The Overlord’s Musings: A Brief History of the Summer of Riesling
We began the love affair at Terroir Wine Bar in the East Village of New York City in 2008 as a single-minded attempt to get guests to at least try this noble grape called Riesling. Throughout the entire summer (and we mean all 94 days), we poured only Riesling by the glass as our white wine offering. The staff was incredulous and the guests suspect. But with 30 different glass pours and another 100 bottle offerings, we set upon a massive inspirational and educational scheme that was challenging and fun. There was no end game so to speak; our only goal was to ensure that Terroir E.Vil did not go bankrupt. Needless to say, it is still open.
The summer of 2009 brought Summer of Riesling 2009. For our second year, we changed nothing except to expand our message with more in-house tastings, a bigger beating of the drum and a visit from the German Wine Queen Marlies Dumpsky (yes, she exists and she is tremendous!).
Summer of Riesling 2010 brought a bigger playing field as 14 fellow wine bars in New York City helped to create a Riesling Wine Bar Crawl; our long held dream of a music event was staged at the Knitting Factory on July 14th, titled the Summer of Riesling Concert (4 bands with ONLY Riesling to drink…no beer, no Stoli, no Jägermeister); we hosted a multitude of producer visits and tastings (Dönnhoff, Dr. Thanisch, F.X. Pichler, Dr. Loosen, Wiemer, etc.); and of course, we were graced with a visit from the new German Wine Queen, Sonja Christ.
The Summer of Riesling 2011 enlisted the help and guidance of the International Riesling Foundation (the I.R.F. is an organization solely dedicated to expanding the knowledge and interaction with this grape…and we obviously find über common ground with these dedicated souls). With their aid, we had 222 fellow restaurant / wine bar / retail souls join the cause. From the academic shores of Cambridge, to the sun dappled, tanned bodies of Miami, to the scorched earth of Texas, to Mark Twain’s favorite Californian summer vacation spot, to the Seattle home of Sasquatch…and many points in between…we celebrated long and hard, filling every one of the 94 days of summer with glorious Riesling cheer. The SoR team travelled to Miami and North Carolina to preach the gospel. On July 19th, the German Wine Queen, Mandy Grossgarten, inaugurated the first Summer of Riesling Boat Cruise with 3 bands providing the entertainment as we sailed along New York City’s East River. And the Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco welcomed the crew in August, where they poured 36 cases of grape juice to the thirsty mob. With our respect of history and tradition, the entire month of July was celebrated as the 31 Days of German Riesling (with massive assistance from the kind folks at Wines of Germany). For this offering, we had weekly focuses: German Riesling 101; The History of German Riesling; The Über Vineyards of German Riesling; The Extraordinary Producers of German Riesling. Needless to say, much wiener schnitzel was consumed. Ultimately, the celebration was truly national and the Riesling flag was flown proud and mightily.
The Summer of Riesling 2012 will begin on June 20th (thank you, leap year!). The International Riesling Foundation and Wines of Germany are back on board the juggernaut, and they are joined by Austrian Wine, Alsace Wines, Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, and Wine Australia. With their support and the winds of change behind us, we are going huge…signing up 500 restaurants / wine bars and 100 retailers. The month of July will see a national 31 Days of German Riesling once again (and internationally also as it hits the shores of Canada and Mother England). And August 17-19th this year will see a celebratory weekend in Chicago with all things Austrian Riesling. As luck and Mother Nature would have it, the Summer of Riesling 2012 has already started…in the Southern Hemisphere of course. We ventured to New Zealand and Australia in January / February and the folks there are writing new scripts about how Riesling should be viewed: can you say burlesque? can you say 10 courses of pig matched with Riesling in earthquake-damaged Christchurch? can you imagine gunning Riesling court side at the Australian Open Finals? can you relish relishing Riesling on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in a misfit laneway in Sydney? and exactly how do you “punt” a wine? So, nationally, SoR will conquer the landscape in 2012 and, internationally, we will plant some damn big seeds.
Maybe the universe is next!