Off the top of my head, here’s what’s important to me in wine: classicism, intelligent experimentation, riesling, the expression of place, textures, German wine, transparency, a reduction in human manipulation without a denial of the necessity of human manipulation, grape varietals that do best in cool climates, secondary characteristics, meals, a certain strangeness, grace, modern individuals conducting conversations with longstanding traditions, references to “This Is Spinal Tap,” nutrition, crazy aromatics, conscience, poetics.

The “Spinal Tap” thing is perhaps not as central as the other factors, and I would not continue drinking a wine I didn’t like just because it bore some reference to that brilliant genre-shifting movie. But it can’t hurt. Some people drink the wine smothered by Nicki Minaj’s branding, others buy the Brangelina rosé, there’s Red Sox wine and Jerry Garcia wine. I was already fascinated by the wines of Teutonic Wine Company when I came upon the one named after a “Spinal Tap” line, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me want to know more about the winery and its human agents.

Teutonic Wine Company makes wines in Oregon. You’ve probably heard of Oregon. Perhaps you’ve drunk pinot noir from Oregon, and perhaps (often with less justification) pinot gris. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to drink chardonnay from Eyrie Vineyards. Whatever your relationship with Oregon wine, it’s likely to have hewn more or less to the narrative that the state takes a more restrained approach to pinot noir and other “Burgundian” varietals than its southern neighbor. Oregon as middle ground between Burgundy and the United States.

Teutonic Wine Company has very little to do with that narrative. As its name implies, Teutonic is motivated by a love for wines from countries that speak German. That’s because the small number of people behind Teutonic love German wines, specifically those from the precipitous slopes that line the Mosel River. But they live in Oregon. So rather than falling in line with just about everyone else making wine (or a buck) in Oregon, they’ve embarked upon a much steeper, unstable path.

“I don’t live in the Mosel,” Teutonic’s driving force, Barnaby Tuttle, told me. “I can’t live in the Mosel. But there are probably 400 wineries in the Willamette Valley (Oregon) saying they’re ‘Burgundian.’ How is that any more valid than me saying I’m making Mosel-style wine here?”

Tuttle makes gorgeous riesling, but given the breadth of wines available from Teutonic, it’s more accurate to say that all the wines are informed by what makes German wines unique: scintillating transparency, delicacy mated to drive, aromatic expressiveness restrained by precise palate delineation, allegiance to terroir over any particular market-tested profile, and balance, balance, balance. This is evident regardless of whether you’re drinking the welterweight gewürztraminer; a subtle, foresty pinot noir; or a bracing, gulpable, vin-de-soif pinot meunier. Or, of course, if you favor the floral muscat of Recorded in Doubly 2015 ($22). (Teutonic has other Spinal Tap-inspired wines, but Recorded in Doubly is the only one now available in Maine.)


“The New World is still in its infancy when it comes to wine,” Tuttle said. “The more we experiment, the more quickly we’ll figure out what we’re good at, what makes sense.… How long did it take to figure out the right grapes in Burgundy, or in the Mosel?” (Answer: centuries.)

The Tuttles (Barnaby’s wife, Olga, works alongside, as do assistants Alex Neely and Gus Wahlstrom) are playing around to see what works. They’re longtime rock ‘n’ rollers and so probably more comfortable than most with utilizing failure to produce success. They make a straight-up chasselas (native to Switzerland), a silvaner (Mitteleuropean), plus rosé and all sorts of other stuff. I’m guessing that 10 years from now (first commercial vintage was 2008) the line-up will be quite different.

Teutonic’s play is serious, administered according to serious principles. Tuttle has classified these as Old and Cold, High and Dry, Wood and Wild. Except for one, each wine is sourced from a different single vineyard, situated at high elevation and planted with old vines (at least 30 years of age, mostly ungrafted). High elevation means a colder climate with less reliable ripening, and to increase the challenge, all of the vineyards Teutonic works with are dry-farmed (no irrigation). This situation demands that grapes be harvested riskily late, and “ripen more from the soil than the sun,” according to Tuttle.

