I have been spending my sabbatical leave this year away from New York, which has been lovely. I love New York, but sometimes a change of pace is good.
But I am quite sad to be away this week, as it is the last week that my absolute favorite restaurant in the city, Trestle on Tenth will be open. Trestle is closing its doors forever and I am sorry that I won’t be able to be there on Saturday the 26th to say goodbye to owner and chef Ralf Kuettel and his superb staff, especially general manager Gwen Hayward.
My good friend Karl Storchmann, editor of the Journal of Wine Economics, introduced my to Trestle in 2010. We’ve since spent many nights there eating and drinking wine, and discussing wine, often ones that we brought ourselves and that Ralf was kind enough to let us drink without charging us corkage. Ralf’s Swiss upbringing was reflected in the menu and his smoked and roasted pork loin was to die for. I rarely deviated from my choice, even if other items on the menu were also spectacular. What I loved about Trestle was that it was quiet enough to be able to carry on a conversation, which is not always easy in New York restaurants. And the service was always impeccable. The prices were reasonable and the wine list was heavy on natural European wines, also something of a rarity in New York. The outside garden was one of the loveliest spots for dinner in Manhattan.
Trestle played an integral role in my quest to bring German red wine to the attention of Americans. Most significantly, it was the place where, in November of 2010, Karl and I co-organized a blind tasting of Großes Gewächs (the German equivalent of Grand Cru in France) from the Ahr and selected (and roughly comparably priced) wines from Burgundy. Karl was amazing in organizing funding from the German Wine Institute and the American Association of Wine Economists, which paid for dinner for all of our guests.
Karl also assembled a great guest list… Here’s who was there, in addition to Karl and me, with their affiliations at the time:
- Orley Ashenfelter (Princeton University)
- Alison Beach (Universität zu Köln)
- Joe Czerwinski (Wine Enthusiast)
- Brian DiMarco (Barterhouse)
- Lyle Fass (Grape)
- Leslie Gevirtz (Reuters)
- Howard Goldberg (NY Times)
- Robin Goldstein (Fearless Critic Media)
- Rosemary Grant (Chambers Street Wine)
- Joshua Green (Wine and Spirits Magazine)
- Paul Greico (Hearth/Terroir)
- Alexis Herschkowitsch (Fearless Critic Media)
- Ted Joyce (City University of New York)
- Dan Melia (Mosel Wine Merchant)
- Debraj Ray (New York University)
- Molly Sider (Crush Wine Co.)
The 6 VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweinguter — the best 200 vintners in German) vintners on the Ahr (Adeneuer, Deutzerhof, Kreuzberg, Meyer-Näkel, Nelles, and Stodden) were very generous and donated 6 bottles each (3 bottles of 2 different Großes Gewächs), which I schlepped back from Germany in two different trips. I was traveling back and forth quite frequently then, so this wasn’t a particular problem. While a few of the Ahr vintners were exporting to the U.S. at the time, I sold them on the idea that this would be a good way to test the waters of the U.S. market, particularly if we could induce some of the press at the time to report on the tasting.
Stephen Bitterolf, who worked at Crush Wine at the time and who now organizes the Rieslingfeier every year in New York also supported us by providing to us at cost four Burgundies that would normally retail for about $100 per bottle.
It was important to Karl and me that we taste the wines blind, and the staff at Trestle was superb in helping us to achieve this. There is a fair amount of prejudice against German red wines, even among some of the more sophisticated wine people in New York. This event was no different, as a certain contingent of folks spent a lot of time trying to figure out which of the wines were from France and then heaping praise on them.
Karl has a lot of experience with blind tastings, however, and came prepared with software from Richard Quandt, a renowned Princeton econometrician and wine lover. His WINETASTER software has been used to evaluate hundreds of blind tastings.
We tasted eight wines in each in two flights. Each taster was asked to rank the wines from 1 (best) to 8 (worst) in both flights.
The aggregated rankings of the first flight were:
- 1st: 2007 Nelles B-48 GG
- 2nd (tied): 2007 Stodden Recher Herrenberg GG
- 2nd (tied): 2008 Meyer-Näkel Dernauer Pfarrwingert GG
- 4th: 2007 Deutzerhof Mayschoßer Mönchsberg GG
- 5th: 2007 Lafarge Clos du Chateau des Ducs 1er Cru
- 6th: 2006 Adeneuer J.J. Adeneuer “R”
- 7th: 2007 Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny
- 8th: 2007 Kreuzberg Devonschiefer “R”
The wines of the same color are considered to be statistically ranked the same. The Nelles B-48 was clearly a winner in this flight and the next three wines were also from the Ahr.
The second flight was somewhat less conclusive, as all wines were statistically similarly ranked. Nevertheless, Ahr wines topped the list:
- 1st: 2008 Meyer-Näkel Walporzheimer Kräuberberg GG
- 2nd: 2007 Kreuzberg Silberberg GG
- 3rd: 2007 Nelles B-52 GG
- 4th: 2007 Adeneuer Ahrweiler Rosenthal GG
- 5th: 2007 d’Angerville Volnay Champans 1er Cru
- 6th: 2007 Stodden Ahrweiler Rosenthal GG
- 7th: 2007 Deutzerhof Altenahrer Eck GG
- 8th: 2007 Chevillon Nuit-St.-Georges Les Cailles 1er Cru
This was my first experience with New York wine professionals, and most were very gracious (Paul Greico and Joshua Greene, pictured at right, for example). It was somewhat surprising to me, though, how closed-minded some folks were. Maybe I just love Spätburgunder more than others.
Karl and I had hoped that the night would generate a bit of positive press and interest in Ahr wine in particular and German red wine in general. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, although there was general agreement that the Ahr wines held their own against the 1er Cru from Burgundy. The lack of availability of the wines in the U.S. probably played a large role.
I owe much to Ralf and the staff at Trestle for making that night back in 2010 so successful. But I am also so grateful that Trestle was always a place that was welcoming and where I was greeted by name and with a smile. I’ve shared many wonderful times there with colleagues, friends, and family. I’ve celebrated there and spent nights in long conversation. I’ve sat outside in the garden in the sun and watched snow pile up outside the big front window. It’s been an anchor in my life for a long time now, and I will dearly, dearly miss it.
Ralf, Gwen, and the rest of the staff at Trestle: I hope this is not good bye, but just Auf Wiedersehen. Thank you for so many good memories.