Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Want a food and wine pairing this week?

Check this out - The Wine Country's weekly Wine and Food pairing suggestion - in a blog!


This week, there's a terrific farmer's market recipe for salad rolls and dipping sauce, to be paired with one of the wines I have been selling like hotcakes: 2003 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Spatlese ($19.99).

Check it out!

Monday, June 29, 2009

German winemakers: Bert Selbach, Eberhard von Kunow, & Fritz Becker in Los Angeles

I had one of those busy weeks last week, where every moment was packed with something. Much of that had to do with hosting 3 German winemakers who were in town: Bert Selbach of Dr. F. Weins-Prum, Eberhard von Kunow from Von Hovel, and Fritz Becker from Friedrich Becker Estate.

When one has winemakers in town to do what some people call "work-withs," the standard procedure is to schedule interesting accounts for them to visit. This has the purpose of improving relationships both ways - for our customers, it is very fun to meet the actual people and see the actual hands that make the wines they know and love. It is also a bit of an honor, I think, to have the winemakers personally visit their establishment, be it a restaurant or a retail store, to establish the relationship all the way around the world.

And for the winemaker, it is a bonus also, to meet the customers that buy their wine, to get their reactions to the end products of their vines, to see how German wines are received in the marketplace, and get first hand what people really think. Its the feel that they can't get just looking at a spreadsheet. My hope is that first hand information actually helps them know what people want from wine.

While the winemakers were in town, we had quite a few consumer tastings as well, where the real end users had direct contact with the winemakers, such as at this tasting pictured below at The Wine Country:

On the left is the very humorous and extroverted Eberhard von Kunow (who likes to be called "Adt" for short), and the more reserved, introverted Bert Selbach, both who make incredible Rieslings from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.

Adt's Rieslings at Von Hovel express that beautiful Saar acidity, along with plenty of beautiful plump ripe fruit, a delicious salinity, and satiny gorgeous body, from his basic 2007 Von Hovel Balduin Estate Riesling up to his 2007 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Auslese One Star. Though for many tasters, his 2003 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Spatlese stole the show, because 2003 is such a maligned vintage, and this wine, six years after the vintage, is showing the uniqueness of German Riesling with time in the bottle - succulent peach cobbler fruit with a dash of petrol and a length that goes on forever - honey, but Eberhard says no botrytis in this wine, just clean ripe fruit and ripe acids - this is a wine that can age for decades, and is tasting really good right now, putting into serious question the naysayers of the 2003 vintage. This is a wine that has to be tasted!

Bert Selbach is a genius with the Dr. F. Weins-Prum Estate. With only a 4,000 case annual production, Bert is a one-man show. That means he is the owner of the estate, the cellar-master, the vineyard manager, the bottler, and the guy who loads the labels onto the labelling machine that labels the bottles. He is a quiet, reserved winemaker, but his wines speak volumes. From the humble feinherb (medium-dry, in German) 2007 Dr. F. Weins-Prum Estate Riesling through his many different single vineyard Kabinetts and Spatleses (he's got Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Domprobst, Urzig Wurzgarten, and Erdener Pralat), his wines are the embodiment of class Mosel refinement. With Dr. F. Weins-Prum wines, you know these things - first, you're going to get great acidity, great minerality that shows off the individual terroir of each of these single vineyards, ie. feminine and graceful Wehlener Sonnenuhr is going to taste totally different from rocky, masculine Graacher Domprobst, which will be different from spicy, red-slaty Urzig Wurzgarten; second, you are going to great wine for a fantastic price - these wines are bargains at twice the price, genuine, real wines made in small, small production, for half the price of the more famous next-door neighbor and cousin Joh. Jos. Prum.
More than 50 people attended the Thursday afternoon tasting at The Wine Country, and it was a very enthused crowd that enjoyed a taste of these wines poured by the winemakers themselves.

Fritz Becker Jr. was also in town from his family's winery Friedrich Becker Estate in the Pfalz. This estate is known for their Pinot Noir and also its drier style white wines. It was Fritz Becker's father, Friedrich Becker Sr. who first began making his own wine from his family's estate, which was selling its grapes to the cooperative after the Second World War. The town of Schweigen where their winery and home is situated, was completely demolished after the end of the war, so all the local wine growers had to completely rebuild and replant and set up cooperatives to help one another recover their vineyards. So that was going back to Fritz's grandfather's generation. Fritz's father in the 70s began making his own wine in the family's winery, and began to develop a reputation for his fantastic Pinot Noirs, many of which are made from the family's vineyards which are now on the French side of the border, in Alsace. But because the Becker family has owned these lands for over 100 years, they are allowed to make German wine from much of their grapes which are French.

The telltale fox on the label of Becker wines is from the fable "Sour grapes" wherein the fox cannot reach the grapes, gives up and says to the crow, "Pffff - those grapes are sour anyway." The connection to the wines is that when Fritz's father was first making dry wines (such as Pinot Noir) in the 70s, many customers complained that the wines were sour, because they were used to sweet wines. And so the cute, catchy label was designed.

