Friday, June 14, 2013

Riesling from Germany and Pinot Noir from Oregon: A Winemaker Dinner with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen at Black Salt in Washington DC

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Ernst Loosen at Black Salt in Washington DC

Ernst Loosen was in town (Washington DC) and I had a chance to meet him and taste his wines several times. I dined and wined twice with him: At a tête-à-tête dinner at the trendy Indian fusion restaurant Rasika and with a larger group at the Black Salt, which is just next to Mac Arthur Beverages, the organizer of the event. Ernst Loosen is a charismatic figure and has done loads for promoting German Riesling around the world.

This is the last posting in a series of 3 postings:
Ernst Loosen and Dr. L. Riesling - His Hugely Popular Entry-level Wine Sold Throughout the World  
Riesling, Pinot Noir and Indian Cuisine: A tête-à-tête Dinner with Winemaker Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at Rasika in Washington DC, USA 
Riesling from Germany and Pinot Noir from Oregon: A Winemaker Dinner with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen and J.Christopher Wines, at Black Salt in Washington DC.

Ernst Loosen in the World

Ernst Loosen is a winemaker based in Germany, who now makes 4 different wines in Germany and the USA: First, Mosel Valley Rieslings, mostly fruity-sweet that made him so famous in the world; second, Pinot Noirs and other wines from the Pfalz, all dry, where he owns Weingut J.L. Wolf; third, the J. Christopher Wines, a collaboration of Ernst Loosen and Jay Somers, mainly Pinot Noir, from Oregon and fourth, the Eroica wines, a collaboration between Dr. Loosen and Chateau Ste. Michelle, the giant wine producer, in Washington State. At the dinner at Black Salt, we tasted and focused on Rieslings from the Mosel Valley and Pinot Noirs from Oregon.

Pictures: Ernst Loosen at Black Salt in Washington DC

Ernst Loosen in the Mosel Valley

The wines of Weingut Dr. Loosen are known all around the world as prime examples of Germany’s famous delicious low alcohol, fruity-sweet Rieslings from the Mosel. These are exceptional wines, skillfully made by first-class winemakers like Ernst Loosen, essentially made by not letting the fermentation going its full course so that natural sugar remains in the wine. Alternatively, German winemakers are allowed to add sweet-reserve (sterilized grape juice) to increase the sweetness level in the wine, but today, this is mostly done, if at all, for fine tuning the residual sweetness. These fruity-sweet wines are the wines that are so popular among the fans of German wine in the world.

Pictures: Ernst Loosen at Black Salt in Washington DC

But today, wine loving Germans drink dry. There is no doubt about it. The large majority of the premium wines produced in Germany is dry. And the German (dry) grand cru Rieslings can compete with the best wines in the world. The word is getting around - slowly but surely - and more and more dry German Rieslings appear on the international market. So, it was not a surprise that during his stay in Washington DC, Ernst Loosen presented also is dry Red Slate wine as well as Grosses Gewaechs wines – the ultra-premium dry wines from Germany. “But  while in Germany the demand for my fruity sweet wines is low, the Grosses Gewaechs wines are very high in demand. Here in the US, it is the other way around” said Ernst.

Weingut Dr. Loosen is located just outside Bernkastel in the Mosel wine region. The vineyard area totals 22 hectares. Production amounts to 15.000 cases. Ernst Loosen won the "Riesling of the Year" of the German wine magazine Der Feinschmecker in 1989. In 2001, the Gault Millau Weinguide named Ernst Loosen as the German Winemaker of the Year.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at Weingut Dr. Loosen

The American Wine Portfolio of Weingut Dr. Loosen

Ernst explained to us that his wines can be grouped into 3 quality categories.

Single Vineyard Wines

These are wines from the premium vineyards of Weingut Dr. Ernst Loosen. In fact, all of Weingut Dr. Loosen’s six major vineyards were designated as Grosse Lage (grand cru) in the 1868 Prussian classification of Mosel vineyards, which was undertaken for tax assessment purposes. This classification predates the grand cru system in Burgundy, and was updated by Stuart Pigott and Hugh Johnson in the Wine Atlas of Germany (1995).

“We use this historically proven classification at Dr. Loosen. Only wines from the six top-rated sites (indicated on the map to the right) are bottled with a single-vineyard designation. All others are labeled simply as estate wines” Ernst said.

Berkasteler Lay, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Prälat, Erdener Treppchen - A full range of Prädikat wines is made from the six grand cru single-vineyard sites. In addition, Weingut Loosen makes Grosses Gewaechs wines from a number of his grand cru vineyards, including Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Prälat and Erdener Treppchen.

Pictures: Ernst Loosen at Black Salt in Washington DC

Ernst explained that the vineyards of Weingut Dr. Loosen owe their excellent quality to three major factors: the exceptional regional climate of the Middle Mosel area, the mineral-rich slate and volcanic soils, and the incredible age of the estate’s ungrafted Riesling vines. These elements are the building blocks of each vineyard’s terroir and have long been recognized for their importance in producing outstanding wines.

