A good friend and local Austrian wine authority has started importing some really exciting wines from Austria that we are proud to offer to our customers. The quality of these wines far exceeds the prices we are asking, a benefit of the wines not having many layers of importation and distribution to work through. And you reap the rewards. We have selected three producers to work with starting out and may expand to a few more after my trip this year to meet them. The first and most eye opening for me is a man named Johann Stadlmann, a champion of Zierfandler (yes, that is the grape) of which there are only 100-200 hectares planted on the planet. I cannot recommend these wines enough. I would even be willing to come to your house and personally open the bottle for you, and, of course, have a glass. We have two wines from Stadlmann, two Zierfandlers, which must be some kind of a record for wine stores on El Camino Real. The first is 2004 Stadlmann Zierfandler Classic ($15.99), a great introduction to the grape and a super wine for the summer. It is sleek and dry with high-toned citrus, herbal and a zesty candied grapefruit/ginger aromatics that are refreshing and lively. Then we have one of the most intriguing wines I have tasted in many years, the 2004 Stadlmann Zierfandler Mandel-Höh ($25.99), which I have no doubt belongs among the top wines in Austria and the world. This vineyard site produces a singular wine that is hauntingly beautiful and absolutely serious. It fills you with questions that cannot be answered. An experience unto itself. Drink up. —Jeff Vierra Lover of Marginal Things
Without a doubt, Germany is the king of riesling. But, there are so many other exciting things happening here. When I say these are well worth considering as they will tempt your palate and your mind. 2004 Schloss Saarstein Pinot Blanc ($15.99) Yet another stunning example from Christian and Andrea Ebert. This 100% pinot blanc, also known as weiss burgunder, is a beautiful expression of pure, clean fruit treated with minimal cellar manipulation and maximum love. Fresh flowers and summer time fruits jump from the glass and its subtle, slate minerality make this wine a translucent beauty! 2003 Weingut Bürgerspital Würzbürger Stein-Harfe Scheurebe Kabinett ($13.99) Quite possibly the oldest wine estate in all of Germany, founded in 1319, there is just a bit of tradition and knowledge floating around. Yes, sheurebe, a crossbreeding of riesling and silvaner. If you were to smell this blind folded I bet you would think it is a red wine. Rich pears and dark cassis are intertwined with a soft, juicy acid to give us a wine that would be fantastic with some of those sausages just off the grill and a few of those richer cheeses sitting in the fridge. 2003 Bercher Burkheimer Feuerberg Spatburgunder Spätlese trocken ($22.99) A spatburgunder, or pinot noir, showing a plum nose with a sexy edge of dusty earth, sends you into a lighter style of pinot which has a finish of sweet cranberry and zippy acidity. This is not your Central Coast Pinot! 2003 was a fantastic vintage for reds in this area. Just because it is a red from Germany, this should not be overlooked or ignored. Roll the dice, you might get lucky! —Eric Story
There are some exciting things happening on the Direct Import side. I found out to my delight that the Boulays of Chavignol inherited some vines in the famed Monte Damnés vineyard, one of the best sites in all of Sancerre. The 1.2ha parcel is exposed fully to the south with vines between 25- to 45-years old, of course completely hand harvested, vinification taking place in 300L barrels with natural yeast fermentation. The 2004 Boulay Sancerre Montes Damnés ($26.99) is the first release, and our allocation is only 300 bottles. Compared to the Clos du Beaujeu, this wine is overtly more aromatic with spicy aromas hinting at pepper. Where the Beaujeu is subtle and fine, this wine is powerful and concentrated. This is a steal at the price. Hopefully here by now is another favorite, the 2005 Château Soucherie Rosé de Loire ($10.99). We get only one shot to order this wine each year, and last time our supply didn’t last long. We will get a few more cases this year, but it won’t be around much past mid June. Made from 100% cabernet franc, this is pale in color yet packed with bright fruit, a slight earthiness and loads of minerality. On the Alsace front, I had the pleasure of visiting with Martine Becker of Zellenberg when she was in San Francisco. Her wines are clean and vibrant, precise and mineral. I am very excited about the Becker Cremant d’Alsace ($14.99) a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay made in the traditional method. We should have it by now (fingers crossed), and you will love this for the summer months. This is a sparkler of real depth that is refreshing, lively and invigorating with a fine bead, soft creamy texture and dry mineral finish. --Jeff Vierra
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