Above, Fritz is showing his wines to Bart Miali, owner of Elvino Wines on the very cool Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice Beach.

Next, we headed over to a very hidden location - you must drive up beautiful Pacific Coast Highway then turn right on Topanga Canyon, drive 4 miles up the windy canyon, and then you reach a restaurant that has been there over 30 years: Inn of the 7th Ray.

I told Fritz that when I go and visit this account, I really like my job! It is a gorgeous drive, and when you get to this oasis, it is a beautiful outdoor setting for a wine tasting - right by the little creek, practically in the woods. They don't call it L.A.'s most romantic restaurant for nothing!

Here, we got to taste with sommelier Travis Brazil, former soccer player for Mannheim in Germany. Travis can speak fluent German, went to university at Heidelberg, one of the oldest Universities in the world, and he is a huge fan of German wines, in particular those in the Rudi Wiest portfolio.
The featured wines we took out with Fritz were, of the reds: 2007 Becker Estate Pinot Noir, 2006 Becker "B" Pinot Noir, and 2005 Becker Kammerberg Grosses Gewachs Pinot Noir. Each Pinot Noir was from a different tier, the first is the entry level and is an unoaked Pinot Noir (though there is oak, it is just a huge giant fudre, so no oak influence is more accurate), the second is the middle tier wine aged in old barriques (smaller barrels, more oak influence but all old oak), and the third, or top tier is the Kammerberg single vineyard, where the vines are 42 years old (planted in 1967), and the wine is aged in 80% new German oak barrels.
Of the whites, they were the 2008 Becker Estate Pinot Blanc (in German, the Schweigener Weisser Burgunder), the 2006 Becker Limestone Pinot Blanc (in German, the Kalgestein Weisser Burgunder), the 2007 Becker Laisser Faire Riesling, and the 2007 Becker Gewurztraminer Auslese. The white wines were impressive, my favorites being the 2006 Limestone Pinot Blanc, and the Laisser Faire Riesling.

Pretty cool huh? All in a day's work.

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 2009: A big month for German winemakers visiting!

Just last week, I spent some time at a charity wine and food function called Manhattan Wine Auction, where three German growers came with me to promote their wines to a very wine-saavy crowd. There we were in the intense afternoon sun: Johannes Hasselbach of Gunderloch Estate in the Rheinhessen (son of the famous Fritz and Agnes Hasselbach of Gunderloch fame); Dorothee Zilliken of Zillken Estate (daughter of the famous Hanno Zilliken, who makes the great Saar Rieslings); and Thomas Chaffin of the flagship Rheingau estate Robert Weil.

This week, three more German winemakers are scheduled to be here: Bert Selbach of Dr. F. Weins-Prum in the Mosel; Eberhard von Kunow of Von Hovel Estate in the Saar, and Fritz Becker Jr. of Friedrich Becker Estate in the Pfalz. The former two will be showing their amazing Mosel and Saar Rieslings, while the latter will be showing his Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc wines. Cannot wait!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scenes from Rudipalooza 2009 in Beverly Hills (Los Angeles)

Rudipalooza is the annual Rudi Wiest vintage tasting for the trade. This year, 12 producers were represented, by their owners and/or winemakers, or their international sales representatives. The event was well attended by restaurant and retail wine buyers alike, and the 2008 German Rieslings and other newly released German wines (think Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rose, sparkling wine) were very well received!

The 2008 vintage is a classic vintage, cooler than some other recent vintages, giving the wines crisp acidity, while providing ample lush but not overly fat fruit. The wines, in a word, are delicious. This vintage in Germany is more about the Kabinetts and Spatleses, and less about Ausleses and noble sweets. Which is great, because our market wants great, classic Kabinetts and Spatleses!

Below here see Tim Frohlich, winemaker and owner of Schafer-Frohlich, and Christophe Graf, international sales director from Von Buhl.

Here we are have some of our guests tasting and discussing the wines in full wine-geekiness, which is the best thing that can happen at a wine tasting:

Over 100 different wines were being poured, including those of producers who did not attend. These were poured by the Rudi Wiest Selections representatives:

The Rudi Wiest vintage tasting at Lawry's is famous for their German spread...... a real German feast put on by Lawry's chef, who is German, and creates an authentic lunch with all sorts of delicious German food, including smoked fish, potato salads, wurst, saurbraten, and all sorts of other things I don't know the names of:

Below, Robert Eymael of Monchhof, Tom Driesberg of Wegeler Estate:

All in all, a very successful event, and very well attended. I was working so didn't get to taste as much as I would have if I had been an attendee (which I was the last three of these tastings!). But I'm sure in the coming months, I'll get to revisit these wines, and they will taste way more put together than when I tasted the tank and barrel samples back in February on the Germany trip.

Where can I find Rudi Wiest wines?

Okay, I know all my dear readers want to know where they can find Rudi Wiest wines. Well! I have created a google map and made it public. It is entitled Where can I find Rudi Wiest German Wines?

