Wednesday, March 03, 2010

An Evening with the People and the Wines of Mosel Wine Merchant

Lars Carlberg and Dan Melia, the two fine gentlemen of Mosel Wine Merchant, are in town this week with a few of the growers they represent. They hosted a dinner last night at Prune in the East Village, and I was lucky enough to attend.
I know so tremendously little about German Riesling that it simply wouldn't be proper for me to try to discuss the wines in a meaningful way - I have no context to share with you, nothing to say about them other than how delicious they are. And they are very delicious.

Instead, I can tell you a few things about Lars and Dan, and the work they're doing. Mosel WIne Merchant is not a large company. It's Lars and Dan - that's it. They're a couple of smart, well-educated, well-traveled, genuinely kind fellows who love wine, particularly Mosel Riesling. They could be doing many things that would probably be far more lucrative, but they run this little company together, bringing naturally made, small production Mosel Riesling to the US and other markets. They really believe in these wines, and it's easy to understand why after drinking them with dinner.

Lars grew up partly in Germany and partly in the US - he lives in Germany now and runs all of Mosel Wine Merchant's European operations. Dan managed Prune for 8 years and left to travel in Germany. He's completely fluent in German - "his German is better than mine now," says Lars. Dan is the guy who schleps the wines all over NYC and the rest of the country, making sure that we have the chance to buy them in retail shops.

Dan, left, and Lars, with 2007 Lauer Kern magnum.

I sat next to Mattias Knebel at dinner. As he poured the first of his wines, the absolutely delicious 2008 Mosel Riesling von den Terrassen trocken, $20, I told him how much I enjoy his most basic wine, the humble 2008 Mosel Riesling trocken, $14. Matthias turned to me and smiled and said "I love making that wine. It's from our estate grapes, spontaneous fermentation, I make it the same way I make all my wines. We make no money on it at all, but I love it." The $14 Riesling Trocken is excellent wine, absolutely of its place, and should be part of everyone's under $15 wine repertoire. But the von den Terrassen is a serious step up for a few dollars more, with an expansive nose of ripe fruit and rock, and an ultra-clean palate that continued to grow even as we finished the bottle. It was perfect with seared monkfish liver finished in lemon and soy.

Matthias Knebel

The 2007's were lovely and interesting wines, but might now be entering a shutdown phase. The 2008's were showing beautifully, ripe but controlled, pure and elegant, and with a great balance of fruit and mineral. I loved drinking Knebel's 2008 Röttgen trocken next to his 2008 Uhlen trocken, the more muscular and concentrated Röttgen working perfectly with marrow bones and rock salt, while the wipsy and graceful Uhlen was delicious with a Parmesan omelet. I don't know how much those wines cost, but I would eagerly welcome both of them into my cellar. They drink so well now that it seems a shame to age them for 20 years, which Lars assures me is a great thing to do with these wines.

Lauer's Rieslings were also delicious. They seemed to me to be more ethereal and less concentrated than Knebel's wines. There was a 2005 Lauer Kern with a mature and mellow nose that initially showed some peach and floral elements, but after 15 minutes in the glass, had morphed into liquid slate. There were two sparkling wines by Lauer that I thought were great. It's not often than inexpensive sparkling wines show textural finesse and elegance, and these wines were both wonderfully textured. The current release was lovely, with a good balance of fruit and mineral character, but the 1994 Sekt Reserve was for me, one of the wines of the night. Disgorged in December (although the label says March), it was fresh and lively. Changing constantly in the glass, it was about the bitterness of the pit and the saltiness of rocks, with this great lacy texture. I was sorry to see it go.

Lars, Dan, and the growers are in NYC this week sharing their wines and stories at places like Chambers Street Wines, Uva, and Crush. These are good people doing good things, and their wines taste great and are reasonably priced. If you can make it to one of these tastings, you really should.


David McDuff said...

Great notes and thoughts, Neil. Wish I could have been there. (Remind me again... Why do I live in Philly?) Would especially love to have tried the '94 Sekt from Lauer. Do you know if it's available for sale -- or was it brought in just for the event?

Do Bianchi said...

I've only ever traded emails with Lars but he strikes me as a super learned fellow with a superb palate, a gentleman among wine mongers...

BrooklynGuy your blog stirs that mimetic desire in me! making me ALMOST want to move back to NYC...

Prune was always so much fun when I used to hang out there back in the day (not so long ago)...

very enviable post and dinner... although my personal fantasy is pickled herring and Riesling...

Alex Halberstadt said...

I love the wines these folks bring in, particularly the ones from Clemens Busch. Sounds like a fun dinner, too.

Unknown said...

Hey Brooklynguy, it was great to meet you at the end of the dinner (I didn't realize you were THE Brooklynguy till after I saw this post). One small correction. The 2005 was the Untersternbersch, not the Kern.

I've been drinking the Knebel wines for a number of years now, but Lauer was a recent discovery for me. I loved Knebel's wines in 2005, but think that Gernot (the winemaker there) went a bit to the extreme end of extraction in 2007. The wines are so rich, they become nearly painful to drink. The 2008, I think, really suits the Knebel style with the brisk acidity of the vintage really balancing the sheer Riesling extract. I'm a huge fan.

Anyway, great to meet you!

Lars Carlberg said...

David: the '94 Lauer Sekt was just brought in for the Prune dinner, though we'd consider importing Lauer or Stein Sekt down the road. I wish you could have been there, too.

Jeremy: thanks for the compliment. Prune is a favorite of ours. I was in Austin last week. Too bad I missed meeting up with you.

Alex: we appreciate the kind words and support.

Gene: it was good to see you.