August 2009

… but blueberries and cherries are good for warding off the accumulation of uric acid that can lead to a gout episode (sorry to be clinical) and yogurt, well, yogurt is good for something, in fact, LL asserts that “yogurt is totally good for everything!” so in the interest of good health — I also despite that term “wellness” — I’m trying to eat more fruit and berries (pineapple is also a top-rated gout preventative), so a couple of days ago I cleaned some Rainier cherries, blueberries and raspberries and put them in a bowl, and I scooped out a spoonful of the no-fat Greek yogurt that LL buys, and I thought, “Ugh, yuck, gack, no, I can’t do this.” BUT, I had a brilliant idea! I put the yogurt in a little bowl, stirred in a dollop of honey and then very carefully, drop by drop, added some aged balsamic vinegar and stirred that in too. I bought this tiny bottle for LL for her birthday, oh, maybe 15 years ago. We were having lunch at the old 61 restaurant in the basement of the Barney’s on Madison at 61st Street and before leaving we wandered around the food shop. There was a display of long-aged and rare balsamic vinegars, and we were particularly fascinated by this one, from the firm of Cavalli cav. Ferdinando that cost $100 for 100 milliliters; friends, that’s 3.4 fluid ounces. Only 333 bottles were produced. When we were back in Memphis, I called a friend in New York and sent him the money to go to Barney’s and buy one of those precious bottles. And fresh mint from the Farmers Market, as you can see in these images.

Anyway, I’ll tell you that that was some yogurt I could get my tongue and taste-buds around!

So, the next time (today) I wanted to eat some fruit and berries and doctored yogurt — maybe there’s a market for this — we had peaches from the Farmers Market and strawberries that some friends had brought over. I washed and and peeled and sliced (not necessarily for everything) and jazzed up the yogurt and was about to take a bite when I had ANOTHER BRILLIANT IDEA!! I was really missing an opportunity to try a dessert wine. I mean, the fruit and yogurt concoction was for lunch today, but what the hell, that’s what being a professional is all about.

Actually, I have 10 or so dessert wines that I have been meaning to try, so here was a chance to knock one off, so to speak. I poked around in the wine fridge and pulled out a bottom of Mendelson Muscat Canelli 2002, Napa Valley. This is a fairly unusual wine for California in that it’s made in the French vin doux natural style, that is lightly fortified with grape spirits (to 14.2 percent alcohol), and then after fermentation it’s aged two years in French oak. The result is pungent and potent, a wine bursting with notes of peach and apricot, banana and ripe mango; it’s spicy, honeyed and roasted, and exhibits profound earthiness and minerality. The texture is thick, almost viscous, and after a few minutes in the glass the wine begins to exhibit signs of spicy, blond wood, as well as touches of bananas Foster, baked apples and macerated peaches. The finish brings in candied ginger and orange peel. Yes, this is quite an effort, best enjoyed with a few sips on its own or with a shortbread cookie, not, I have to say, with fruit, berries and pumped up yogurt. 250 cases of half-bottles were produced. Excellent. About $33 for a half-bottle.

So, I’m thinking, though the Mendelson Muscat Canelli ’02 was terrific — it inspires silence and contemplation — what would go better with my yogurt and berry lunch? Back to the wine fridge I went and pulled out a bottle of the Vino dei Fratelli Moscato d’Asti 2007 from Piedmont. The alcohol on this wine is only 5.5 percent. It’s incredible freshness and appeal results from the winemaking process; the must (that is the mass of crushed grapes) is kept just above zero, and when wine is needed for bottling, the must is fermented and the wine is bottled immediately. The color is pale straw; the bouquet offers a beguiling wreathing of lemon-lime, almond and almond blossom, a hint of apple, a touch of jasmine. The wine is sweet, lightly spritzy, delicately fruity in a citrusy-apple sense and though basically simple and direct, it’s also tasty and charming and was delightful with the yogurt, fruit and berries. That’s the twins, Castor and Pollux, on the label. Very Good. About $15.