Now, Blogger won't seem to let me put a link here, otherwise I would put a link up:


When you get there you still have to do a search - I recommend the following key word sequence:

nancy deprez rudi wiest wines

My map should come up. So if you want to find out where my map is, please try to google Where can I find Rudi Wiest German wine? and you will find my map somewhere there.

Thanks for tuning in!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Run for Jane

It's an odd thing: death is a natural part of life, but it always strikes me as highly surprising, almost unnatural, and deeply disturbing. When I hear about a friend who has passed away, I immediately personalize the situation and feel a deep sense of guilt about not spending enough time with the person, especially immediately before he or she died. It's odd. A pattern that has repeated itself with me: I hear the news, I immediately am in disbelief, then I sink into regret about not having been closer to the person, not having put aside my own small silly schedule to spend more time with those who I will never see alive again.

It was the same when I heard about Jane's passing yesterday. Jane is a friend I have not seen in over six years. The first thing that comes to mind is that we were very close, then had a bit of a falling out. It was one of those friendships that was strong, but had its place and time, and then it went into decline. But she is a person I have very distinct memories of to this day. In other words, we grew apart and stayed apart, but her influence on me stuck around.

She was, if you had to define her in one word, a runner. Through and through, long distance running was her thing. She is the only friend I have ever had that ran a 100 mile race, the Vermont 100, and for that I am proud, because when people talk about marathons (a mere 26.2 mile race) and ultra-marathons (events over 26.2 miles), I tell them about a friend I used to have who ran 100 miles. That's a race through forest, on single-track trails, through river crossings, and through the night - yes, more than 24 hours long, so you run without sleep. That's an extreme endurance event very few people can finish. And I knew someone, trained with someone, who finished. I believe her time was about 27 hours.

I met Jane in Griffith Park one Saturday morning when I was there with my friend Richard, getting ready to go for a run. Jane was in a small group of runners, and they were starting about where we were planning to start, and Jane, being the friendly, outgoing personality that she was, struck up a conversation with us, and that's when we learned that her group was planning to run a 20-miler that day, followed by something like a 30-miler the next morning. This was a hard-core group! They had to be hard-core - they were training for a 100 mile race, so there was no holding back, no time for rest between two extremely long distance runs.

Shortly after that fateful meeting, and learning that we both lived in West Hollywood, Jane and I became friends, running often together, weekends, weekdays, mornings and evenings. Her running enthusiasm was wildly contageous. She mapped out running routes on trails that showed me the beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains. She planned races that took us on gorgeous trips to Paso Robles (Wine Country Half Marathon), Humbolt County (Avenue of the Giants Marathon), and San Diego (Rock n Roll Marathon). She introduced me to running groups that specialized in trail running - groups such as the Mountain Goats, which exposed me to wonderful trails through the mountains that made me love Los Angeles more than ever. With Jane, I trained and ran some of the most challenging races ever: the Bulldog Trail Run comes to mind. Through running together, over those many miles, we bonded. It was all great fun.

Toward the end of our friendship, we even took a trip together that didn't involve a race: we went to Cabo San Lucas for a long weekend. I still remember that she chatted up strangers and locals alike and asked about where to go that was unique and interesting, and on our way to the Hotel California, we stopped at a roadside outdoor bar called "Arts and Beer," a place recommended to her, and we had delicious fresh fruit drinks and beer and succulent raw clams harvested on the nearby beach, split open by the owner with a small jack knife and doused with Worchestershire sauce and lime and a dash of soy sauce - awesome - and it was as idyllic a scene as you could imagine.

Jane was one of the first foodies I had as a friend - she would insist we eat at quirky, interesting and unique restaurants she had researched when we were out of town, and that made trips fun and not just about physical exertion, but also about enjoyment and reward. She told me that on a date, she ordered sweetbreads as an appetizer, and a huge steak for dinner - she burned tons of calories running the high mileage that she did - and that freaked out her date.

Of course, toward the end of our friendship, negative feelings got in the way. People are not just one dimensional, all good or all evil - they are multi-faceted, and Jane certainly was. But in spite of what negative things I did remember about her, she possessed a rich spirit and a joie de vivre or passion for life that was unstoppable, and she wasted no part of it doing dull things or being afraid or not pushing herself to be the best. She travelled constantly. One trip she did by herself because no one else would go, and that would probably be me included, declining maybe because it was "too far" was Portugal to run the Lisbon Marathon. She came back with great stories to tell, how she stayed in hostel-like accommodations, went out every night and listened to the local music, and met new people.

Like I said, she lived.

It was hard to hear that she died at the young age of 58, succumbing to cancer. She was someone who I thought would live until at least 95.

I heard this news from my running friend Paul last evening. I didn't even know she was sick. I was that out of touch from her world.

This morning I had running plans with my friend Linda. We had a 5 mile run ahead of us and after I shared with her that I heard an old friend had died, Linda exclaimed that she knew Jane also. I never knew that.

We spent 5 miles talking about and remembering Jane Wasserman, runner, adventurer, friend.

Rest in peace.