Anyone who knows me well knows I am all about Riesling. I love the grape, I love the wines. I study them, I collect them, I drink them, I dream about them. I “grew up” in the Rheinland-Pfalz, a beautiful area out of which comes some great wines, and I still recall the first time I tasted a Riesling: It was 1980, and it was a Bassermann-Jordan, and it was delicious. My life changed then and there. I saw that magic could be bottled and opened later for one’s enjoyment. (Angela and I visited Weingut Geheimer Rat Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan in 2012, along with a number of other wineries in the area. And we’ll be back.)
The next day I went to the bookstore near my American high school and bought a copy of Frank J. Prial’s “Wine Talk” and began reading it immediately. I read anything about wine I could get my hands on, which was mostly in the International Herald Tribune (I was an editor on the staff of my school’s newspaper, and Ms. Thompson subscribed to the IHT for her journalism students).
Not long after that first taste my parents returned to the U.S. for a brief visit and I was left alone for a week or so. I don’t remember exactly where I bought my first collection of wines, but I clearly recall coming up with the plan to open a bottle each evening – I was at the time reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books in the order they were published, and the Rieslings surely added quality to that experience.
A friend who was around my age who lived upstairs from my family also liked wine, so he and I decided to start traveling to a village or town each week to enjoy a lunch or dinner and some wines. We went to Trier, and Mannheim, and many places in between. We ate bockwurst and schnitzel and escargot and saumagen. We drank mostly Rieslings, with some great beers thrown in for good measure. One meal I will always remember was one of trout caught from the waters below our table. It was at Seehaus Forelle, and it was more than 30 years ago, but it will be in my mind forever. The fish and the potatoes and the cucumber salad. And the wine. Riesling, of course.
That is how my passion for Riesling was born. But where, you ask, does Olivia Newton-John come in? Well, like any red-blooded male at that time I had a monumental crush on the Grease star. I loved the film, liked her songs, (though I was soon to discover the joys of Elvis Costello and U2 and the Police and BAP and leave her type of music behind), and admit to fantasizing about her from time to time. Or more often.
Yesterday I saw a video made by the Camerata crew, which transported me back to those days in Germany and made me think of Olivia and my first taste of Riesling. Watch this short, one of the best things I have ever seen made about my beloved grape, and perhaps you will understand what I am talking about. And whatever you do, drink more Riesling. It’s better than greased lightning.