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Southern German Food and Wine Delights

2013 February 20

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steep hillside vineyard in Baden

I visited two German wine regions in the southern part of the country last year with a group of food and wine writers from around the world. The trip—which took in the Pfalz and Baden regions–was organized by the German Wine Institute.

I wrote here about the marathon tasting of top German dry Rieslings from the 2011 vintage that kicked off this short visit. The remaining few days of our trip were literally an immersion in Germany’s current wine and food culture.

Contrary to the traditional picture of German food and wine in America as revolving around heavy, meat and starch laden dishes accompanied by off-dry and sweet wines, what we experienced on this trip was truly gourmet food with a light touch, featuring seasonal and locally grown meats, vegetables and fruits. When it came to wine, most of what we tasted were exactly the kinds of wines that best compliment this kind of food–dry and minerally, both whites and reds.

The German consumer wants dry wines—often labeled “Trocken” for dry. That’s what they buy from abroad—about half of the wine consumed in Germany is imported, and that’s increasingly what they’re producing as well. In 1985, only 16% of German wines were dry, close to 20% were semi-dry and 64% were sweet. As of 2011, a plurality of 41% is now dry, with sweet wines having declined to 36% of production.

The Pfalz has Germany’s warmest climate and its lowest annual rainfall. Like Alsace just across the border in France, it is full of orchards growing cherries, apricots, peaches, figs and almonds. It is also blessed with forests that are the refuge of wild game and streams rich with trout. Nearby Baden is Germany’s southernmost wine region, stretching from Heidelberg to the Swiss border. Here, 40 percent of the vineyards are planted with red wine grapes, especially Pinot Noir, which is known in Germany as Spätburgunder.

The 2013 edition of Michelin’s Red Guide lists 58 starred restaurants in southwest Germany, a quarter of Germany’s total, and Germany is second only to France when it comes to restaurants recognized by the Red Guide. Our most outstanding meals on this trip were at winery restaurants, such as Hofgut Ruppertsberg at Weingut Dr. Bürklin-Wolf and Restaurant Leopold at Weingut von Winning.

At Hofgut Ruppertsberg, for example, one unforgettable dish prepared for us by Chef Jean Philippe Aiguies was young Bresse Gauloise chicken with lemon thyme risotto—a delicately flavorful dish that went beautifully with Bürklin-Wolf’s dry “grand cru” Forster Ungeheuer Riesling. Similarly a delicious beef tartare salad with horseradish crème fraiche at Restaurant Leopold was complimented by the savory and herbal flavors of two Dr. Deinhard dry whites, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Gris (Grauer Burgunder in Germany).

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Chef Jean Philippe Aiguies

A visit to the famous Butcher Hambel in Wachenheim allowed us to sample his lowfat, gourmet version of saumagen–a traditional kind of pork sausage that Hambel makes with lean meat from pig thighs, fresh potatoes and freshly ground herbs and spices. It was surprisingly light and savory, and went fabulously with dry Riesling. I can see why it is reputed to be former Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s favorite dish. We also had a delightful luncheon cooked by Marietta Klumpp, mother of winemaker Marcus Klumpp, who made sure we didn’t leave the Black Forest region without a slice of homemade Black Forest chocolate cake.

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The ingredients for Butcher Hambel’s saumagen

There are vineyards in the middle Pfalz, like Idig, which we visited that have long been renowned for their minerally, complex Rieslings. A. Christmann is one of the Pfalz’s top producers, and its seventh generation winemaker/proprietor, Stefan Christmann, is also in his second term as President of Germany’s elite producers association, the VDP.

Vineyards elsewhere in the Pfalz, and in Baden, however, used to have low reputations as the source only of light, simple wines. That is rapidly changing as yields have been dramatically decreased and many producers, like Bürklin-Wolf and Dr. Deinhard/Von Winning, have introduced organic farming.

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Markus Klumpp of Weingut Klumpp

In general, there’s a palpable sense of excitement and innovation in Germany’s southern wine regions. The current generation of young winemakers have often done internships abroad, like Markus Klumpp who worked at California’s Rosenblum Cellars, or his wife Meike Näkel at Meyer-Näkel, who interned at Burgundy’s Comtes Lafon. As a result, they’re getting exposed to different techniques and bringing them back home. They also report that they collaborate and discuss winemaking with their fellow winemakers much more than was the case in prior generations.

Global warming is also playing a role in these formerly marginal, northernmost winegrowing regions. There are more ripe vintages, which facilitates making excellent dry wines, and it’s easier to grow and ripen red grapes, like Pinot Noir and St. Laurent, than it used to be.

