Thursday, June 2, 2011

Old World Ramblings Uncover Great Characters, Tasty Wines

By Dan Mitchell, Regional Sales Manager
From time to time we experience something that causes to us revisit our understanding of the time-space continuum. Hollywood would have us believe that time moves much more slowly when we go through the daily routine of running away from an exploding vehicle. You and I know that time moves more slowly when standing in line behind someone at the grocery store writing a check. I recently experienced an extreme example, where time actually moved at HALF its normal rate: a seven hour flight across the Atlantic with screaming toddlers on three sides.
Beer So Potent it Makes Your Hair Fall Out

My father and I had decided to travel to Germany, so he could re-visit places that he loved to visit when he was stationed there from 1964-65. It was my first time in Europe, and though the trip itself was exciting enough, spending time with him tracking down old haunts, drinking beer, and playing cards through Bavaria was the true intention of our venture. My sisters need not worry -- we didn't discuss the vast family inheritance.

Only Experienced Tractor Drivers Need Apply: Vines Rows Running Straight Up the Hill!

With Bavaria behind us, we switched from Dunkel to Auxerrois and made our way toward Alsace. We rented a car in Stuttgart (I voted Porsche, while my wallet voted Volkswagen) and before we left town we visited the nearby winery Karl Haidle. Apparently at one point the Stuttgart region was one of the leading wine producing regions of the Roman Empire, and the vines that grow on the 70-degree (!) slopes of the surrounding hills are a constant reminder of Stuttgart's rich history.  We talked with founder Karl's grandson, Moritz Haidle, a young man who is currently in school studying Enology. He was very eager to chat with us, show us his beautiful wines, and discuss the similarities and differences between his vineyards and ours. He was familiar with the Finger Lakes, thanks most likely to our best ambassador (Riesling), and I discussed the possibility of a US internship with him. I reassured him that if he wanted an area offering similarities to his, the Finger Lakes was the place to go. I bought a bottle of their premium Riesling offering (I'm looking to put a few years on it) and he even gave me a bottle of Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir to the rest of the world) from his father's cellar.
In Alsace the welcoming nature of our hosts continued. At Ostergag-Hurlimann we made our way around the language barrier with a lot of pointing and a few scant words of French. I spent a lot of time admiring their collection of antique wine barrel tools on the wall. (Barrels are a special interest of mine that I will write about in the future.) They had four styles of Gewurztraminer that showed the grape's character and diversity well.

After Three Glasses, I was a Faller Too

By far the most interesting conversations we had that day were with Luc from Luc Faller Vigneron. As soon as we stepped up to the bar in his tasting room I could tell that he spent very little time as a host there. His hands looked like oven mitts stuffed with sausages. While not a particularly big man, his hands were cut, coarse and dirty from spending the previous six days in his 100-plus hectare (250-acre) vineyard. He spoke with passion about his wines and had a great deal of practical wisdom as well. He uses a lot of practices we would call sustainable, and even produces some of his twenty-some wines under an organic label. However he has no interest in going organic for his full production. He is well aware that there are some wines he can produce using a limited number of added sulfites without sacrificing the integrity of the wine, and some that he simply cannot. So he refuses to compromise those wines. Very practical. All of his practices fall within the guidelines of organic except for additional sulfite use.  Admittedly, he shakes his head knowing some of his wines are selling just because of the Organic designation. We had an excellent tasting and I tried the most unique Pinot Noir I had ever tasted, as well as a Gewurztraminer dessert wine that was bursting with cinnamon flavors. They were all absolutely delicious, and I look forward to getting into my imported stash a few years from now.

1 comment:

  1. I always find it interesting that single varieties can be so diverse.
    Also, I completely agree with regards to organic certification and sulfite use. Very practical. Why sacrifice the integrity of the wine? Sulfites can be used responsibly and effectively. Sustainable agricultural practices are more important, at least in my view.