We are a wine shop that explores the best of both worlds with retail shopping and a walk-in tasting room open Tuesday through Sunday. Our tasting room selections change monthly and always focus on a different "Old World" and "New World" region. The ever-changing menu allows our guests to constantly explore and discover something new. This month we are exploring Germany and Oregon. Order a flight of all four wines or simply stop by, shop, and enjoy a glass. It's up to you!
Host to some of the northernmost vineyards in the world, Germany is a region known for its cool, continental climate. Vineyards are found throughout the country, with the primary winemaking regions centered around the Rhine River and its tributaries running along the southwestern edge of the country. The extreme northern latitude of these vineyards brings the climate conversation to the forefront in this part of the world. Several factors, including vineyard slope and aspect, soil heat retention, and proximity to the river allow for grapes to even have a chance at ripening. Many famous vineyard sites sit on such steep slopes overlooking the rivers, that they must be farmed by hand. Slopes can be so extreme that often times heat retaining slate is manually moved back up the vineyards when it erodes over time.
Riesling reigns in Germany, comprising nearly one quarter of all plantings, and overall, white grapes make up approximately 60% of the vineyards. Simply stated, Riesling is tenacious, flourishes in the long, cool growing season, and has the ability to produce some of the most captivating wines in the world. In the modern wine era, sommeliers and wine professionals have been trying to convince the general population that Riesling is not just a simple sweet wine. While it's true that there are sweet examples, many are bone-dry, and the dry style wines have been trending amongst producers for some time now. Furthermore, Riesling naturally has high acidity which allows for even the off-dry or sweeter styles to finish incredibly clean on the palate.
German wine labels can be confusing even for the seasoned wine drinker. How do you know what style of Riesling you are buying? Well, its starts with learning a bit of terminology. There are 13 official regions within Germany and wines from these approved areas are classified as "Qualitätswein" or "Prädikatswein". Qualitätswein are quality wines from a specific region, but Prädikatswein takes classification one step further based on levels of ripeness (or sugar content) at harvest. Classifications start with "Kabinett" at the lowest sugar content (at harvest) and progress upward to "Spätlese", "Auslese", "Beerenauslese" (BA), "Eiswein", and finally "Trockenbeerenauslese" (TBA).
Confused yet? Here are a couple key points. While the above classifications are labeled on the bottle and indicate sugar levels at harvest, the winemaker decides how much of that sugar is actually fermented into alcohol. If you see wines with 8-10% alcohol, you can assume that wine may be a bit on the sweeter side. Another tip is to look for the word "Trocken" on the label if looking for a dry style. You can also look for "GG" on the label which stands for "Grosses Gewächs ". This classification is regulated by a producers’ collective called the V.D.P. and typically indicates high quality, vineyard specific wines made in a dry style.
Yes, Riesling gets the most attention when discussing German wines, but other notable white grape varietals include Müller Thurgau and Sylvaner. A bit surprising to some, Germany produces large amounts of Pinot Noir. Known as Spätburgunder, these can be remarkable values for any Pinot Noir lover as the wines often show vibrant fruit, distinctive fragrance, and lively acidity and freshness.
The German flight this month kicks your palate off with a wonderfully fresh Sekt (sparkling) from Fitz-Ritter. You will then move into a dry single-vineyard Riesling from Tesch that holds wonderful depth and complexity while maintaining edgy acidity. The third wine shows off the Pinot Noir from from the well known region of Baden in the southwest corner of Germany. This is mouthwatering, fresh Pinot Noir with a strong mineral backbone. We finish with a Spätlese from the iconic Ürziger Würzgarten site in the Mittel Mosel; a wine you do not want to miss!
Planted to only few vineyards prior to the 1960's, many at the time thought Oregon was too wet for wine production . However, thanks to a few pioneering farmers, in a matter of a few decades, this region has become widely known for producing incredible Pinot Noir. There are four main sub regions within Oregon, but the Willamette Valley is the primary spot and accounts for two thirds of overall wine production. While a few other varietals are grown, Pinot Noir is the driving force. Today, smaller AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) within Willamette have been broken down to further distinguish differences in the wines. These include Eola-Amity Hills, Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, and Yamhill-Carlton to name a few.
Generally cooler and wetter than the nearby California or Washington wine regions, the climate is certainly challenging. The Coast mountain range protects the Willamette Valley from excessive rains from the West coast and the long cool growing season allows grapes to ripen slowly which is perfect for Pinot Noir. Vineyards typically sit above the lush valley floor starting at 200 ft or above. These cool-climate wines typically show new world fruit with an old world restraint.
Aside from Pinot Noir, other red grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo, and Gamay (as you will see in our flight). On the white side, Pinot Gris has always been a fun playful wine, but Chardonnay is rapidly becoming a serious player as the global demand for more restrained styles of Chardonnay is on the rise. Also look for dry Reisling when you can!
It is remarkable that in just over 50 years time, Oregon has secured its status as one of the premier places in the world for Pinot Noir. The region as a whole truly speaks of nature and farming. There are no large châteaus or mansions with vineyards, this is rustic wine country. As with so many great regions, the wines have come to reflect their place of origin.
Looking to Customize?
We now host curated tastings for groups of two to ten people. Our tastings are a great way to explore wines that are new to you or indulge in some of your favorite regions. Whether you are looking to learn or to simply relax, our team has you covered.