In 1980, only a little over 11% of Germany’s vineyard area was planted to red wines. For the last several years the percentage of red plantings is up to around 36%.

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My first night in Germany I tasted a very good sweet wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, a Beerenauslese rosé by Weingut Frey, a specialist in sweet wines. The single biggest surprise, however, of the whole trip was a visit to a gourmet vinegar producer that makes delicious, drinkable vinegar from only the sweetest and most expensive kind of wine—beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese.

It’s a lengthy process at Weinessiggut Doktorenhof to produce these voluptuous, sour and complex nectars. It takes years for the vinegar mother to change all the alcohol in the wine to vinegar. Vinegar maker Georg Wiedemann then infuses the vinegars with an assortment of herbs, flowers and fruits, aging these blends in barriques for yet another one or two years. He makes about 40 different vinegars annually. We tasted seven of them, all of which were delicious and incredibly unusual.

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Georg Wiedemann leading the vinegar tasting at Weinessiggut Doktorenhof

His Giacomo Casanova vinegar, for example, smells of lavender, thyme, coriander, cedar closet and dried oranges, and the unctuous, silky palate tastes of tart orange, dried lemon, light lavender, thyme, and coriander with a very long finish. This vinegar starts as a Gewurztraminer TBA but is slow aged into vinegar in oak cask for seven years before being blended with a mixture of wild orange, lavender, cinnamon, salvia, thyme, cardamom and elderberry flowers and further aged as a blend for one year.

For my tasting notes on these incredible vinegars as well as the wine highlights from the trip, see below.

VISIT TO BURKLIN-WOLF – Burklin-Wolf, Pfalz, Germany (8/28/2012-8/29/2012)

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Sparkling starter

  • 2008 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Cuvée Brut – Germany, Pfalz (8/28/2012)
    Light yellow color with lots of steady, tiny bubbles; chalk, tart apple nose; very tart apple, chalk, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 86+ points (blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc; 18 mos on lees; bottle fermented) (86 points)

2011 Trockens

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  • 2011 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Riesling Faß 23 Trocken – Germany, Pfalz (8/28/2012)
    Light yellow color; lovely pear, floral, light honeysuckle nose; tasty, rich but balanced, tart pear, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (available only at the restaurant at Burklin-Wolf) (91 points)
  • 2011 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Wachenheimer Altenburg Riesling Trocken PC – Germany, Pfalz (8/28/2012)
    Light yellow color; light tart pear, citrus nose; tasty, tart pear, mineral, citrus, white grapefruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (91 points)

Forster Ungeheuer Flight

  • 2005 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Trocken GC – Germany, Pfalz (8/28/2012)
    From magnum – light yellow color; appealing, petrol, ripe white grapefruit nose; tasty, poised, ripe white grapefruit, tart pear, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 1999 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Trocken GC – Germany, Pfalz (8/28/2012)
    From magnum – light yellow color; very appealing, tart pear, ripe white grapefruit, mineral, light petrol nose; tasty, youthful, ripe white grapefruit, mineral, tart pear palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (92 points)

Auslese finish

  • 2002 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling Auslese – Germany, Pfalz (8/28/2012)
    Light medium yellow color; ripe pear, applesauce, baked pineapple, poached pear nose; ripe pineapple, sweet applesauce, tart pear, very tart apricot, mineral palate with near medium acidity; long finish 92+ points (92 points)

Next day at Butcher Hambel in Wachenheim

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  • 2011 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Wachenheimer Bohlig Riesling Trocken PC – Germany, Pfalz (8/29/2012)
    Bright light yellow color; pineapple, tart peach nose; tight, tart peach, mineral palate with medium acidity; could use 4 years; medium-plus finish (91 points)
  • 2001 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Wachenheimer Bohlig Riesling Trocken PC – Germany, Pfalz (8/29/2012)
    Light medium green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, light petrol, lime, spicy tart peach nose; very tasty, tightly wound, lime, mineral, tart peach palate; medium-plus finish (92 points)

VISIT TO A. CHRISTMANN – A. Christmann, Pfalz, Germany (8/29/2012)

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Christmann at Idig

Basic Riesling

  • 2011 A. Christmann Riesling – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; aromatic, bright fresh lemon, lemon blossom, tart yellow apple nose; focused, medium bodied, tart yellow apple, lemon palate with good balance; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 points)

