Von Strasser produces California's first Grüner Veltliner

Napa Winemaker Produces State's First Grüner Veltliner.


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To the list of well-known Grüner Veltliner producers such as Sonnhof and Pfaffl can now be addedvon Strasser?

Yes. On August 29, Napa's Diamond Mountain winery, best known for Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeaux blends, harvested what owner Rudy von Strasser says "may be the first commercial crop of Grüner Veltliner grown in California."

He might be right. Says Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, "Growers have tried a lot of things, but I have never, ever talked to one who has Grüner. I don't even think the nurseries have it."

"I choose Grüner because of my Austrian ancestry," von Strasser adds. The grape is the most widely grown in Austria. But there may have been another reason for von Strasser's decision. Grüner is red-hot. It's been called "the wine of the moment," "the darling of sommeliers" and "the wine of the hour from Sidney to San Francisco." In the latter city, "It's still one of our hottest items," says Peter Granoff, co-owner of the popular Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.

 

Rudy von Strasser at Diamond Mountain winery.

Von Strasser acknowledges his experiment with Grüner is something of a risk. "I don't know if it will make great wine on Diamond Mountain." The climate there is warmer than in Austrian districts like Kamptal and Weinviertel. But, as von Strasser points out, "Ours is not a shabby vineyard, and in microclimates, sometimes you can do amazing things with varieties you don't expect."

But will lovers of real Austrian "Gru-Vee" accept one from Napa Valley? "I think consumers will be very curious about it," Granoff, the wine merchant, predicts. "But whether they'll purchase a second time will depend on the wine's style. They like a dry, unoaked wine, with character and personality and big, bright acidity." Most of his customers spend between $12 and $25 for a bottle of good Grüner, Granoff notes.

Von Strasser says his Grüner will be unoaked. As for price, he's a bit less sure. "Mid-twenties, high twenties? I don't know. The market will dictate the price."

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