An Affordable Date Night When I Was a Student

In my early years, the place to be was Downtown Detroit as it was bustling and still a place to be.  There were plenty of locations that were out of my price, unless it was a special occasion.  One of the places I could afford back then was Eastman’s Gaslight Room.  It was a steakhouse and restaurant that also offered dancing back in the day, when that was a common amenity.  Even though this restaurant was Downtown it was off of the beaten track for the “hot” locations, but it was close to all of the big movie houses, where that was the place to be, to see a first run film.

 Niersteiner gutes Domtal Spatlese 1975

The “Gaslight” as it was called featured good basic dishes that did not compete with the more prominent restaurants Downtown.  One could get a steak, chops or several types of fish.  The restaurant was very popular among the business men Downtown that wanted a good dinner, but were not on expense accounts, as there were many venues that catered to that crowd.  During this era, I remember that one of the more popular fish choices was Red Snapper.  I was not a big fan of fish, but on there were times when I would order it, especially if my date wanted white wine.

 MI Eastman's Gaslight Room MB gold

As I was just learning about wine, and I still feel that I am still learning, I only knew the basics and that fish should have white wine.  German sweet white wines were the rage back then, especially by the young ladies that were just learning to drink and they did not want anything too heavy.  One night while I was there I tried a German wine from the Rheinhessen region from one of the principal villages of Nierstein.  I had already learned the basics of reading a German wine label, but I was not that educated on the nuances or that familiar with a lot of German words.  One evening that I was there I had a bottle of 1975 Niersteiner gutes Domtal Spatlese.  As I look back at this label, with more knowledge than I had back then, I feel that this wine was at odds with itself.  I have to admit that I am still not as knowledgeable about German wines, but I will explain why the label strikes me as odd.  While Nierstein is a principal village of the Rheinhessen, the term “gutes Domtal” is not a name for a vineyard which usually follows the name of the village.  “Gutes Domtal” is one step up from basic “table wine” from conversations that I have had since.  I have also learned that Riesling is the preferred varietal from this region, but it is not listed on the label, which leads me to believe that the varietal for this particular wine may be Muller Thurgau, but the laws governing the labeling may have been different when I had this wine.  The other aspect that I find unique about this wine is that even though it is a “gutes Domtal” it has the Pradikat of Spatlese, meaning that it is from a later harvesting of the grapes, where the sugar rating is higher.  Would a basic wine by a bulk producer bother buying Spatlese grapes when they are producing a more generic wine?  My thoughts are that the harvest that year must have been sizeable even among the Spatlese picking and they could afford to offer this wine.  I guess that hind sight makes one wonder about a wine tried years ago.

About thewineraconteur

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4 Responses to An Affordable Date Night When I Was a Student

  1. AL POE says:

    It’s now Nick’s Gaslight still plating up great meals and drinks,,,,When Billy Martin managed the Detroit Tigers in the early 1970’s and later other teams he would often eat at Eastman’s Gaslight with Bill Reedy. Then Martin, Bill Reedy, and Art Fowler would stop at the Lindell A.C. for a nightcap.

    Eastman’s benefited from people that stayed at the Leland Hotel, frequented the theaters(Michigan & United Artists); worked at AAA, the Book Building, Michigan Bell, etc. So when that part of downtown was declining in the 1970’s Eastman’s suffered for it.

  2. Let me weigh in for a moment, regarding the wine. I hope you don’t mind.

    First of all, it is always nice to see a Nierstein wine. It is the next village if you go south from my hometown Nackenheim…so many memories.

    The making of this wine was governed by the same rules as today’s wines, according to the German wine act of 1971. That law created several large areas that received a common name, including this one, “gutes Domtal”. It comprises an area of 28 different vineyards in 14 municipalities. So, if you see this name on the bottle, it means the grapes are from that large area. If they were from “better” spots inside that area, the winemaker would put the name of the single vineyard on the bottle. Gutes Domtal itself does not say anything about the quality of the wine. It is just an indication that the grapes come from less prominent parts.

    Riesling was actually not that prominent in Rheinhessen at the time, with, as you rightly suggest, Mueller-Thurgau and Silvaner being more common. This has definitely changed since the 70s, with more and more Riesling being grown. Given that no grape variety is named on the label, it is likely to be a blend. German law prescribes a certain percentage of a grape in a wine in order to be able to put that grape on the label. It is a bit weird not to see a grape name, though…

    The Spaetlese, as you also note, is a higher level of quality, but that only speaks to the sugar levels in the grapes at harvest time (this is the only quality measure the wine act knows). 1975 is considered a pretty good year in German winemaking, so there were tons of ripe grapes.

    However, even the large winemakers, as this one, will still produce Spaetlese, Auslese and even Eiswein in large quantities pretty much every year just because they can, and the stuff sells in supermarkets. You wouldn’t believe for how cheap you can get Eiswein in German supermarkets, starting from maybe $15 for a half bottle. These wines are actually machine harvested and have nothing really in common with a good Eiswein…so, it is not uncommon for large producers to even make up to Auslese.

    You had a number of good hunches on this one!! The one thing that struck me, though, is the alcohol level: 10% ABV. That could indicate that the wine was not as sweet as it could have been. Because these days, we usually see more 8% on a sweet Spaetlese. And 10% is approaching the semi-sweets. 🙂

    Ah, memories. I wasn’t even thought of when that wine was made…:)

    • Oliver,

      I am so glad that you replied, and I hoped you would, to help me out, especially about my presumptions about this wine.

      I am not that learned about German wines, and that is not to imply that I am learned about other wines either, but I do enjoy drinking wines.

      Most of the time when I look at wine lists or a wine bottle, I attempt to make educated guesses about the wine, from past readings or tastings. I am glad to learn from you that I was not too far off of base.

      I am also glad that I wrote about a wine near to your home, and I do hope that it created great memories for you, as this is what I think wine should do. Of course I do have to tell you that your last statement, not only made me smile, but actually laugh. See what happens when you enjoy wines, as long as I have, you make great memories and good friends. Thank you for your insights.
      – John

  3. 🙂 Wine is a constant learning thing…it’s my favorite type of learning.

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