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I made my way from the Pfalz to the Mosel, zipping past the vast fields and rolling hillsides; up and up through forests of skinny, stately trees, and into the valley, to the tiny town of Enkirch. Gernot Kollmann of Immich-Batterieberg greeted me at the door to his house, which is attached to the cellar and rest of the estate. The buildings on the property have been built and rebuilt, cobbled together over time, with the oldest pieces of the foundation dating back to around 890 CE. The estate was first documented as being sold for use as a monastery (starting in 908 CE), and would later be part of the fiefdom of Prince von Esch before being purchased by the Immich family in 1425. The Immichs held the estate until 1989, after which the subsequent owner basically drove it into bankruptcy. In the early aughts, Gernot was making a name for himself in the Saar and Mosel, working as the winemaker at Van Volxem followed by a stint as consulting oenologist at Knebel. He was able to purchase the Immich-Batterieberg estate with the help of a few investors in 2007; his first vintage there was 2009. Since then he has taken on the task of acquiring and reviving choice old vineyard plots, farming those plots organically, and setting a standard of winemaking that eschews adding* and taking away from the wines, leaving them to be true standard-bearers of the terroir and the vintage.
2014 is the current vintage to be released to the States from Immich. During my visit in June, the only 2015 on the tasting table was the C.A.I. (which was positively vibrant). The rest of the 2015s were still working away in the cellar, in a mixture of old barrels and stainless steel. Wines are often kept on the gross lees until right before bottling.
I would be remiss not to mention that these wines are built to age; they hold so much complexity that it’s difficult to get a feel for them within the first few years of being bottled. The C.A.I. is the exception to the rule, but the other wines really benefit from some time in the bottle. I had a conversation with Gernot in regards to the wines hitting a shutdown period, which he has found to sometimes occur around 3-4 years after bottling. Tasting the 2013s at the estate this June, I found that this isn’t the case yet. The wines are in a positively beautiful place, fresh and expressive, and I encourage drinking a few (or more) before letting them rest up to enjoy at a later date. You can also drink the 2014s now, but a decant is recommended. I was delighted to discover how much more expressive the 2014s were after being opened for a day (or three).
As much as everyone is chomping at the bit to get to the 2015s, there are reasons to not forget about wines from 2014 (or 2013 for that matter). We are pleased to offer a sampling of the 2014 vintage from all sites, including the Escheburg cuvée, a blend of all Grand Cru single vineyard sites, not made every year; Steffensberg, the warmest site, with both red and gray slate; Ellergrub, with 100% ungrafted vines over 80 years in age; Zeppwingert, a touch-less-than-trocken Riesling made from the 8 gray slate terraces to the right of the Batterieberg; and of course Batterieberg itself, with its gray slate, quartzite, and vines over 100 years old. Along with the 2014s, we also offer the remaining 2013s, from Zeppwingert and Batterieberg--true examples of Gernot’s incredible talent and intuition as a winemaker. Cari Bernard
*The only addition is a minimal amount of sulfur at bottling.
A cuvée of all Grand Cru vineyards boasting mostly ungrafted vines with a minimum age of 60 years. Not made every vintage, the 2014 is showing a touch of the tropical. Tasted in spring and again in summer, there has been a development of pineapple and passionfruit on the nose, but the stoniness remains. The palate is tart, stony, and moves more towards subtle peach and apricot. Cari Bernard
Viewable from the estate, Steffensberg is the warmest site, boasting both gray and red slate with deeper soil. Gernot works a total of 1.5 hectares spread between some of the finest plots with mostly ungrafted vines. Portions of the hillside have been partially replanted due to Flurbereinigung (a remodeling/restructuring of the vineyards, adding access roadways and consolidating plots) starting in the 1960s. The warmth of Steffensberg comes through as fragrant, ripe peach and mango on the nose. The palate is structured with some weight, with notes of slightly less-ripe peach and strawberry, lemon zest, and green herbs. Cari Bernard
Gernot’s part of the Ellergrub lies just to the left of Weiser-Künstler’s parcel, which is great because they also work without chemicals in the vineyard. The 2.2 hectares of vines are 80 years and older and are ungrafted. A rich, vibrant lemon-hue in the glass, the nose boasts peach, apple, cinnamon, young ginger, and white flowers. The wine has a floral elegance yet is still quite powerful, with notes of yellow apricot and white peach skin giving way to a touch of citrus zest and ginger. Please decant! Cari Bernard
Although the Zeppwingert surrounds the Batterieberg on three sides, this wine is only made from grapes harvested on the eight terraces jutting out on the right flank of the Batterieberg. Soils are richer here, with dark gray slate and ungrafted vines upwards of 100-years-old and beyond. Tasted after being opened for three days, the wine is highly expressive, with notes of peaches, stone, citrus oil, beeswax, and orange blossom on the nose. The wine is vibrant and balanced, with hints of green herbs, mango, peach, and dark stone--showing great power and length. Cari Bernard
This wine is sourced from a portion of a 1.1 hectare monopol within the Zeppwingert; created during the winters of 1841-1845 by blasting through the gray slate with gunpowder charges. This area of the slope is extremely dry, with cooler temperatures and lower yields (~25hL/ha). The wine can definitely take a decant; at first sip tart and salty, with a distinct stoniness balanced by the light fruitiness of white peach, underripe pineapple, and a touch of white flowers. Cari Bernard
Eight terraces of old-vine Riesling planted in weathered gray slate, along the steep slope of the Starkenburger hang, provide the fruit for this pale straw yellow single-vineyard wine. Aromas of sultanas, hickory, and hyssop give the Zeppwingert a distinctly memorable nose. The palate is lifted by a zippy minerality that carries notes of cinnamon and coconut water through to a bitter orange pith finish. David Salinas