By: Bill Cheek, Kahn's North Willow
Let us be upfront and admit that I am NOT yet a wine drinker (or at least, not yet one with a palate to be trusted). So when Kahn's gave me a day off that just so happened to coincide with Le Grand Tour d'Alsace, I took the hint and headed over to conduct a bit of research.
I figured that to beat the crowd I'd stop in right at the start of the two-hour event; slip in, sample, take notes, slip out...but whoa: apparently when you offer twenty-five wines for the price of the gas it takes to get there (and, uh, maybe a cab, depending on your affinity for spitting) people SHOW UP. Who knew?
So over the course of an hour I mingled with the 75+ customers on hand and gradually made my way through most of the available wines. The Alsace region is predominated by several white wine varietals which range from dry to semi-sweet: Riesling, Gewurtzraminer, and Pinot Gris were clearly the order of the night.
Now we come to the fun part. Highlights of the night included the Rene Mure lineup of varietals, mid-00s vintages that displayed delicious age-acquired mellowness and subtlety. [Our manager at North Willow], Todd, was quite enthused by the 2003 Pinot Gris St. Landelin, which he let everyone in earshot know was "drinking like a champ." In fact, we sold every bottle in the store that night! (I noted only "Gentle tart, ripe apple" to prove that I am a rube) The ReneMure Pinot Noir V 2005, the only red wine in the tasting, was by no means a token - it was well balanced between ripe berries and tannins, and smelled uncannily like the Upland Lambic Blackberry I recently opened. Fun beer-wine connection, huh?
Other interesting selections (disclaimer: to me) included the PierreSparr Alsace One, a blend of the aforementioned Alsace varietals that featured a citrus/apple tartness overlaying a distinct perfume-likefloral character, and the 2009 Gustave Lorentz Gewurtzraminer, a lovely concentrated punch of flowers and melons and honey with a finish just dry enough to demand another sip.
I have discovered that I am a great fan of the Gewurtzraminer. Wine reviews can get pretentious & disturbingly anthropomorphic, but when they say this varietal has a "flamboyant" nose, they ain't lying. Instantly recognizable, the nose of a Gewurtz is a deep, brooding floral essence which tightly embraces a range of ripe fruits. And then in the mouth it is...well, various things, but these things tend to highlight a remarkable cooperation between playful and serious, sweet and sassy. You see what I am doing here. Anyway, the point is that my favorite wine of the night was theEhrhart Gewurtzraminer Rosenberg 2004, offering a richly honeyed, perfumed upfront sweetness that u-turned into a surprisingly dry spicy finish.
Of course, my co-worker Shilpa tells me the next day that Todd proclaimedthis particular bottle to have ameasure of undesirable oxidation present. This is clearly evidence that my palate has yet to reach the scintillating "mediocre" status it holds in my mind. Or lies. I'll go with lies, becausethat wine was great fun, regardless.