Saturday, August 23, 2008

Galen Glen: A taste of Austria, Germany

You can tell the region where Sarah and Galen Troxell have their farm and
winery by the wines on their list. There’s Riesling and Traminette, Auslese and Gruner Veltliner, and then there’s that dessert wine with the long name that starts with a B.

Beerenauslese?” Sarah asked after I fumbled with the name. “It’s a dessert wine, a preview to the ice wine. We just released our ice wine this past weekend. It’s sweeter than late harvest. The grapes were picked cold, but not frozen. We actually for the ice wine follow true Canadian etiquette. We pick and press bbelow 17, the fruit is frozen. We pick as cold as 2 degrees. Last year it wasn’t quite that cold, but it’s a very rich, sweet ice wine.

“We also do Alsace, which I again that Germanic stock fermentation, it’s a blend of all things grown here. Big fragrance. It’s called Erin’s Alsace [pronounced AL-slay-sa]. Beautiful bouquet, but more of a table wine. There again, not late harvest, but one step backward closer to the table wine. A big, fragrant white. Semisweet.”

One wine that won’t be on the list after this year is the
Traminette. That’s because the producer decided to tear out most of their vines to provide the space for a big house.
So the Gruner Veltliner, still in its infancy in the Troxell’s vineyard, will make a greater impact after this harvest and those to come.

“It’s a big Austrian white wine, huge bouquet,” Sarah said. “The finish is dry. I don’t even know if there 10 vineyards that grow it in this part of the country. That and our Riesling are probably two of our most famous whites. They both have the classic big Germanic fragrance and the Riesling is finished half dry without fermentation and the Gruner is dry.”

Both, she said, are crisp whites that can stand a year or so wait before opening. Or you can be impatient and pour a day after purchase. Maybe all that depends on what you are planning for dinner. “The Riesling,” she said, responding to a question about what foods go well with both, “with pork or some lightly [seasoned] Old Bay shrimp. The Gruner is a little heavier taste. That you can do with more light meats, sausage, also pork, turkey, all sorts of poultry, heavier seafoods as well. It has a little bigger taste so it can stand up to more foodwise.”

Sausage would figure to be on a lot of menus in the vicinity of the hill in northeast Pennsylvania where the Troxells grow their grapes. Asked what trends she has seen in tastes recently, Sarah said: “I probably think they are drinking a little more red. We’re slowly transitioning from a very fruit-driven Germanic area to dryer wines. It’s a slow process. These people are very comfortable with fruit, so to get them to try dryer wines [takes some time].”

What won’t take much time is the transition to harvest. Troxell said all winemakers in this region can hope for at this point is a close approximation of last year, when there was no rain to speak of through the entire harvest.

“I mean, we live in Pennsylvania. There are hurricanes normally that time of the year,” she said, “and we didn’t really have any. It’s the first time in all the years we’ve been picking that you could pick any day you wanted. We didn’t have to worry about some potential storm and are we going to get inches of rain and will it change the flavor profile or dilute the sweetness. . . . We just picked when we decided it was time.”

This weekend they're putting on sale their holiday raspberry, what they call their fall wine release. In an area where they sell a lot of fruit, this is the only fruit wine that Galen Glen sells, "so when it's release it arrives with huge fanfare," Troxell said. On the horizon is harvest, and she didn't have to wait more than a moment to answer a question about where it ranks among the
full cycle of events in the vineyard? Top of the list, she said. “How can you not? You do all the work to get here so then when it arrives . . . it’s truly something to look forward to.”