In observance of the first anniversary of Ries-Namese, a gathering based on friendships, Riesling and Vietnamese food, we gathered last week at the original undisclosed location to celebrate. The group of included the original members plus a few more friends.
A celebrated winemaker, an airline pilot, a handful of wine professionals and wine enthusiasts excited to celebrate one grape varietal, Riesling. This meeting did not disappoint.
The selection, complemented by the traditional Vietnamese fare, included wines from Austria, Alsace, Napa Valley and Germany from various vintages dating back to 1959.
The dinner started with a dry, mineral driven Austrian Riesling from the celebrated producer Hirsch from the Kamptal region, 2009 Hirsch Gaisberg, Zobing Kamptal. Acidity and stone fruits was the best way to wake up the palate, which played well with the shrimp rolls with peanut sauce.
Next to bat was the 2015 Jean Marc Bernhardt bottling from the Alsace region of France, which showed layers of honeysuckle, Meyer lemon preserve and even a faint layer of graham cracker that characterizes this area of the world.
We then moved to Napa Valley to one of the most celebrated hillside producers, the 2011 Stony Hill White Riesling. Every sip of this wine was electric with plenty of lemon-lime zest, chalk and historic relevance. An excellent partner to the green papaya salad bursting with a tangy acidity.
We continued with the 2010 Immich-Batterieberg from the Mosel that brought notes of lychee, yellow lemon and crisp notes. It was hard to imagine that this wine was 9 years old. Lively, to say the least, and a great preparation for wines to come.
Now for the centerpieces and undisputed stars of the evening: a pair of 1959s that wine collector Armen Khachaturian had patiently procured for this event. Marking their 60th anniversary, these wines left us speechless.
The first of the two young 60-year-olds was the 1959 Kloster Eberbach Steinberger Naturrein Spätlese, Eltville from the Rheingau. We all held our breath as this wine was opened as we imagined what it would be. After much anticipation: wow, simply wow. A wine with stamina and showy qualities. The floral bouquet was complemented by wild honey, caramel and chamomile in the palate, a layered and complex angel kiss with nectarines, sun-kissed mandarin peel and a subtle oily quality.
The next one — the 1959 Schloss Johannisberg Bibliotheca Subterranea Spatlese — also from the Rheingau, had big shoes to fill after the previous wine. A darker bronze complexion with more weight on the eye was deceiving, leading us to expect a richer sip. In the nose, it delivered a toastier profile with notes of butterscotch, fresh-ground coffee and steeped jasmine tea while the palate had a redeeming acidity and youthful accent. Simply memorable, sending chills down your spine.
To continue, we tried a different vintage and classification of the Kloster Eberbach producer, the 1971 Kloster Eberbach Steinberger Auslese, Rheingau. An excellent follow-up to its older sibling but now with more concentration and richness. Fresh white flowers and lemon marmalade integrated seamlessly with an herbal undertone. Beautifully married with the generous Pho broth.
We then traveled back to the Mosel with the 2001 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese Mosel Saar Ruwer. A wine with a plethora of spring white flower blossoms, a gentle caress of lemon and a spunky personality ideal with the grilled squab with a touch of grilled sweetness, salt and pepper.
Subsequently, we moved to the sweetest part of of the program, the Eiswein, with a level of sweetness achieved by letting the grapes freeze, concentrating sweetness and flavor. For this portion, adding a heavy dose of dried chili paste to the grilled pork and chicken was imperative.
The first of the two was the 1998 Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan Deidesheimer Kalkofen Riesling Eiswein. No other wine in the world provides such an experience. This Pfalz region wine brings a party of balanced sweetness, body and concentration akin to honey nectar but counteracted by a mouth-watering acid structure and delicate orange preserves.
Finally, but certainly not less captivating, the 1998 Dr Loosen Bernkasteler-Lay Eiswein from the Mosel. A velvety and indulging finish to the meal. Notes of freshly cut green pineapple adorned the sugary notes creating a festival in the palate. A long-lasting finish could be enjoyed for hours afterwards with tarragon and Yuzu zest memories.
There was no other way to celebrate the occasion; each wine brought an element of mysticism and personality. We were very thankful for all the carefully selected wines each brought to share. Cheers to many more Ries-Namese outings.