Gruner and Reisling in Santa Cruz
In John’s other life as the Wine Director at Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco he gets to taste spectacular wines from around the world. This makes wines that he finds locally that are excellent that much more special. John met Ryan Stirm through our friend Andrew who works in the wine industry here in SF at a wine tasting. That evening he learned about Ryan’s deep and personal knowledge of Austrian wine and got really excited to taste the wines and visit his winery. We finally made it happen! Here’s the story:
If you’ve been to Santa Cruz then you’ve probably been to the Boardwalk. The Santa Cruz where Ryan has his winery is the opposite of that. We walked up a ramp and into a warehouse full of massive fermentation tanks and old wood barrels, in some places to the ceiling. The smell was the familiar wonderful perfume of natural yeast doing their job, turning grape juice into wine. We felt at home. That day the project was cleaning barrels, and Ryan’s brother was at it. He let Christian try too!
Ryan is all about Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. He spent some time working in Austria in the Wachau, one of the best regions for these varieties, and when he returned he set out not to replicate those wines, but to find a voice for them here that was distinct. We went just after harvest and got to taste wines directly from their tanks that had just finished fermenting. Tasting wine at that stage in its life is a unique experience. It hasn’t yet had the time to develop the complexity that comes even with a little bit of age, but the flavors and aromas are brash and pleasurable, like that friend that sometimes embarrasses you in public but you always have a great time with.
While most consumers think of winemakers as leading idyllic lives with their own vineyards, wineries, and large farmhouses, the reality for most is more hardscrabble and much more interesting. Ryan rents a facility for his craft and makes contract wine for other people in this facility as well. Thus, his wines are resting in barrel next to wines meant for a completely different label. People seek him out to make their wine because they trust his vision and expertise, as well as his conviction for making wine naturally, with as little sulfur as possible. We tasted a wine in tank that is going to be the biggest thing to hit Dolores Park (DP) since Four Loko: Riesling in a can. It was delicious.
After the winery we went to the beach to enjoy some fine foods grilled up by our friend Caitlyn. Shrimp, spicy padron peppers, hummus, and of course, some sick Riesling and Gruner. These bottles were from the 2015 harvest and were sailing strong. The gruners were peppery and spicy with aromas of crunchy pineapple and lime while the Rieslings were more stonefruit and grapefruit. All with long dry finishes. Really the perfect wine to accompany almost any dish, especially if you’re hanging out beachside with good friends. Look for these gems in a wine shop near you! Or by the glass at Mister Jiu’s if you happen to live in the Bay Area ;)