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Bespoke wines.

I grabbed a bottle of Carl Loewen’s 2016 Estate Riesling a couple nights ago, and as we were drinking it (and loving it to pieces) I thought, this wine wouldn’t exist except for a partnership with Christopher Loewen whereby I conceived it, we refined the conception, and he made it for me. I don’t believe he sells it to anyone else. Also, these not-sweet not-dry wines are rather non grata within Germany. I did quite a bit of this type of thing over the years. I love dry Riesling and many of my producers make excellent dry Rieslings at the “estate” level. You can argue that it’s even harder to do that style successfully, as you can’t use sweetness in place of fruit. But all things being equal I find that Rieslings with a stealthy whisper of sweetness, an inference or a surmise, are usually more complex, better suited for long keeping, and undoubtedly more flexible with food. Yeah, “food!” What food, right? Well, the food that most of us eat most of the time, that is, food with some of its own sweetness. And I’m not talking about dumping a bunch of strawberries in your Risotto. I mean the sweetness present in the myriad vegetables and fruits and even proteins we consume constantly. Last time I bought Nantucket Bay scallops, the dry Chenin I chose to drink was too dry for those yummy little sugar bombs. A roasted Kuri squash with sage butter (and a little Parmesan) sucked away the fruit in our dry wine while the weensy bit of sweetness in a Feinherb Riesling was not only perfect, but sublime.

So OK, I’m a True Believer in that style. It informed every element of the resplendent Winnings Riesling my friends at Von Winning made for me. That wine is the poster-child for the style – for the entire concept, if it comes to that. At Müller-Catoir they cut a slice off of their estate “MC” Riesling (dry, of course) and bottled it for me with just the implied is-it-actually-there? sweetness I crave, and it is fascinating to taste the two side by side; both excellent, but one tastes like it’s in black and white when the other’s in color. The same exercise can be done at Dönnhoff, though their Gutsriesling – the one that doesn’t say “Trocken” – has been made without my prompting, though very much with my approval. The good folks at Schlossgut Diel made a wine per my request called Von der Nahe. Loewen, as I mentioned, made a wine for me. Adam and Selbach didn’t need my wheedling, as they already made marvelous examples of that type of wine.

One could argue that importers shouldn’t be editorializing with their producers, but my relationships with growers have always sought to be – and almost always have been – collegial, and marked by mutual respect as between equals. I never swaggered in saying “If you want to sell wine young’un, you’ll give me what I ask for…” but rather a process of what about… and should we try? Now that my portfolio is under-new-management as it were, I wonder whether these wines will continue to exist. Obviously I won’t be there to taste all the prototypes of the blends and decide which is the best one, but to be fair this was almost always a consensus decision with me reserving the right to cast the tie-breaking vote if necessary. The 2018s are the last vintage in which I had input.

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There are small, artisanal and family-run wineries just across the Rhine in Alsace, producing lovely yet different expressions of Riesling (and other noble varieties)...I'm curious as to why an avowed lover and evangelizer of Riesling such as you, is not sharing some of these "discoveries" to your American market audience.



Thank you for shepherding these wines into existence, and bringing the ones that already existed to America. I don’t recall the exact wine that first brought me to the style you describe, but it was the 2004 Selbach-Oster Himmelreich Kabinett Halbtrocken that cemented my love for the genre.

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