Inevitably, what with the difficulty of pronouncing the name of the currently favored Austrian grape grüner veltliner, someone would come out with the groaner of grooner, as in Grooner 2008, from the firm of Meinhard Forstreiter, in Krems-Hollenberg, which lies athwart — how often are we allowed to use that great nautical term? — the right bank of the Danube. Despite its colorful “pop” label, on which one is informed that Grooner 2008 is a “fun” wine suitable for picnics and such, this is actually pretty damned tasty and authentic stuff for the price. Pale straw gold with a hint of a green sheen, the wine offers notes of green grapes and apples, figs and yellow plums along with a finely etched edge of slate. Crisp acidity lends the wine a fresh and lively sensibility, while flavors of smoky melon and pear are animated by a hint of cloves and dried thyme and anchored by subtle minerality. Very appropriate for summertime quaffing, as an aperitif or with seafood salads or sushi, grilled calamari or octopus. Very Good. About $12.

Forstreiter, by the way, is the only producer in Austria to grow zinfandel, a fact that means we should either yield up a blessing or call a posse.

Imported by Fredrick Wildman and Sons, New York.

The email message usually begins like this: “Dear Fred” — does nobody comprehend that I hate to be called “Fred”? –“This is Heather from in London. We’ve been following your blog and really love it! We think you have one of the coolest wine blogs around! How would you like to contribute to our website? We would really be happy to have your words of wisdom about wine on our pages because we’re getting lots of readers that want to learn about wine! We’ll make sure to provide a link and add you to our blog roll. Looking forward to our partnership! Thanks and cheers!”

I get proposals like this, heavily overdrawn from the Bank of Exclamation Points, about once a week. Recently I even got one from China. Here is my reply to all of you out there that want to utilize my hard-earned words of wisdom in exchange for a link and a hallowed place on your sacred blog roll:

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

Actually, Dr. Johnson said that, and I would acknowledge my debt to him with a link except that he’s dead.

I realize that we live in a brave new webworld of media, where creativity, marketing, advertising, self-promotion, readership and personality exist in a so-far uneasy (and rather queasy) relationship to the old-fashioned notion of having a job and making a living. Social media are changing everything in terms of communication and interrelationships and the conveyance of knowledge and ideas, as ephemeral as they may be. Even I — yes, even I — who for so long adamantly refused to get involved in social networking am about to hop on the wagon of Facebook and (OMG!) Twitter, because I have come to acknowledge their value as marketing tools.

But, you know, call me a Gin-Soaked Capitalist Drenched in the Misery of the Working Class, but there’s just something about getting paid for what I do that makes me happy. I labored for 17 years in the Halls of Academe, and guess what? I got paid every month for teaching Beowulf and grading all those thousands of awful research papers. For 22.5 years I toiled as an ink-stain’d wretch in the sordid mines of journalism, and, know what? Yes, I received a check every two weeks. When Mr. Mason comes to cut our grass every other Thursday, I hand him money for his effort; I don’t promise him a link and a slot on a blog roll. That’s the way the world of work works.

I devote a great deal of time to this blog because I have a lot to say, there are many wines to review and many issues to comment about and I believe that what I have to express is valuable. My remuneration is in the form of wine samples, which while delightful, do not, as LL points out pointedly, pay the bills. Friends, I was laid-off from my newspaper job back in March. I have to spend every moment when I’m not working on BTYH scrabbling for free-lance writing jobs that pay, you know, money. I mean, the Internet might be wonderful to the extent of miraculousness, but it still runs on electricity, and the utility statement comes without fail.

