Riesling Feier - Stephen Bitterolf's NYC Riesling Event of the Year
By David Furer
Since its 2012 inception Riesling Feier has been a much anticipated gathering of many of Germany's, and some of Alsace's, finest producers of the the world's
(arguably) noblest white grape. Inspired by La Paulée which lauded Burgundy wines, itself a nod to harvest parties in France, importer Stephen Bitterolf's annual New York
City event attracts over 400 paying people to taste mostly recent releases while meeting their favorite winemakers over the course of three 1-hour walk-around sessions, culminating in a convivial dinner at which participants are encouraged to bring bottles from their cellar to share with one another along with prize bottles brought from Germany and Alsace.
Asked of its creation, Bitterolf shared that "Baden's Klaus-Peter Keller and I were talking over many glasses of wine one evening of making a Riesling party, and I offered to stage it if he'd arrange for a few of his fellow vintners to join. The first year there were five -- Keller, Prüm, Lieser, Leitz, Adam -- and we had 60 people attend the first dinner which sold out. Every year it's grown, with each dinner and the three afternoon tasting sessions selling out. Bitterolf has no plans to produce this elsewhere in the US though a comparable Hamburg gathering will soon enjoy its second edition.
The notoriety of Riesling Feier amongst New York's sommeliers and wine cognoscenti has helped Bitterolf's promote Germany's greatest wines, "especially as its price point compared to other great wines is ludicrously low" though he sees this more as a means of establishing camaraderie amongst collectors of these fine wines whose passion he likens to ardent collectors of postage stamps -- or Burgundy. "These are people who love details of wine, and love to share them with their friends. As prices rise wine lovers have greater appreciation for the artistry, the craftsmanship going into wines made from small parcels of land." Indeed, it was a memorable moment for this writer to rekindle friendships with vintners Gernot Kollman, Florian Lauer, and expat American Lars Carlberg who's begun working at Hofgut Falkenstein to his work at the Mosel Wine Merchant brokerage. At the previous evening's dinner, Jean Trimbach and Egon Müller admitted that neither of their parents had wine in their cellar from their neighboring country, yet now these gentlemen are avid collectors of each other's wines, to which Bitterolf added that "Müller's treasures are now able to be found throughout France along with many other of Germany's finest Rieslings."