Old vines and dry-farming force roots to work hard and drive deep, efforts immediately recognizable in the layered intricacy of the wines themselves. The thorough physiological ripeness of the grapes is respected through the fermentation process, which is carried out in neutral oak (Wood) and only with native yeasts and a pied de cuvée (a yeast starter generated by grapes from the vineyard: Wild).

After the winemaking there are wines to be drunk, and I’ll take over the sloganeering from here: Teutonic wines drink Slow and Low. Supple and quietly insistent, they are approachable, lovable even, but their details don’t come out until well into your meal, well into the evening, and (if you can restrain yourself) even well into the second or third day the bottle is open. They unfold. They are as Low in overall volume as they are in alcohol – around 11 percent for the whites, low-13-ish for the reds – content to integrate with your life rather than steal its force.

A perfect example is the Crow Valley Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2014 ($28). Gewürztraminer is not typically known for subtlety and quiet integration. The wildly perfumed, exotic three-ring circus of most gewürz usually begs to be sipped apart from a full meal (other than Indian), and no one on Earth has ever drunk more than a glass of it at a time. The Teutonic Gewürztraminer, on the other hand, is flat-out crushable, sidling up to all sorts of meals like besties. For me the wine shone with a simple sauté of summer squash, thyme and tomatoes with crumbled blue cheese, a perfect foil to the tangy acidity, herbal notes, and delicate, chiseled stoniness of the wine. But you could grill shrimp or cobble a curry or bake a galette and find similar harmony. Forget everything you know about gewürz (lychee, tropics, potpourri); this is an 11-percent alcohol wine for adults (who know how to have fun).


That wine, like the Recorded in Doubly – which used to be called Jazz Odyssey, yet another Spinal Tap reference, and is a spicy, peachy 11-percent muscat from 38-year-old vines in Willamette’s Wasson Vineyard – does bring up another aspect of the Low story. It’s low in alcohol in part because there is a kiss of residual (unfermented) sugar in the wine. In sane cultures, wines (and foods) that achieve a balance between acidity, alcohol, fruit and sugar are called “good.” A synonym is “balanced.” Anyone who uses a made-up word such as “sweet” to describe them is letting theory outpace practice, not to mention letting prissiness outpace pleasure.

Tuttle told me, “When I do tastings, some people ask me about RS (residual sugar) numbers, but that’s never the ordinary drinkers, who just like the wines. It’s only the restaurant wine buyers who ask, and ask about ‘how to sell it’ since” the wines are not utterly dry. I will translate the diplomatic Tuttle’s anecdote thusly: Shut up, forever, please, about sweetness in wine. Drink the wine and examine whether you like it. Unless you drink fino sherry exclusively, you don’t even actually like “dry” wines as much as you think you do.

Anyway. The Bergspitze Laurel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($37) is extraordinary. It’s like pinot noir straight from a coniferous forest, laced with black fruits, or maybe black-skinned fruit with red flesh, expressing a touch of cola, not at all smoky and big like so much Oregon pinot. It is silky and long and rustic-serious. It is, actually, like some excellent southern-German pinots I’ve drunk, which is to say both pinotlike and not-quite-pinotlike.

The Borgo Pass Pinot Meunier 2014 ($36) is, somewhat strangely, more recognizably pinot-noirlike than the Pinot Noir. Pinot meunier is best known as a blending grape in Champagne, rarely made into a single-varietal (not to mention single-vineyard) still red wine. Acidity is noticeably higher than in the softer Pinot Noir wine, and overall this wine’s comportment is brighter, lighter and higher-toned, its fruit aspect more straight-up red.

Like all great German wines, Teutonic’s are tremendous values considering the hard work that produces them. Remember: high, cold sites; single-vineyard-sourced fruit; native-yeast fermentation; late-harvested; slow élevage. Wines with these flavor and aroma profiles that cost half as much are one-eighth as fun to drink, one-sixteenth as elegant, one-sixty-fourth as interesting. And a dial that only runs from 1 to 10 is not quite enough to amplify their songs.

Joe Appel is the Wine Buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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