Schaefer, Dönnhoff & Adam: Terrific '12s

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It's that time of the year again! We've been to Germany and tasted the wines, chosen our favorites, and are now happy to offer the 2012s from three shining stars in Germany, Schaefer, Dönnhoff and Adam. The vintage is one to get excited about because it's high in acid with well-defined, mineral-driven wines. Many are comparing 2012 to earlier vintages like 2004, 2002, 1993 or 1975. To us, it's like 2010 dialed back to more-manageable levels or 2008 with a bit more of everything (acid and ripeness). Most importantly, it's high in quality and low in quantity; this means it's necessary to act quickly to get certain wines since the offers are first come, first serve. Despite the low quantities, we are still offering special pre-arrival pricing so the wines are all priced net (non-discountable) and will go back to standard markup when they arrive in September.

Willi Schaefer


It's our favorite address in Graach and this is a perfect vintage for them. Sadly, there's very little Kabinett to go around as the Schaefers felt the character of the grapes was better suited to Spätlese and Auslese. And really, what incredible Auslesen they made; little to no botrytis, just extreme purity, tingling acidity and pristinely focused flavors. We loved them so much we're offering all four! The vintage in a nutshell: the Kabinetten will age, so buy them to drink now and put away and buy them quickly since they'll be gone soon. The Spätlesen are beautiful; quieter and more focused than the 2011s, yet more approachable than the 2010s. Finally, the Auslesen are not cheap, but they are worth it. Don't fear the upper prädikat!

 

 

 

A.J. Adam


Andreas consistently makes some of the strongest across-the-board collections of anyone in Germany. Having tasted through the entire lineup two years in a row, I've been stunned at how high the quality is, from the simplest dry wine and fruity Kabinett, all the way up to the intense, age-worthy GG-style Trockens and the sweetest TBAs. It no longer makes sense to call him a "rising star." He's one of the greats on the Mosel and in Germany and you should be drinking and cellaring his wines! Favorites this year include the Hofberg (GG) and the superb Spätlese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dönnhoff

You all know Dönnhoff by now, so I'll just talk about the vintage. The dry wines are taut and mineral with the classic Dönnhoff exotic fruit notes haning out in the background rather than right up in your face. Höllenpfad and Kahlenberg (the estate's newest sites) continue to offer GG-level quality at about half the price. The prädikat wines are also cool-toned and mineral but deeply structured with great potential to age. The vintage here is an about-face from the gregarious 2011s and will reward being given the chance to unfold over time. As for everyone else, it's a low-to-no botrytis vintage so the wines are clean and shimmering.

 

 

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Himmelreich Grosses Gewächs

As the dry-wine revolution gradually plows forward, we finally are witness to the once unthinkable, as Terry Theise finally opts to import the lovely Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru dry wine) that the Schaefers produce in the Graacher Himmelreich. It's still classic Mosel and classic Schaefer, and its lighter than what you'd find from leading dry producers of the greater region such as Adam, Busch, Immich-Batterieberg and quite a few others that can frequently be found on our shelves. Aromatically it's very bright with herbs, green tea and ripe red apple notes, and the aromas are also quite linear and delicate. On the palate the wine is zippy and focused yet textured and nuanced with fabulous minerality, high-toned red fruit and clean, finely-etched details. It's so impressive to see the house's style (delicacy, minerality and pure fruit) shine through in every style of wine they choose to produce. -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett

AP #2 As always, the Himmelreich is a gentle, unassuming Kabinett; it's one that speaks softly yet has a lot to say and sticks around for a long time on the palate. Clean, cool-toned green and yellow apple and mineral notes on the nose, with a crisp, green, pine-resin note on the long finish as well as a good deal of mineral extract. This is another classic Schaefer Kabinett that will age and age! Parcels normally destined for Kabinett got riper than expected in 2012 which is partially responsible for the drastically decreased quantity of Kabinett this vintage. -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett Pre-Arrival

AP #3 There's basically no Kabinett this year so stock up quickly if you're looking to pick any up (which you should, because these are beautiful wines that will age quite well). The Domprobst Kabinett is a bit rounder yet also more mineral than the Himmelreich with site-appropriate notes of darker stones and fruit. Schaefer's magic is on display here with notes of lemon, lime, red apple and melon and lots of dark minerality, but all on a weightless, elegant frame. As I wrote at the time of tasting: "Happy, Happy, Happy Kabi" -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #10 Pre-Arri

Classic Domprobst but with quieter aromas. This vintage is such an about-face from the beaming, generous fruit of 2011 it's almost (but not quite) like tasting at an entirely different estate. Once past the reductive aromas you can clearly sense the powerful baseline of apple and slate that shimmers below the surface. The palate has some red apple tones, a bit of creaminess and a whole lot of length. Beautiful, cool-toned, gentle wine. -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #10 1.5L Pre

Oh hey, look, it's the 2012 Spätlese #10 in Magnum and we only got 4 of them!

