Thursday, August 29, 2013

SF Jazz Center

SF Jazz Center
201 Franklin Street

Jen and I went to the SF Jazz Center to see Marcus Roberts.  Marcus Roberts is definitely one of the best jazz pianists of our generation and the show was fantastic.  He played a variety of jazz standards from Jelly Roll Morton to Duke Ellington.  He slowed down many of the pieces and played them with a hauntingly, beautiful melody.  It is as if the pieces were filtered through a modern Chopin.

Why am I mentioning this on a German Wine blog?  Prior to the show, we stopped at the café/bar at the facility called South at SF Jazz.  We just wanted a quick drink (or two) before the show.  They were busy so I didn’t bother asking to see the wine list - I figured it would just be loaded with new world wines.  I ordered a glass of Scotch and the bartender handed us the appetizer menu along with the wine menu when he brought the drinks.  The wine list is short but the quality is amazing.  There are four German wines on the list including the 2009 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Spätlese, the 2011 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl Kabinett and the 2011 Jakob Schneider Niederhaüser Klamm Kabinett.  The wine list also included some excellent Austrian Gruners as well as a Riesling from Kamptal. 

At this point, I asked to see the dinner menu to see if they served some Riesling-friendly main courses.  The dinner options include Wild Flounder with fennel and green tomatoes, Louisiana gulf shrimp and grits with Jalapeno and Mary’s free range fried chicken with “Delta” sauce.  The most expensive main course was $21.

Maybe we can schedule an event there.  What could be better than a glass of Dönnhoff with Wild Flounder followed by Branford Marsalis? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Guided Tasting with Johannes Selbach of Selbach-Oster

Many thanks to Barry and Joan for hosting this event and to Von for working out all the details with Mr. Selbach’s team.  Many thanks also to Harris who works behind the scenes as Treasurer keeping our organization solvent.

This was an incredible tasting.  These were some the best wines I’ve tasted at a GWS event.  Mr. Selbach’s wines are a paradigm of old world winemaking.  The wine world is a huge place and I don’t like to get tangled up in debates about the superiority of one wine style to another.  However, my palate definitely prefers the old world style.  I enjoyed these wines so much that I didn’t take any tasting notes.  When I am drinking truly sublime wines, I want to enjoy them without having to think about them.  So, the tasting notes are courtesy of my wife, Jen.

Mr. Selbach gave a very informative presentation and has a wicked sense of humor.  I could have listened to him talk all night.  He said a few things that really caught my attention.  He mentioned that the best Rieslings from the USA are being crafted in the Finger Lakes region.  I completely agree.  Rieslings from the Anderson Valley, Oregon and Napa just aren’t in the same league as the Finger Lakes Rieslings.  Unfortunately, they are difficult to find.  Occasionally, I have seen them at Whole Foods and Beltramos on the Peninusula usually has a few.

I almost burst out laughing when Mr. Selbach talked about the steps he takes to remove the flavors from the oak barrels by soaking them before using them.  I just had this picture in my mind of a New World winemaker thinking that his brand new oak barrel is not imparting enough vanilla to his wine and throwing oak chips into the barrel. 

I also recall Mr. Selbach saying that if you don’t have great grapes, you can’t make a great wine. 
Can you get anymore old school than that???

 My general impressions of Mr. Selbach’s wines are that they are a touch drier than you would expect for each prädikat level.  Even his declassified wines are not as sweet as you would expect.  The results are fantastic.  I do not necessarily dislike sweeter wines, but I do have a problem with the over-the-top syrupy wines where the honeyed flavors overwhelm the palate.  I enjoyed all of Mr. Selbach’s wines from the Kabinett Trocken through the Auslesen.

The mico block wines (Anrecht, Rotlay and Schmitt) were the stars of the tasting.  For the micro block wines, Mr. Selbach picks all the grapes in one passing from just a tiny block of the vineyard.  When he first said that, I instinctively recoiled – wouldn’t selective picking with multiple passes yield better results?  The answer is no and the proof is in the wine.  Each micro block wine had a distinct, complex palate and these were some of the better German Rieslings I’ve tasted at any price.

