A Look at Chateau Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen Eroica Rieslings

A Look at Chateau Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen Eroica Rieslings
When I started to study wine and learn more about it, one grape varietal really stood out to me. Riesling is perhaps the most underrated of all grape varietals, especially here in the U.S.
From the 1880s well past the First World War, Rieslings were selling in London auction houses for 3-4x what first growth Bordeaux were fetching. Riesling is perhaps the only grape varietal capable of producing everything from delicate and aromatic dry wines to Ice Wines (wines made from crushing bunches of grapes harvested well below freezing) or TBA’s (Trocken – dry or raisined, Beeren – individually picked, Auslese – selected), as well as the full range in between. Rieslings are also capable of aging just as long or longer than any other varietal.
As the wine buyer for George’s, I am occasionally given the opportunity to share an amazing experience with some of my colleagues in the form of tastings, luncheons or dinners. I was recently invited to a luncheon at BOA in Hollywood that blew me away. The event was for Eroica Rieslings and hosted by Chateau Ste. Michelle with world-renowned winemakers Ernst Loosen and Wendy Stuckey. Ernst Loosen took his family’s property in the Mosel region of Germany – the Dr. Vineyards – from complete disrepair back into the international spotlight. Ernst decided he wanted to try his hand at making Riesling here in the U.S. and contacted Chateau Ste. Michelle to see if they were interested in partnering. A few months later, after a walk through the vineyard and a handshake, Ernst and Bob Bertheau were working together to make a wine in Washington that was as high in quality as any wine found in Germany, but expressed itself as a Washington Riesling. Around this time they also brought in Wendy Stuckey from Australian winemaker Wolf Blass to assist in the production of the white wines. This team had a shared vision and jumped in with both feet.
At BOA the chef put out a fantastic menu to showcase what the wines from Eroica could do with food. We were served a tasting of the 2005-2009 vintages of Eroica Riesling side by side to try with the food as it came out, and then were served three vintages, 2005 to 2007, of Washington TBA Rieslings with the cheese course. As we dined, Ernst and Wendy told us the technical and nerdy details from the vineyard and winery that we in the industry love so much.
Before we were served any food, most of us had gone through all of the wines. The nose of each wine evolved from the 2009 with its bright and ripe fruit profile all the way to the 2005 where the honeyed tones blended with dehydrated stone fruits to create a bouquet you would not expect on a six-year old domestic wine. After tasting through all of them, we also noticed that the flavors evolved with time but the acid structure and viscosity was nearly identical in each glass.

Course by course, the Rieslings performed beautifully.

  • Our amuse bouche of bay scallop ceviche with deconstructed citrus salsa was served with chunks of bay scallop and a gelee version of the salsa. The briny, acidic profile of the ceviche made the 2007, my personal favorite, seem a little sweeter and a little more viscous.
  • The first course was house-smoked trout, duck fat roasted Yukon gold potatoes, and frisee and kumquats with whole grain mustard vinaigrette. We tested the dish against all five vintages of Riesling and the wine sang with the food, making the trout seem sweeter and really bringing out the smoky profile, as well as the spice of the mustard. 
  • The second course was a foie gras terrine with Eroica gelee, brioche, house-made pickles and Pommery mustard. Once again the wine paired beautifully showing its ability to refresh your palate after something as heavy as foie.
  • With the third course we had grilled red curry marinated quail with Moroccan cous cous. One of the first things you learn about Riesling is that it pairs well with spicy foods. The gaminess of the quail and the spice of the curry made the floral and honeyed notes of the Riesling even more apparent.
  • The entrée was a 24-hour house-smoked Kobe beef brisket with grilled wild baby broccoli. This dish I saw as the biggest contender to throw off the tasting and make the Riesling show poorly. However the weight of the Riesling gave it the ability to stand up to even this heavy and fatty cut of Kobe. The acid of the wine kept your palette from feeling overwhelmed. 
  • To finish off the lunch we were served the TBA’s from 2005 to 2007. These wines are truly special, not only in the glass but also in the vineyard. As we tasted these decadent wines with the cheeses the chef had selected, we listened to Ernst tell us about the process of harvesting and creating these wines. He explained how much patience is required and how harvesters will work a full day to harvest enough fruit to produce one glass of wine.   
What an incredible experience to have lunch with such an important figure in the wine industry, as well as to taste through all the vintages of Eroica Riesling. For those of you that have been put off by the mass produced Rieslings that flood the shelves of supermarkets and many restaurants, I encourage you to revisit them and even experience for yourself what Ernst Loosen is doing here in the states as well as in Germany.