A most remarkable urban Riesling and 01 Giacosa Santo Stefano

From the “run don’t walk” department…

If Snoop Dogg were a wine blogger, he’d might just say,

    Some how, some way, I just keep tasting funky assed shit wines like every single day…

For those of you concerned that there is no good wine to drink and taste in Texas, please be advised that you can sleep soundly tonight knowing that Tracie P and I are keeping the state safe for great wine.

Last night, we were joined by one of the most fascinating and talked-about figures in the U.S. wine biz, Paul Darcy (see Eric the Red’s post here and Alice’s post here).

Paul is an amazing cat and he tasted us on a fantastic flight of wines grown in the city of Vienna… yes, truly urban wines… I’d read about them and was blown away by the aromas and flavors and the price points of these super food-friendly wines. I was also intrigued to hear his first-hand account of the de facto cooperative system of growers and bottlers that has developed there in the modern era (i.e., from the late 19th-century onward).

But the wine that I can’t stop thinking about, that I wanted “to call the next day,” was Jutta Ambrositch’s Nussberg Riesling (above). Monosyllabic tasting note: Wow… Never tasted anything like that… a truly original and thrilling wine…

Navigating the internets, I’ve found her story recounted best by David Bowler here and I found a photo of the Nussberg cru here. And Paul just weighed in with this remote post via email:

    Jutta works her own vineyards. Most of the vineyards in Vienna are not owned by wineries. They are leased. She took over the lease of her first vineyard, Oberer Reisenberg, from her friend, Fritz Wieninger. Fritz is the largest producer in vienna with about 56 hectar. Some owned, some leased.

    The wines were made at Fritz’s winery. Now they are made at Stefan Hajszan’s winery. Fritz has been expanding so quickly, he didn’t have room for her any longer.

    The riesling from last night comes from the Nussberg. That is the hill. I think one of the best hillsides in Austria. Certainly the most exciting in Vienna. The small vineyard where these grapes are grown is called Ried Preussen. It is one of the oldest in the city. Maybe 600 years old, but I’m guessing here. This planting is from the mid 50’s.

    That flavor profile comes mainly from the terroir. Tons of calcium sea shell deposit. Limestone and light clay. Limestone for the minerality and clay for fruit. She farms biodynamically. By herself with her Jack Russel.

    In the winery, the wines sit on the lees from October to April in stainless. Fermentation is always spontaneous, despite how much that used to bug Fritz. He was always frightened fermentation wouldn’t start and wanted to start with a culture. Most of the growers in Vienna use local yeast as a starter, then the indigenous takes over.

    The terroir is interesting here. It never lets the wines become too weighty. Even though harvest can go as late as early November, the wines maintain an elegance that I haven’t seen so many places.

    Certainly one of my favorites. Funny though, no one paid much attention to her back home until Alice wrote about her. Now she has quite the cult following.

My advice: seek and check it out.

O, and, yeah, we also drank 01 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano white label, thanks to our new friend Billy, whom we met through our super good friends at Trio at the Four Seasons, where we dined last night.

The Santo Stefano cru produces one of Langa’s greatest expressions of Nebbiolo and one of the greatest wines in the world. Some call it “Baroloesque,” perhaps because it is one of the Barbaresco crus where savory aromas and flavors prevail over fruit. At 9 years out, this wine is extremely young and I loved the meaty chewy texture of the tannin, like eating a blood rare steak with a wonderful relish of berry fruit on top… Beef in a glass… A wonderful experience (thanks again Billy!)…

Some how, some way, me and Tracie P just get to drink funky assed wines like every single day…

Life could be worse… :-)

An Oltrepò Pavese Riesling that commands our attention

Above: Lombardy and the Oltrepò Pavese are home to an active community of 17th-century carriage collectors and competitors. The Riesling “Landò” produced by Le Fracce is so-called after its owner Count Bussolera’s collection of landau carriages.

Have a look today at a post on an Oltrepò Pavese Rhine Riesling by Italy’s top wine blogger and leading enojournalist Mr. Franco Ziliani, translated by me over at the blog we edit together, VinoWire.

For those of you studying for your master sommelier and certified wine specialist and educator exams, it’s most definitely worth a look-see. We tend to think of the Oltrepò Pavese solely as a producer of great Pinot Nero, Croatina, and Bonarda (including the many excellent traditional-method expression of Pinot Nero made there). But the appellation is one of the few Italian growing zones that can produce a Riesling DOC and bottle it with the grape name on the label (unlike, say, Piedmont, where producers like Vajra can bottle 100% Riesling but have to call it “Langhe Bianco”).

Le Fracce’s “Landò” is so-called because the owner of the estate collects 17th-century landau carriages.

Check it out here…

The Do Bianchi Vajra Six-Pack is live!

I was able to secure a small allocation of Vajra wines to offer to my California wine club Do Bianchi Selections (click the link to view the offering). Tracie P and I dig these wines and I’m thrilled to be able to make them available to my subscribers. Wouldn’t you concur McDuff?

A benefit for battered Asian women Nov. 14 and weird Austin painted cars

Above: Austin loves to keep itself weird and even has a website for the sake of weird. I don’t know the phenomenon’s origins but Austinites love to paint their cars. All of the images were taken using my Blackberry, captured as Tracie B and I drive around town.