But more than that, it’s the principle of the thing. For 25 years I have paid my dues in the world of wine, first with a weekly newspaper column that was distributed nationwide, then with a website and, since December 2006, on this blog. Experience, knowledge, maturity, humor, insight, a way with words, an ability to turn a phrase, a fund of poetry quotations in the back of my mind: All of these attributess count for something. So, youngster, you want content for your “collaborative web wine magazine”? Show me the money and I’m your man. You won’t be sorry.

Image by Guerruntz from

If I say the words “veal chop,” then you know that LL was out of town; we don’t eat lamb or veal when she’s around. Let her go off to a conference or something, though, and I am at the Store of Forbidden Meat, salivating at the counter. So, in the image you see a veal loin chop, first marinated with red wine and rosemary for a couple of hours and then cooked in the cast-iron skillet over almost high heat for four or five minutes per side. Once it was cooked, I turned the burner down, poured some red wine in the pan, scraped the bottom of the skillet to get up all the little bits, and let it reduce. I boiled some fingerling potatoes for a few minutes, drained them in a colander and then smashed them a bit on the cutting board with the broad side of a knife. I scattered olive oil, salt and pepper on the potatoes and slid them under the broiler until they were nice and crusty. And, in case you’re wondering, not seen in the picture is a small plate of steamed green beans with lemon zest; yes, when LL is away on a trip, I still eat my vegetables. (Sometimes.)

I sat down to this scrumptious dinner with three bottles of Black Kite Pinot Noir from designated vineyards, “Redwoods Edge,” “Stony Terrace” and “River Turn,” all from 2007. Winemaker for the Anderson Valley estate is Jeff Gaffner; in this trio, he has crafted superb wines.
My first note for the Black Kite “Stony Terrace” Pinot Noir 2007 is “exquisite.” This is real pinot, ethereal yet shapely, elegant, yet displaying some tannic and earthy grip on the finish. Notes of black cherry, smoke, cloves and allspice, rose petals and lilacs waft from the glass. In the mouth, a lovely satiny texture is enlivened by clean acidity; hints of cranberry and cola, sandalwood and potpourri emerge after a few minutes in the glass. The wine just feels great in the mouth, with impeccable balance between substance and delicacy. Terrific winemaking. 194 cases. Excellent. About $52.
Do different vineyards make a difference? Gaffner makes these wines in exactly the same manner, so whatever happens in the winery won’t interfere with the expression of the grape and the vineyard site. In the case of the Black Kite “River Turn” Pinot Noir 2007, that philosophy translates to a pinot that opens with a frank display of openness, warmth and generosity that quickly takes on a high-toned, slightly austere attitude anchored in dried moss and autumn leaves. The wine is dark and spicy, lithe and supple, almost dynamic in its mineral-like muscularity; intense and concentrated flavors of black cherry, black current and plum are permeated by touches of leather and violets, while the finish brings in a high wild note of sour cherry and rhubarb. All of this is knit by essential acidity that can only be called glorious. 195 cases. Exceptional. About $52.
So, now we come to the Black Kite “Redwoods Edge” Pinot Noir 2007, a pinot of classic elegance, purity and intensity. Here are rollicking spice and zinging acidity that nip at your palate, infused with a strain of briary austerity and red and black currant flavors nudged by rhubarb and spiced apple. Serious tannic underpinnings provide unusually solid foundation for a pinot noir, yet the wine manages to maintain a sense of poised equilibrium. 219 cases. Excellent. About $52.

Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life (Hyperion, 2007) has great simple recipes and advice about growing vegetables and being generally a good, concerned person. We just started cooking from it, having acquired it on sale at Williams Sonoma a few weeks ago. A typical recipe is the “Beautiful zucchini carbonara” — there’s a certain fey aspect to the book — which we made and enjoyed a lot. Basically it’s a carbonara sauce — eggs, cream, pancetta and Parmesan — with lots of thyme and sliced green and yellow zucchini. Actually, you could make it without the zucchini, but that’s not the point, is it? Anyway, the dish was delicious.

