Sunday, April 25, 2010

Four Rieslings - a Long and Winding Road

The other night BrooklynLady and I went to dinner at Vinegar Hill House with Peter Liem and Dan Melia. We had a great time and I thought the place essentially lived up to the hype. Forgotten New York neighborhood, lovely decor, even if painstakingly mussed like a Williamsburg cool-cat's hair. Appetizers were fantastic, the rest of the food very good too, everyone was happy. And someone over there loves wine, because there are many enticing things on that list at fair prices.

While we were waiting for our table, and part of the way into our appetizers, we drank 2007 Romano Clelia Fiano di Avellino,"Colli di Lapio". Fiano is something that Levi Dalton has poured for me several times now, and he feels that it offers perhaps the best raw material of any white grape in Italy. This wine was so well made, and just delicious, vibrant and well balanced. And my last smokey sip was a ridiculously good match with grilled charred octopus. Our 1998 López de Heredia, Gran Riserva Tondonia Rosado showed beautifully too, and worked with everything on the table. Fleshy, oxidative, focused, pure, this wine is its own special thing and if you haven't yet had it, at about $25 retail it's just spiteful of you to continue not trying it. Especially now after a year or so since release - this wine has never shown better. We moved onto the 2007 Agnès et René Mosse Anjou Les Bonnes Blanches, and I'm just not a fan. I know that all the cool-cats love Mosse, and they are darlings of the natural wine scene, but for me the wines are hit or miss. This one showed a lot of volatility and simply wasn't very interesting, but it didn't matter - Opici "Chablis" couldn't have darkened our mood at that point.

Dinner with company like this is always great, but on this particular evening there was a nice little ancillary benefit. Dan arrived right from work, and his work is selling Mosel Wine Merchant Riesling. He schlepped 20 wines with him in a crumby red Toyota Tacoma (it might be in perfect condition for all I know, but in my mind's eye it's crumby) to Prune and TriBeCa Terroir and Blue Angel, and lots of traffic and other hassles later, he arrived at my house. He brought four great Rieslings with him for us to enjoy as apertifs, and then tired of the schlepping, Dan left the bottles with me. How cool is that?

These were all 2008's, all harvested at the Spätlese ripeness level, but they are all dry wines. Well, only two of them are technically trocken wines, but the other two drink as if they are dry wines. These are some of the top wines from each producer and it was quite a treat to enjoy them over the next few days. A few notes to follow, but since I have precious little experience with Riesling, my notes aren't all that interesting. What I can tell you, is that as a group, these wines have a common thread. They are remarkably pure, they are delicate and detailed, they have great intensity and length, and they are very much of the soil. They are great wines, and if they were Burgundies, they would cost upwards of $75. But they are dry German Rieslings, they typically require the hand sell, and none of them will run you more than $35 - honestly, a bargain.

2008 Peter Lauer Saar Ayler Kupp Riesling Fass 12 Unterstenbersch, $35, Mosel Wine Merchant. I suppose if I had to pick a favorite, this would be it. A bit of sponti natural yeast fermentation musk on the nose, deeply earthy and mineral too. Pure, vibrant, sweet fruit, a delicate springwater feel to the wine, but also intense and with great length. The thing that killed me about this wine is that is so intense and still is a wine of such finesse. Lauer is not using the typical German wine language, and the label says nothing about must weight at harvest or dryness level. Instead, Lauer describes the terroir, in this case at the bottom of a south-facing slope just west of the Saar river, from 50-year-old vines.

2008 Clemens Busch Vom Roten Schiefer, about $28, Mosel Wine Merchant. Vom Roten Schiefer means "from red slate," and Clemens Busch is also avoiding ripeness and dryness on the label, in favor of a statement about terroir. Again, amazing purity, a creamy sense to the wine, a bit doughy and spicy. I took a sip of this wine and then, rather unglamorously, had to go and change my older daughter's pull-up (a diaper for the mostly potty-trained to wear while sleeping, for you non parents out there). As I leaned over her on the changing table, amidst several other pungent aromas, she asked if I had been eating bread! The finish

is all herbs and rocks and bitter pits and the length honestly is rather startling. This wine is not yet available in the US, but it will be soon. A bit more about it here, from Lars at Mosel Wine Merchant.

2008 Stein St. Aldegunder Palmberg-Terrassen Spätlese-trocken, $26, Mosel Wine Merchant. Perhaps the most delicate of the lot, this wine also showed the most overt fruit - lots of apricots. Very pure and fine, intensely mineral, and the creamy mid-palate merges with the very mineral finish that lasts forever and buzzes with some sort of herbal honey. Such a delicious wine.

2008 Knebel Winninger Röttgen Spätlese-trocken, $36, Mosel Wine Merchant. More muscular than the others, more concentration. Also a bit more fruit on the nose, with green melon, but still a wine of rocks and bread. Energy, depth, finesse, purity - I've said the same thing about each of these wines, but it's true of each. One more thing I can tell you - this wine had already been open for 48 hours when I mistakenly left about a glass in the bottle, same for the Stein wine, overnight and out of the fridge with no stopper. And the next day at 1 pm they both were excellent with our fluke lunch.


Dan said...

The Tacoma now has a touch over 100,000 miles. And you're right -- it is "crumby" (I ate a banh mi in there last week), though I don't think it's particularly crummy. (The grammar police come out once you start disrespecting my ride.)

"Overpowering toddler pull-ups the world over" is just the sort of tag line we need to introduce Clemens's '08 vom roten Schiefer to the wider drinking public.

Clarke B. said...

Isn't "crumby" the Holden Caulfield spelling?

Brooklynguy said...

Alright, alright. I never pretended to be a grammarian. Where were you geniuses last week when I wrote "Marquis" instead of Marquee?

Dr. Christian G.E. Schiller said...

Great posting. I reposted it on my "Drinking German Wine in America' Facebook Fan Page. You may also be interested in my Blog Posting on what Americans choose when they drink German wine.