 

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5

Spätlese #5: the myth, the legend. People often ask why it's more expenseive and the standard answer was that it's just better, and last year Christoph told me that it's a Spätlese that bridges the gap toward the realm of Auslese. When you hear Willi tell it, though, he says the big difference is that #5 has more pure, condensed minerals on the palate and less fruit. There's certainly more density without gaining any weight, one of those impressive balancing acts they're always able to pull off. All I can smell are stone, slate and smoke so perhaps this is the power of suggestion at work? I find this wine, the quietest #5 I've come across, to be the perfect calling card for the vintage. There's lots packed in here but it is not yet ready to show itself. What's peeking out right now are cool-toned, green fruits with tones of mienral extract on a light but imposing dark frame. All rocks, all the time. -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese #4 Pre-Arriva

It's important with Schaefer to realize that he's not looking for more power or sweetness was he moves up the prädikat ladder. He wants the wines to have a bit more richness but to increase the elegance, increase the balance and to increase the minerality. If there's going to be more suger, there's going to be much more acid. The aromas here again are cool melons, apples and pure, chiseled slate. Many other growers would call this a Spätlese, but, then again, many other growers wouldn't make anything as good as this. While quite on the palate, the finish gradually expands, like a fast-forward film of a flower blooming. There's terrific acid here and perfect balance. It whispers. -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #11

The Domprobst Auslese #11 has richer, more typical Mosel aromas than many of the soft-spoken wines in this year's collection and it's again delicate and poised. Elegant and mineral-laden with just about perfect balance and gentle concentration. This is when Willi says he's looking for "not increased sweetness, increased complexity and sustained balanced." The latter is certainly an understatement here. There was a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of botrytis-affected grapes included in this Auslese, but, in keeping with the house style, its purity and freshness comes from the perfectly ripe, tiny, golden berries they normally reserve for Auslese and that were in abundance this vintage.  -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #14 375ml

This is one made me almost jump our of my seat. Still elegenat aromas, of course, with nothing over the top but pretty notes of honeycomb and wild flowers. Over 9 grams acid here! It's genteel, the most concntrated but still understated. Mirabelle plum, red apples, high-toned citrus. Insane, insane length and gorgeous balance. What a special wine. Age forever. -jfr

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Schaefer, Willi 2012 Mosel Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese #9 375ml

The more intense and structured of the two Himmelreich Auslesen. Mint, green and golden apples and honeydew melon. More density, creaminess and broken slate notes on the finish, and ever so slightly herbal. Willi says this one was harvested a bit like a BA as they harvested the few botrytised grapes they could individually to combine with perfectly ripe, rich golden grapes to create this majestic Auslese. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett

I slightly prefer Krötenpfuhl this vintage but Leistenberg has its partisans and it's generally seen as the better site. The aromas are bolder and it's showing more fruit. Still great acid, though, and fans won't be disappointed. With just a few months in bottle I think it will really come together so I'm sure it will be drinking fabulously by the time it arrives in September. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Kabinett

My favorite of this year's Kabinetten. Tobacco smoke, nutmeg, and cool fruit on the nose. This is an intensely herbal and thought-provoking Kabi with superb precision, acid and focus. The palate is like green apple juice spiked with lemon blossoms. Wonderful easy-drinking Riesling. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Kahlenberg Riesling Trocken

We introduced Dönnhoff's dry Kahlenberg to the US back with the 2010 vintage and while we much preferred Höllenpfad in 2011, they're both terrific in 2012. The soil here is heavy loam with large stones (the Germans call them Kiesel or pebbles, but we would call them riverstones since they're much larger than what we think of as pebbles). the gorgeous nose here is all minerals: salt, white stones and not very fruity actually. The texture is insane – tons of length and then just a kiss of fruit on the finish. This is really, really long, and a wine for lovers of minerality. Such a chiseled, mineral vintage at Dönnhoff. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Höllenpfad Riesling Trocken

