Specialty Club – August 2009

2007 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese “Rotlay”
Rarely, if ever, have we been so proud and pleased to put a wine in one of our clubs. Early in March, we learned that Johannes Selbach, the leading German winemaker of his generation, would be in Seattle on a Thursday. Because the shop is on the way to the airport, we were able to host him and his wines at our weekly tasting. It was one of the greatest nights ever at our shop, and our customers showered praise on all seven of his wines from the wonderful 2007 vintage. (The pictures are on our website under “Free Tastings.”) Johannes was charming, genial, and a font of information, and everyone went away having learned that, while Mosel Rieslings are complicated creatures of soil, rock, wind, and weather, they are definitely not “too sweet.”

But, of all the wines, this “Rotlay” stood out as the most unusual and one of the most complex Rieslings we have ever tasted. Rotlay is a small parcel, just about one hectare of reddish slate, within the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr vineyard. The name means “red rock” in German, and “barren rock” in the Rhenish dialect used along the Mosel. It was one of the last wishes of Johannes’ father Hans that all the grapes from this tiny parcel be vinified together. Apple, pear, citrus, spice, wood smoke, vanilla, honey – all these flavors are present on both nose and palate, knit together by an almost salty acidity and a creamy richness. The result is a masterpiece; in the words of importer Terry Theise, the wine is “like artillery volleys of ancient smoldering earth.” There’s no doubt this wine will continue to develop for thirty years, although it will shine at whatever special occasion you choose to open it. Although only 29 cases were imported, we still have a few bottles left at $48.

2004 Poderi Elia, Barbaresco Serracapelli
This stunningly elegant wine is yet another in a continuing series of gems directly imported by our friends at Small Vineyards Imports right here in West Seattle. This is the fourth vintage of this wine in our clubs, and it is almost certainly the best one ever (and it received its highest scores ever in all the top wine publications!). The Stella family has been making wine in the commune of Neive in the heart of the Barbaresco area since 1890, but they didn’t start exporting their wines until Josh Hanson of Small Vineyards convinced them that Americans could truly appreciate them. With a fine bouquet of red currant and Morello cherry, this 100% Nebbiolo is full bodied, rich and lightly garnished with a layer of toasty-oak flavors. While it could age for another ten years or so, attendees at our Italian wine class in the spring found it drinking beautifully already. It’s a great match with meat, game or fowl. It was $49.75, and there is a small amount still available.