Tag Archives: Memories

Tracy Lee Karner: 2011 Forster Kirchenstück Riesling inspires happiness

Somewhere, beyond the SeaThis is the fifth installment in my guest blogger series “Somewhere, Beyond the Sea”. For this post, I asked the author, life enjoy-er, honorary German (at least in my book), and good friend Tracy Lee Karner to contribute. I met Tracy through her blog, when, on a whim, I decided to comment on her post about whether blogging is just another cherry-berry pie in the sky back in August 2012. The ensuing conversation led to more contact, and by now I consider her and her husband Ken pretty much family. What I love about her blog is that you never know what to expect when you head over there. Sometimes it is writing advice, sometimes memorization help or language tips, and sometimes just plain fun. Tracy embraces life, and her blog shows it. Also, she is among my top commenters which says something about her commitment. Long story short: Go check out her blog. Thank you, Tracy!

Sometimes it's wine, sometimes it's water that makes us happy enough to yodel...

On a fine day in May, a good drink might make a person happy enough to yodel.

“Then, because of the [wine] and mostly and mainly because we were for that one moment in all time a group of truly happy people, we began to yodel.” (M.F.K. Fisher, H is for Happiness.)

I had spent an exceedingly fine May day with my husband, my dear friend Kai and his wife, with blue skies, wispy clouds, and apple-blossom scented sea breezes. Its magnificence echoed the last May day Kai and I had been together–same weather; same invigorating realization that the season of cooing doves and joyful air has sprung; same sweet and easy friendship.

The last time in 1979 in Hamburg, we were sixteen, walking, shopping, eating and talking, talking, trying not to mention that we didn’t know when or if we would ever see each other again. I was leaving soon to live the rest of my life in America.

In the present re-creation of that wonderful day, we again knew time was short. He and his wife would end their visit and return to Germany.

But for the moment we were together and blissful, gathered around a small marble-topped table in a cafe on Federal Hill in Providence, drinking cappuccino, sharing a lusciously layered chocolate torte. I resisted that urge to yodel because it would have annoyed the people who were there to buy fresh pasta, Italian cheese, salami or olives. Besides, I’m an incredibly poor yodler.

But I was that happy, I could have raised my voice in spontaneous, merry song.

The day ended as all such days end, with tearful embraces. And then they were gone.

We had our memories and a bottle of wine, 2011 Forster Kirchenstück Riesling Kabinett Trocken (dry) Deutscher (German) Prädikatswein (quality wine with specific attributes).

Before we opened it, I asked the amazing-riesling-expert Winegetter what should I know to appreciate this gift? He willingly shared his expertise, explaining that the grapes were grown in a 3-1/2 hectares vineyard behind the Forst village church on the wine road (that’s near Kai’s home).

Recently Ken and I opened the Forster Kirchenstück as an aperitif, according to Oliver’s suggestion.

Small bottle, long skinny neck with a too-long cork, unusually difficult to open (slightly annoying). I, however, was determined to love this wine. Kai gave it to us!

In the glass: Tinged the color of a nearly-ripe yet slightly green bartlet pear, so pale as to appear almost clear. Crystal transluscence.

Nose: Faint blossoms–apple & honeysuckle. Uncomplicated. Hint of fresh grass.

Mouth: Thinnish. Fresh, quick taste of tart apple, crisp mineral undertone, short lemon finish. I’d love this with fresh-shucked raw oysters.

Overall: Nice–but Ken found a flaw. On the middle-to-back sides of his tongue, a bitter-pucker sensation, the residue of green apple peels. Recommended therefore with some reservation. Less than perfect, but pleasant enough, drinkable and refreshing.

(Thank you, Stefano Crosio, for introducing me to the Italian Sommelier Association guidelines for wine review. I really like this 3-pronged method!)

More subjectively–and why I liked the wine despite the flaw: it opened a magical window into timelessness, taking me back to Germany, October 1978. I was telling Ken all the details, about picking grapes for a vineyard near Forster Kirchenstück and eating deliciously earthy, pit-roasted potatoes out of my hand, whole, with nothing but salt.

