It was an earth day. The Farmer’s Almanac had prescribed the flavors at the forefront of a day’s worth of tasting Riesling. Headed to a steakhouse for the annual Dry Wine Tour with limestone, schist and Gypsum slate thoughts pouring through my head.
I arrived at Lawry’s Prime Rib at 2 PM, expecting to taste a wide range of dry German wines informally, and, at my own leisure; instead, I happened upon a yearly seminar lead by Brent Wiest and a panel of distinguished winemakers, bending our ears with soil composition, weather, aspect (altitude), winemaking and the philosophy behind their estates and selected offerings. I guess I didn’t read the invitation carefully.
Inside the pantheon of prime rib, five glasses apiece splayed out on dense wooden tables dressed in white cloth and rimmed with a collection of shop owners, sommeliers and buyers from Southern California eager to learn more about the battery of wines on display.
Beginning with Raumland Cuvée Katharina sparkling wine, the German fizz was a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier that primed our taste buds for Riesling’s signature cut. Wagner-Stempel, another Rheinhessen producer’s flight was on deck. In bracing for the lime and peach flavors, bracketed by mouthwatering acidity, I was blindsided by their Pinot Blanc from Siefersheimer with a fresh perfume of orchard fruits and white flowers. The curvaceous body showed a supple creaminess in the mid-palate that was lifted by a jolt of refreshing acidity and a lengthy fruit finish.
Dr. Uwe Matheus walked us through the next flight of bocksbeutels—the distinctly stout and rounded bottles of Fraconia—filled with Silvaner from Weingut Wirsching. The region is famous for spicy Silvaners and Wirsching’s wines were the epitome, showing nuanced spice and herbal characteristics, but again, the outlier, a lone bottle of Kabinett Scheurebe from Iphöfer Kronsberg made an indelible impression early on the tour. The tropical notes flooded in waves, breaking with mineral precision and sculpted by bright acidity (medium-plus), a rich medium-body, on a long, complex finish that weaved wet stones, ripe peach and mango with hints of exotic spice delicately.
Red wines eventually made their way prominently into the lineup as we carved a path into Pfalz and Baden in Southern Germany. The two winemaking regions are suitable areas for the production of red wine like Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Lemberger (Blaufränkisch) and other rare crosses found in German cellars due to increasingly warmer climate. Though there were some interesting red wines like the Cuvée D, which blended Cabernet Cubin and Cabernet Dorio among other international varietals, I was drawn to Pinot Noir. A particularly rousing example came courtesy of Markus Mleinek from Dr. Heger in Baden. Dr. Heger’s Pinot Noir GG (Grosses Gewächs) from Winklerberg delivered a smoky scent infused with gravel and tight clusters of red berries. The pronounced intensity of the nose was matched by the youthful exuberance of fruit and mineral content that had not meshed fully, buttressed by medium-fine tannins and living up to its vineyard site’s pedigree. An infant, Mr. Mleinek explained that this wine would benefit from years of cellaring despite how seductive it was in its youth.
Two hours had passed in a blink and only the sides of my tongue had noticed. Dry Rieslings are always a treat but this seminar lent a fisheye lens on the exciting spectrum of wines—including the notable Scheurebe and Pinot Noir samplings—coming from Germany. The earth had never tasted better.