Just when I was really needing a girls’ day, some lovely new friends asked me to join them to tastes wines in a garage. Sure. Why not?
We drove through Oestrich, Germany: a quaint little town with small, traditional half-timbered shops and homes – the kind of romantic village that makes me think of Belle’s town in “Beauty and the Beast”…dork…- and then pulled up to the garage.
The driveway was decorated with chalk drawings by the winemaker’s four children. Walking up to the white and blue painted garage, slightly distressed but clearly cherished, we found the winemaker, Anthony, in overalls with a little grease smeared on this brow. Confused, we thought maybe it really was a garage, where you can also taste wines?
Turns out he was working on a tractor that he uses in the vineyard. He was not willing to fix our squeaky brakes. He greeted us, tentatively at first, but then he quickly warmed up, our American accents bringing back fond memories for him. The son of an American father and German mother, Anthony grew up near Munich and, according to his father, was a bit of a wild teenager. To straighten him out, his father sent him to live on his aunt’s farm in Mississippi. In the winemaker’s words, “It was the 70s and it was funky.” As he still rocks a ponytail and mischievous smile, I’m sure it was. In his 20s, he spent some time in San Francisco learning about wines. Then he moved to the Rheingau and learned some more and met Simone, his partner in love and wine.
Oh the wine. We tasted about FOURTEEN (and a brandy) as Anthony explained where the grapes came from, how the wines were made, and how they’re best paired with food. A sipper of almost exclusively reds, I developed a new appreciation for whites and learned that I should be pairing white wine with buttery sauces, spicy dishes, and soft creamy cheeses. Bring on the fettuccine and pinot gris, the red curry and Riesling, and pass the brie and Weisburgunder!
He taught us that some whites are made with an apple vinegar, but some that are aged in oak barrels go through a fermentation process where the apple vinegar is changed to a milk vinegar. For me, the oak barrel/milk vinegar wines have a much deeper more enjoyable taste. This makes sense because they’re white wines that are processed like a red wine. One such wine is Anthony’s Grauburgunder – a pinot gris made with grapes from Burgundy that have been transplanted to the Rheingau.
Standing in that garage, I felt instantly happy. Not just because of the wines. That garage is a home, a place where the winemaker’s children store their scooters, a gathering place, a labor of love. It has wine bottles and barrels in one corner, a bottle labeler in the middle, a bohemian couch and candles in another corner, and a bar for tastings against one wall. It felt like the perfect mix of Provence, Costa Rica, and America’s Southeast. Colored spot lights and a disco ball hang from the ceiling. The ultimate little nook for a summer’s eve party: doors thrown open, music playing, wine flowing, a cool breeze, fresh air, and summer love blooming.
I hope this summer takes me back to that garage for another Grauburgunder and the perfect summer party.