Here are Jen’s tasting notes:

2008 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett trocken
Herbal, minerally, grapefruit, long finish, succulent mid-palate

2006 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken
Spicy, zesty, graphite underneath, lemon curd

2011 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett
Gorgeous florals, plenty of acidity and minerality, fennel, supremely elegant

2011 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
Fruity, peachy, juicy with spice, creamy mid-palate, long finish, luxurious but not lacking in freshness

2007 Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese
Succulent dried fruits, good acidity underneath

2007 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese*
Dried apricot, minerally, quite juicy

2006 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese*
Pretty, delicate florals, quite rich and honeyed.  A de-classified BA.  Plenty of backbone underneath

2011 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling “Anrecht”
Wildly floral, plenty of acidity, long finish, lightest and best of the micro blocks

2011 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling “Rotlay”
Floral, rich, close to BA, honeyed

2011 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling “Schmitt”
Gorgeous, rich, jammy, sticky, don’t even touch this one for a decade.

2003 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
Superb.  Spicy flavors, herbal, good acidity, dried fruits, quite restrained, no botrytis.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blush'ing in the Castro

Blush! Wine Bar
476 Castro Street

Jen and I spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon at Blush! in the Castro.  I usually struggle to find three or four wines I would like to order at a wine bar.  At Blush!, I could have easily tried a dozen of their wines by the glass.  Everything we ordered was fantastic including the following:

Les Chataigniers, Sancerre
Cave de Ribeauvillé, Pinot Blanc, Alsace
Domaine Matrot, Bourgogne Chardonnay
Domaine Richou, “Les 4 Chemins” Cabernet Franc, Anjou
Georges Vigoroux “Gouleyant” Malbec, Cahors
Bodegas Ateca, “Atteca”, Old Vine Grenache, Calatayud, Spain

They serve over 30 wines by the glass and the selection did include one German Riesling – a Kesseler from the Rheingau.  Most of the by the glass prices are in the $10 to $12 range.

They also have a brunch and dinner menu.  We tried the cheese plate and it was as good as the wine - four cheeses including Camembert and Brillat-Savarin along with pieces of sourdough bread.  The service was excellent. 

My only complaint is that they don’t offer flights or half glasses.  I would have liked to try more wines but one can only drink so much…

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Johannes Selbach will be presiding over our June 22nd tasting.  He will lead us through a guided tasting of his wines.  Mr. Selbach’s wines are some of the finest Rieslings from Germany and some of the finest whites produced anywhere.  This will easily be the event of the year.

His family has been cultivating grapes in Germany since 1600.  In Terry Theise’s 2012 German catalog (Theise is the importer for Mr. Selbach), Mr. Selbach says that he prefers to make moderate wines rather than fruit bombs.  Here is a very brief overview of his portfolio taken from Mr. Theise’s catalog.

Regional Wines:

Most people scoff at regional wines and while I’ve never tasted one of Mr. Selbach’s regional (negociant wines) wines, I’m sure they are up to his high standards.  All of his regionals are 100% Riesling and he purchases them from growers whom he has known for many years.

Mr. Selbach’s Vineyards:

Mr. Selbach’s wines are crafted with grapes from the following vineyards in the Mosel:

Bernkasteler Badstube
Zeltinger Schlossberg
Wehlener Sonnenuhr
Graacher Domprobst
Zeltinger Sonnenuhr    

Mr. Selbach’s portfolio includes a variety of prädikat levels from these vineyards.  His 2011 offerings include a Zeltinger Himmelreich Kabinett Halbtrocken, a Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese and even a Zeltinger Schlossberg Spätlese Trocken.  Mr. Selbach also crafts over a half a dozen wines from micro blocks within each vineyard. 

Last year, I was fortunate enough to find a bottle of his 2007 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese.  The palate entry and mid palate showed a wonderful, creamy, citrus flavor that was a bit tart but in a good way.  The finish was very minerally and the citrus flavors echoed into a long finish.  It was a wonderful wine and more in the classical, Spätlese style.

I am counting down the minutes until this tasting… 

Marines' Memorial Dinner

Our first dinner of 2013 was a joint event with the Stanford Alumni Association.  The dinner took place at the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco.  Located at Union Square, the building was built in 1946 and was a fantastic venue for our dinner.  We dined in a private room with a fireplace and had a wonderful time.  Once again, thanks to Barry Boothe for donating the Spätlese and the two Auslesen.

Our welcoming wine was the 2010 Gebrüder Simon Sekt Riesling Brut.  This particular Sekt was dosed with a smidgen of Auslesen which gave it quite a rich palate.  It was crisp, minerally and pungent with herbal notes and a granny smith apple flavor.  There were herbal undertones and it was nicely concentrated.

We decided to serve four wines with the meal ranging from bone dry to mildly sweet.  The 2011 Spreitzer Hallgartener Hendelberg Riesling Trocken was one of my favorite wines of the evening.  One sip and flavors of Lemon curd, white pepper and nectarine coated your palate.  It is simply one of the best trockens I’ve tasted in quite awhile.

