Several years ago, when I received an invitation to a blaufränkisch tasting at Gramercy Tavern, my brain took a moment to process it. Lemberger…David Schildknecht…Roland Velich…Dorli Muhr. I knew and respected the last three, but had no idea what they were doing stamping the blunt, peppery blue juice of the grape with their reputations.
Especially Schildknecht. He had in the past proposed a story on blaufränkisch, which seemed too limited a subject for in-depth research. After the tasting, I began to come around.
As it turns out, blaufränkisch is a grape of lost nobility, capable of clearly representing its terroir when given the right site and treated with care. Schildknecht recognized this early on, as a denizen of Austrian cellars and as the precise taster that he is—you’d have to look to the über-geeks and their algorithms at Google or Facebook to find a parallel to the way his brain connects wine to site.
I’m excited to present this story with our annual Restaurant Poll, a barometer of the shifting American tastes in wine, measuring the boundaries of our comfort zone and the frequency with which we leave it. As wines like this classic from the Austro-Hungarian Empire gain their footing in the 21st Century, we are increasingly open to travel from our comfort zone to more esoteric lands.
April is an issue devoted to sommelier darlings like blaufrränkisch and to the wines diners relax with—including pinot noir, which, only a moment ago in wine time, was a bridge too far. Now, it’s expanding into the nether regions of the Anderson Valley’s coastal hills, as chronicled by Talia Baiocchi in her first feature story for W&S. Somewhere, buried in the poll data, is the next great wine we may all adopt as our own.
One last bit of esoterica: With Easter and Passover approaching, Howard G. Goldberg has uncovered a revisionist history of the events chronicled in Exodus, this one short and required reading for anyone invited to sit through a seder this spring.