[For a full profile about the Degustarium, please click on the article link to my friends at Pathways. This piece is a bit more “glass-of-life.”]
The door opens to a little girl tottering around a long table of blond, broad, raw wood, a group of 3 or four people sitting on similarly-styled benches, a couple working behind a simple bar, all the scene illuminated by low lamps hanging from an arched brick ceiling.
Outside darkness, drizzle, and wind. Inside, a warmth emanating from one of my favorite stoves in the Czech Republic. The warmth makes a cool white wine acceptable, many examples of which rest on the table.
The little one caroms around the bar towards her parents, owners Vladimir and Denisa Štekl; a sip of juice, maybe a snack and out she comes -! – into this wonderful space of murmuring adults, aromas of a hot fire baking a savory dish, and soft light lapping dim corners.
Behind the restful hum of this place, the Degustarium, part bed & breakfast, part wine cave, part codifier of Pálava wines, is ambition after ambition… But ambition rarely seems so relaxed.
“Calm,” Štekl mentioned a year ago, a goal achieved this evening.
His daughter climbs up on the bench:
Behind her, Ondřej Prusák, Degustarium’s web designer, opens a bottle of wine to start a small tasting for some guests. Prusák has created for Degustarium, but has not yet released, one of the most attractive wine maps I have ever seen (a distant image can be viewed here). Wine maps should both inform the neophyte and intrigue the connoisseur. A newbie might ask, “Where is the vintner village of Pavlov from Mikulov?” A zealous oenophile might ask, “What is the, location, pedology, and approximate gradient of the Slunný vrch vineyard?” Prusák’s Degustarium map answers those question in a sleek, powerful fashion. While the map isn’t currently on-line, its look echos the feel of this label he designed for the Balaž winery:
We taste through a selection of mostly Ryzlink Vlašský (Welschriesling) wines from the Pálava Hills vineyards, including a few from the most celebrated vineyard, Železná.
Many of the wines are 2014s. An abominable vintage by most standards, and quality makers struggled to find the silver lining of the cumulonimbus that doused rain and rot on the vineyards. Drinkable wine was considered a success in this vintage, and our tasting reflected some of these small victories. (Tasting notes are below).
Most of the remaining wines come from the 2013 vintage, a more favorable year. The wines reflected this beneficence – fuller body, greater complexity, a little more “stuffing” as one says.
My favorite wine of the evening comes from 2013, a Vinařstvi Popela Ryzlink Rýnský. Warm honey and floral elements mixed with Mandarin orange and tobacco come on the nose. In the mouth the taste is complex too. A bit short at the end, but the nose is nothing s.hort of sexy. Nice job.
Amidst all the wines , the Štekls place a type of Czech tartiflette on the table. The aggressive, steely, and electric wines of 2014 compliment well the cheese and potato dish, cutting the sizzling dairy fat.
After dinner, Prusák’s sister and friends arrive from a long drive, and we escort these lovely women through the wines. Vladimir, Denisa, and their sleepy daughter disappear with smiles. Discussions roll back and forth over the broad wood table, but eventually I leave them, the soft light, and a quieting stove to Prusák, kith, and kin. A quiet bed kindly waits.
A gift of an evening.
Vinarství Popela 2014 Ryzlink Vlašský (Welschriesling) from the Železna vineyard: A lot of fresh pineapple rind on the nose and a tang in the mouth.
To compare:the same vineyard, cultivar, and year, but from the Tanzberg winery: Again, pineapple stands out on the nose, a little fainter than Popela’s. In the mouth a touch of bitterness rests at the back. Both wines liken a bit to this, without the Margaritas.
Vinarstvi Šilinek 2014 Ryzlink Vlašský, from the Božích Muk vineyard: Lighter than the previous two wines it was more vyvažené, balanced. A subdued quality trembled through. The wine did not try to push beyond the vintage but gracefully went along with it.
Tanzberg, 2010 Ryzlink Rýnský from the Slunečna (Sunny) vineyard: This wine was drinking very well, with aromas and tastes of limestone and a slight “petrol” note – the latter a hallmark of the Riesling grape. Tastes a bit like this sounds, a little light, a little hard.
Sexy! There I wrote it, to keep your eyes from wandering. An accurate description, though, of Popelá’s 2014 Rýnský from the Bergus vineyard. Warm honey, white flowers, Mandarin orange and green tabacco. Smells like a fantasy, and like most fantasies, it has some shortcomings, the taste being truncated in the mouth. But that nose, just beautiful.
Riesten 2013 Pinot Blanc from the Božích Muk vineyard: Full nose, body lotion and a little cold stone. Also a fulsome mouth. Nice wine.
Chateau Valtice 2013 Pinot blanc from the Sluncé Vrch (Sunny Hill) vineyard: A fresh, very fresh nose, with beautiful warm honey. In mouth, a bit cloying, but nice.
Šilinek 2014 Pálava cultivar from the Stará Hora vineyard: Oh Pálava grape. You’re like a Brazilian Carnival dancer who wants to join the ballet. Everybody tells you, “No,” but you just keep trying. “Just keep being luscious and sweet and grape-y and not so serious and easy to drink and show us your tropical fruit,” they leer; and you dream of the ethereal, the perfect pivot upon a faint note of minerality, and your tropical fruit isn’t a sun-baked evocation but the subtler freshness of a fruit proudly itself after rain. Face it, you will always have something sub-23rd parallel about you, but who said ballet can’t be sensuous, and who said fine wine must lack exuberance?
You could convince people yet, Pálava grape, and the wine world will be a better place once you achieve your dream. This Šilinek example moves you in the right direction. Tropical, but not fruit salad, a fine freshness despite the year. Very nice.
Volařik 2013 Pálava from the Purmice vineyard. – A good Carnival dancer that is happy with her craft. Not my thing, but there is an art to heavily aromatic wines and some people enjoy that art.