Chad Walsh writes about wine and other beverages for Food Republic. He is also the beverage manager at The Dutch in New York City.
Thanks to Paul Grieco of Terroir fame, even neophyte wine drinkers might be familiar with the idea of the "Summer of Riesling,” but if you really love the stuff, you’ve had your calendars marked for a date in the middle of the winter. This weekend is Rieslingfeier, a celebration of German Riesling in New York City that began in 2012.
Started by former Crush wine director Stephen Bitterolf as a sort of analogue to Burgundy’s La Paulée, which is hosted in the U.S. by Daniel Johnnes (Daniel Boulud’s top wine guy), Rieslingfeier will culminate in an epic BYOB dinner attended by vignerons and collectors, with the host city’s top somms pulling corks. Raj Vaiyda, head sommelier at Daniel, who along with the also-participating Michael Madrigale is one of Johnnes’s heir apparents, will lead this team — which includes Grieco, Laura Maniec, Aldo Sohm, and others. It remains to be seen whether this year’s German Wine Queen will be in attendance, but a good time will surely be had by all at Reynard in Williamsburg this Saturday, January 31.
It’s not just a dinner, though. All weekend, participating restaurants, including Aureole, Eleven Madison Park and Estela, will be featuring extra-special German Rieslings by the glass, and although we’re staunchly all-American at The Dutch, if you catch me on the floor this weekend, just whisper “Rieslingfeier” and we might bend the rules.
Before the dinner, there will be a charity auction to benefit City Harvest, with each participating winemaker having contributed a bottle or two. And there are some can’t-miss seminars from superstars like Roman Niewodniczanski, who took a fortune inherited from the family behind Germany’s Bitburger brand of beer to restore a famed estate on the Saar River, and Christian Vogt, who has been making incredible, mostly dry, Riesling at Karthäuserhof (where the winemaking traditions extend back to at least the 14th century).
Sommeliers love these sorts of events, partly because as a category, German Riesling tends to be bought far more than it’s sold. Considering that Bitterolf left Crush to open a wine-importing business, it’s not surprising that he might be interested in selling some Riesling, but the impetus behind Rieslingfeier is the same as that behind Summer of Riesling: a chance for wine people to try to convince the rest of the world that these bottles are some of the most fun to open.
In keeping with that spirit, there is a free, completely open to the public “crawl” on Saturday, for which winemakers like Egon Müller IV will be opening current vintages of their wines at various retail locations, including Astor Wine & Spirits, Moore Brothers and, of course, Crush.
Who needs to wait for the summer to drink some Riesling?
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