Höllenpfad roughly translates to "The Path to Hell" and is Dönnhoff's newest acquisition, premeiring their first wine in 2011. The wine is in the same class as the Kahlenberg (good enough to be a GG but not classified as such by the VDP) and produces a richer, spicier wine due to the site's red sandstone composition. The 40 year-old vines also contribute palate-coating minerality and somewhat riper, deeper-toned fruit. Fiery, with up-front but inviting notes of peach, pear and apricot. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Felsenberg Felsentürmchen Riesling Spätlese

This comes from the upper plot in the Felsenberg whereas the GG comes from vines closer to the river. Orange pith, green apple, red and white cherry, just really rich and round aromas; here we're getting to what we tend to expect from young Dönnhoff. The palate is the perfect balance of intensity and delicacy. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese

My favorite Spätlese from Dönnhoff this vintage! Normally Brücke is loaded with botrytis but not this year; maybe 10% max. The aromatics are roudner than in the Felsenberg but also there's more minerality. Lean, focused, electric and really special. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Riesling Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Spätlese

Give the Hermannshöhle some air this vintage. It's as great as always but in just the 5 minutes it was in my glass at the tasting it really blossomed. The density, focus and length are all there from the get-go, but the aromatic detail and complexity really explode with just slight aeration. This is classic HH, with more definition than 2011. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Spätlese 1.5 L

Give the Hermannshöhle some air this vintage. It's as great as always but in just the 5 minutes it was in my glass at the tasting it really blossomed. The density, focus and length are all there from the get-go, but the aromatic detail and complexity really explode with just slight aeration. This is classic HH, with more definition than 2011. In magnum, it will develop beatifully for many, many years. Don't listen to anyone who thinks these wines don't age. Well-cellared examples from the 1990s are superb right now. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Riesling Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Auslese 375ml

All extremely ripe grapes, no botrytis. Interestingly, this was pressed in Helmut Dönnhoff's gradfather's wooden basket press as opposed to a modern bladder press. Light on its feet with ripe but cool flavors of melon, mint, apple and orange. Like honeyed-apples topped with lemon juice. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Hermannshöhle Riesling Grosses Gewächs

As in 2011, the Hermannshöhle GG is again terrific, but it's really aromatically closed as of June 2013. This is another Dönnhoff GG that's all structure and minerality at this point with the fruit playing second fiddle. The raw material is stunning, and this will probably age much better than any of the estate's previous dry wines. It's long, it's pure, it's elegant, and what its missing in the wild, kaleidoscopic fruit of 2011, it more than makes up for in detail, finesse and structure. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2012 Nahe Grosses Gewächs Mixed 6 Pack Pre-Arrival

Two bottles each of Dellchen, Felsenberg and Hermannshöhle.

This year Felsenberg (Türmchen) is rather austere with its dusting of green fruit hanging out behind the intense minerality. Very delicate for GG, and just the way I like them. Dellchen is a warmer site that's sheltered from the wind so it's naturally riper, broader and richer than Felsenberg. This isn't to say that it's heavy or lacking for minerality, just a bit more intense with more length. Hermannshöhle is again terrific, but it's really aromatically closed as of June 2013. This is another one that's all structure and minerality at this point with the fruit playing second fiddle. The raw material is stunning, and these will probably age much better than any of the estate's previous dry wines. -jfr

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Adam, A.J. 2012 Mosel Riesling Trocken

This is the second vintage that Andreas has made a trocken estate Riesling and it's the first time we've had it here in the U.S. This dry wine ferments spontaneously in steel tanks and is culled from new plantings and older vines in the highest, coolest stony parcels within the Hofberg. This dry, thoughtful "basic" wine is a treatise on balance, poise and minerality. Don't come looking for fruit, but if you're seeking texture and focus, you won't be disappointed. -jfr

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Adam, A.J. 2012 Mosel Riesling Dhroner Hofberg Kabinett

The best Adam Kabinett in years. This one's light as a feather and drier than previous vintages (it's still well into Kabinett territory, though, this is by no means a Feinherb). High-toned aromas with spicy herbs, cinnamon and light citrus notes mingle on the nose with great balance and cool, dark minerals on the finish. Fermented entirely in wood, so no stinky, reductive aromas are too be found. -jfr

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Adam, A.J. 2012 Mosel Riesling Dhron Hofberg Kabinett 1.5 L

Every year I like to recommend a Kabinett Riesling to have on the table at Thanksgiving. A little residual goes a long way when pairing with sweeter fare on Thanksgiving, with all those sauces, sweet onions and gravies. There's nothing more festive then a giant magnum of German Riesling, either; it will make the perfect centerpiece as it towers above all else on the table!

