Robert Weil Riesling & Oysters
I've been hanging out in Austin, Texas, for the past several days eating, drinking and checking out the city. My friend and host took me to Perla's on South Congress for lunch on Friday and I quickly indulged in a few oysters on the half shell. Their raw bar carries 20 plus different kinds from both coasts, and I let the bartender choose for me. To pair with those Pickle Points (the favorites) and Blackberry Points, both from Prince Edward Island, and the sweet, plump West Coast Komoguays, I immediately went for the Robert Weil Riesling Tradition 2013 by the glass.
On the 800-mile drive from Florence, Ala., to Austin on Thursday, I listened to a slew of podcasts, one of which was Levi Dalton's I'll Drink to That!I don't think Levi and I have ever met, but we have about a million people in common, many of whom he's interviewed on the podcast, where he interviews wine industry professionals, winemakers and influencers. One of those mutual acquaintances is owner of Fass Selections and riesling advocate, Lyle Fass, who I met years ago in my NYC wine days. Lyle has an unusual business model that skirts the traditional three-tier system that most US states have built their alcoholic beverage commerce upon. Lyle's approach utilizes a loop hole in California law that allows one to both import and sell retail (like the venerable Kermit Lynch in Berkley). But Lyle sells to subscribing members only - no brick and mortar - who follow his small band of producers never-before-seen this side of the Atlantic. Lyle's palate is stellar, opinionated and dependable. When I heard him talking about Germany's noble grape with Levi, I couldn't resist seeking out a return to the wine I've ignored for far too long.
And then there was Robert. I've known this wine since my early days in the wholesale business, when I went to work for Daniel Johnnes, importer/distributor/Burgundy extraordinaire, in the fall of 2002. Importer Rudi Wiest, who then represented the famed Rheingau producer, was part of the mix. The 2013 Tradition is a Gutswein, a new classification beginning with the 2012 vintage that correlates quality with origin. That's the short definition. This wine is bright with melon and pear fruit aromas and flavors on the palate. It has some sweetness that reveals its richness on the mid-palate while balanced with a beautiful acidity that makes you want another glass before you've finished the first. The wine loved the oysters, the oysters loved the wine, and so my quest for the raw gems, and now a love affair with riesling, continues with great promise.
Lyle says Americans fear the German riesling because they think it's going to be sweet. Even when rieslings are off-dry, they're not sugary sweet like a Southern iced-tea or a soda, an irony I find particularly amusing in the sugar-loving deep South. Riesling is an incredibly versatile grape with a lot of friendly to spread around. I'm jumping in.