Friday, May 21, 2010
Heinrich the hands-off winemaker
In the video, Heinrich Grohe talks about his grapes and wine in response to questions from my friend, Steve Koehler.
In a recent tour of wineries in central and eastern Missouri, we visited Heinrich Grohe at Heinrichshaus Vineyards and Winery near St. James, Mo. Heinrich was our first stop, but if we’d known his wines were best, we’d have placed his visit at the end. All subsequent wineries had something to enjoy, but we could not avoid a small feeling of letdown as we realized, over and again, that nothing we tasted the rest of the way quite measured up.
Heinrich expounded on his minimalist approach to winemaking.
"What I’m giving you is the real McCoy," he said. "I want to see what the grapes are capable of doing if left on their own."
So, the "real McCoy" line is not a boast but an expression of humility. In the face of a wine industry dominated by advanced biochemistry and aggressive marketing, Heinrich is just letting the grapes to their thing.
By tasting, I find he’s clearly doing something different.
His Cynthiana achieves a sublime balance of spice and gentle oak.
His Traminette has a trace of floral quality, unlike other Missouri Traminettes I’ve tasted with powerful floral essence that announces itself at a great distance from the nose. At first, I was almost disappointed by the slight aroma. But, upon tasting, I understood that he’d somehow stuffed all that fragrance back into the wine itself, from which it explodes on the tongue.
Was the Traminette acting independently, or did it have help? Heinrich wouldn't say. He loves to talk about wine, but he guards his winemaking secrets.
He poured samples of Prairie Rouge, an off-dry red. What grapes did he use to make this wine?
"Good grapes," Heinrich said.
Below: Heinrich in the doorway of his tasting room. Click on the photo for a larger, clearer image.