Mittelmosel Magic

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2011 in the Mosel is a loud, ripe vintage, and it wasn't easy for producers to craft silky, restrained and, above all, mineral-driven wines. Two growers on the Mittelmosel fought against the odds to create delicate, contemplative, nuanced wines, and we'd like to sing their praises lest they be drowned out in a vintage in which many are shouting. Perhaps because we like to celebrate the underdog, more likely because we love the wines, we want to draw your attention to these two impossibly tiny family estates that excel at what many think of as the classic, off-dry Mosel style. While the wines below won't necessarily be eternal, they're drinking beautifully now and will continue to show well for at least another 15 years. They seem to echo one another in their purity, their generosity of fruit, their finely balanced acid, as well as their ever-present under current of slate-y richness.

Schaefer's story is well-known by now. They only work 4 hectares, and while Willi   Schaefer is still involved, he's turned the reigns over to his talented and genial son, Christoph. The production is so small that we usually sell out right away and these wines are often impossible to find. The gods of the yield were kind in 2011, and not only are there a few stray cases of Spätlese still available, we just got our hands on a additional miniscule allocation of Kabinett to offer. If you love German Riesling and love Schaefer, you owe it to yourself to try these, especially since the '12s are going to disappear quickly. You won't be disappointed.

Now let's head downstream a bit, around a few bends in the Mosel, but roughly only 4 miles away as the crow flies. The slate is still blue here, and the vineyards still face west over the river. This family estate, Weiser-Künstler, is even smaller, at around 3 hectares, and is run by Konstantin Weiser and Alexandra Künstler. This pair works so hard in the vineyard and in the cellar, avoiding pesticides and herbicides and doing everything on the steep slopes by hand. Thanks to their work and that of Immich-Batterieberg, Ellergrub is soon going to be as renowned a site as the Wehlener Sonnenuhr or Bernkasteler Doktor. And while those sites offer abundant stony, slate-y finesse, Ellergrub brings older vines and a more scrubby, rugged element. In addition to mastering the "classic" Mosel off-dry style with their lovely Ellergrub Kabinett and Spätlese, W-K makes dry Mosel wines that are second to none in complexity, texture, balance, and gripping minerality. Try the Gaispfad Kabinett Trocken, which has the freshness of mineral water, or the stunningly slate-y Ellergrub Spätlese trocken. Weiser-Künstler has injected new life into the classic, delicate Mosel style and we hope you'll check in to see how they're doing. -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2011 Mosel Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese

Very bright aromatics: pink, red, yellow notes, even somewhat resembling pink lemonade with white cherry thrown in. Longer, more intense than the Kabinett, of course, but but not by too much. Still a very elegant, citrusy Spät. -jfr

 

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  • white medium-sweet
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Schaefer, Willi 2011 Mosel Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

A full fruit basket on the nose: kiwi, lime, pineapple, orange, strawberry, etc, etc; there's ven a slight anise note. There's a clear, shimmering, mineralt water quality to the fruit on this wine. It's not quite as dark and mineral as the Domprobst Kabinett is, but there's still these electric, white stone quality. Delicious stuff and very elegant. -jfr

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  • white
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Schaefer, Willi 2011 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett #3

A touch more intense than the Himmelreich; peachier, but still with classic green apple notes. Just darker tones across the board. On the palate the flavors are multi-faceted: cassic, cherry, lemon, lime, lots of acid. It's a terrific vintage for this as well. Long, open and generous. -jfr

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  • white off-dry
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  • $25.99

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  • white off-dry
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Schaefer, Willi 2011 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #10

Like the Domprobst Kabinett #16, it's so exciting that this is already here in the U.S. and ready to be enjoyed or stashed away for 10+ years (either choice is, of course, correct). A bit wild and peachy, with potent, crisp mineral tones on the finish and just a hint of sea spray. This is slightly salty and vibrantly mineral. Light in body for a Spätlese and just singing right now. Christoph Schaefer says that #10 is always more of a "classic Spätlese," while #5 starts to approach Auslese in level of concentration. -jfr 