With the “beautiful zucchini carbonara,” we drank the Domaine Gerbeaux “Le Clos” Macon-Solutre 2008, made by Jean-Michel Drouhin. Solutre is one of 43 villages in the Maconnais, south of Burgundy proper, allowed to have its name on wine labels. This is essentially a single-vineyard wine, the grapes derived from “Le Clos” vineyard. Made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes, the wine is utterly charming. It’s clean and fresh and finely knit, sporting lemon curd and roasted lemon flavors permeated by delicate spice, a hint of the floral and burgeoning aspects of chalk and limestone. The finish brings in a touch of grapefruit astringency. The wine was a great foil for the richness of the carbonara sauce. Very Good+. About $18.

Imported by Bourgeois Family Selections, Swannanoa, N.C.

The “Salmon with Crisp(y) Skin” — sorry, but I hate that word “crispy”; it sounds like baby talk — came from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (Wiley, 1998). Simple as pie: Score the skin of the salmon, douse it with olive oil and cook it over the grill, skin-side-down, or under the broiler, skin-side-up. Wow, this came out super moist and tender and flavorful, and the crisp(y) skin practically crackled, and boy did it taste good! One is supposed to serve this with “gingered greens,” but we made do with green beans.

We tried the Mahoney “Las Brisas Vineyard” Riesling 2007, Carneros, a first riesling for this winery. Made completely in stainless steel, the wine is clean and fresh and spare, with roasted lemon, pear and lime zest scents and flavors buoyed by scintillating slate and limestone. An authentic whiff of petrol (or rubber eraser) paves the way for camellia and smoke and a deep note of earthiness. So far so good, but the wine falls a little short through the finish and loses character, though other wise this is enjoyable and elightful. 200 cases. Very Good+. About $18.

LL brought home a handful of precious chanterelle mushrooms a few days ago. “Time for chanterelle risotto,” she said. And I said, “Oh, yay,” because LL is a supreme concoctress of risottos. You see in the image how it turned out. Besides the chanterelles, it contains a few shiitake and dried porcini mushrooms, some basil and of course the chicken broth that provides the “stuffing” of the risotto. Chives are laid across the top. It was, in a word, divine, consisting of profoundly earthy bass notes from the mushrooms leavened by the lemony/minty-like lightness of the basil and the slightly creamy yet toothsome arborio rice.

We drank the Sanford Pinot Noir 2007, Santa Rita Hills, a blend from the winery’s estate vineyard La Rinconada and the neighboring Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, a close to legendary supplier of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. (Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, in Santa Barbara County, was purchased in November 2007 by Terlato Wine Group, which also markets the wines of Sanford Winery.) This is an incredibly attractive, ever seductive pinot noir. The bouquet revolves around smoky, spicy black cherry, cranberry and cola scents in an elegant wreathing of effects. The mouth-feel is stunning, as the wine flows across the tongue like cool satin drapery. Black cherry and plum flavors are highlighted by rhubarb, sandalwood and orange rind. Oak, tannin and acid, those building blocks of wine, achieve perfect balance through a smooth but slightly austere, foresty finish. Beguiling. Excellent. About $40.

This Salmon with Orzo Salad — from Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita (Artisan, 2008) — is simple to prepare and colorful to gaze upon. On the other hand, while enjoyable, it was not our favorite dish of all time or even from Stitt’s cookbook. The salad has fresh corn, right off the cob, cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives and basil and of course plenty of orzo; it can be prepared ahead, with a vinaigrette added at the last minute. The salmon is seared in a pan and then transferred to the oven for finishing, which is usually the way we prepare salmon anyway. Again, this is an enjoyable but not great dish. We found it a little bland and kept trying to pep it up.

