A Taste of Germany in San Francisco

It’s taken a over week to come back to reality since my vacation, and just when I thought I’d caught the last glimpse of my fairytale, the page magically turns to a wonderful evening of German Riesling.

A friend in the wine industry read about my travels to Germany and decided to invite me to a tasting.  When I arrive at the Barrel Room, 24 bottles of German riesling happily extend the length of the bar.  If you read my last post about Trocken German Riesling, this is a complete 180, as all but just one were of the Spätlese (Late Harvest) or Kabinett (Main Harvest) categorization.

Spätlese wines are the lightest of the sweet, late harvest Rieslings.  However, there was one that particularly stood out in the lineup.

The 2003 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spätlese, with a touch of oak, great acidity and a slight effervescence, this sweet style Rielsling was among the best that I tasted.  This wine is not available

The Barrel Room co-owner, Carolyn, also shared her insight on a great Riesling produced stateside.  Paumanok 2010 Riesling Semidry Riesling from Long Island is a bright, fruit forward wine that is perfect for sipping this summer.  Paumanok Winery produces this award winning wine in New York, and it’s featured as one of the 2011 WSJwine Luxury Dozen, after having been blindly selected as one of the 12 top wines in the country.

Are you local to San Francisco and interested in buying the wine I feature in my blog? Click on the link to either of the wines and you can purchase directly from my Facebook Page!


Part 2: Württemberg Riesling

In Stuttgart’s red light district, down a cobblestone road strewn with prostitutes and men huddled in the doorways of kitschy bars, lies an upscale restaurant and wine bar. Those who stumble into it after a lively night, and locals who frequent the restaurant, are fortunate to know it exists.

I was lucky enough to be taken here, and was introduced to an exceptional riesling. The wine is from Württemberg, Bavaria, and it’s a dry white wine with exceptional minerality and fruit characteristics.

2011 Weingut Gerhard Aldinger Untertürkheimer Gips Rieslin Ttrocken, Württemberg, Germany

While some prefer a sweeter style of Riesling, this dry, or, trocken style is my preference. It maintains the natural characteristics of the wine – mineralality, stone fruit, chalk.

As Riesling becomes more popular in the new world style wines, some winemakers have begun to add sugar to their processes. If you’ve read my blog about Sancerre, you may be able to pick up on a pattern here. To each his own, but don’t disregard Riesling based on the generalization and fallacy that it is merely an exceptionally sweet desert wine.

If you have the chance to enjoy a German Riesling, look for the classifications on the wine label, it indicates a wine that is dry (trocken) rather than off-dry (halbtrocken), sweeter (lieblich) or sweet (süß).

Part 1: Why to taste wine in Germany

Bewilderment gleamed on the faces of those to whom I explained my plan of traveling to Germany for the wine.

“Wine?” They scoffed in disapproval “you should be going for the beer!”, they declared.

While the beer was amazing, my true passion, and what I dream of perfecting  (which initially has obviously been in the loosest sense of the word) is wine.  This is the first of a few ramblings of my experience, which to summarize, was amazing.

A friend who has been especially supportive through my wine and writing endeavor recently shared his dream with me after several months of traveling, having taken a break from the film industry.

“I want to cook”, he says matter-of-factly.  While this was the first I’d heard of his passion, let alone his ability to cook, I fully expose my self-absorption.

I pompously replied,  “Have you been schooled?  Do you know how to use knives?”

He was quick with his rebuttal, “did you go to wine school?”

I laugh audibly as I’m replying to his Facebook message.  “Yes, not formally though” I exclaimed, thinking back to the countless hours I spent on ‘self study’ including tasting, hosting and learning from sommeliers and winemakers alike.

Touché, I thought.  Well played.

So here begins a recap of my journey through Germany, from the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany through the Bavarian Forest (pictured), down through Regensburg where the Danube river flows, to the Bavarian capital of München.

Stuttgart was my first stop.  Among riesling, and other Trocken white wines, to those bottled in the traditional Franconian Bocksbeutel, I glimpsed a view of a wine culture many do not see.