Last week, we enjoyed the visit of Axel and Herta Stiegelmar, the charming owners of Juris Winery, who participated in a series of promotional events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In San Francisco, they were featured at Portfolio, our annual tradeshow located this year at the San Francisco Old Mint, pouring their Pinot Noir and St. Laurent wines non-stop from 11:00am to 3:00pm.
Juris is a family estate in Gols, Burgenland, run by the Stiegelmar family since the late 1500’s. After acquiring practical experience in Germany, Bordeaux and California, Axel Stiegelmar is now considered a Pinot Noir and St. Laurent specialist, producing wines of character and style with aging potential.
Pinot Noir and St. Laurent are two difficult and fussy grape varieties that have actually many common characteristics. Pinot noir was most likely brought to Austria in the late 14th Century by Cistercian monks from the Order’s motherhouse in Burgundy. It grows well in the mild climate regions of Burgenland and Thermenregion (Lower Austria) and is recently gaining more importance in the country (1.4% of the plantings in 2009, up from about 0.8% in 1999).
The origins of St. Laurent are mysterious but thanks to genetic testing, it is believed to be a crossing between Pinot Noir and an other unknown vine. Like Pinot Noir, it came to Austria from France and is now planted in Burgenland and Lower Austria. Because St. Laurent ripens sooner than Pinot Noir, it is well suited to regions with short growing seasons like Austria. It is also one of these finicky grapes that has been recently rediscovered by Austrian growers. In 2009 it covered 1.7% of the total grape plantings in Austria, up from 0.9% in 1999.
After Portfolio, we all met again at Bar Tartine in the San Francisco Mission for a wine and food event featuring a vertical lineup of Juris Reserve St. Laurent from 2002 to 2009. My favorite was the 2005, a well-balanced wine, with rich fruits, good complexity, and an elegant finish.
To accompany the wines, chefs Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns provided tasty little tartines, small open-faced sandwiches topped with various Eastern European inspired ingredients.