2011 Vineyard designates

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  • 2011 A. Christmann Gimmeldingen Riesling Trocken – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; intriguing, mineral, tart grapefruit, apple blossom nose; tasty, ripe grapefruit, mineral, apple blossom palate with good extract and medium acidity; medium-plus finish (91 points)
  • 2011 A. Christmann Königsbacher Ölberg Riesling – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; aromatic, tart pear, pear blossom, jasmine, mineral nose; tasty, poised, tart pear, very tart peach, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (92 points)
  • 2011 A. Christmann Gimmeldinger Biengarten Riesling Trocken – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; appealing, aromatic, flowery, jasmine, tart peach nose; tart peach; on the lean side, tart peach palate with good structure and intensity; medium-plus finish (91 points)

Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad flight

  • 2010 A. Christmann Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Pfalz
    Light lemon yellow color; aromatic, lifted, light petrol, ripe apple, mineral nose; intense, tart peach, very tart apricot, mineral palate with medium-plus acidity; would benefit from 5-6 years bottle age; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2007 A. Christmann Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Pfalz
    Light medium yellow color; tart apricot, light petrol, mineral nose with a hint of ginger; tasty, tart apricot, ginger, mineral, slightly honeyed palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)

Idig flight

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  • 2008 A. Christmann Konigsbacher Idig Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Pfalz
    Light green-tinged yellow color; ginger, light petrol, tart peach, mineral nose; tasty, medium bodied, tart peach, mineral tart apricot palate with medium acidity; long finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2007 A. Christmann Konigsbacher Idig Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; intriguing, aromatic, baked peach, ginger, mineral nose; tasty, rich but balanced, tart peach, mineral, light ginger and spice palate with medium acidity; long finish (93 points)

VISIT TO DR. DEINHARD/VON WINNING – Von Winning, Pfalz, Germany (8/29/2012)

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Sparkling starter

  • NV Deinhard Brut Nature Rosé – Germany, Pfalz
    Pale salmon color with lots of tiny bubbles; intriguing, lifted, tart apricot, very tart apple nose; tart apple, tart peach, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir; partly fermented and aged in oak, 36 mos in bottle) (87 points)

Dry Rieslings

  • 2011 Dr. Deinhard Riesling Eva Trocken – Germany, Pfalz
    Pale yellow color; tart peach, lightly floral nose; tart peach, lemon palate with medium acidity; medium finish (88 points)
  • 2011 von Winning Riesling Win Win – Germany, Pfalz
    Light green-tinged yellow color; herbal, savory, green herb, bright lemon, mineral nose; tasty, tart citrus, ripe lemon palate with medium acidity; medium finish 88+ points (88 points)
  • 2011 von Winning Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Trocken – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; nie, aromatic, tart peach, mineral, tart apple nose; tasty, tart peach, mineral, tart apple palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (91 points)

Non-Riesling Whites

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  • 2011 von Winning Sauvignon Blanc I – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; aromatic, herbal, tomato leaf, green herb, mineral nose; Graves style, tart grapefruit, mineral, very tart kiwi palate with bright, medium acidity; medium-plus finish (92 points)
  • 2010 Dr. Deinhard Chardonnay Spätlese trocken – Germany, Pfalz
    Light lemon yellow color; herbal, aromatic, savory nose; tasty, tart pear, very tart peach, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (89 points)
  • 2011 Dr. Deinhard Grauer Burgunder – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; intriguing, aromatic, very tart peach, green herbs, quinine nose; tart green fruit, very minerally, herbal, green herbs palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 points)

Reds

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  • 2009 von Winning WinWin Rot – Germany, Pfalz
    Dark purple violet color; violets, ripe black fruit, toasty oak nose; tart plum, violets, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish (blend of Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Lemberger and Cabernet Cubin) (88 points)
  • 2010 von Winning Spätburgunder Rotwein trocken – Germany, Pfalz
    Medium ruby color with pale meniscus; sappy, tart cherry, oak, green herb, black raspberry nose; tangy, tart cherry, green herb palate with medium acidity; oak should integrate with 3+ years bottle age; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol) (89 points)

Off-Dry Rieslings

  • 2011 Deinhard Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Pfalz
    Light yellow color; fresh, light peach, light herbs nose; tasty, focused, tart peach, mineral palate with sweetness and good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 2007 Dr. Deinhard Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Auslese – Germany, Pfalz
    Light medium lemon yellow color; very aromatic, petrol, dried green herbs, light rosemary, tart peach nose; very tasty, creamy textured, ripe peach, peach ice cream, light almond palate; long finish (93 points)

VISIT TO KLUMPP AND MEYER-NAKEL – Weingut Klumpp, Baden, Germany (8/30/2012)

