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Summer of Riesling

Lots of my guests, friends, media, and other folks in the wine industry ask me about my business and my life as a sommelier/business owner.  This is the first of many posts to help answer these questions and give you an idea of what I do on a daily basis.  

The big question as of late has been, “why Riesling?” For a long time it was, and still is, “why Champagne?”  I’ll address the why Champagne question in the future, but while its new and shiny I’ll talk about Riesling. 

Riesling has always been a love of mine.  The first industry wine tasting I ever attended was with Ewald Moseler, when he still had his own company and was the undisputed Riesling king of Portland.  I remember vividly being a room with 80+ Rieslings open from basic QbA all the way to Eiswien.  It was a magnificent introduction to professional tasting, and honestly I haven’t seen a Riesling tasting like it since.  The Terry Thiese Roadshows are close, but not quite there. 

With this foundation, Riesling became one of my loves in the wine world.  I love the acid, I love the sweetness, I really love the balance of the two.  I love the reflection of terrior and soil that I don’t find anywhere else even in Burgundy.  I love the fact that as Erni Loosen once said, “its so low in alcohol, you can drink yourself sober”.  I love the ridiculous complexity of the various systems for categorizing the wines in every country, and usually every region.  I love that its still an amazing value, even more so when you consider price to quality ratio. 

I love Riesling so much that the name of one of my businesses is inspired by it, Red Slate.  In Germany, particularly the Mosel valley, the vines grow in various slates – grey, blue, red, and green.  Each has its own distinct flavors and this was my first true glimpse of terrior.  Red slate Rieslings always have a golden raspberry tone for me. 

Obviously I’m pretty into Riesling.  However, I’m into plenty of wine regions, why couple Riesling with my Champagne bar? Partly because I like to champion under appreciated grapes and regions, but mostly because of timing.  For the last couple years I’ve heard about the Summer of Riesling and gone to bars and restaurants that were participating.  I always wanted to participate at Red Slate but it never made sense because I’m not open regularly.  During my trip to New York recently I spent a good bit of time at Terrior wine bar, where the Summer of Riesling was born.  Those folks were just super awesome and I got inspired to join up and pour Riesling all summer.  It felt like one the most uber-wine nerdy things I could do, pour exclusively Champagne and Riesling.  It’s the wet dream of most sommeliers, so of course I jumped at the chance.  I mean why watch porn, when you can live it. 

Summer of Riesling has been in effect for 11 days, and tomorrow I’m going to do my first menu change of Rieslings available by the glass.  Its been pretty amazing to pour Riesling and Champagne together.  My guests have been enjoying the Rieslings, and I’ve enjoyed blowing up their ideas that Riesling has to be sweet.  Ain’t nothing like your first Australian Riesling to really understand the enamel stripping power of brilliant acidity.  Never again can they think of Riesling as only a sweet wine.  That being said, its been nice to have a couple pleasantly fruity Rieslings with a bit of sweetness to make some of my guests very happy that normally just suffer the dry Champagne that I offer and their friends want. 

From a business perspective, Riesling has been a good thing.  Its added something new for both me and my guests to get excited about, giving them another reason to come back.  My margin is better than on the Champagne, so I’m making more money while charging lower prices.  Its gotten me a nice piece of press with Wine Enthusiast online, check it - http://www.winemag.com/Wine-Enthusiast-Magazine/July-2013/Riled-Up-for-Riesling/

Overall, Riesling is an amazing grape that makes stupidly good wine, you should drink lots more of it.  Particularly at Ambonnay, since I’m pouring incredible Riesling for a low price including so many of the top producers – July is ushering in Dönnhoff, Zind-Humbrecht, Willi Brundlmayer, and Dr. Loosen.  See you soon!