One of the Nahe's most special sites, Schloßböckelheimer Königsfels

New Von Racknitz! Plus The New York Times and Us

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We are huge fans of Eric Asimov and his excellent wine columns in the New York Times. Often we find his taste lines up with our own, and he's done more than almost any other writer to help bring attention to the lesser-known regions and categories of the vinous world that we focus on. Just this week, for example, the lineup for his column on no-dosage Champagnes looks strikingly similar to what's on our shelf, and we enthusiastically endorse each of the growers in his top ten. Sometimes, though, his columns get us in a bit of a bind. Take last month's Thanksgiving recommendations, for example: Matthias Knebel's excellent Estate Riesling was chosen as the paper's #1 white to go with Thanksgiving dinner. This is a wine we stock year-round, keep in the refrigerator and stack at the front of the store. We believe in Matthias and his wines and are huge supporters, yet when the article ran our last 5 cases disappeared in a matter of minutes and we spent the rest of Thanksgiving week apologizing to longtime fans of the estate and potential converts to the greatness of dry Riesling.

Another instance of the Times causing us a bit of trouble was their recent tasting panel devoted to dry Rieslings. The assembled tasters chose the Von Racknitz Estate Riesling as their best value. We couldn’t have been happier, but, naturally, the vintage had already sold out about a week before the article ran. More disappointed customers, more awkward phone calls, more apologies. Fear not! We've re-ordered from the estate; the superb 2012 Estate Riesling is here, and ready to be enjoyed through the holidays and beyond. As much as we loved the 2011, the 2012 is even better. Reflecting the general trend across all Germany, the 2012 is even racier, more focused and still surprisingly mineral and pure for an every-day estate wine.

While the Estate Riesling is lovely, it's just the tip of the iceberg of what Von Racknitz can do. They work some of the best sites in the Nahe, a few of which are currently well-known and in vogue (Niederhäuser Hermansshöhle, for example), while others are world-class vineyards that Von Racknitz is helping to return to the spotlight, such as Traiser Rotenfels and Schlossböckelheimer Königsfels. After their Estate wine, the next level up are Schieferboden (slate) and Vulkangestein (volcanic rock), blends sourced from multiple sites that share the same soil type.

The single vineyard wines are generally dry and, in our opinion, are among the best of the Nahe; there's stiff competition here as the region is filled with superstars, but we were bowled over by the quality of the 2006s and 2011s, two vintages we wouldn't normally expect to love so much. These were challenging years and the wines that Von Racknitz produced prove that their cellar-work and vineyard-work are at the highest-level; unlike many of their peers, they were able to craft taught, tensile wines with great acid, mineral-hues and classic Nahe fruit. Lovers of great dry Riesling need to start checking these wines out; those of us who still love a little sugar should be sure not to miss the wonderfully exotic, fragrant and electric Auslese and Spätlese at the end of the offer. -jfr

Von Racknitz 2011 Nahe Riesling Niederhäuser Klamm Spätlese

While I love dry German Riesling and am constantly evangelizing about its virtues, I still love wines with some sweetness more than most Germans and perhaps more than the proprietors of Von Racknitz themselves. That's most likely why this was the first wine I tasted at the estate that got three stars in my notebook (out of a max of three -- it's not a particularly precise system, I admit). As excited as I was by it, the note is somewhat brusque: "Very ripe aromas; concentrated peach and herbs. A lot of depth. Like the sun exploding in my mouth. So succulent. Exceptional!" The vines are over 60 years old, the wines are fermented spontaneously in stainless steel, the yields are absurdly low (30 hl/ha) and it's just an outright delicious, lip-smacking Spätlese. -jfr

  • white medium-sweet
  • 2 in stock
  • $39.99

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Von Racknitz 2012 Nahe Riesling Trocken

The new release of the New York Times' best value dry Riesling of 2013! Matthias Adams leaves this crisp wine on the lees in stainless steel tank for three months longer than most other estates in Germany, which he thinks adds to its depth and complexity. We agree, as there aren't very many Estate wines (Gutsriesling) that we've come across with this kind of depth (aside from out other favorite estates, of course). This is clean, fresh, clearly-delineated, and crisp as all get out. Green apples, fresh melons, and so, so drinkable. One of the great values in the German section. (Pictured: The Oberhäuser Kieselberg with the Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle in the background) -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $17.99

Von Racknitz 2011 Nahe Silvaner Trocken

Silvaner has got to be one of the tougher grapes in the Germanic world to get a handle on. Sterner than Riesling in fruit-character but also generally lower in acid, it's often a bit of a head-scratcher. This one, however, grabbed our attention and it's as if the clouds have finally parted! Perhaps it's because they ferment with native yeast, perhaps it's because they raise the wine in old, neutral 550-liter barrels. Yellow-fruited, steely and precise, but with an attractively round texture. The vines are planted right in front of the estate in the village of Odernheim. Matthias Adams makes sure to point out that this is a special variety of Silvaner, Gelber Silvaner, to differentiate it from Grüner Silvaner, the more commonly planted variety in Germany and Alsace. Perhaps this is what makes it better than all the others! -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $23.99

