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… :-)

Birthday-anniversary week part I: 99 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano

NEWS FLASH This just in: we’ve posted the list of wines we’ll be pouring at the first-ever San Diego Natural Wine Summit on August 9 at Jaynes Gastropub. On Weds. and Thurs. next week, I am the guest sommelier at Jaynes. Please come out to see me and taste together if you’re in town!

Above: My favorite way to enjoy great Nebbiolo is with cheese. At Central Market, a block from my apartment, I found Robiola, Toma, and Castelmagno (each from Piedmont) and a Val d’Aosta Fontina. The Castelmagno hadn’t been handled properly but the others were good, especially the Robiola. It’s remarkable to think that these moldy creations find their way to central Texas.

Tuesday night’s birthday celebration centered around a gift of 1999 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano (white label) that my true love gave to me for the occasion. She saw me eyeing the bottle a few weeks ago in a San Antonio fine wine shop. I hate to give away one of our best-kept secrets down here in Texas but, as Italian Wine Guy noted the other day, there are lots of shops here and in the Midwest where wine connoisseurs have collected great European wines without the inflated New York, Los Angeles, and Napa/Sonoma/San Francisco prices (I actually know a great place in San Diego, too, but I’m going to keep that best-kept secret to myself!). At this particular retailer in San Antonio, you can find a lot of older Nebbiolo at prices only marked up slightly from the release price (like a 2001 Faset by Castello di Verduno, one of my favorite producers, picked up for a song). The other element that makes things interesting is that few — if any — of these shops put their inventory online (in part because — and I don’t mean this in a disparaging way — they are Luddites when it comes to anything intraweb-related and in part because anachronistic blue laws prevent/impede them from selling their products online or via email). As a result, the inventories are not picked over by internet surfers: you have to visit the store in situ to peruse the wines.

The day that Tracie B and I happened to visit the store in question, everything in the store was 20% off (in fact, the owner gives 20% off on the entire stock every Friday and Saturday). I’m not saying this to attenuate the value of the wonderful gift she gave me but let’s just say — moral of the story — that we didn’t have to break the bank to enjoy a truly extraordinary bottle of wine.

Tracie B made me a blueberry pie with fresh blueberries for my birthday, a tradition started a long time ago by mama Parzen.

I have always detested the Mao Squires/Parker disciples who squeal and scream that opening a bottle like this is “infanticide.” That’s just hogwash. It’s always interesting to open great Nebbiolo and see where it is in its evolution and it’s ridiculous to think that we all have to be like them and drink wine in freezing wine bunkers (the way they do, hence their blue blood) and wait for every single bottle to be at its peak when we drink it. This 10-year-old beauty (made in a vintage when Giacosa didn’t make a Santo Stefano reserve) was stunning. It was one of those wines that left both of us speechless, with gorgeous fruit and earthy flavors. (Btw, Ken Vastola authors an excellent registry of the wines of Giacosa here).

It’s been such a special week for me and for me and Tracie B — with all the well wishes and congratulations. Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart…

@Trace B thanks for sharing such an incredible bottle of wine for my birthday. I already felt like the luckiest guy in the world… :-)

On deck: Part II, 1991 Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant… amazing wine and a crazy story of how we got it… stay tuned…

Gone fishin… Giant squid taco anyone?

Above: Tracie B gave me a pair of Fender Stratocaster head-stock cuff links as an early present for my birthday this year. The last year has been one of the best of my life… Meeting Tracie B and moving to Austin… but more on that tomorrow… :-)

Today is my birthday and so I’m taking the day off… goin’ fishin’, so to speak.

In the meantime, I’m going to relish every last drop of anticipation for the 1999 Barbaresco Santo Stefano by Giacosa that Tracie B is treating me to tonight to celebrate…

In other news… holy giant squid taco Batman!

In all my years growing up in La Jolla, I never saw anything like this. The video below was shot just a stone’s throw from where I lived as a kid and not far from where my mom and brother and his family live still. Amazing…