Recounting a Riesling Renegade

A little past a half a decade ago, a distributor I was buying from called me with an offer. She remembered I had a requested to host wine seminars for any traveling wine makers coming through town. My customers loved this kind of stuff. Fortunately, I was one of their biggest customers and probably would have been offered this meeting regardless of my request. One of the biggest names in German Riesling was coming to the area for a few short days, and I was offered an opportunity to host Dr. Ernst Loosen at my store for an evening. It was almost too good to be true. I probably sold 20 cases of his QbA juggernaut, Dr. L, every ten days or so, but also carried his single vineyard Riesling as well. All in all, our German section boasted about 100 different selections. I asked if I could set up a sit down seminar and have Dr. Ernst Loosen speak and host a guided tasting for 25 – 30 people. This was no problem.

I had met Dr. Ernst Loosen a year prior at luncheon at the Kennedy Center for the Perfuming Arts overlooking the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. There was a number of producers there, but it was centered on Riesling. I remember the second lunch course of three, a salmon dish tasting awful and overcooked. When they day of the seminar arrived, we were all excited in the wine shop. The class was sold out and I bought a ticket for a girl I had a crush on. She was a Riesling lover, and didn’t like much else as far as wine was concerned. My team had set up the area where we were having the class. We even had to rent more wine glasses, because the number of wines we were tasting was 10 in all. We were geared up to try his entire range of wines from the QbA, his Washington State partnership with Chateau Ste Michelle, the Blue Slate release, and different vintages from his single vineyard kabinett, spatlese, and auslese. I provided crackers as palate cleansers.

An hour before the event was to begin, my distributor arrived with Dr. Loosen. I reminded him that we had met before and he graciously agreed with me, but I knew didn’t remember me. He wore red framed glasses that would stick out on a normal person, but his hair dragged your eyes away from the glasses. It was long, curly, and poofed out. It reminded me of mad scientist minus the lab coat. He wore penny loafers, blue pants, a thin-breasted coat, and a scarf. To describe him as quintessentially European looking would be 100% appropriate. He dressed like the coach of a European futball club. I spent the rest of the time, making sure his PowerPoint presentation worked correctly, while my staff finished setting and greeting customers has they began to arrive.

Showtime. The class was full and murmuring, it was time to get rolling. I stepped in front of the class to give the housekeeping notes, run down the outline of the class, and introduce the key guest. I was normally fine with this and speaking in front of people wasn’t a big issue for me, but at that moment, I felt my face go flush, and the “um” river began to flow. Looking back, I know it was because my most important guest of honor, my crush, was sitting in the back of the class at a table with my some of my staff members who were not working but attending. I passed the class off to Dr. Loosen as quickly as possible and began to pour wines with my distributor. Dr. Loosen was speaking quietly, and had a deep German accent when he spoke English. I could tell people were having difficulty hearing in the back. I gestured for him to speak up. I’m not sure if he understood me. After about 25 minutes, we had moved through the first three wines. Dr. Loosen was about to come out of his shell. It is hard to recall what he said exactly, but with a few Rieslings down, his volume rose and smile grew. He began to make jokes and instead of a serious lecture, the class became more of a conversation about the wines. This is my favorite way to teach. Everyone began to relax and have a great time.

Two hours later, and two cases of wine emptied, the class was over. I offered an extra discount on the purchase of any wines tried that even and sold almost $2000 dollars of wine. The single vineyards weren’t cheap. I said goodbye to some of my regular customers and potential new regulars, my staff, and Dr. Loosen. He had a great time and invited me to visit Germany whenever I could. The offer sounded great. I still have never been to Germany. The last person to leave was the girl I had a crush on. She helped me clean up. It was getting late and I was now entering my 13th hour of work for the day. She wasn’t ready to go home. Mentally and physically I was ready to fall into bed, but she gave me a look and asked if I wanted to go get a drink afterwards, over to Bonefish which was less than a mile down the road. The sound of Bang Bang Tacos, a glass of Chardonnay or a Gin Martini, and a little more time with my crush was filling me with my second wind. Just a little more than a year later, I married this girl.