The wine, though, was a triumph. This was the Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc 2007, St. Helena, Napa Valley. The 2008 version should be released within a month or so, but if you have the wine around or can find it, certainly try it. It’s beautifully mature, pure and intense, scintillating with concentrated minerality. Flavors of pear, melon and roasted lemon are permeated by dried herbs, lemongrass and crystallized ginger, all couched in a seductive texture that combines litheness and suppleness with snappy acidity and layers of almost talc-like softness. The oak regimen is interesting. The wine is barrel-fermented and then aged for 10 months in this set-up: 33 percent in new French oak barrels and puncheons; 55 percent in 1- to 3-year-old French oak; and 12 percent in stainless steel. The result is a sauvignon blanc of impressive sleekness, sophistication and allure. Drink through the summer of 2010. Excellent. About $32.

The Abadia Retuerta estate in Spain’s Vino de la Tierra Castillo y Léon region occupies land that was established as a monastery and vineyards in 1146. Whatever else one wants to say about the winery, there’s certainly historical provenance that’s lacking in the New World, where we tend to regard producers founded in the 1970s as venerable. Abadia Retuerta, owned since 1988 by the Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis, turns out notably attractive and fairly priced wines, and one of the most notable of those is Rívola Sardon de Duero 2006, a blend of 60 percent tempranillo and 40 percent cabernet sauvignon aged 12 months in oak, 2/3 American and 1/3 French.

Rívola ’06 bursts with ripe, fleshy and meaty scents of spicy black currants and plums. Loads of personality here and lots of lively vibrancy and resonance add up to an eminently likable wine; dense and slightly shaggy tannins stop short of assertiveness, allowing some breathing room for smoky blueberry and black current flavors laced with brambles, bacon and minerals. While we drank this with a hearty pasta dish, it would be great with grilled cumin-and-garlic crusted pork chops or sausages with green chilies and roasted peppers. Very Good+. About $15.

Imported by Kobrand Corp., Purchase, N.Y. A fascinating article about the founding of Abadia Retuerta and the operation of the estate and winery is here.

I recently received a bottle of the first issue of Cecchi’s Natio Chianti 2007, a wine made from organic grapes certified by CCPB. The front label states, “Product with Grapes from Organic Farming,” while the back label says, “Made with Organic Grapes.” Notice that the phrase “organic wine” is not used. That’s because in order to be called “organic wine” that wine would have to be not only made from certified organic grapes but every step of the winemaking process would have to be certified organic, something that the governments and certifying agencies of the world have not figured out a way to measure and regulate.

It’s not mentioned on either front or back label, but Natio Chianti 2007 is suitable for vegans (and possibly Venusians) because, as the press materials state, “No animal by-products were used in production.” And you, My Readers, are thinking, “Animal by-products? Gack! What in heck-to-Remus are you talking about?”

Allow me to explain. One might assume that wine is completely safe for cuisineophiles of every persuasion, from outright carnivores to the most fragile of picky macrobioticists, but such is not the case. There is more to wine than mere water, alcohol and chemicals. A process in winemaking called “fining” has traditionally employed substances from the animal kingdom (or from the fridge, to be practical about it). After fermentation, wine is usually left with a multiplicity of microscopic elements called colloids. Typically, a wine that offers a plush or viscous texture contains more colloids than a light, more delicate wine; removing colloids can also make a wine astringent, though they lend a wine detail and dimension. Fining, in other words, represents a trade-off in terms of a wine’s character, but the process also clarifies wines and eliminates cloudiness or haze.

Substances used in fining are ancient (relatively speaking) in origin; they include egg whites, milk, isinglass, made from fish bladders, and (not so ancient) bentonite, a form of clay found chiefly in Wyoming. These substances are harmless and are almost completely absent from the finished wine. Each has advantages and disadvantages — bentonite is so absorbent that it can diminish the flavor of a wine — but nobody, on the other hand, is going to buy a bottle of wine that isn’t perfectly clean and clear.

