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Monday, October 7, 2013

A Quest for Riesling & Gewurztraminer

It only seems fitting that my first wine post, start where it all began for me in my wine tasting adventure. If you have read my post, A Tasting Adventure: from Wine to Coffee, you are already aware, that my experience with wine, began when I was 19, while studying in Engelberg, Switzerland. Most wine drinkers began tasting wines in predominantly red regions, like Italy or California; so they tend to prefer dry, red wines. I am the opposite. Since I received my Oenology (wine science) certification in a german Canton of Switzerland, my first tasting experience was in the region in which german style white wines were grown.

The first wine I tasted wine, was a German Riesling. By taste, I don't mean drink. I mean TASTE. In my post Train Your Palate: To taste coffee, wine, and the finer things in life. I explain what tasting really means, and how you can train your palate to taste. German Rieslings were the first wines, that I was able to dissect the individual flavors and characteristics. As I mentioned in my post, that first German Riesling brought back childhood memories.

For this reason, German Rieslings are special to me. As my palate evolved, I could no longer claim Riesling as my favorite varietal. Halfway into my wine course, I tasted Gewurztraminers from the Alsace region of France. I was blown away. When I am out, and sipping wine, I usually stick with my standard Riesling, but when I'm celebrating a special occasion, its with an Alsatian Gewurztraminer.

When we opened SiP, I couldn't wait to start writing our wine list. Of course the Riesling and Gewurztraminer would be the best I could find. Before we opened, we were bombarded by wine reps from every possible distributer. I affectionately named them my "Wine Stalkers." I thought with all of these reps bombarding me for business and putting various wines in front of me, finding the best Riesling and Gewurztraminer, would not be a problem. No such luck.

The Riesling we put on our list, was the first one we tasted. It was ok, but too syrupy sweet. It was from the Columbia Valley Region of Washington. I had excellent Rieslings from this region, Pacific Rim, and Chateau Ste. Michelle, to name a few. I asked about them, but this was the best they could do. It had a cool label, with a catchy name, so we settled for it, hoping to find something better, soon.

Shortly after, another distributer showed me their portfolio. I noticed Chateau Ste. Michelle was listed. I ordered a case, just for myself (Selfish, I know.) Since I settled for a Riesling, and Chateau Ste. Michelle Rieslings are on almost any chain restaurant list, I opted for the Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer for our list. Our rep turned up her nose, explaining that Chateau Ste. Michelle is sold in the grocery store. I explained that, I am not willing to sacrifice quality. I'm not going to put a lesser quality label on my list, just because it can't be found anywhere else. I explained the flavor profile I'm looking for, while pointing out that Chateau Ste. Michelle manages to make the best German style Riesling, and Gewurztraminer I have tasted outside of Europe. Furthermore, it stands up with most of the Rieslings I've tasted in Germany.

In addition to finding me the pillars for our wine list, I challenged my wine stalkers to find me a classic German Riesling and Alsatian Gewurztraminer.

Why Alsace? I may be partial to the Alsace region, knowing that my family is from there. Even so, Alsace is a 70 mile long, 2 mile wide region in France, on the border of Germany. This border, however has changed, frequently causing the region to be passed between Germany and France, for hundreds of years. These changes had a great deal of influence in the wine making traditions in Alsace. Alsace is the only region in France using varietal labeled wines. These varietals are also similar to the varietals grown in Germany. Most of the vineyards in this region run north and south at the lower slopes of the Vosges Mountains to the west, with the Rhine River to the East. The altitude and terrier provide an ideal balance between drainage, sunlight, and temperature.

Last week, I was brought a 2010 Trimbach Gewurztraminer. I was more than pleased. Trimbach is well known, as the best wine producer in Alsace. For nearly 400 years, the Trimbach family has been making wine. Since 1626, Trimbach has set the standard of what traditional Alsatian varietals should be. So much so, that the term "Trimbach Style" has become synonymous with traditional Alsatian. This tradition and quality is still carried out today by the 12th and 13th Generation Trimbach family. Hubert, his daughter Anne, and Nephews John and Peter are keeping their family legacy going.

I immediately recognized the simple yellow label. It was one of the Alsatian Gewurztraminers I fell in love with in Switzerland. I attempted to contain myself as the wine rep allowed me the honor of opening the bottle. I sat there, swirling and smelling. The aroma was so intense, and complex; I could sit there for hours, just swirling and smelling. I was naming off 5 different aromas, each time I swirled and smelled. Grapefruit, apple, guava, pear, white cherry at first. Then floral aromas, of daffodil, jasmine, and honeysuckle. Spices of cardamon, anise, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. I didn't want to take up any more of her time, so I tasted. All I could do was nod. "That's is! That's what I've been waiting for." Then I looked at the price. I would have to sell it for $16 a glass, but it was worth it. I was looking to replace the Chateau Ste. Michelle, but I ended up adding a higher end Gewurztraminer to the list. We also tastes 3 German Rieslings, but none of them had the intensity I was looking for.

The following week, she showed up with more German Rieslings. Without studying the label other than seeing one was from Pfalz and the other from Mosel, I tasted the one from Pflaz first. I nodded again, "Yep that's it! That's what I've been asking for." I said. I looked at the label again. "Wait a minute! I thought this was from Germany!" The back of the label said Chateau Ste. Michelle. The front said Saint M. I looked at the back again it said Saint Michel, and the importer was Chateau Ste. Michelle.

"Ok, I have to google this one." I said. Turns out famed German wine maker Dr. Loosen has been collaborating with Chateau Ste. Michelle for several years. Most notable is their Eroica Riesling. No wonder why I like Chateau Ste. Michelle so much! I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Loosen, while touring Staatlicher Hofkeller in W├╝rzburg. I could write an entire post of how amazing that tour was. I remember arriving at the winery at 10am. It was Fourth of July, and Dr. Loosen knew a majority of the students were from the US. We were greeted in the lobby with several flutes of sparkling wine and a welcoming toast to our independence. Now that Chateau Ste. Michelle is importing, it only seems fitting to import Dr. Loosen's Pfalz grown Riesling into the US. They even named it Saint M or Saint Michel.

Below are my tasting notes, but stop in to SiP and taste for yourself.

Saint M, Riesling
2011 Rhine River Vally, Pfalz Germany - A traditional German style Reisling, made by famed wine maker Dr. Loosen. Fresh fruits and flowers on the nose, with brisk and tangy acidity you'd hardly notice the slightly sweet residual sugar. The flavors stone fruits and Granny Smith apples.

Chateau Ste Michelle, Gewurztraminer
2011, Columbia Valley, Washington
Sweet yet crisp, with a hint of spice. Huge aromas of grapefruit, pear and clove, followed by flavors of cherry, cardamom and guava.

Trimbach, Gewurztraminer
2010 Alsace, France AOC
Very intense, complex aromas of grapefruit, mango, daffodil and spice. Quite smooth with soft body, yet crisp flavors of ripe citrus, peach and tropical fruits. Finishes clean and long, with balance. 


  1. Love having SiP in Holly Springs! I wrote a blog post about my experience here! Check it out:

    Thanks! Can't wait to come back for a visit.

    1. Thanks Meghan! Glad to hear you had a good time! What part if Buffalo is your husband from? Justin and I are also from there! I'll be sure to share your link on our FB Page.