Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Aaron’s Pigpicking ~ and a great bottle of wine...

So on Sunday I went to Brooklyn— NJT from Cranford, A-train from NYP on out to Hoyt/Scherm, then a couple blocks on foot found me in Aaron Sing Fox’s back garden, under a cleverly strung tarp that promised to protect us—mostly—from the threatening thunderings of a summer storm which had dogged my heels all the way from NJ...

This fine fellow here above was the star of the show, so far as the marquée was concerned—but that which did verily take my cake was a little liquid magic in a Bocksbeutel from Franken, once part of the kingdom of Bavaria, more recently one of the 13 Anbaugebiete of wine-producing Germany.

2004 Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl Silvaner Spätlese Trocken, Schmitt's Kinder

Do not be frightened away by the varietal name Silvaner, when you see it on of these bottles. Although Riesling rules the roost in most of the rest of the Reich—sorry, the Republik—here in Franconia the Silvaner most often produces the memorable wine. Sonnenstuhl—the sun’s chair, just like it sounds—is one of several prime fossil-limestone sites on the Main river that Schmitt farms... I like this estate because they make an exceptionally elegant Riesling, which is not the usual for this part of Germany. More recently I’ve come to appreciate as well their Scheurebe and Silvaner—not to mention some very fine efforts with Weißburgunder in the past couple years.

memorable ripeness, tropical fruit aromas uncommon to the variety—unctuous luxury on the palate: flavourful flairs of pears extending outreaches of peaches—supportive but not remarkable acids, an uncommon length with minerality that sort of backs-up the gullet within the next minute after you’ve swallowed the stuff...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lunch with Peter Ross @ Trestle on Tenth

...drank two bottles of wine yesterday alongside a typically fine lunch chez Kuettel, and ‘twas friend and colleague Peter who brought the nicer of the two ~

1999 Hochheimer Kirchenstück Auslese, Domdechant Werner
I brought this one, despite the fact that I still haven’t received a satisfactory explanation from the Germans about how Hochheim comes to be part of the Rheingau...
Fill was top-level and cork was sound, but from the colour of the wine I would've said that it was 1989, or more likely 1983. Fabulously rich and rather sweet, but also a bit one-dimensional. Ah well... we drank it alongside a mix of charcutérie and aged cheeses, and a plate of Ralf's excellent steak tartare, where the richness and the sweetness were welcome. That’s something I learned from a sommelier in the city of Orleans some twenty years ago: drink white wine with steak tartare; pinot gris or riesling. You’re not matching the beef in the dish, but rather trying to cope with a somewhat unholy concatenation of condiments.

The next bottle was simply brilliant.

2006 Condrieu ‘La Bonnette’, Réne Rostaing
This wine really didn't have all that much to do with my very tastily done chicken paillard or Peter’s salmon w/ fennel which accompanied it. The dishes provided decently neutral backgrounds for this bottle from the Northern Rhône which proceeded to put on quite a show.
The first impression of this wine which sprang to mind, it wasn’t at all daunted by having to follow the significant residual sugar of the Rheingauer... colour was mellow medium gold, the aromatix were certainly honeysucklish enough, honied and tinged with a bit of spice—but the texture of this wine was extraordinary, the way it coated the palate from one end to the next with flavours of peach, confectionary and blood orange—this is one of the finest viogniers I've ever had the pleasure to drink. The presence and persistence of this Condrieu on the palate were truly memorable. Finish was nicely balanced, good grip and acids, didn’t think too much about minerality, but I imagine that's not what viognier’s about. This was just plain paradise.

I remember my first impression of Condrieu—it seemed to me that in the late eighties the city of Lyon was producing about as much soot and ash as Cleveland and Pittsburgh put together, and I was amazed that viticulture could co-exist there with such a formidable presence of industrial pollutants...

Monday, July 14, 2008


an exceptional bottle of riesling, shared with Cynthia Sexton at the Tribeca Grill...

1994 Saarburger Rausch Kabinett, Zilliken

this one has resolved all of its baby fat, and has become sleek and well-concentrated, and has grown rather eloquent with age. The word ‘Rausch’ means intoxication, by the way, and it even made a guest appearance in American English during psychedelic days, modified as ‘rush,’ the onset of marijuana-induced euphoria...

almost no typical old-riesling aromas, wonderfully fresh fruit, abundant acid levelling off the residual sugar, beautifully floral aromatix, orange blossom and lemon peel, transparently light on the palate with stone fruit flavours, lovely minerality. The sliced seared tuna salad placed no great demands on this one. By no means an old wine, and rather inexpensive by NYC winelist standards, mid forties, I seem to remember...

Wines from this estate can age rather well. On a visit with Hanno Zilliken in the mid-nineties, I declined the invitation to taste something with seventeen syllables in the title, and instead asked for an older Spätlese. He returned from the cellar with a bottle of the 1959 Saarburger Rausch Spätlese, which showed no sign of being thirty-five... How old is that in human years?

Zilliken Act II was played several days later to a select audience, when friend and colleague Aaron Sing Fox took me for lunch to Tocqueville, a favourite on 15th at 5th.

2001 Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett, Zilliken

A different sort of wine, at a different stage of evolution: plenty of fat left on this baby, pretty cinammon spice at the edges of this greenapple contraption. Although I imagine that there’s a good deal of residual sugar here, the acids are adequate to bring it in to balance—what took a while to come out was the sense of minerality that one expects... a very satisfying bottle.

nb: One must lament the assimilation of Saar and Ruwer into Theme-Park Mosel-Land... (although, even better is to listen to Egon Müller IV or Marcel Tyrell lament it...)