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the delightful Klumpp klan

Starter white

  • 2011 Klumpp Auxerrois – Germany, Baden
    Light straw yellow color; fresh, tart citrus, mineral, light lime nose; tasty, fresh, tart citrus, lime, tart melon, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium finish 90+ points (12.5% alcohol; vineyard planted in 1965; great food wine, that actually goes well with asparagus) (90 points)

Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris

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  • 2011 Meyer-Näkel & Klumpp Grauburgunder Hand in Hand – Germany, Baden
    Light pinkish yellow color; appealing, delicate, aromatic, tart pear, tart apple, floral nose; tasty, delicate, very tart pear, mineral, very tart peach palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (25% new oak; 13% alcohol) (91 points)
  • 2011 Klumpp Weissburgunder – Germany, Baden
    Light yellow color; subtle aromas of tart yellow cherry, tart peach, and citrus on the nose; tasty, mineral, tart citrus, light grapefruit, tart peach palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 2011 Klumpp Grauburgunder Alte Reben – Germany, Baden
    Light peachy pink yellow color; intriguing, tart peach, subtly floral, yellow cherry nose; tasty, balanced, light tart peach, mineral palate with medium acidity; a little tight yet, needs 6 mos to 1 years; medium-plus finish (50% new French oak; 13.5% alcohol) (91 points)
  • 2008 Klumpp Chardonnay Unteröwisheimer Kirchberg – Germany, Baden
    Light peach yellow, somewhat cloudy color; vanilla oak, marshmallow nose; tasty, creamy textured, marshmallow, vanilla, tart pear, almond palate; medium-plus finish (90 points)

Dry Rieslings

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  • 2011 Klumpp Bruchsaler Klosterberg Riesling trocken *** – Germany, Baden
    Light yellow color; tart honeydew melon, floral, lime, kumquat nose; tasty, very mineral, kumquat, lime, tart grapefruit palate with medium-plus acidity; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 2011 Weingut Klumpp Riesling Zeuterner Himmelreich Qualitätswein trocken – Germany, Baden
    Light yellow color; vanilla, ripe pear nose; tasty, juicy, creamy textured, ripe pear, vanilla, ripe kiwi palate; medium-plus finish (89 points)

Meyer-Näkel Spätburgunders

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  • 2011 Meyer-Näkel Spätburgunder Blauschiefer – Germany, Ahr
    Barrel sample – dark cherry red color; rich, ripe cherry, black cherry, blue plum, oak nose; rich, black cherry, plum, palate with integrating oak and medium acidity; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish 88-89 points (88 points)
  • 2011 Meyer-Näkel Spätburgunder “S” – Germany, Ahr
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, roses nose; tasty, tart cherry, black cherry, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90-91 points (90 points)
  • 2009 Meyer-Näkel Bad Neuenahrer Sonnenberg Spätburgunder Großes Gewächs – Germany, Ahr
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, rich, tart cherry, black cherry nose; tasty, rich, sappy, black cherry, black raspberry, cherry cola, mineral palate; needs 1 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (14% alcohol) (91 points)
  • 2008 Meyer-Näkel Walporzheimer Kräuterberg Spätburgunder Großes Gewächs – Germany, Ahr
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, earthy, spicy, plum, black loam nose; intense, tight, black fruit, spicy, mineral, black cherry palate with integrating oak; needs 4-plus years; medium-plus finish 89+ points (89 points)

Klumpp Reds

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  • 2010 Weingut Klumpp St. Laurent Eichholz St. Laurent – Germany, Baden
    Dark ruby color; very tart cherry, wild cherry, spicy plum nose; tart cherry, wild cherry, spicy plum mineral tart chocolate palate with medium acidity; needs 1-plus year; medium-plus finish (aged 12 mos in 60% new oak; 13.5% alcohol) (91 points)
  • 2010 Weingut Klumpp Lemberger Zeuterner Himmelreich Qualitätswein trocken – Germany, Baden
    Very dark ruby color; red currant, menthol, white pepper nose; tart red currant, meaty, black pepper, mineral palate with medium acidity; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (12 mos in 50% new oak) 90+ points (90 points)

Sparkling Rosé

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  • 2010 Klumpp Spätburgunder Pinot Noir Rosé Brut – Germany, Baden
    Light pink color; bright, tart strawberry, cherry nose; tasty, tart strawberry, cherry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (89 points)

Sweet finish

  • 2011 Klumpp Gewürztraminer Auslese – Germany, Baden
    Pale green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, green melon, honeydew, ripe grapefruit nose; ripe honeydew melon, ripe lime, ripe peach, mineral palate; long finish 88+ points (88 points)

VISIT TO WEINESSIGGUT DOKTORENHOF – Weinessiggut Doktorenhof, Venningen, Pfalz, Germany (8/30/2012)

