I'll be back: Shopping for German wine at Schneider's of Capitol Hill, Washington D. C.
You and I have unfinished business. Don't be afraid, gentle reader, the unfinished business is not with you and I won't come after you with my katana - just to put those of you familiar with movie references at ease. My unfinished business was with Washington D.C., the capital of the richest, most powerful nation on earth. At the Wine Rambler, we don't do feuds small scale, nor do we forget. It had happened to me in 2009 in D.C., and three years later I armed myself properly, booked a flight and returned to settle the score. In the course of this mission I fought mighty lions, returned to the scene of my disgrace and (well prepared and armed) I did battle, restored our reputation and came home with molten Riesling gold, snatched from the dragon's lair.
So what had happened in 2009? Well, maybe I was naive. It was a hot June Sunday and I was out and about in Washington, having carefully planned a route that would take me past the sights and some promising looking wine shops. The sights were all there and looked grand, as anticipated. The wine shops were there too, but they did not look as anticipated -- they were all closed. Every single one of them, even the shop inside busy Union Station. Now, I could have lived with that, but one shop I was particularly keen to visit: Schneider's of Capitol Hill, for their exciting looking list of German Riesling. However, there I stood; and failed. In 2012 I was better prepared. The battle plan was refined with information from the 2009 scouting mission. I had picked the right day, brought a bag, and re-armed myself (replacing the old mobile phone camera with a DSLR). Schneider's claim to have a collection of at least 10,000 bottles, but in a way I was almost more taken by the introduction to the shop:
Schneider’s of Capitol Hill was founded in 1949 by our grandfather Max Schneider and our father Abe Genderson. At the time there were only two employees; our mother Charlotte and grandmother Ester.
You gotta love a man called Abe! It seems that Max and Abe did quite well as the shop is not only still around but has grown a lot, with more employees and a broad selections of wines, beers and spirits. In fact it is amazing how many bottles they manage to pack into the shop, something for which visiting European shops had not quite prepared me. There is a bit of a dragon's lair feel to Schneider's, and even this slender Wine Rambler had to struggle turning around next to the German wine shelf with a camera bag over the shoulder. It turns looking for wine into something like a treasure hunt, and I like that. And there is much treasure to take home. I cannot compare to other D.C. wine shops, but just browsing 65 wines from our beloved Loire will give you an idea how much choice there is on the website. I was also impressed by the range of beer and spirits on display in the shop. Over hundred German wines are listed and even better the list includes many aged wines that I would struggle to find in good German wine shops. The list includes Silvaner Beerenauslese from 1983 or late harvest Riesling from 1998, and there are many respected names among the producers: starting with the inevitable Dr Loosen but also including Wittmann, Dr Thanisch, Johann Haart, JJ Prüm, von Buhl or Leitz. Had it not been for lack of space in my rucksack I would have come home with enough wine to make my credit card company very happy. Still, I am not complaining. I got two very promising specimens, half a litre of Wittmann's 2001 Riesling Auslese from the Morstein vineyard and a 0.375 1998 Auslese from Schloss Lieser. For just $55, including tax (around £35 or €43)! I still think D.C. owes me, but after this visit I will promise not to bring the katana along in the future, nor to come crashing through Schneider's front door on a Sunday with a car. On the other hand, that would be a most convenient way to get all the other German wines I wanted...
Schneider's of Capitol Hill
300 Massachusetts Avenue N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
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