It was a wonderful, sunny day in Beverly Hills, California on Thursday April 15, and all the winemakers were ready to do their last show for the week at Lawry's Prime Rib, our restaurant of choice to host events in Southern California.
Pictured above are Rainer Schnaitmann (left) and Fritz Becker Jr (right) sitting outside Lawry's getting ready for the noon tasting.
All was prepared. All we needed were the guests.
Sadly, many of them didn't show up.
Well, that might be an exaggeration - we did have some turn out, but much fewer than we had hoped. The turnout was not even as good as in San Francisco. We would have liked to have packed the room with wine buyers from all over, clamoring to taste these beautiful wines and to hear how they were made and the history of these fine estates from the winemakers and estate owners themselves. However, many I had hoped would attend did not.
It is the sad state of affairs these days - most restaurants and wine stores are on tight staffing, and spending 2 hours at a tasting is a luxury few can afford.
Anyhoo, we still had fun, as you can tell above, and we still had many cool people from both restaurants and retail who showed up and spent the time to taste the wines, which were terrific. I even tasted and learned a few things. For example, the Hans Wirsching wines, how they all have this salty minerality - Uwe Matthius from the winery explained this as a component of the soil - the high lime content - which increases the pH of the soil, and of the wines made from grapes grown in this terroir - which gives the wines that salty minerality which balances the acidity in the wine. So that's where it comes from!
I learned from listening to Fritz Becker about his family's estate that his father had established the winery in its present day form, back in 1973. But he was from a long line of winemakers. It was just that the winery had an unpleasant interruption between 1940 and 1972, when the town had been leveled during the war. There was even a 10-year period where the vineyards, through which the border of France and Germany was drawn, made it so that Fritz's grandfather could not cross the border into France to farm his own vineyards, so they lay neglected for a decade. After this time, a treaty did come about where the French in Alsace could have access to the German town's water supply, and in exchange, the winemakers could have some of their land back, and Fritz's grandfather at that time went back to farm the vineyards and sell to the cooperative, as there wasn't the option to make his own wine at the time. It was not until 1973 did Fritz's father begin making the family's own wine. Now, they are very successful making top end Pinot Noir and white wines from the family's vineyards, of which 70% are across the border on French soil (now there is no problem at all crossing the border!)
After this very educational tasting, I had to leave - to drive to The Wine Country to host my second tasting of the day (third tasting of the week) - the Fritz Haag commuter tasting. This is a fun event, last about 2 hours, located only 5 miles from my home, so no big deal. The only issue was that this tasting was not so well attended, The Wine Country being located just across the street from the big central post office, the street being blocked by last minute tax return filers who opted not to send electronically...
We had about 15 attendees (low compared to a more desirable 30 or 35); the wines showed well, in particular the 2008 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese, which was elegant, crisp, and full of delicious ripe fruit, and more open for business than its more expensive big brother, the 2008 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese, which was also good, but a little more closed, begging for just a little more time in the bottle before it would show all its hidden charms.
After these two tastings, I headed home, ready to tackle Friday, which itself had its own tasting to contend with...