Support, Advocate, Heal, Empower, Listen, Inform: saheli means friend in Hindi. Linda Phan, the executive director of Saheli Austin, a non-profit group that provides support for battered Asian women, has asked me to speak about wine and wine pairing at the organization’s November 14 fundraiser event.

A week from Saturday, we will be pairing European and Texan wines with Asian food at Saheli’s “Discover Asia Through Wine” benefit for victims of domestic violence.

Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are obvious choices when it comes to pairing wine with the often intensely spicy flavors of Asian cuisine, and both grapes will be well represented, of course.

But I think we’re also going to have fun with some Rhône varieties and — I couldn’t resist — some Sangiovese from Chianti Rufina as well.

Suggested donation is $45 (a great value for all the great food and wine) and the event should be a lot of fun. Click here to RSVP and to donate. Hope to see you there if not before!

Buon weekend ya’ll! (how’s that for fusion?)

Folks in Sacramento know how to live well

On my way back to ATX today following my annual pilgrimage to Sacramento, in the heart of California farmland and wine country. Folks out there sure know how to live well. Here are some quick highlights…

Darrell Corti graciously treated me to a quick lunch today at One Speed after our morning meeting and before I headed out to the airport. Seafood risotto and 14-year-old Australian Sémillion from his cellar. I had never had an Australian wine that I liked until Darrell first shared some of his gems with me. This wine had gorgeous fruit and a rich mouthfeel, 11% alcohol, and acidity that Darrell aptly described as “sprightly” (Tracie B would have called it “tongue-splitting”).

Produce in Sacramento is unbelievably good: marinated artichokes, braised fennel, and roast peppers at One Speed.

The night before, I was the dinner guest of Darrel’s delightful neighbors, Joe and Deb. Deb’s tomato bisque with panzanella salsa paired superbly with Darrel’s Bert Simon 2005 single-vineyard Riesling. Deb and Joe are both superb cooks. I guess you have to be if you live next to Darrell Corti! Joe and Deb were so gracious to have me over and they throw a fantastic dinner party… Joe, a lobbyist, told a great story about meeting Ted Kennedy and how he loved to talk baseball.

2007 Nebbiolo Martinenga by Marchesi di Gresy. 2007 is going to be such a killer vintage for traditional-style Nebbiolo. Like the 07 Produttori del Barbaresco, this wine shows some serious, brawny tannin. It went great with whole chickens that Joe stuffed with cheese (I believe goat’s milk) and then grilled whole. The breast was as moist as the thigh.

This morning I gave Darrell a hand organizing wines for a tasting at his legendary store Corti Brothers. Darrell is the reason why I come back to Sacramento every year… to peruse his wondrous cabinets

It’s only been three days since I said goodbye to my lovely Tracie B. Feels like a lifetime but that ol’ Southwest Jetliner is carrying me back home where I belong tonight, not a minute too soon for this aching heart…

My dinner with the Weinsteins

BrunelloWire: light rain today and so no picking.

Strappo reports from Montepulciano: “Still a way from harvest in Montepulciano. But they are about 600 m above sea level here.”

Above: no, that’s not the Weinsteins… that’s Melanie and Noah. Noah and I go way back: we even went to Hebrew School together! Today, he’s a leading German scholar and she a writer of non-fiction, critic, and poet.

No, I didn’t really have dinner with the Weinsteins. But that was the joke the other night when my good friends Melanie Rehak and Noah Isenberg (above) took me to Weinstein, a wonderful traditional German wine bar just off the Helmholtzplatz in their neighborhood, the Prenzlauer Berg, in Berlin (note the über-hip extension “.eu” in the Weintstein URL).

Riesling is a lacuna in my enological formation and so I was in pig heaven, so to speak, between a great flight of Rieslings poured by excellent sommelier Marc Metzdorf and my Wiener Teller (“Viennese platter,” including delicious cured suckling pig among other delicatessen) and Königsberger Klöße (pork and veal — if I’m not mistaken — dumplings).

The star of the evening was the 1995 Dr. Loosen Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese, which Marc pours by the glass. Being the neophyte Riesling-lover that I am, I put myself in Marc’s hands and I was really impressed by the care and devotion he and his colleague, Claudia, showed for these wines. Weinstein’s list is impressive and stretches back to the 1970s, with roughly 250 lots. Good stuff…

On the plane back to LAX from Berlin the next day, I read Noah’s new tome on the film noir classic Detour. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it.


Earlier in the day, Melanie and I paid a visit to the “legendary” food department at KaDeWe, where German cuisine is featured alongside cuisine from all over the world. Melanie’s finishing edits on a book about her experience working in farm-to-table restaurant in Brooklyn. I can’t reveal the name but I’m looking forward to its release sometime next year. Here are some pics from KaDeWe…

I love anything marzipan. The more kitsch, the better.

Cured heaven…

Please don’t feed the eels…

The “American” section was really a joke… an irony in the context of the fantastic traditional German, French, Italian, and Japanese counters. But Melanie and I had fun perusing the candy canes, Pop Tarts and Swiss Miss.