosel wines, and I was impressed with the basic 2006 QbA "Dr. L," which I'm not sure I have tasted before. When I commented that this was quite good for a QbA, the Dr. Loosen representative said that it was because it was a Spatlese. I asked, "Does that mean it was not chaptalized?" (In retrospect, of course that means it wasn't, but I was asking for clarification.) He answer, We haven't needed to chaptalize since the 2000 vintage. So there we have it. An inexpensive Spatlese that has been declassified to Qualitatswein.

There weren't any more German wines to taste after this, which was fine because I like tasting 20 wines instead of 200. I did wander over to Michel Rolland's table (where Michel Rolland was not) and tasted some 2005 Bordeaux, which I found all very good.

All in all, a very enjoyable tasting.

Gunderloch Tasting with Fritz Hasselbach at The Wine Country

So it was last Thursday evening that we hosted a tasting with Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen region of Germany. We had a week to pull it together, to get enough people to fill the room, and we did. We got 30 enthused tasters to come see what Fritz had to tell us about his estate and his 2005, 2006 and 2007 wines.

He was fantastic. Entertaining, informative, engaging, and funny - what more would one want from a speaker? I have met Fritz Hasselbach 3 times prior to this meeting - the first time was over lunch with Rudi Wiest representative Allie Mitchell - we had lunch in Seal Beach at a nice seafood restaurant called Walt's Wharf, where I was floored by the line of 2005 wines, from the estate dry through the Jean Baptiste Kabinett, the 3 star Auslese right through to the Goldkapsel, which we enjoyed with a delicious dessert of grilled buttery peaches. That luncheon was not supposed to be just the three of us - me, the winemaker, and the rep, but it turned out that way since no one else could make the lunch meeting on a Saturday. Well, their loss was my gain - it was great to hear about the red slate hills of the Rothenberg in Nackenheim.

The second time I met Fritz Hasselbach was a year later at another luncheon to taste the 2006 line-up. This time, the location was in Los Angeles instead of Seal Beach, and it was scheduled on a Monday instead of a Saturday. Big difference in terms of the turn-out - we had a group of probably 25 people show up for that tasting, and at that time I already knew I was coming on the Rudi Wiest importer trip to Germany in a couple of months, and Fritz said, "Then you will be coming to the wedding!" He meant his daughter's wedding, which was scheduled for September during the time that we would be in Germany.

The third time I saw him was indeed at his family's estate in Nackenheim, where it was like our little group of Americans were crashing his daughter's wedding. Well, we weren't really crashing, but it looked like we were! We had dinner first on our own in a little pizza joint in Nackenheim, during which we got a phone call from Fritz asking where we were and why we weren't already at the party! That was fun. Good times.

So it was great to see Fritz Hasselbach for a fourth time, this time at our place of business, showing his incredible Rieslings to our customers. Our customers were enthralled with him, his descriptions of the vineyards and the wines, and of course, the wines themselves. Many loved his barrel/tank samples of 2007s which he brought, which included the 2007 Gunderloch Dry Riesling, the 2007 Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett, and the 2007 Gunderloch Diva Riesling Spatlese. The 2007s do in fact exude a fantastic aroma and have a great palate, so no doubt they are going to sell like hotcakes (if our dollar does not drop any more!!!!)

All in all, it was a wonderful tasting, a great chance for our customers to connect with the man that makes the wines they love (there were lots of Gunderloch fans present), and hear about a great wine region. Interestingly, our 2005 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Auslese*** sold out! Fritz did admit to that being his favorite wine. Even our magnum bottle of 2004 Gunderloch Riesling Auslese*** was snatched up by one of the participants a few days later.

My favorites were the classic Rothenberg sweet wines: 2005 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Spatlese, 2005 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Auslese, and 2006 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel. Incredible wines, and delicious for a sweets-lover like me - and I don't apologize for that - nope! I just think these wines are among the best that money can buy.

I'll post a picture of me and Fritz Hasselbach later!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

2007 Vintage in Germany - A Barrel/Tank Tasting Hosted by Rudi Wiest

This is the second year in a row that I have been able to get a sneak preview of a German vintage by attending the barrel/tank tasting hosted by Rudi Wiest and his company. This is pretty fun because we are tasting wines about 4 months ahead of their release here in the U.S. so it is a true sneak preview.

