German Tasting at the Top of the CN Tower - Riesling & Company 2011

May 18, 2011

The Canadian and German wine industry share some common but equally unique elements. Firstly, we are both countries on the fringe of where wine grapes can be grown. Secondly, our love affair with Riesling, a cool climate varietal that can often find its best expression in Mosel slate and Niagara Bench limestone. 

Beyond that, we Canadian wine imbibers have to recognize and be thankful for Germany's contribution to our industry. It was a German immigrant, Johann Schiller in 1811 who made the first vintage near present day Mississauga.

Though the 'urban legend' is being is disputed by York University Professor, Richard Jarret, it's still nice to have something to believe in, a mythical father figure and hey, he's German,and that can't be in bad in consideration of the recent tasting at the top of the CN tower on May 17th.

An impressive showing of German wine to say the least with an outstanding view of downtown Toronto to compliment the tasting.

There were 20+ stations to choose from matched with a wide assortment of traditional German and Indian cuisine to try with the right wine.

I will admit, the aromas from the food stations wafting through the room made it difficult to appreciate the delicate bouquets of several German Rieslings. A minor complaint on my behalf considering where we were tasting but I know some wine lovers in the crowd found it trying to indulge in these sensations.

Aside from that, it was less crowded than I expected and thankfully so as the majority of stations were placed in restaurants spaces best reserved for intimate dinners. The tasting often felt confined, sometimes claustrophobic making spitting difficult as wine critics and connoisseurs had to contort themselves to get to spit buckets. 

There was much German conversation and intense discussion. From business cards and appealing deals between wine agents and potential buyer and restaurant representatives, to the casual joking and ever-perennial wine tasting notes, yesterday's offerings were gut to say the least. 

Personal favourites included Dr.Loosen wines of the Mosel and Pfalz, especially the Villa Wolf 2009 Gewürztraminer and the Blue Slate 2009 Riesling Kabinett, the latter wine offering a mineral tingle of apples and pear acid. Their 2009 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) had the right balance of smoky-ash and red cherry.

Another couldn't-miss table featured the wines represented by Churchill Cellars of Toronto. I especially loved the Weingut Rappenhof 2009 Grauer Burgunder, a great example of German Pinot Gris from the Rheinhessen.

And the table just over, Weingut Georg Müller Stiftung with several excellent Rieslings, from dry to sweeter Auselese. Their two Pinot Noirs, however, the 2008 Edition PW and 2008 'Daniel' were phenomenal (ausgezeichnet!). The latter was outstanding and made the trip to T.O. all the more excellent. I've encountered Spätburgunder from Baden before but its to the Rheingau's credit that these two beautiful offerings have changed my opinion on German Pinot Noir. Both were smoky cassis with brooding spice and silky vanilla. The acidity on both made the wines closer to succulent and would have paired equally well with the ham they were serving two stations over.

Other highlights included Weingut Balthasar Ress 1998 Riesling Spätlese from Hattenheim Nussbrunnen - simply a gorgeous example of how Riesling can age intensely into the liquid gold nectar of orange-peal-apple-honey.

There was also Weingut Markus Molitor; their 2002 Riesling Auslese from Zeltlinger Sonnenuhr (i.e. Zeltling's vineyard 'Sonnenuhr'), a caramel candy and apple expression that would have effectively paired with the creamy German dessert - which I was far too full to approach.

Weingut Studert Prüm and Max Ferd Richter over-delivered with their selection of Rieslings. I fell in tender love with the 2009 Riesling Kabinett Graacher Himmelreich of the latter producer, that mineral-stone-apple I have come to associate with the best of the green bottle Mosel wines.

Everything in order but things must end.

I missed several tables for lack of time and lack of energy. A moody, overcast day made for a strange light at the top of the CN tower. A pensive but philosophical light ideal for the German philosophers of old but also to give one a sense of the light in such places as Southern Germany where the best white wine in the world is made.

White wine made for the top of the world.


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My focus is mainly on wine culture, history and education. I love the stories behind wine - the people, places and the regional personalities of the wine-countries around the world.

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