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  • white
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Schaefer, Willi 2011 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #11

So much dark and red fruit: plums, berries, deep red apple. Very mineral with notes of roses and lemon curd. This is a very elegant Auslese: it's lean, focused and clean. There's botrytits, but it's of a clean type. Crunchy, slatey, just wow Auslese! This is Domprobst at its colorful, singing best. -jfr

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  • white sweet
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Weiser-Künstler 2011 Gaispfad Riesling Kabinett Trocken

While we're always crowing that Ellergrub doesn't get enough attention, Gaispfad, just to the south of Ellergrub on the same slope and just past the town line out of Enkirch, really doesn't get enough attention. This light, dry Kabinett is pure Mosel. Nowhere else in the world could produce a totally dry wine with such modest alcohol and that's as light as a feather. It's bright, briny, salty and stony, and a perfect summer refresher. Linear, pure, and incredibly focused . So good. -jfr

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  • white
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Weiser-Künstler 2011 Mosel Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Kabinett

This was a "drop everything and pay attention" wine when I tasted it in May. Classic Mosel nose with lemon and peach notes, with just a hint of reduction that quickly blows off (the wine's made all in tank). On the palate it's light, elegant, and gently sweet with just a flash of bright red plum and cherry fruit. Very similar to what you'd expect from more famous producers of Kabinett in the Middle Mosel, but also very, very mineral. This is elegant, superlative Kabinett. It's a gentle wine from a caring winemaker; Konstantin Weiser admitted that he had to do a specific selection to pick out grapes that would be suitable for Kabinett, ones that would be perfectly ripe but with lowish sugar and no botrytis, to keep the wine light and fresh. A true delight. -jfr

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  • white medium-sweet
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  • $23.99

Weiser-Künstler 2011 Mosel Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Spätlese Trocken

I recently read an old interview with Peter Lauer in which he mentions the importance of old vines when producing dry wine on the Mosel. Young vines just don't provide the depth and extract to balance out the ever-present Mosel acidity, and while sugar can often cover up the blemishes brought on by young vines, there's no hiding anything with a bone-dry Riesling. Thus, we come to W-K's Ellergrub Spätlese Trocken, which is culled from ungrafted vines from 55-100 years old. These aren't the oldest vines on the Mosel, but this is truly stunning. The wine is a magnificent treatise on minerality with one of the most distinct and gripping slate-based finishes we've yet encountered. This is truly special dry Riesling, with, as I wrote in my notes at the estate "hauntingly dark floral aromas." -jfr

Here are some pairing ideas from our colleague Stephanie:

Riesling tends to conjure images of highly flavorsome South and East Asian dishes or kraut, brezel, and luxuriously unctuous pork, but cutting, mineral, bone-dry renditions of the grape variety act as a perfect foil to sweet and briny bivalves such as oysters and scallops. Trocken meanies (and the occasional Weissburgunder) are a great match for the following recipe. WARNING: NOT FOR NOVICES.

1.    Procure multiple varieties of oyster from Captain Alex.
2.    Shuck.
3.    Eat oyster, rinse with Riesling, repeat.

-sew

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  • white
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Weiser-Künstler 2011 Mosel Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Spätlese

To us, the Ellergrub Spätlese is Weiser-Künstler's flagship wine. It's one to enjoy now and marvel at its youthful complexity, or one to lay down and track how it develops over the next 25 years. They excel at all styles of Riesling production but the 'classic' Mosel Spätlese is where they will really make their mark and hopefully gain converts, at least here in the U.S. All done in stainless steel tank (not unlike another very famous Mosel producer that also relies on native yeasts for their fermentations...ok, it's Prüm), the aromatics are influenced by the combination of slight reduction and sponti aromas that people like to call the "Mosel Stink." The palate, though, is exceedingly pure, with a touch more weight and depth than the Ellergrub Kabinett and a creamy yet filigreed character. This is eminently drinkable, mountain spring-water like Spätlese, practically shimmering on the palate and utterly gorgeous. -jfr

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  • white medium-sweet
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  • $32.99