Von Racknitz 2010 Nahe Riesling Vulkangestein Trocken

The 2010 Vulkangestein is an acid-lovers dream, like many 2010s. In-line with the estate's natural leanings, acid levels weren't adjusted so fans of the long-gone Immich-Batterieberg 2010 CAI and similar wines should dive in head-first. This is culled from all volcanic subsections of the Schloßböckelheimer Königsfels, Niederhäuser Klamm, Traiser Rotenfels and will only get better with time as the cut mellows. (Pictured: The volcanic outcroppings above the vineyard that give the Traiser Rotenfels its name) -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $22.99

Von Racknitz 2011 Nahe Riesling Schieferboden Trocken

Schieferboden is Von Racknitz' mid-tier dry white culled from slate parcels in the Odernheimer Kloster Disibodenberg, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle and Niederhäuser Rosenheck. This vintage is wonderfully herb-driven with distinct notes of garrigue, sage, wildflowers and thyme, all rather surprising flavors to find in a dry Riesling. The mineral extract is potent as is the overall sense of freshness — this is not as much a wine of fruit as it is stones, herbs and texture. Fascinating Riesling and unique stuff, to say the least. (Pictured: Odernheimer Kloster Disibodenberg) -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $22.99

Von Racknitz 2011 Nahe Riesling Trocken Schlossböckelheimer Königsfels

This is quintessential dry Nahe and a perfect representation of the Von Racknitz style: lightly creamy texture, notes of tangerine, apricot, peach and stones. Vivid fruit, great balance of acid, fruit and mineral extract, and a dusting of white stones on the finish. As mentioned in the description of the 2006 Auslese, this is made from 40-year-old vines in the heart of the Königsfels vineyard, a steep volcanic site that old-timers used to cite as the best of the Nahe. Many of the wines made at the Anheuser estate are simply legendary. Königsfels is up-river and at a higher elevation than the more famous Felsenberg and Kupfergrube. The Von Racknitz parcels face south and look directly down on the river. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $29.99

Von Racknitz 2011 Nahe Riesling Trocken Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle

Everything you'd expect and hope to find in Hermannshöhle is here: the multi-colored fruit tones; the kaleidescopic minerality; the racy minerality underlying it all. Texturally, though, this is way different than anything you've tasted before from this site. The vines of this excellent parcel are up to 50 years old and they provide the wine with a sense of depth and precision that nearly surpasses everything else in the portfolio. Hermannshöhle is one of the most storied vineyards in all of Germany with good reason, and we couldn't be happier to offer this new interpretation of what the site can give. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $36.99

Von Racknitz 2006 Nahe Riesling Niederhäuser Klamm

The 2006 Klamm is a bit of a wild ride. This was the first 2006 Matthias Adams poured for me last June and when he told me the story behind why he had them to offer. His estate was fairly new at the time of the vintage and they tend to release later than everyone else in Germany (with the exception of Clemens Busch). By the time they were ready to release, the vintage had been written off in most consumers' minds and they couldn't get anyone to even bother trying what they had made! The wines have been maturing in their cellars since and after some recent tastings they decided they liked the wines enough to try to offer them now, seven years on from the harvest. 

As most fans of German Riesling know by now, 2006 was a botrytis-heavy vintage. The Adams' decided it was wisest to look for inspiration to a climate where they're quite familiar with Noble Rot, the Wachau. This and the 2006 Rotenfels are made in similar fashion to someone like Hirtzberger and the result is fascinating. Think Wachau with lower alcohol and more acidity (this clocks in at just 12.5%). The texture is mildly creamy and the flavors are slightly exotic and reminiscent of stone fruits. A truly fascinating Riesling. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $29.99

Von Racknitz 2006 Nahe Riesling Traiser Rotenfels

More deeply-hued with more herb and spice notes than the 2006 Klamm but also, somewhat paradoxically, more mineral. I guess there's just more of everything! Again, this reminds me of the Wachau but here there's a more focused, linear, fresher frame. Very salty, very stony and really, really vibrant. Rotenfels is another volcanic site and the Von Racknitz plot has vines that are up to 70 years old. The vine age here and in the Königsfels are key to the complexity of these wines and their remarkable retention of acidity in this high-botrytis vintage. Part of this historic plot at the base of the red cliffs of Traisen (thus Rotenfels) was once the famed vineyard Norheimer Götzenfels, a name done away with after 1971 -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $34.99

Von Racknitz 2006 Nahe Riesling Auslese Schlossböckelheimer Königsfels

This is beautiful Auslese, made from 40-year-old vines in the heart of the Königsfels vineyard, a steep volcanic site that old-timers used to cite as the best of the Nahe. Many of the wines made at the Anheuser estate are simply legendary. This has significantly less residual sugar than you'd find in many wines bearing the same prädikat (just 54 grams residual sugar and 8.1 g/l acid). It's heavily influenced by botrytis but the wine remains so fresh, and so alive! Great length, depth and pure stone fruit flavors — peach, apricot, and sweet lemonade with a zippy, succulent finish. This completely confounds expectations and is a beautiful wine that will drink well and develop for years. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $44.99