Tales From The Cellar

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A February Double-header

In late February, particularly if the weather is warmer than it really should be, thoughts will turn to the renewal of the rituals of baseball in Arizona and Florida. Or at least my thoughts will, which is what counts here. And few things are sweeter in the spring than the prospect of a double-header, twice the fun of the ordinary day at the park.

Much to my delight we had an unscheduled double-header on Feb. 26, tasting with the head of an esteemed German winery and later briefly holding a renowned bottle that is more a piece of history than a bottle of wine.  Our guest that day was the charming Sofia Thanisch, of Weingut Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch, where the family wine growing tradition dates back to 1636 and the estate was founded in 1895.

Sofia is the fourth woman in a row to run the estate and will be succeeded by her daughters, and we were fortunate to taste through the estates’ 2010 bottlings.

The Rieslings produced by Thanisch from their 16 acres of vines are classic Mosel wines, elegantly balancing the fruit and acidity within a framework of subtle minerality. The wines may seem delicate and lighter than some but some time spent with them begins to reveal the breadth of flavors and layers of complexity that are there. We are happy to currently carry two ends of the Thanisch spectrum, the 2010 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett, $19.99, and the 2010 Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese, $59.99. The Badstube vineyard is positioned a little higher up off the river, and its Rieslings are classic Kabinetts – lively and fresh, with acidity that rewards both immediate gratification and time in the cellar. The Berncasteler Doctor vineyard is one of the wine world’s benchmarks, and the 2010 Thanisch Auslese will be a reference point example of its quality for a very long time.  Elegant and perfectly balanced, even in today’s infancy it has layers of complexity and will develop many more over the next 10-30 or more years. In a word, sublime. For more history, including why the vineyard is named “Doctor”, please visit the Thanisch website – http://en.thanisch.com/en/index.html.

The second half of the double-header came courtesy of a customer and was unscheduled, evolved in an unexpected direction, was quite touching in its background, and resulted in a meeting with a very rare bottle. A customer came to see us with two cases of wine that had recently become accessible again after years of storage where they couldn’t be reached. After some discourse with my colleague Gary, she was kind enough to offer me a look at what she’d brought. This is typically an occasion for some degree of tap-dancing where we ooh and aah to some degree while thinking “sure hope they don’t want us to put a value on this vinegar.” Looking into the box, the capsules were dusty and aged-looking without signs of decrepitude, so I pulled the first bottle out. A Madeira with a fading label, importer strip from an East Coast firm (wonder if they’re still around?), an interesting start but let’s have a look at this obvious Bordeaux. 1922 Lafite!?! Knowing she had my attention now, the customer suggested with a twinkle in her eye that I take a closer look at the vintage on the Madeira. Faded but clear – 1795. Quick now, who was President, had the French had their Revolution, what was going on in the world that year? As more bottles from the ‘20s and ‘30s came out of the box, the story was told of an “uncle” who ran the kitchen and took care of the hotel manager’s daughter frequently enough that he became known as Uncle. From Europe and clearly knowledgeable about wine, he had assembled and bequeathed to his niece a case of white and a case of red of some high-quality wine. High-quality then and extraordinary now, great wines with sentimental value far surpassing their potential at auction. The last bottle was the real jaw-dropper, the 1945 Mouton whose label commemorates the end of World War II and a miraculous, tiny vintage. As I had it in my hands and we chatted about the possible locations for enjoying the wine (Dad and Uncle’s hotel, retirement farm in the country), I thought more of the history symbolized by the numbers on the label and the sentiment behind what I was holding than the potential elixir within. During my years here I’ve tasted and sold a number of famous wines, great wines from great producers in great vintages. All of which are now second-place to a wine I didn’t taste a drop of.

Not a bad Tuesday, as the man said “let’s play two.”

Matt S., Beltramo’s Assistant Manager

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2013 at 7:09 pm and is filed under Imported Wine, Wine. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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