Tuesday, February 9, 2010

German American Wines: (1) NV Two Worlds Pinot Noir, (2) Poet's Leap Riesling and (3) Herrmann J. Wiemer and his Finger Lakes Rieslings

I was born and grew up in Germany. For the past 26 years, I have lived in the US, on and off, in the greater Washington DC area. Over this period, I have discovered wonderful American wine, both from the East and the West Coast. I have continued to drink German wines, although at times, I have been disappointed by what I found in the shelves of the American retailers. And I have discovered a number of German/American wines. These have taken different forms:

First, the most extreme, I believe, is blending of grapes grown in America with grapes grown in Germany. It seems unusual, but it happens.

The second form is a joint venture of an American and a German wine maker, using American grapes.

Third, there are a number of winemakers in the US who make their wine in the US with American grapes, but who have learned how to make wine in Germany. They came to the US some years ago, are settled in the US and produce American wines, but you can see the German roots in the wines.

This is the second article in a series. For each of the three categories, I will discuss one wine or winemaker. You can find the first posting here.

NV Two Worlds Pinot Noir, Dr. Loosen and J. Christopher

Two Worlds is an intercontinental blend. Two Worlds is composed of 90 percent Sp├Ątburgunder and 10 percent Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.To make Two Worlds, Ernst Loosen, who in addition to the Dr. Loosen winery in the Mosel owns the J.L. Wolf estate in the Pfalz, gathered the must from his neighbors and shipped it to Jay Somers of J. Christopher in Oregon. Together, Loosen and Somers blended the Pfalz wine with some Oregon Pinot Noir.

In addition, the two wine makes have started to produce a boutique bottling of Oregon pinot noir called Appassionata after their passion for pinot. So far, they have produced four vintages of their boutique wine but released none.

Ernst Loosen is best known for Eroica which is a collaboration between him and Chateau Ste. Michelle, the huge Washington winemaker. Eroica was launched in 1999. Named for Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica is supposed to reflect not only its variety and site, but also its heritage: bold and forward from its Washington roots, elegant and refined from German inspiration.

They make three kinds of the Eroica. The regular, dry Eroica, an ice wine and a Single Berry Selection. The latter is made in the traditional German Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) style, for which the Mosel valley is so famous, and is one of the few TBAs in North America. This wine is made in very limited quantities and has scored a 98 in the Wine Spectator.

Ernst Loosen is a star in the US. Only two German wines made it this year to the Top 100 wines of the Wine Spectator. One of them is Dr. Loosen’s Dr. L, a wine that is a big success in the US. However, it is completely unheard of in Germany and only produced for the export market. On the three Top 100 lists of the Wine Enthusiast, Dr. Loosen appears twice, with an Auslese from Mosel and with the joint venture wine Eroica from Washington State.

Poet's Leap Riesling Long Shadows and Diel Estate

Poet’s leap is a joint venture of a German and an American wine maker with the German wine maker in the lead. He does not reside in the US, but in Germany, in the Nahe region. He owns Schlossgut Diel in Germany.

Long Shadows has become, in a short time, one of the premier wineries in Washington State . It is an unusual set up. Former Stimson-Lane CEO Allen Shoup works with renowned winemakers from around the world for this venture. Each winemaker creates a single wine using Washington fruit. Add resident winemaker Gilles Nicault to shepherd all of the wines along.

The Poet’s Leap Riesling is made by Armin Diel, one of Germany’s most highly regarded Riesling producers. His family has owned the celebrated estate of Schlossgut Diel in Burg Layen in the Nahe river valley since 1802. Schlossgut Diel is international renowned for its white wines, predominately Rieslings, across a wide range of styles. Armin is also one of Germany’s leading wine writers. Armin and his wife Monika live in Burg Layen. Their daughter just completed her studies in oenology in Geisenheim – Germany’s UC Davis equivalent and is now co-managing the winery in the Nahe valley.

German winemaking in America - Wiemer and his Rieslings

According to the New York Times “Wiemer is considered by many to be one of the top Riesling producers in the United States.” He was born and raised in Germany, and arrived in the US in 1968. His first wine, a 1979 Finger Lakes dry Riesling, was released in 1980. Hermann Wiemer quickly became known for his German-style vinifera wines. He claims that he made the first dry Riesling in the US and said that many scoffed at him for making Riesling even though today it's the flagship wine grape variety of the region.

The Finger Lakes AVA in upstate New York encompasses seven glacial lakes, although the majority of plantings are around Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. Most vineyards are planted on hillsides overlooking the lakes. These deep lakes help to moderate the climate, as stored heat is released from the lakes during the winter, keeping the weather mild (relative to surrounding areas) and preventing early frosts. The reflection of the sun off the lakes during summer extends the growing season. This cool-climate region is often compared to the Mosel winegrowing region of Germany, and like that region, has had special success with Riesling.

Herrmann Wiemer has retired a few years ago. Today the winemaking process is managed by Hermann J Wiemer’s long-term winemaker Fred Merwarth who has worked closely with Hermann as one of his winemakers for the last 8 years. Hermann is still passionately and practically involved in the life of the winery, and Fred continues faithfully executing the Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard leg

Schiller Wine – Related Postings

Ernst Loosen Wines Up and Down

German American Wines: Pacific Rim Dry Riesling, Eroica and the Schillerwein of Woelffer Estate

Wine ratings: Two American/German wines - Eroica and Poet's Leap - on Top 100 wines list for Washington State 2009

German Wine Basics: Schillerwein – A German Speciality

Christian Woelffer and Roman Roth, USA

German Winemakers in the World: Hermann J. Wiemer

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