Anthony and I have just returned from a chilly trip up the Rhine, beginning in Amsterdam on April 1st. Floating on a river of water running so rapidly it tilted the channel markers, we watched the world slowly change from a flat, green delta to the precariously steep hillsides we expected. The wines we encountered were so different from what we are familiar with here, that we almost needed a new vocabulary to discuss them. Rich to the point of opulence they were not; sprightly and weightless, they made up with intriguing new flavors and scents what they lacked in similarity to our comfort zone of Napa wines.
Vineyards began appearing in small plots on terraced hills, where ancient stone walls bridged gaps between rock ridges, providing tiny pockets filled with soil. A few vines here, a few vines there, it certainly looked like a difficult place to work in. I noticed one wall with stone steps jutting out diagonally up the side, and several that simply utilized ladders between the plots. Talk about a “hands on” approach to vineyard management – this was extreme!
We loved the magnificent cathedral in Cologne and Strasbourg’s old town, (the pictured map), is absolutely enchanting, but wine was our focus. The most memorable tasting was in the medieval Alsatian town of Riquewihr, with the Zimmer Family, who have been growing fine wines since 1840. We loved comparing new and old vine Riesling, as well as Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. We sampled several German wines on the ship as well, and left feeling much more comfortable with the ornate script labels so many wine bottles wear. The rich food of the region are the perfect foil for such high acid, low alcohol wines. Fois gras and Rhine Riesling are beautiful together!
Now we’re back in Napa, and we look forward to bottling our Clone 6, Reserve Cabernet and Talianna next week, getting back into the cellar routine. A glance at the vineyard as I came down the driveway this morning tells me the vines are in an energetic growth mode. Chardonnay and Merlot are both well sprouted, leaves unfurled. Our 2018 vintage has begun!