I have already heard that the 2007 vintage in Germany is spectacular. Compared with the 2006 vintage, there will be more wine available because fewer grapes succumbed to rot, so there had to be fewer bad grapes selected out and discarded, and less botrytis affecting the grapes, so more Kabinetts could be made. I really enjoyed the 2006 vintage wines, but that was because the wines I tasted were from estate that did that rigorous selection and dumped half of the grapes they normally would have used and only made wine with the very best grapes - so of course everything was stupendous and delicious. 2007 in comparison had a long growing season due to early bud break (I was told April was super hot, like summer, so bud break occurred very early), and the growing season all summer was mild, and vines had a long time to pull nutrients from the soil, making for minerally, complex wines.

Yesterday's tasting of 23 wines took place in Irvine at the Wine Cellar Club, a place I had been meaning to visit since they are supposed to have a great wine storage facility. So I'm doubly glad I went because now I know where the Wine Cellar Club is, finally. It's a nice place in an industrial mall-type area, just off the 405 freeway. Very professional appearing, and large.

So I arrive at the tasting about 12 noon, and there is Rudi Wiest with Allie Mitchell and both are happily pouring to an enthusiastic crowd. It is always fun to see them; they are both charismatic and charming and add a certain wonderful vibe to the world of German wine. So not only are the wines great, but you get this excitement for them that is indescribably and makes the wines irresistable.

I'd like to think that that's how I sell German wines also - with an unbridled enthusiasm. Yeah, that's it. :)

Well, onto the serious stuff. Here are my notes. I'm glad this blog is here so that I'm motivated to transfer my notes into typed form right away, which will help me in the end, and also hopefully share with the world around....

2007 Schnaitmann Muskattrollinger Rose

The first wine to be tasted was a rose of a grape called Muskattrollinger - a grape related to the red grape Trollinger from the Wurttemberg. This is a pale rose, light in body and fresh and fruity in flavor. Very, very nice. This is not your Aussie rose, full of red color and 15% alcohol. Of course not! This is more like a finely made Provencal rose, something that is light on its feet and you could down a whole bottle on a warm summer's day. This is made from a rare grape variety that is not planted much in the world; in fact, there is only 30 hectares of this planted in the world, and Rainer Schnaitmann is interested in keeping it alive by making this fine rose.

Okay, here is the interesting story - at least for me. Last year in September when I was in Germany on the Rudi Wiest tour, we visited Rainer Schnaitmann at his estate in Wurttemberg, and he took us up into his hilly vineyard, which was passed on to him from his parents who were growers who sold all their grapes to the Co-operative. Rainer is the first generation to make his own wine from his own estate grown grapes, and he is a wild success in Germany in the fine restaurants. At any rate, he took our group up into the vineyards just at the time of sunset before dinner, and the took out glassware and his bottle of Muskattrollinger Rose (probably vintage 2006) and we clinked glasses there and drank this wine overlooking Stuttgart and the soccer stadium and the Daimler-Chrystler plant where many people in this area work now.

A view from Rainer Schnaitmann's vineyards down onto the Wurttemberg's capital city, Stuttgart:

2007 Kunstler Estate Riesling Dry

We currently have the 2006 of this wine, which is very lean and dry (not that there is anything wrong with that). The 2007 seems weightier and not too lean, but still very zippy, fresh and lively, with grapefruit and lime.

2007 Pfeffingen Estate Riesling Dry

Jan Eymael makes this wine as he took over from his mother Doris Eymael a couple of years ago. This wine is rich in flavor, with medium weight, minerally, grapefruit and lemon flavors are present for me.

2007 Schafer-Frohlich Bockenauer Riesling Dry

A notch up in acidity in this wine, razor-like in its attack, along with significant minerals. This Riesling seems bone dry to me. Great for fans of serious acidity and minerality.

2007 Rebholz vom Muschelkalk Riesling Dry

This is the first vintage that owner/winemaker Hansjorg Rebholz made Riesling from the vom Muschelkalk vineyard, which is normally planted to "Burgundian" or Pinot varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc) due to this soil being Burgundian, ie. rich with limestone. The Riesling vines in this vineyard are finally producing, so here is the inaugural wine from the limestone terroir. Pretty white flowers on the nose; on the palate, the wine is rich in body, floral, and a bit chalky, in a nice way.

2007 Wirsching Iphofer Kronsberg Riesling Dry

Totally different from the previous wine, this Riesling fills the glass with its rich aroma which is distinctively Riesling. On the palate, the wine is firm, bold, balanced, and mineral-rich and dry. This wine comes from soil that is gypsum and marl-rich.

