I had been to Germany many times to taste wine, and several times to the wet auctions, but fate kept me from attending all four of these special sales in the same year. My usual methods of transport, train and boat, would not prove timely enough to get me where I needed to be at the necessary times given the 9am start of the tastings (one’s taste buds are sharpest in the morning provided you preclude tooth brushing). I took it upon myself to drive this year and arriving at the rental car counter at Frankfurt airport, the motor was sadly not as advertised. No GPS, No problem. Simply follow the sun and head west; tracing the mighty Rhine north to where it meets its tributary the Mosel toward the sweet and dry smell of Riesling. Thought for a moment about the USA and Chardonnay. Wrong turn. Ended up at a gas station, stuttering a smattering of German. “Another beer please” and “where is the toilet,” two indispensible phrases for traveling in any country, were clearly not going to get me very far, but the perfectly-spoken English of the attendant as well as her thoughtfully drawn pictures of the buildings where I would need to make my turns spun me toward Riesling once again. Hair pin turns greeted me as I weaved my way down to the Mosel. These were not your ordinary hairpin turns but hairpins twisted by your teenage sister at the height of her angst. Thank God for the perfect banking of the German engineers.
Washing off the road dust, I celebrated my arrival to the Mosel with an impromptu tasting at Pauly-Berweiler, concentrating on the trocken or dry wines as well as the feinherb(slightly sweet) of Kabinett (first level of ripeness) and Spatlese level(picked a little bit later but closer to Kabinett in style rather than the unctuous Auslese). 2008 was a high acid vintage that made these wines particularly refreshing, but also a little shy and would need some short term cellaring to become more loquacious. The highlight was the flagship Doktorberg Grosses Gewachs (dry Grand Cru that has the ripeness of Auslese), which is a monopole (meaning only one owner, rare in German vineyards divided by the laws of inheritance). It had that rare combination of finesse power and lingered on my palate through the sunny afternoon. Evening commenced with a quick jaunt up the hill to a gourmet pizzeria with a splendid, panoramic view of the sharp bend of the Mosel River along the idyllic hamlet of Urzig and the steep Wurzgarten or “spice garden” vineyard. The view seemed to conjure up memories not fully realized. Then, completing the vision I thought, how is it possible that all of those beautifully detailed sketches of the vineyards on the older style German wine labels were actually true?