Naturally, the idea that wine may contain a glimmer of a molecule of egg white or milk makes it inappropriate for vegetarians or their more extreme cousins, the vegans. Very few wineries allow this sort of information to be printed on their labels because the it would sound more scary than helpful. An exception is Randall Grahm, owner of Bonny Doon Vineyards, who a couple of years ago, after he took the Ca’ del Solo vineyard biodynamic, began stating on back labels the ingredients in the wine and the substances used to make the wine, including fining agents. I doubt if many (or any) producers will follow his lead, at least until government regulations require such statements, as inevitably they will. Grahm is predictably ahead of the curve.

I asked Jane Kettlewell, director of public relations for Banfi Vintners, whose Excelsior Wine and Spirits division imports the wines of Cecchi, why the vegan opportunity was not explored on labels of Natio. Here is her reply:

“It seems there was very little space indeed for back label copy and the conclusion was that as most wines do at some level have some connection with an animal by-product, that vegans don’t tend to be wine drinkers. This seems like a Catch 22 situation – the vegans won’t find us if they’re not aware of the vegan-friendly nature of this wine, but on the other hand, vegans aren’t stampeding into wine stores to begin with.”

True enough, but I hate to think of vegans not enjoying wine with their tofu enchiladas because of a fear of wine’s supposed animal connection.

And the wine? Well, the Cecchi Natio Chianti 2007 falls into the category of Decent Quaff. We drank the bottle with pizza Saturday night and that sums it up: An enjoyable but not memorable Chianti, a little rustic, but delivering authentic sangiovese scents and flavors of dried fruit, dried flowers and spice in a good structure that balances tannin and acid. A meatloaf, burger, pizza wine. Very Good. About $16. I would be more comfortable if it cost $12 or $13, but everything organic is more expensive. It costs to be natural.

Carton of eggs image from Glass of milk images from

The advocates of biodynamic methods of agriculture range from the mildly committed, who employ bio-dy techniques selectively and ignore the mumbo-jumbo aspects, to disciples for whom the words of Rudolf Steiner and Nicolas Joly are gospel.

The last part of that sentence, or something similar, was much on my mind late in the afternoon of Wednesday, July 8, as the group I was with paid a visit to Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn, one of the most highly regarded estates in Germany’s Rheingau region. The winery, situated at the outskirts of the incredibly charming village of Oestrich, offers nothing fancy and neither do the unpretentious Peter Jakob Kühn and his wife Angela, who are friendly and down-to-earth, though she is more forthcoming than he, who is the shyer of the couple. (She is a former German Wine Queen.) Both, however, are passionate about their 18-hectare estate (a bit less than 47 acres) and the wines they produce.

PJK has been certified organic since 2004 and this year became a member of Demeter, the organization that certifies biodynamic estates. Much of what Peter Jakob Kühn does in the vineyard, along with being scrupulously meticulous, seems like common sense. Compost the vineyards with estate-produced materials in the Spring. Plant crop cover between vine rows in the Summer and in the Spring plow it under. Avoid chemical nutrients. Apply minimal pressure in the winery; stainless steel and large barrels for riesling, with a light filtration. Anyone could do that.

Peter Jakob, also, however, follows many of the stipulations of biodynamic agriculture as laid down by Rudolph Steiner in his famous lectures of 1924: horn compounds of manure and silica; teas of horsetail, stinging nettle and chamomile to spray on the vines; careful consideration of the phases of the moon to supplement the “movement” of the wine, including during bottling.

We stood with Angela Kühn by a vineyard that sweeps up to one side of the winery, accompanied by the winery’s 13-year-old Labrador, Acino. Here’s where things got a little sticky. One of the group mentioned that the rows did not have great shoots springing from the tops of the vines; were they cut back?

“No,” said Angela, “in the best parcels, we don’t cut the tops of the stems to give a message to the vines that no one wants to damage them and cut off their lives. If you cut the stems, it creates a sense of urgency and power because their lives are in danger, and they want to regenerate the next generation. This pushes the sugar level up. By not cutting the stems, by reducing the stress and gently tying the stems back” — the stems are wreathed along the top of the row and tied with soft but durable material — “we create a more balanced wine. Vineyards that get not only care and concern but love, we feel the vines will profit from it.”