Estate Wines

Ernst said that all the grapes that do not go into single vineyard wines, are used for the 2 Estate Wines, Blue Slate and Red Slate. In the USA, Ernst offers a dry Red Slate wine and a fruity sweet (Kabinett) Blue Slate wine.

The Red Slate Riesling is sourced from parcels in Uerzig and Erden, while the Blue Slate Riesling is sourced from vineyards in Bernkastel, Graach and Wehlen, where the soil is pure blue slate.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, wine tours by ombiasy and Ernst Loosen at Black Salt. Indeed, the forthcoming Germany trip of Annette Schiller includes a wine tasting at Weingut Dr. Loosen in the Mosel Valley.

Germany Wine and Culture Tour August 2013
Bordeaux Wine Tour September 2013

Dr. L

Dr. L is Ernst Loosen’s hugely popular entry-level wine. It is made by Ernst and Thomas Loosen (Loosen Bros.). Ernst explained: “Dr. L comes exclusively from traditional vineyards with steep slopes and slate soil. This introductory, non-estate wine embodies the elegant and racy style of classic Mosel Riesling. By working closely with growers on long-term contract, we are able to assure excellent quality in every vintage.”

Ernst Loosen in Oregon

Ernst Loosen’s most recent project is a joint venture with Jay Somers in Oregon. Located in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley, J. Christopher Wines is a small winery that specializes in Pinot Noir made in the traditional style of Burgundy. The winery also produces Sauvignon Blanc modeled after the great wines of Sancerre. The philosophy at J. Christopher is to produce wines in an Old World style that emphasizes focus, length and balance. Jay Somers is not only a gifted winemaker, but also a killer guitarist.

Jay Somers and Ernst Loosen met years ago, and quickly realized that they shared a similar taste and passion for Pinot Noir. Their friendship led to a partnership, and in 2010, they began building a winery and vineyard in Newberg, Oregon. As winemaker for the joint venture, Jay is in charge of all winery operations. Ernst sees his role as that of an investor who both supports the growth of the brand and broadens the winery’s exposure to Old World ideas and techniques.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at the J. Christopher Winery

Loosen Christopher Wines LLC produces wines under the J. Christopher brand. The venture purchased a 40-acre property for a new vineyard and J. Christopher Winery on Hillside Drive in Newberg, Oregon. Planting of the first block of Pinot Noir began last year. The first phase of the winery construction, the barrel cellar construction, occurred before the 2010 harvest. When I visited the winery with Tim Malone, the Phase II construction had just begun. At full build-out, the winery will have a production capacity of 8000 cases of Pinot Noir and 2000 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and other white wines.

A Riesling Guru and a Killer Guitarist cum Cult Winemaker: Ernst Loosen and Jay Somers and their J. Christopher Winery in Newberg, Oregon

Ernst Loosen in the Pfalz

In 1996, Ernst Loosen took over the J.L. Wolf estate so that he could make traditionally crafted Pfalz wines to complement the light and elegant Dr. Loosen Rieslings he produces in the Mosel. In the classic style of the Pfalz, these wines are more full-bodied than Mosel wines, with higher alcohol and rich flavors of ripe fruit and stone.

The Pfalz region lies between the Haardt Mountains and the Rhine River, directly north of France’s Alsace region. As in Alsace, the mountains protect the area from harsh Atlantic weather, making it one of the warmer and drier areas of Germany. In this climate, achieving full ripeness is possible in nearly every vintage. Mature, fully ripened fruit is the key to making concentrated dry-style wines that have enough body to balance the naturally high acidity.

Ernst Loosen in Washington State

Promoting the worldwide ascendancy of Riesling was a big reason why Ernst Loosen began a joint venture with Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State a bit more than 10 years ago. He was convinced that it would take a seriously good New World Riesling to help bring the variety back to the forefront. 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.

The wine is made at Chateau Ste. Michelle from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley. They make three kinds of the Eroica. The regular Eroica, an icewine and a single berry selection. The latter is made in the traditional German Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) style and is one of the few TBAs in North America.

Loosen Bros. Imports in the USA

Ernst Loosen is not only a producer of wines, but also runs – with his brother Thomas Loosen - an import company, with a remarkable portfolio.

Dr. Loosen (Mosel, Germany),
Villa Wolf (Pfalz, Germany)
Weingut Robert Weil (Rheingau, Germany),
C. von Schubert - Maximin Grünhaus (Ruwer, Germany),
Domaine de Bellene and Maison Roche de Bellene (Burgundy, France),
Gantenbein (Graubünden, Switzerland) and
J. Christopher Wines (Willamette Valley, Oregon).