The 2011 Schloss Lieser Braueneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett showed flavors of pear and nutmeg.  It was very good.

I had high hopes for the 2011 Von Hövel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Kabinett and was a bit disappointed.  As with a few of the 2011’s we tasted, I think it needs more age before a fair assessment can be made.  It seemed more floral than fruity although my wife did detect a taste of Rainier cherry underneath.

The 2006 Mönchhof Ürziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spätlese was honeyed, syrupy and a bit monolithic.  There was a nice peach flavor but it was much too sweet to serve with food.  This Spätlese is more of a dessert wine.

The two dessert wines were the 2011 Donnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Auslese and the 2011 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese.  The Donnhoff was fantastic and one of my favorite wines of the evening.  It was amazingly approachable for such a young Auslesen.  The palate showed flavors of peaches, pears, lemon, and tarragon.  This wine had plenty of acidity and a long finish.  It was ethereal, subtle and complex.  Did I say it was fantastic?  The Prum was nice but seemed closed.  I didn’t detect much on the palate.  This one definitely needs some age.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gerhard Al Alba Vincero Kabinett Trocken

In the opera Turandot, Princess Turandot must marry Calaf after he correctly answers three riddles.  Calaf gives her one chance to free herself: she must guess his name by dawn.  Princess Turandot decrees that no one in her kingdom will sleep that night until the stranger’s name is discovered.  At this point, Calaf launches into Nessun Dorma (No one shall sleep) and loudly proclaims at the end, “Al Alba Vincero” (I shall win).  I’m guessing that Mr. Gerhard is an opera fan…

I have drunk many vintages of this wine and it is one of my favorite, inexpensive German Rieslings.  This version is quite dry and the palate is rather closed right now.  I would love to try it again in five years but still enjoyed it.   The subtle flavors include Lime, Lemon and a touch of Papaya.  The finish is minerally and short.  It’s a nice quaffer.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Members' Only Tasting

I would like to take care of all the “thank yous” first.  Thanks to Barry and Joan for hosting.  Thanks to Barry for donating many of the older wines.  Thanks to Joan for all the wonderful food and thanks to Angela Carlsson for donating the Von Hovel.

The Members’ Only Tasting was a rousing success.  It was our largest turnout of the last several years and the wine and food were excellent.  We had a fantastic array of wines from dry to sweet that included wines as old as 1971 and as young as 2011.  I was quite busy pouring wine all evening so my notes are sparse, but here are my impressions of the wines that caught the attention of my palate.

2011 Eva Fricke Seligmacher Trocken
2010 Keller Westhofener Kirchspiel Grosses Gewächs Trocken
2010 Leitz Rüdeshemier Berg Schlossberg “Ehrenfels” Trocken

We began the tasting with three dry wines.  Based upon past experience, I figured the Leitz would be a touch sweeter than the other two so I placed it third among the trockens.  I then took a shot in the dark and started with the Eva Fricke followed by the Keller.  In retrospect, I think this was a mistake.  The palate on the Fricke was so powerful that the more subtle Keller seemed weak in comparison.  The Fricke was definitely the most popular trocken of the evening.  I found it to be flavorful and tight with a salty, lemony flavor.  The Keller was simply amazing – the palate was very smooth and integrated with flavors of zest, gooseberry, bitter marmalade and apple.  It had a long finish and was one of my favorite wines of the evening.  My only notation on the Leitz was “delicious.”

1999 Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinet

I was quite surprised by this wine although I must admit that for Dr. Loosen, I set the bar quite low.  I’m not a huge fan of Loosen.  I fully expected this wine to be completely ruined but I was wrong – it wasn’t fantastic but it did have a pleasant, sweet, lemony flavor.

1971 Schönborn Rüdesheimer Bischofsberg Auslese

This was another of my favorite wines of the evening.  I’ve probably tasted around a half a dozen 1971’s over the last few years and I’ve thought they were too far over the hill.  This Schönborn was definitely past its prime but amazingly, still showed the faintest hint of primary flavors along with the secondary flavors acquired from aging.  It showed a faded marmalade with wisps of citrus on the finish. 

2005 Knebel Winninger Röttgen Auslese
2005 Rosch Trittenheimer Apotheke Beerenauslese

The two dessert wines were both excellent for their respective styles.  The overwhelming favorite of the evening was the Rosch but I had a slight preference for the Knebel.  The Knebel was like a laser beam of honeyed pineapple and was certainly richer than most Auslesen.  The Rosch was rich beyond belief with flavors of marmalade and stone fruit.