This is the point where I throw my notebook and pen into the air and say, “Oh, please!” Not really, because my mother taught me better, but come on, the vines think their lives are in danger if you cut the stems? You have to love the vines, not just take care of them? Does the same principle apply to tomato plants and rutabagas? Amber waves of grain? Corn as high as an elephant’s eye?

But these are sweet and gentle people, and their attempts to live and work in harmony with nature are touching, and the wines they produce, which is really the issue here, well, the wines are pretty damned wonderful. (And all the wines are closed with screw-caps.)

Take, for example, PJK’s basic wine, the Jacobus Riesling trocken 2008, made in stainless steel. My notes: “Big, ripe, fleshy; yellow plums, camellia, honeysuckle; intense, concentrated, seductive; full, lively, dynamic; v. spicy; crushed stones, pulverized slate and gravel; really great.” The price in Germany is 8.60 euros, or about $12.50. An amazing wine for the price. Jacobus is named for the founder of the estate, Jacobus Kühn, who started making wine here in 1786.

The next level is the stainless steel Quarzit Riesling trocken 2008, and the name tells it all. My notes: “V. stony, v. pure and intense, v. spicy; yellow flowers, yellow fruit, stone fruit; huge hit of minerals, slate and limestone; v. dry, crisp, vibrant, austere.” This is, one admits, a little demanding; it needs a year or two. 13.90 euro, about $19.50 to $20.

We tried two of PJK’s top rieslings. The Oestrich Doosberg 2007, aged in 2,400-liter barrels, is a brilliant medium gold color; the wine is intense and concentrated, coiled like a steel spring, offering incredible energy and nerve and verve; it’s very ripe, very spicy, sleek and lithe and racy, and could stand to mature for two or three years before being opened, or you could wait until 2015 to ’17 and see how it develops. Extraordinary. Not surprisingly, the price goes up at this point, 26.60 euros, about $37.50. The Mittelheim St. Nikolaus Riesling 2005 — current release is ’07 — is powerful and earthy and exotic, an eloquent expression of pure minerality with hints of petrol, jasmine, crystallized ginger and a touch of banana, all leading to a finish that’s almost brutal with granite and limestone. This too needs a few years, say 2011 or ’12 through 2016 or ’17. 24.60 euros, about $34.75.

Finally, there was the Oestrich Lenchen Riesling Spätlese 2008, a pale gold-colored wine of piercing minerality that offered subtle touches of lemon, lemon curd and peach, a wine delicately sweet, winsomely floral and sustained by such a surge of acidic nervosity that the glass feels electrified in your hand, and then from mid-palate back the whole package turns startlingly dry and austere. A lovely and slightly challenging riesling that needs a year or two in the bottle. 18.30 euros, about $26.

So, at this point, Readers, you’re saying, perhaps rather smugly, damn your eyes, “Ah ha, F.K., now you have to revise your negative opinion of biodynamism and admit that it works!” Well, what I will say is that Peter Jakob Kühn is a brilliant winemaker and that he certainly makes brilliant wines, making that judgment on a brief exposure. If biodynamic methods in the vineyard contribute to this brilliance, then I will say that, yes, the principles work here. I wonder though: If Peter Jakob Kühn did not bottle his wines “in a diminishing phase of the moon,” would they be any less brilliant? If he did not spray with, say, the horsetail compound, would the wines be less compelling? Would Peter Jakob Kühn — meticulous, thoughtful, hard-working and attentive — not make brilliant wines under any circumstances?

The wines (or some of them) of Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn are imported to the U.S. by Domaine Select Wine Estates.

Images of the winery and Angela Kühn & Acino are by Ernst Büscher; image of Peter Jakob Kühn is by Tim Wegner.

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