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Hofgut Falkenstein stands surrounded by verdant vineyards and gardens, high above the Konz valley, a tiny side valley off the Saar River. Its roof was just recently restored in a traditional German style, utilizing thin, slate tiles, reminiscent of inky-gray fish scales, or plates of stone armor gracefully curving upwards to frame the tiny windows jutting out from the upper level of the house. Upon arriving, as if on cue, a falcon (I kid you not) took wing, gliding over the vineyards. We would see more falcons on our tour, as they scanned the ground around the vines for tiny creatures to dine upon. Returning to the house, we found three slightly larger creatures -- the family cats -- sleepily lounging or padding about, just barely keeping an eye on us. Winemaker Erich Weber laughed and made a comment that he started with three sons and somehow ended up with three cats. Two of the three sons live elsewhere and come back to help when possible. Erich’s middle son, Johannes, graduated from Geisenheim and works alongside his father in the vineyards and cellar. The Webers are jovial and light-hearted, quick to make a joke or crack a warm smile, but they also have an incredible dedication to their work.
If you've been a customer of Chambers Street Wines, you are no doubt familiar with the wines of Hofgut Falkenstein. If not, this is a great vintage to get to know them. Chambers Street Wines has had a wonderful relationship with the Webers, and for all the right reasons. They work some of the finest, most underrated vineyards in the the Konz valley, with a diverse range of soils including gray, blue, and red slate, quartz, and green basalt. Around 40% of their vines are ungrafted, the oldest being upwards of 80 years in age. The cellar work is very traditional: they do not chaptalize, the musts go through spontaneous fermentation and natural sedimentation, and the resulting wines are aged in used Fuder (1,000L barrels). They even label the bottles by hand, and after spending time with the Webers, you know that they wouldn't want it any other way. Their wines are lucid, crisp portraits of the Saar, through the unique lens that is cask-by-cask bottling. 2015 was a fantastic vintage for the Webers, yielding crystalline wines with the stony, salty, punchy vibrancy of the house style. We are pleased to present the new releases from Hofgut Falkenstein! Cari Bernard
Made with grapes from a section of the Herrenberg, with more than 12 months spent on the lees in bottle, this Sekt is just asking to be popped for any occasion (A birthday! A Tuesday! Apéro!). Crisp and flinty, but also leesy on the nose, the palate is fresh and lively, with stone fruit, young ginger, fennel bulb, and a brisk minerality. Pair with a fried oyster po'boy or crab cakes! Cari Bernard
The token (legally) trocken wine of the bunch, with grapes sourced from two old-vine plots on the Herrenberg. As you would expect, if Falkenstein wines skew on the dry and high-acid side of the spectrum, this one is turned up. Quite malic and green, austere but fresh, this checks off all the boxes: salty, slatey, zesty, underripe nectarine, tart green apple skin--textbook Falkenstein. Cari Bernard
Here is a prime example of the importance of AP numbers. This is a wine from a totally different Fuder (Nr. 15) than the 750 mL bottling, which means it is sourced from a different parcel of vines in the Herrenberg. This is from Fuder “Großwald,” which Lars Carlberg writes is from a plot “nearby Falkenstein in the place name of Großwald; very small, loose grape bunches; well balanced.” Crisp minerality, notes of lemon zest with fresh and candied peaches, there's something even more energetic about Falkenstein when it comes from a magnum! Cari Bernard
Altenberg stands further afield from the estate, with mostly gray slate, a cooler microclimate, and south/southwest exposure. The Webers have recently acquired another tiny parcel in this vineyard, unique for its concentration of green basalt in the soil. Wine from the new parcel will debut with the 2016 vintage. The block of vines for the 2015 bottling comes from a more southwest orientation, with slightly richer topsoil. Cari Bernard
Sonnenberg is a warmer location, steep with slate soils. The wine is harmonious and zesty on the palate, with malic notes of green apple, tart green plum, lemon and lime juice. Cari Bernard
Euchariusberg is a steep, south-facing vineyard with a long history of acclaim. The topsoil is quite meager, with gray slate and quartzite making up the balance. This bottling is sourced from two different plots on the hill. I don’t say this enough with the Falkenstein wines, but these wines can age, especially the higher Prädikat levels. This is a prime example: fresh and accessible now, yet masterfully balanced and fully capable of being enjoyed in 20+ years. If only I had the patience. Cari Bernard
It is sometimes difficult to look at a producer like Falkenstein, who makes tremendous Saar Rieslings, and pass on those bottles to try the lesser known Weissburgunder but in this case that choice is quite rewarding. The nose shows layers of lemon curd, white peach, subtle white florals and a touch of bright citrus zest. The palate is a bit of a dance between, rich soft texture, sharp acidity with lemon zest, white stone fruit, and slight hint of white pepper. Delicate flavors, supple texture, and bright acidity makes for a wine that will pair easily with food: soft cheese, flaky fish, egg dishes, or a non-traditional pairing for Weisswurst (don’t tell your German friends). Enjoy! - Andy Paynter
Semi-carbonic, from grapes planted in the 1980s; the wine doesn’t go through malolactic fermentation, so there is still a bright malic, green note. The Webers made a deliberate choice to print ‘Spätlese’ on the label to confirm that there was no chaptalization of the must. The wine is fresh and tart, with notes of red apple skin, pomegranate, red flowers and cherries, balanced by just a touch of umami savoriness. This is your new summer red, with taught acidity and bright flavors. This can also be your fall red, to pair with those transitional dishes that still harken back to summer, but are a touch more warming. Cari Bernard