We're getting ready to leave Oestrich-Winkel on this muggy Tuesday morning, and so far the trip has been great - decent weather (although there was a big booming storm last night), great people and great wines.A quick recap: Sunday evening was spent at Burg Crass, a cafe along the Rhine, where we took part in a local ritual of cake and coffee. Except when you've got a bunch of winos in tow, that becomes cake (of the delicious local strawberry variety) and sparkling wine. Let me tell you, German sparkling wine (often called Sekt) is one of the hidden gems of this country's wine production.That night we went up the valley to Schloss Vollrads, a beautiful, castle-estate type property, where we were treated to some great food and wine, as well as a tour of this phenomenal estate.We got started early Monday morning with a quick (but phenomenal) buffet breakfast before heading out to Weingut Kunstler (apologies for the lack of umlauts), whose fairly modern estate (on the inside, at least) included a series of winding cellars that have to be seen to be believed. Next up (and just down the street) was Domdechant Werner'sches Weingut, a much smaller producer run by Dr. Franz W. Michel, a 75 year-old grandfather of 15 who shows no sign of letting up.Balthasar Ress was our third stop of the day - some of Stefan Ress' wines are available in Manitoba, and we sampled those and many others before being whisked off to Schloss Reinhartshausen, another producer whose wines are available at home.This morning we're off to the Pfalz region, to Gunderloch (some of whose wines are available in Manitoba... at private wine stores, I believe). There's a quick recap of our activities, and I'll have more later when we check into our next hotel. Suffice to say I've tried many great Rieslings - in fact, of the 60ish wines tasted, all but about five have been Riesling. Many are now being made in a far drier style than the Canadian wine buying public might believe.Interestingly, Winnipeg has come up at almost every stop so far. Why? Well, this region sits on the 50th parallel, which just so happens to run right through Winnipeg. In fact, it's now a running joke that every winemaker we meet will mention Winnipeg as a Canadian point of reference as to our latitude.More later... there is more Riesling to be tried. Hopefully my gums don't peel back from my teeth (Riesling can be fairly high in acidity)...
When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.
The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).
Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.
In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.