Black Salt

Black Salt is the Black Restaurant Group’s popular flagship in the Palisades area, directly next to McArthur’s. It combines a terrific on-site market for fresh fish, a lively bar, the main dining room and the somewhat more intimate and elegant back room, where tasting took place. Black Salt is one of the leading fish restaurants in town. I like to go there for oyster happy hour.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Chef Jeff Black, Owner of Black Salt

Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Beverages

Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Beverages is – with Calvert and Woodley - Washington DC's leading retailer and importer of fine wines and spirits. MacArthur Beverages was founded in 1957 by Addy & Ruth Bassin and is located at 4877 MacArthur Blvd. in Washington DC. Ruth Bassin and her two daughters are the sole owners of MacArthur Beverage. Without doubt, MacArthur Beverages has the best selection of German wine in the Washington DC area. Ask for Phil Bernstein, who is in charge of German wines at MacArthur Beverages.

The Dinner

Chef Thomas Leonard came up with an exciting menu to pair with the special wines of Ernst Loosen.

Pictures: Chef Thomas Leonard, Ernst Loosen and Phil Bernstein

Dr. L Sekt

Not well known outside of Germany, sparkling wine has a long, rich tradition in Germany, where it has been called “Sekt” since the late 1800s. Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine is consumed in Germany.

Dr. L Sparkling is 100% pure Riesling - the crisp, fruity grape that has made German wine famous for centuries. It is made using the Charmat method, which produces bright, clean sparkling wines in a more affordable way

1st Course
Kona Kampachi Duo
Sashimi - Habanero- Blood Orange Reduction & Cucumber
Quick Ceviche - Grapefruit, Melon, Sea Urchin

Dr. Loosen Red Slate Riesling Dry 2011

The 2011 Red Slate Dry has a pronounced, enveloping aroma of slate minerality. There is good impact on the palate, with a nicely lifted mid-palate and a rounded, harmonious structure.

2nd Course
Pan Roasted Icelandic Cod
Roasted Fennel, English Pea Puree, Crispy Artichokes, Black Garlic-Ramp Vinaigrette

Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2011

Wine and Spirits (93 points): Firm and delicate, this gives the sense of looking from the top of the rocky Treppchen hill, with the scent of herps and wildflowers growing between sun-warmed stones.

3rd Course
Wood Grilled Cobia
Local Chilies, Shiitakes, Watercress, Crispy Rice Cake, Coconut-Kaffir Lime Broth

Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2011

The 2011 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese is #67 (and 94 points!) on the 2012 Wine Spectator Top 100 list. The tasting note from their Dec. 15 issue says: “Intense aromas and flavors of peach strudel and apple pie feature notes of custard and gooseberry. The vibrant finish echoes with long, pure glazed citrus notes. A powerful style. Drink now through 2030.

4th Course
Seared Big Eye Tuna
Confit Duck Pierogi, Caramelized Cipollini Onions, Baby Turnips, Juniper- Dried Cherry Jus

J Christopher Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2010

From a very small crop in a cool vintage, the 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot has great fruit purity and a fine, clean structure. The signature of this vintage is superb balance, with bright, juicy fruit, moderate alcohol and supple tannins all working together in elegant harmony.

5th Course
Poached Apple and Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Pecan Waffle, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Apple-Calvados Syrup

Dr. Loosen Uerziger Wuerzgarten Riesling Auslese Gold Capsule 2006

David Schildknecht:  “92 points -- In comparison with its gold capsule Spätlese counterpart, the Loosen 2006 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese features fresh, “cool” strawberry and kiwi fruit, and exhibits a cut and clarity as well as a sheer juiciness, all unusual for Auslese in any vintage, let alone this one. Sassafras and other herbal allusions suggest some borrowing from the neighboring terroir of Erdener Treppchen, and this finishes its sweetness perfectly judged with ravishing delicacy and length of strawberry, melon, honey, and herbal essences. Without any selection, this parcel yielded near Beerenauslese must weight.  Plan to cellar this for up to 30 years.

Coffee & Tea Service

Gosses Gewaechs (Grand Cru) Wines

At Black Salt, Ernst did not pour Grosses Gewaechs wines, but a earlier in the week I had a chance to taste two of his Grosses Gewaechs wines.

2010 Uerziger Wuerzgarten Riesling Grosses Gewaechs

Würzgarten means ‘spice garden’ and this wine shows exactly that. White pepper, curry, cumin and other spices dominate the nose. Exotic fruits sweeten it up. Rose and peach petals, exotic spices and acidity showing in the long finish. The acidity is mellow and more integrated.

2010 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Grosses Gewaechs

From avery steep parcel of the original Erdener Treppchen  vineyard, this penetrating dry wine reflects the muscular minerality that is characteristic of the iron-rich red slate of this site. 92 Points Wine and Spirits

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Germany’s 2011 VDP Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Ernst Loosen and Dr. L. Riesling - His Hugely Popular Entry-level Wine Sold Throughout the World 

German Spaetlese Wines Can Come in Different Versions. I Have Counted Five.

Approaches to Classifying German Wine: The Standard Approach (the Law of 1971), the VDP Approach and the Zero Classification Approach

The VDP - the Powerful Group of German Elite Winemakers - Refines its Classification System, Germany

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The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC, USA

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Riesling, Pinot Noir and Indian Cuisine: A tête-à-tête Dinner with Winemaker Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at Rasika in Washington DC, USA

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