Truly unusual, delicious, vinegar apperitifs and digestifs based on Trockenbeernauslese aged in oak barrels and blended with herbs, fruits and spices
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  • NV Weinessiggut Doktorenhof Feigen-Essig – Germany, Pfalz
    Artisanal vinegar, made for drinking from trockenbeerenauslese: Medium orange color with golden lights; savory, lightly honeyed, ripe orange, tart citrus, VA, dried brown fig nose; rich, unctuous, velvety textured, sour and sweet, honeyed, tart fig palate with medium-plus acidity; very, very long finish (Ortega TBA turned into vinegar in oak casks over 7 years, then mixed with a blend of roses and blond figs from Turkey and further aged as a blend for 1 year) (93 points)
  • NV Weinessiggut Doktorenhof Giacomo Casanova – Germany, Pfalz
    Artisanal vinegar, made for drinking from trockenbeerenauslese: Light medium orange color with yellow lights; very aromatic, lavender, thyme, coriander, cedar closet, dried orange nose with VA; unctuous, silky, tart orange, dried lemon, light lavender, thyme, coriander palate; very, very long finish 93+ points (Gewurztraminer TBA slow aged into vinegar in oak cask for 7 years, then blended with wild orange, lavender, cinnamon, salvia, thyme, cardamom and elderberry flower mixture and further aged as a blend for 1 year) (93 points)
  • NV Weinessiggut Doktorenhof Armeniacum – die Aprikose – Germany, Pfalz
    Artisanal vinegar, made for drinking from trockenbeerenauslese: very dark orange color with ruby lights; cinnamon, dried apricot, smoke, forest floor and dried twigs nose; unctuous, very viscous, tart dried apricot, tart lemon palate with medium acidity; very, very long finish (blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois TBA slow aged into vinegar in oak cask for 9 years, then blended with apricot mixture and further aged as a blend for 1 year) (94 points)
  • NV Weinessiggut Doktorenhof Engel küssen die Nacht – Germany, Pfalz
    Artisanal vinegar, made for drinking from trockenbeerenauslese: very dark, bricking garnet color with ruby lights; sour cherry, dried cranberry, beet root, old roses nose; rich, unctous, silky, sour cherry, dried cherry, spicy plum palate with medium acidity; very, very long finish 95+ points (Ortega TBA slow aged into vinegar in oak cask for 7 years, then blended with a wild cherry, sour cherry, apricot and vanilla stick mixture and further aged as a blend for 1 year) (95 points)
  • NV Weinessiggut Doktorenhof Tränen der Kleopadra – Germany, Pfalz
    Artisanal vinegar, made for drinking from trockenbeerenauslese: Medium dark cherry orange color with light cherry red lights; appealing, resin, mulled spice, deep cinnamon, sweet orange, oak spice nose; unctous, rich, mulled spice, tart orange, dried raspberry, dried cherry, wild cherry, dried roses palate with medium acidity and very balanced; very, very, very long finish (Ortega TBA slow aged into vinegar in oak cask for 9 years, then blended with herb mixture and further aged as a blend for 1 year) (98 points)
  • NV Weinessiggut Doktorenhof Samurai Essigtonikum – Germany, Pfalz
    Artisanal vinegar, made for drinking from trockenbeerenauslese: Light orange color with yellow lights; evocative, lemon thyme, dried lemon, dried orange, chrysanthemum nose; unctous, silky, chrysanthemum, dried lemon, dried orange palate; very, very long finish 92+ points (Pinot Gris TBA slow aged into vinegar in oak cask for 7 years, then blended with herb mixture and further aged as a blend for 1 year) (92 points)
  • NV Weinessiggut Doktorenhof Die Zitronenbraut – Germany, Pfalz
    Artisanal vinegar, made for drinking from trockenbeerenauslese: Light orange color with orange lights; intense, lifted, lemon, lemon meringue pie, light ginger nose; unctuous, silky, intense lemon, lemon meringue pie on steroids, lemon rind, citron palate with high acidity; very, very long finish (Auxerrois TBA slow aged into vinegar in oak cask for 7 years, then blended with citron mixture and further aged as a blend for 1 year) (95 points)

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m4s0n501
2 Responses leave one →
  1. Jack Everitt permalink
    February 20, 2013

    Wow, I so want to try those vinegars! Very envious of you.

  2. Shawn Denkler permalink
    April 8, 2013

    The world is full of amazing things but BA & TBA vinegar sounds out of this world. I assume the botrytis character comes through so it is fascinating to think of what herbs, flowers, and fruits to add to it.

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