Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brief Wine News from Canada & Surpise! I'm going to Austria

Well, it's been a week since I've contributed to the blog, and that's because I was away out of town, in Canada to be exact, and had limited access to the Internet. It was a nice visit with family, and I even got to drink some wine and visit a vineyard. The wines I drank included a 2004 Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo which I brought with me to give to my dad as a retirement present, and we ended up drinking together, and a British Columbian Pinot Noir called 2006 Red Rooster Pinot Noir from the Okanagan area, which we enjoyed in a restaurant on Vancouver Island. The Barolo was excellent - I had it previously - it is a flavorsome, silky, elegant wine with fantastic texture and a balance flavor profile, not a lot of tannin or grip, but instead great texture in the mouth and nice fruit that was anything but over-the top. The Red Rooster Canadian Pinot Noir was a bit light and non-descript, not too complex, showing a bit of oak on the palate that could have been from oak chips, but it was easy to drink and we did finish it between three of us. But over all, I think I would take a Spatburgunder over it any day.

The vineyard that we visited was on Vancouver Island in the city of Nanaimo. The name is Chateau Wolff, and the winery closed in 2005 with the passing of its founder, Harry von Wolff. His son, Michael, now owns the property and since has been farming the grapes but not making wine. We got a tour of the vineyard and the dormant winery and let me say the spot is beautiful - the gorgeous Mt. Benson in the backdrop, the hillside sloping vineyard, the cliff edge of stone that warms the vineyard - even with the vines still bare at this stage just before bud break it was a beauty to behold. I brought for owner Michael a bottle of California's 2005 Huber Santa Rita Hills Dornfelder because one of the varieties he grows is Dornfelder, and he gave us a bottle of their Pinot Noir, which I believe he said was the 1999 vintage. It was a fun exchange. I think he might be open to selling the vineyard and in my fantasy of fantasies it would be fun to own it, but that's more of a fantasy than anything. Well, who knows. They say never to say never.

At any rate, fast forward to this week, I'm back from vacation and boss Randy has just booked me for a trip to Austria in a month. That's right - one month from today, I'll be back on the plane giving my Passport a workout. No need to put the luggage back into storage. No moss is growing under those puppies. I'm headed to Vienna for a Vie Vinum event. I have never heard of this event before, but a quick google search shows that it is "a classy bi-annual international wine tasting event that takes place in the elegant Imperial Palace. Over 500 internationally acclaimed wine producers, among them over 400 boutique Austrian wine makers and 100 acclaimed international wineries will showcase their best wines in this aristocratic setting." Sweet!

I'm going with the folks from WineWise, which is a distributor of Terry Theise wines. After the Vie Vinum event, we'll be heading out to the countryside to visit Austrian producers. Names that I have associated with great Austrian wines will come alive and make more sense than they ever have. Can't wait!

Well enough for tonight. I'll blog more tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tonight is the long awaited Old Riesling Night, where we will taste Eiswein, BAs and TBAs from a customer's cellar. I should be napping right now so I can be perky and not tired later, but alas, the Blog calls, and here I have a few pics I took yesterday of the wines to share with you all here.

I'm contributing from our store two wines, one which will be the opener Aperatif wine (the 2006 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese) and the other will be a TBA from Gunderloch, specifically the 2003 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese. Kind of a pricy wine to be popping, but it is up there to match with the rest of the bunch.
Line-up tonight will be:

2004 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Eiswein

1995 Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg Riesling Eiswein

1983 Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg Riesling Eiswein

1983 Bert Simon Serriger Herrenberg Riesling Eiswein

Beerenausese (BA)

2003 Schloss Johannisberg Rosa Goldlach Beerenauslese

1998 Robert Weil Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Beerenauslese

1994 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Beerenauslese

1989 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Beerenauslese

1976 Sankt-Urbans-hof Leimener Kloftergarten Riesling Beerenauslese

1971 Langwerth von Simmern Hattenheimer Mannberg Riesling Beerenauslese

1953 Georg u. Karl Ludwig Schmittches Niersteiner Rebhach-Mundelpfad Riesling Beerenauslese Kabinett

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)

2003 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese
1992 Müller-Catoir Mussbacher Eselshaut Rieslaner Trockenbeerenauslese

1971 Kloster Eberbach Steinberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese
I'll post notes later this week!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some Southern Hemisphere Shout-Outs

Usually I am posting about German wine, and at this moment, I do have some things to say about German wine, but I'll refrain for just a moment to share some nice things about my Southern Hemisphere departments.

This past weekend, we had a huge tasting of 10 cheeses paired with 10 wines. My contributions included a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and a Tasmanian Pinot Noir, namely, 2007 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc and 2007 Tamar Ridge Devil's Corner Pinot Noir. Both wines showed very well, though on this particularly hot Saturday, the Sauvignon was very sauvage, showing tons of aromas of gooseberry, guava, grass and citrus. On the palate it was fresh and fruity. It paired really well with the Spanish soft goat cheese. People were divided on whether they liked the wine or not - those that liked a lot of bigness liked it and those that didn't like a lot of grass and green opted for other wines showing more subtly. The bottom line though is that I sold a ton of bottles, so some people at least thought this wine to be a perfect summer sipper, perfectly priced at $9.99.

The Devil's Corner Pinot Noir was a big hit though, being paired with a truffle cheese. The truffle cheese was strong, earthy, mushroomy, forest floor-y, and distinctly truffly, with some garlic essence. The wine was, in contrast, fruity, fresh and light, full of cherries and raspberries, bright, with no perceptible earthiness. The body was medium-light but not thin. It was a nice red for a hot day, and at $14.99, it was a big hit. I think the name didn't hurt - Devil's Corner. The label was quite pretty too - all that put together, plus a pretty wine in the bottle, makes for a success story.

