There are a few advantages to living in Houston. Perhaps the first is even though I find myself here less than a week before Thanksgiving, I have yet felt the need to wear pants since I moved down here in July. Of course, part of the reason is that I now work at home, but mainly it due to the fact that the temperatures are still reaching the mid to upper 80’s every day.
Another advantage is that the wine scene here in the Bayou City is thriving—I have been to no fewer than a dozen tastings already, including taking part as a judge in a wine competition for the first time. This is, of course, a welcomed change from the paucity of such events in my former home of Philadelphia, where I doubt I was to as many tasting events in 16 years there.
That is, of course, if you eliminate all the tastings I attended in New York City. For those of you that might not know, New York is the center of the wine industry in the United States. Some might think it is Napa, or by extension, San Francisco, but while Northern California is perhaps the center of production, the center of wine sales and marketing is America’s greatest city (I know some of you might disagree with that label as I once did, but you are entitled to your opinion, even if it is wrong).
Once I realized that I would be moving to Texas, I headed up to New York as frequently as my wife would let me, often multiple times per week. Not long before we moved, I was invited by the magnanimous and glamorous Jane Kettlewell to eat Korean barbecue with Nik Weis of St. Urbans-Hof.
Riesling and bulgogi?
I had never met Nik, although I had visited the winery in Leiwen, Germany, just up from the Mosel River a couple of years ago. At the time, the man who has become synonymous with the brand was (as he often is) on the road, promoting and selling his wonderful wines.
So meeting him in New York would have to count as the next best thing.
Walking into Gaonnuri restaurant on Broadway, between 31st and 32nd Street, in the heart of Koreatown, I recognized Nik immediately, seated at the bar, pouring not his wine, but a 30+ year-old Bordeaux.
Once at our table, the Riesling started flowing. We started with a relatively new line, the Nik Weis Selections, which Nik created to represent the drier wines that he is producing more of these days. While most of the wine exported remains the sweeter style, there is more demand in Germany for a drier style.
Unprovoked, but certainly welcomed, Nik then launched into a bit of a history lesson as to why Germans, in general, were going for drier Rieslings.
In the latter part of the 1960’s in Germany (much like in other parts of the world), there were student uprisings by those born after the end of World War II. The 1968ers (what Germans called their hippies) revolted against German society and what they saw as vestiges from the generations that were involved in the war. They were anxious to disassociate themselves from the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis and liberalize German society.
In the 80’s, as the ‘68ers matured and became wine drinkers, they saw sweet wines as part of the establishment and started to demand dry wines as yet another way to repudiate the past. There were also several scandals at the time in the German wine industry with accusations of doctored wines, thus underscoring the ‘68ers’ disdain for sweet wines, seeing them as impure, trying to cover up imperfections.
Thus, many German producers now produce both dry (to meet domestic demand) and sweet wines.
[Having worked in education, it was clear after his brief disquisition that should Nik ever want to give up wine, he would make a fabulous school teacher.
Luckily, at least for this wine lover, he has not made that switch, and he brought along several samples of his prowess in making wines.]
2014 Nik Weis Selections Wiltinger: Tart and zingy with just a bit of sweetness. Grown in red slate which comes through in the wine. 13 grams of sugar, but comes off as dry. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
2015 Nik Weis Selections Urban Riesling: Only non-estate wine (“Hof” means “Estate” in German). Screw cap which Nik says is more and more popular in Germany especially for every day wines. 20 grams sugar. Nice and refreshing, not too contemplative. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 St. Urbans-Hof Estate: From right around the winery. Weightier and fuller. This is quite nice. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 St. Urbans-Hof Bockstein Kabinett: Nik says this might be the greatest vineyard in Germany. Hard to argue. This is fabulous. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 St. Urbans-Hof Goldtröpchen Kabinett: More stone fruit driven and much more tropical even coconut. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 St. Urbans-Hof Saarfeilser Spätlese: At 60 grams of sugar, this is noticeably sweeter, but great aromatics of stone fruit and more minerals driven. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 St. Urbans-Hof Bockstein Auslese: 80 grams. Just a baby. Really a preemie. This needs time. Like 20 years. Huge potential. Huge. Outstanding Plus. 94-97 Points potential.
2011 St. Urbans-Hof Laurentius Lay Trockenbeerenauslese: 250 grams. Barrel sample. Brought over on the plane. Whoa. A bit cloudy, but viscous and golden. Holy cow. My goodness. Outstanding Plus. 96-99 Points potential.