2007 F. Becker Pinot Blanc Kalkgestein Dry

This label will probably say Weissburgunder but here on the tasting sheet it says Pinot Blanc - same thing, different language. Very aromatic on the nose with the white flowers again; on the palate, nice acidity, dry, and the feeling you have blanched river-worn stones on your tongue. Probably a great oyster wine here.

2007 Schafer-Frohlich Estate Riesling Medium-Dry

High, high acidity on this wine, so much that I can't taste the "medium"-dry aspect here. I'm sure there's some residual sugar there but I'm still on the acidity. This wine will probably mellow out later and be great!

2007 Karthauserhof Riesling Kabinett Feinherb

Feinherb means medium-dry. This Karthauserhof is so light on its feet with a mineral water type of weight, a touch of fresh fruit sweetness, and just barely there sweet ripe peach. Very delicate and wonderful.

2007 Wegeler Rheingau "Pure" Riesling Medium-Dry

We have the 2006 of this wine in the store. The label here is sharp and great, very modern. This wine is easy-drinking and indeed medium-dry. Good food wine. Round mouthfeel and very succulent.

2007 Wegeler Mosel Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett

My words: delicate on its feet, very sweet and concentrated with red fruits, peach, nectarine, cherries - addictive! Rudi Wiest's words: "Compact and elegant." That does kind of say it all. This is a wonderful wine, delicious, and easy to love.

2007 Monchhof Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett

Fresh with a great mouthfeel, a winner of a Kabinett. Classic Mosel. Wow, this is ready to sell right now! (to me)

2007 Kunstler Hochheimer Reichestal Riesling Kabinett

Reichestal means "rich valley." These wines are approaching 40 years old now. I got guava and grassy notes on this wine - interesting! Not what I usually get from Riesling. Maybe that will develop away. Not sure.

2007 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett

There is the aroma of wild yeast on this wine, we were warned, not sulphur. I actually got the aroma of beer, a fine beer, like a Belgian beer that referments in the bottle. So beer - yeast - makes sense. The wine is rich and full-bodied on the palate, with the flavor of fine beer and wild strawberries.

2007 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Spatlese

High in acidity - I guess that makes sense since this is from the Saar region - minerally, with flavors of lemon/lime.

2007 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spatlese

Also from the Saar, but this wine I liked better, probably because Zilliken does everything in old barrels, making the wine rounder and more integrated. Beautiful aroma of fresh-cut apples. Sweet and delicious on the palate, creamy with a certain je ne sais quoi. This was a hard wine to spit out and I think I didn't. There's acidity in the wine but it is soft and buffered, just the way I like it.

2007 Wegeler Rheingau Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spatlese

Spritzy on the palate, with rich red fruit such as strawberries, cherries, lychees and other unctuous tropical fruits. Yummy.

2007 Pfeffingen Ungsteiner Herrenberg Scheurebe Spatlese

On the nose, I thought it was a Gewurztraminer - roses and lychees. On the palate, very weighty, low in acidity, good wine with cheeses.

2007 Rebholz Estate Gewurztraminer Spatlese

Okay here is the Gewurz. Beautiful nose of a bouquet of roses. Round and delicious on the palate, lots and lots of roundness and low in acidity, full of tropical flavors and a touch of what I thought was cherry Kirsch.

2007 Monchhof Erdener Pralat Riesling Auslese

Full bodied and very nice.... probably need to taste much, much later. I still have the 2005 and 2006 vintages of this wine at the store. A wine for the cellar.

2007 Gunderloch Rothenberg Riesling Fass GU 22

I wondered what "Fass GU 22" meant - it just is the cask name - later this will be a Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Auslese. Fantastic, spritzy, full of pineapple, concentrated peaches, with a huge, long, lingering finish. Another wine I found impossible to spit out!

2007 Von Buhl Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Auslese

The name of this vineyard, Ungeheuer, means "monster" and it is famous because it is historical figure Otto von Bismarck's favorite vineyard. He was quoted to say "Dieses Ungeheuer schmeckt mir ungeheuer" which roughly translated means "This Monster wine tastes monsterly!"Literally, Forster Ungeheuer means "forest monster" but actually the vineyard was named after the family who owned it years back, whose last name just happened to be Ungeheuer. Anyway, I learned this story from Von Buhl's Christophe Graf, who is a wealth of information.

The wine: full of pineapple, honey, a nice salinity, very, very yummy and ripe.

2007 Robert Weil Kiedricher Grafenberg Riesling Auslese

Amazing lazer beam of a wine with focus and precision and nothing out of place. 10.5 grams of acid and 155 grams of residual sugar makes this possible, a balancing act like a tight-rope walker or a ballerina on her tippy toes. Beautiful.

