Thursday, April 20, 2017

Riesling Fellowship Dinner 18 April 2017, NYC

oberhalb von Oberhausen...

Tuesday night to the Beekman Hotel, for a celebratory dinner thrown by Wines of Germany, honouring the lifelong achievements of importers Rudi Wiest and Terry Theise and writer/journalist David Schildknecht with inclusion in their Riesling Fellowship.

restaurateur Paul Grieco was also on hand to take a victory lap, having been himself previously honoured with said accolade.

first things first – excellent to see Howard Goldberg among the company; he has always been a model of class and engagement, inexhaustible curiosity, unstupid language with regard to wine and a paragon of excellent writing in general, terse and epigrammatic.

second things second – i have been to many wine dinners, and more than enough awards dinners. Never have i been so well fed at one of these affairs; both the exemplary quality of the grub (although trying to make anything palatable out of a cauliflower seems to be nolo contendre doomed to frustration) and the crispness/attentiveness of the service. Tom Colicchio, exec Bryan Hunt and staff to be singled out for particular praise.

good to see everybody at the standup/millabout portion of the proceedings – David Bowler, Juliette Pope, Charlie Woods, Evan Spingarn, Daniel Hubbard, Heather Meyer, Cathy Schildknecht...

this part of the evening also provided the most memorable wine of the event...

g•d bless cantankerous old Rudi, who brought Silvaner and Grauburgunder to a Riesling show! A GG Silvaner from Wirsching in Iphofen – perfect with the Gaumenkitzler that were reached around by the restaurant staff, as was Rudi’s Rebholz Riesling GG.

then on to David for a Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Kabinett trocken ‘12 from what was for a long time my favourite estate in Germany, Koehler-Ruprecht...

then the longest name on the smallest label ever to grace a green bottle:
Weingut Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Sang Riesling Auslese 1973.
In tiptop form at age 43, typical Ruwer glint and weightless transparency, had resolved much of its residual sugar into the overall flavour profile, more secondary than tertiary even at this august age – but does anybody know what Ruwer means anymore, since it and the Saar got gerrymandered into the Mosel?

next  came the wine of the night, which remained the wine of the night even after the nine carefully selected sippingtons that accompanied the first three courses of the sitdown:

Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Spätlese 2004 from Weingut H. Dönnhoff.

over the course of a life frequently punctuated with Rieslings, i have had perhaps a scant handful that showed aromatics more magickal than this one from the hand of the Nahe master. The ensemble of volcanic minerality and generous fruit in the nose, the subtlety with which a rather substantial palate spread itself out and the vibrant finish with matching retronasals were an almost unimaginably lovely combination. NB i remember Helmut Dönnhoff telling me years ago something to the effect of 
»Spätlese is the essential expression of German Riesling.« 
And i have always been a Spätlese drinker.

then the awards; accompanied by very respectable Riesling Sekt from Gut Hermannsberg – everybody spoke well:
first our moderator Monika Reule, director of the Deutsches Weininstitut, giving the intros, then...
Grieco, with typical infectious enthusiasm and fewer previously unprintable words than customarily characteristic of his oratory.
Theise, giving thanks and singling out his gentlemanly competitor Wiest for particularly generous praise.
Schildknecht, short and to the point.
Wiest, wrapping with a bit of background that was new even to me.

All three honourees are musical, two of them jazzmen – Rudi is a bebop piano player and Terry a monster fusion guitarist... David was a fiddler during his student days, actually a classical violinist, and has the most sophisticated musical sensibilities of the three men. For some thirty years now he has been one of my preferred companions for evenings out on the town: Wagner and Janáček at the opera, Mahler and Schoenberg in the concert hall, Sir Andras Schiff on the bench playing Beethoven and Schubert – but Dave was also quick to acknowledge the brilliance of Richard Thompson when it was brought to his attention.

and then to table...

i refrained from telling the chap (not naming names) who sat by chance on my starboard side that he had in fact stood me up (and wouldn’t reschedule) when i had an appointment to sell him Riesling coupla years back... mentioned this to the colourful unDiva Heather Meyer perched on my left, but promising no theatrix...

the dreaded Cauliflower (first course, roasted) lived up to its track record, singlehandedly slaying three rather substantial wines, one selection per honouree:

Schildknecht: Keller Dalsheimer Hubacker Riesling GG 2007 Rheinhessen
Theise: von Winning Pechstein Riesling GG 2014 Pfalz
Wiest: Rainer Sauer Ab Ovo Silvaner trocken 2013 Franken

though the Pechstein had better luck than the name would seem to indicate...

second course came the Radiatori, with smoked mussels & co in peperade:

S : Emmerich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling R 2010 Nahe
T: Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken 2015 Mosel
W: Salwey Eichberg Pinot Gris GG 2014 Baden

in which Señor Piperade did indeed flex his muscles and ride rather roughshod over the Pinot Gris, flattening it to the point of fruitlessness. I think Mosel wines are the greatest wine-for-wine’s-sake wines in the entire world, tend to drink them as solo acts, but loved the way that the Selbach-O caressed the dish and filled in the upper level of the harmonic spectrum. The Monzinger worked best of the three matches, blue slate and quartzite coupled with marvellous depth of fruit that enveloped every other flavour in a chaste embrace. Not so chaste was the remnant of the Keller Hubacker left still alive by its encounter with the cauliflower – a better and wilder match for the dish than any of those intended and certainly better here than where it had been placed. I have always been a partisan of the Roten Hang where Rheinhessen is concerned, but this was indeed great breadth and class.

and then the Berkshire Pork Loin, done to spec, with fennel and cippolinis in mustard...

Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb 2015 Saar
Müller-Catoir Riesling Feinherb «MC» 2015 Pfalz
Schloss Schönborn Hochheimer Domdechaney Riesling Spätlese feinherb 2013 Rheingau

i had thought that This Little Piggy would be the moment for the leftover PG, but it was actually the Hock that won the round. Splendid substance and balance, lovely and long. Though i am still confused by why Hochheim is in the Rheingau – perhaps because there is no Maingau? but that would be Franconia, or?
The Saar (see above re: Ruwer) Riesling was marvellous, finest wine of the three but only after the pork loin had faded to a flavour-memory, rather than a presence on the palate.

Very attractive carrot cake. I admired it from a distance.

Credit given where credit was certainly earned, years of swimming upstream, facing resistance – and occasionally being obliged to overcome intransigence and stupidity. I’m glad i know these guys.