His turn to talk: in the twenty years of our marriage, he frequently mentioned his time as sous-chef at The Wagon Wheel Lodge, but had never before described the German butchers Heinrich and Albert who educated him about Riesling.

Albert looked something like a blond, not-quite-so-plump Ed Asner. Heinrich was taller, nearly six feet, with piercing pale blue eyes. Dark brown short, side-parted hair and a face not unlike Martin Luther’s.

Those were the guys who taught Ken sausage-making, and how to drink dry Riesling (with Weisswurst, or boiled cod, and sometimes with a dense white bread, toasted, topped with an egg poached medium).

With our next sip we, of course, drank to friendships–old and new.

So what do you think? Would you like this wine? And if not, is there a particular Riesling (or any wine) that could make you yodel like Franzl Lang? (you have to click here, really you have to hear happiness!)

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Aged Wines are like Old Friends

I know, I have been quite silent lately. This is likely to continue for a couple more weeks. I will try to post when I can, and more importantly have something to say, but we’re not really drinking wine right now and my cousin is coming to visit so we will also be traveling a bit. Maybe that is why I am going a bit deeper today…

The exchanges with my cousin over the last weeks reminded me of something. We were talking about what wines he should bring for us. He had a couple of suggestions and we still had some bottles stored at my mother’s. It reminded me of those bottles, and it also made my excitement about the wines he is bringing rise. It reminded me of a discussion I had with my friend Tracy a while back, and that I had jotted down some ideas about it in one of my guest posts on the German expatriate website Go-Ra-Ra.

1987 Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese

1987 Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese

Wines have a unique and particular quality that I just find fascinating and it is quite singular to them: They are perfect bridges into the past.

You might say that smells, too, can carry this magic because they have the ability to transport us back to fond memories and special moments. For me, one immediate example would be the aroma that arises from baking bell peppers – it will always remind me of my beloved grandma making her awesome Stuffed Peppers.

That brings us to food, which seems to do that, too. When I visit Germany nowadays, the first thing I long for is bread and ‘Wurst’, insufficiently translated as lunch meats or cold cuts. It is what makes me feel at home. And don’t get me started on the taste of actual, real bread…

And finally, music appears to be similar: Every time I hear a particular song by The Killers, one that I obsessively listened to two years ago when working on a paper, I start re-arguing the case in my head all over again. And we all know these songs that make our hearts swell because of the connotations our brain has from when we listened to them for the first time, or many times in a row.

But there is a caveat: These three triggers for our senses cannot function as true bridges, because – in my book at least – they do not take the process of ageing or evolving into account. They lock in memory from the past, the way it was.

Two beauties, meant for each other

Two beauties, meant for each other

A bottle of wine from a particular year offers more than food, music or smells can offer: It offers me a taste of something that was produced at a certain time, and that did not stay the same. A substance that, just like me, has aged since it was first created. We both evolved and we both are not what we were at the time the wine was made.

But still, it brings back memories: The name of the winery will remind me of past experiences with it; the name of the vineyard might remind me of a hike in this particular hill. Or I might even have enjoyed this particular wine in the past, and just like me it has evolved since then and is not the same.

Two beauties

Two beauties

A bottle of wine gives me a chance to think of the grand scheme of things. What happened during this specific year? How did the German national team do? Or, on a more personal level, I might consider my life: Where was I at this point in time … physically … emotionally … spiritually? What has happened since? A lot of history, all captured in one sip, if you will. I love this about wine.

And there we are: This wine that transports me back in my head, it meets me in the here and now at the same time. It is a messenger from the past, that is not just a memory in my head, it is actually here. Ready to meet me and engage with me…

In that sense, a bottle of wine is like an old friend, that evolves with us, that grows with us, but still connects us to our past. So just like old friends, they are true bridges into our past.


Best buddies.

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