This week, we have a rep from Veramonte showing off 4 Veramonte wines including their Pinot Noir, Bordeaux-style blend, and Cabernet, in addition to the Sauvignon Blanc. We hope this Chilean tasting will be a popular. It's on Thursday between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

German Wine Dinner at 3 Square

Last week, on Thursday evening, Rudi Wiest Selections representative Allie Mitchell and I hosted a German wine dinner at a new restaurant in Venice called "3 Square." The name refers to three square meals a day, a casual dining restaurant opened jointly by Hans Rockenwagner and Wolfgang Gussmack after the close of fine dining establishment Rockenwagner in Santa Monica about 2 years ago. This new casual spot encompasses a bakery and a cafe, which serves really delicious food in a casual setting. The food is a fusion between Austrian/German influences and California market-fresh. It was for these reasons that I chose to do a wine dinner here with German wines.

The executive summary is that the dinner was a huge success. A full house enjoyed some non-vintage Wegeler Rheingau Riesling Brut Sekt (sparkling dry Riesling) while the sun was still shining on the patio and through the ample windows. The warm spring evening was the perfect backdrop as the diners anticipated a fantastic and creative menu. The first course was a mouthwatering salad made from the sweetest Japanese tomatoes encircled by baby greens and topped with a pumpkin seed oil and balsamic dressing. This course was paired with 2006 Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Kabinett Feinherb. The delicate and minerally off-dry Riesling was almost too dry for the salad, which had considerable sweetness from the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. But the wine was well received from the audience nonetheless.

The second course was a hearty hot dish, morel mushrooms in a creamy spatzel. Very classic German/Austrian, rich, earthy, and satisfying. But what made it really sing was the pairing with 2006 Von Buhl Maria Schneider Jazz Riesling Medium-Dry from the Pfalz. The idea for this pairing came from Allie who had learned from Rudi Wiest that Pfalz Rieslings, grown on volcanic soil, are nice and earthy and pair exceptionally well with dishes that feature mushrooms. Well, she and he were so right! The Maria Schneider Riesling, which I have tasted on several occasions before, and felt was an okay wine, was entirely fabulous and rich and unctuous with the morel spatzel dish. This course and wine was the pairing of the night.

The third course took us into salmon and Spatburgunder. In particular, we featured the 2005 Heger Pinot Noir from the Baden region. This is not my favorite Spatburgunder, but nonetheless, I like it with salmon as it is a light style and perfectly good with a grilled dish. The feedback I got from the diners included "Is this from Germany? I didn't know Germany made reds." Others mostly did not like it, but they admitted to being "spoiled" by Californian Pinots. One table really enjoyed the Spatburgunder, and it happened to be a table of French gentlemen who appreciated a wine that went well with food, a wine that had more subtle nuances. Go figure! Also, I observed that though a good number of diners verbally let me know that they didn't like the Pinot, they were draining their glasses. ie. Look at the actions, not the words! Someone can tell you they like the wine but they are not drinking it with their meals - meanwhile they may tell you they don't like a wine, but heck, they are drinking it with their salmon - what does this tell you???

Finally, our last course (and let me tell you, the courses were not tiny - I was busting at the seams!) was a pork schnitzel with lingonberries - absolutely delicious - a thin pounded filet of lean tenderloin pork served with juicy berries with just a smattering of acidity and sweetness, paired with 2006 Monchhof Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese - this wine showed very, very well, tasty sweetness and lightness in one - spritzy in that Riesling sort of way - and went really well with the course. And by itself. Many folks were getting a refill of this wine.

There was a dessert served with this dinner as well, but at this point, I didn't partake. I was happy with all the wines and all the food and the evening in general. Wolfgang outdid himself, and it was good to meet Hans who was present for the entire evening directing traffic in the kitchen and meeting with customers. It was one of those really great nights that energies one to do more dinners.

The next day I was very tired from the dinner and didn't blog about it till today, 4 days later when I feel really recovered, but today I'm feeling that feeling again - like I had better be planning the next German wine dinner!

And for those of you reading that missed this fantastic event, do not dispair - I do have a German wine dinner already planned for Friday May 30 at 7:15 at Delius Restaurant in Signal Hill - make your reservation today! 562-426-0694

I'll also be planning something for July so stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I think I should work a harvest

Just occurred to me today as I was driving on the freeway that I should work a harvest.

I have been drinking wine, tasting wine, buying wine, and selling wine, but never thought before I should be making wine.

But why not? Perhaps now is the time to see and feel and learn and experience how wine is really made.

Not just a vineyard and cellar tour, but actually working.

Not sure I can get the time off to work an entire 2 to 4 weeks during harvest, but maybe start off in short chunks, a couple of days at a time (away from work).

My first thought was trying to go to Germany to work a harvest, where they make Spatburgunder, but perhaps it would be more practical to try California first. Closer. Can get there on a couple of days off.

So plans are in motion. For harvest 2008.

In other news, our Wine of the Month, 2006 Sedna Mendoza Malbec is in, all 30 cases. About 5 cases have already sold. I should be through all these by the end of the month. Only $7.99 a bottle, $95.88 a case. Great buy. An all-purpose red wine that is medium on the palate and light on the pocketbook. I bought a bottle for myself and Johan last night and had it with vegetarian pasta with cheese and it was great. Perfect for a weeknight meal. 14% alcohol. If it were 12.5%, I would have had a little more. But it worked just fine.

End of this month, we'll be going to Canada. I hope to visit at least one vineyard on Vancouver Island. It's a bit wet there but would it really be wetter than Oregon? Maybe. Perhaps now is the time to do some internet research on rainfall.

The fun thing about wine is there is always more to learn, be it about sales or marketing or geology and climate. It gives enough for a lifetime of learning. And socializing!