And that's it! 23 wines from the 2007 vintage!

Monday, March 3, 2008

A couple of fun German tastings coming up & a couple of good older German Rieslings tasted today

First of all, I found out last week that Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch will be in town, since he is going to Canada, he will swing by California to visit us. So we grabbed him to do a consumer tasting at our store for our customers. I figured since we have no less than 7 of his wines, we should have him in to lead a tasting.

(By the way, he consults up in my native British Columbia, Canada, where Mission Hill is growing Riesling and consulting with world Riesling experts, which are German winemakers, of course!)

So we had just one week to promote a tasting, so we are promoting away and calling all our German wine fans to come and taste with Fritz Hasselbach. Especially since he will be bringing 2007 barrel (tank) samples which will show off wines which won't be on the U.S. market for another 6 months!

This tasting will be on Thursday evening.

Tomorrow, I'll be attending a trade tasting hosted by Rudi Wiest - we are tasting his 2007 barrel/tank samples that he brought back from his recent trip to Germany. I hear 2007 is a great vintage in Germany. I look forward to tasting all those young, fresh wines.

I'll post some notes about what I learn.

Today, I tasted some German wines brought by a broker who sells wines for a company called Age of Riesling. The most impressive of the lot for a couple of wines from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard in the Mosel. The wines were by Eduard Hauth-Kerpen, supposedly the cousin of the Kerpen brought in by the Terry Theise people.

The first one I tasted was the 1994 Hauth-Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese which showed pleasant petrol on the nose coupled with pie spice and honey. On the palate, the wine was weighty, with evidence of botrytis, and tons of peach and pineapple along with a minerally salinity and beeswax. A nicely developed older Riesling that was in no way over the hill but definitely dropping some of its primary sweetness.

The second wine was a bit younger - 1996 Hauth-Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett which was aging so gracefully that there was no hint of petrol on the nose, just fresh Riesling-type aromas like lime and peach. On the palate, fresh acidity, good weight for a Kabinett, and just fresh fruit. Cannot tell this wine is 12 years old. Good stuff, something you can see yourself just finishing a bottle just drinking it for the sheer pleasure of it.

These wines will be coming, and I'll be bringing them in in 5 case stacks - you wait and see! And yes, I did get Randy (the store owner) to taste these wines and he agreed they were quite tasty.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Home from a conference and a nice bottle of Cornas

Yesterday I returned home from a 2-day conference down in San Diego. The conference was not about wine, but about..... a piece of computer software. It's a merchant software program for e-commerce. Ah, e-commerce. So exciting and so futuristic, and the future is now. Since I think e-commerce is so important for wine retailing, I asked my boss to be responsible for the web store, and he put me in charge.

And sent me to this great conference!

I am a layman when it comes to computers. I'm a user of computers like I drive cars. I don't have any training in fixing cars, nor do I have any in programming computers. But I have been driving for a long time, and have been using computers for a considerable amount of time, and I admire what a computer can do.

Hopefully, this is enough to make me Super Computer Maven for our online store.

The conference put me in touch with a variety of people who were from all over the United States and Canada as well. I met people from South Carolina, South Dakota, Vancouver, and the local area. There were web designers, coders, and merchants in the group.

I learned a lot. It was great. I'm particularly excited about Google Analytics and Search Engine Optimization. Google Analytics shows you how well your site is being received, where your traffic is coming from, who is buying what, where they live, and what works and what doesn't. This is the most information one can receive when it comes to market information. Long live the Internet!

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the delicate art and science of getting search engines such as Google, Yahoo, msn, aol to show your website when people do a search of something related to you. In other words, if you sell a particular German wine (or any widget), if someone does a search for this German wine, hopefully you will show up on the search on the first page, and as high up on that page as possible. How is this achieved? Well, I don't know everything there is to know about this subject, but it has to do with your page content (internal factors) as well as the links to your site (external factors). There's also a lot of business about your "ranking." Interesting stuff that I'm sure I'll have plenty to learn about in the months and years to come.

So after a conference of 2 days of this, I drove home yesterday and enjoyed with Johan a bottle of 2002 Domaine Courbis Cornas La Sabarotte, a bottle given to us by a friend. This was a very nice bottle of Syrah, dense with red and black fruits, silky with its slight bit of age, but of course still very youthful. This was very enjoyable and went well with some cheeses and fresh baguette. The bottle finished very quickly because it was so good. Shortly afterwards, we went out to our favorite sushi bar for some nice fish and things. A nice Saturday, and great few days in all.