The best Adam Kabinett in years -- and in magnum! This one's light as a feather and drier than previous vintages (it's still well into Kabinett territory, though, this is by no means a Feinherb). High-toned aromas with spicy herbs, cinnamon and light citrus notes mingle on the nose with great balance and cool, dark minerals on the finish. Fermented entirely in wood, so no stinky, reductive aromas are too be found. JFR

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Adam, A.J. 2012 Mosel Dhroner Riesling

The Dhroner Riesling is technically dry this year (and tastes it) at only 7.5 grams residual sugar. Like all of Adam's wines, it ferments spontaneously, but this particular wine is reaised in a combination of stainless steel and wood. A little skin contact prior to fermentation rounded out some of the wine's harsher acids and the remaining wine is filled with salty density, broad but penetrating texture and vivid freshness. I love it! -jfr

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Adam & Haart 2012 Mosel Riesling Piesporter

This is Andreas Adam's joint project in which he owns the vines with his friend Julian Haart. As we said about this wine last year, Andreas' work in the Goldtröpfchen vineyard is one of the most exciting projects in Germany right now. Sadly, the wine had all been sold at the time of my visit and Andreas had no samples to pour, but his description of an earthy, wild, savory wine and the strength of the 2011 were enough to convince us to commit to a modest quantity of what we expect will be another terrific dry wine from Adam & Haart. The vines are in the far Western section of the Goldtröpfchen called Kandel and provide a bit more delicacy than many wines from the pure south-facing central section of the slope, where the most famous growers have their parcels. -jfr

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Adam, A.J. 2012 Mosel Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Feinherb

The newest issue of "The Art of Eating" has Lars Carlberg's lovely write-up of the 2011 vintage of this wine. We thought we'd be well-stocked of the '11 but, even before the magazine hit the shelves we were cleared out by customers who adored last year's rendition. No need to lament the missed opportunity, though, because the 2012s are exceptional and are a more-than-suitable replacement. Cool-toned apple, melon and green flower notes with just a small kiss of sugar. It's really hard to spit this wine when tasting, as the salty, appley, minty brightness is forthright and focused. -jfr

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Adam, A.J. 2012 Mosel Riesling Dhroner Hofberg Spätlese

The vines in the Hofberg that go into this Spätlese are 53 years old. There's a good deal of sweetness, but it's sliced through by a whopping 9.3 g/l acid. Not as Baroque and bombsatic as some vintages of Adam Spätlese, but this is, without a doubt, a wine to put down and age for many years. Right now it's showing aromas of cool melon, pear and green apple. It's truly a big step up from the Kabinett as far as concentraction, length, and acid, so much acid. Perhaps this is just characteristic for cool-vintage Adam, or perhaps he's tightening up the style? -jfr

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  • Organic

Adam, A.J. 2012 Mosel Dhroner Hofberg Riesling (GG-style)

Harvested at the end of October and bottled in May. This is, to put it simply, tremendous dry Riesling. The palate is loaded with salty freshness, high-toned citrus, amazing, pulsating texture and great length along with notes of wild green herbs. Andreas Adam creates dry Rieslings with power and baroque qualities like one would expect from masters like Keller or Schäfer-Fröhlich but (in our opinion) surpasses those guys with his wines' sense of delicacy and focus, traits that aren't quite as easy to come by in the Nahe and Rheinhessen as in a sleepy side-valley off the Mosel River. -jfr

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Adam & Haart 2012 Mosel Riesling Piesporter Goldtröpfchen (GG-Style)

The Hofberg is the site that made Adam's name and it's the one where his family has the most historical connections, but Andreas really perks up when discussing the Goldtröpfchen. This beauty is going to take years to come around before the fruit really begins to sing, but until then it's a savory, earthy, stony monster of a wine. By far the most expensive of Adam's wines, justified by its origin in very, very steep, old, ungrafted vines in the old Laychen terraces, west of the historical Goldtröpfchen. These vines are some of the oldest in the area, as they weren't pulled up and replanted when the vineyard was reshaped by the German government; this also makes them the most difficult to work. Like the Piesporter, only miniscule quantities are made and everything's long been sold-out. We're extremely fortunate to have some to sell, even if it's just a handful of bottles. -jfr

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