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When this was first tasted in the summer of 2019, it needed to shake some of its SO2 on the nose, but that will just take time. Beyond the SO2 are delicate, beautiful florals. The palate is sprightly and fresh, with notes of grapefruit, mango, and cassis. I have 'great' underlined twice in my notes. This is a wine to age, or if opening now, do so about a half-hour early and pair with spicy foods or cheese plates. Cari Bernard
AJ Adam's "in der Sangerei" is from a parcel within Dhron Hofberg, fermented with native yeasts and bottled as a feinherb. The wine has a pale yellow green robe. The nose is a bit reserved with a touch of sponti, but with a bit of air and active swirling reveals aromas of lemon blossom, grapefruit peel, lemon verbena, anise, and wet stone. The just shy of mid-weight, off-dry palate offers pretty white stone fruit and pear skin flavors of startling intensity, giving way to a deeply salty, mineral core that would send geologists and poets scrambling for descriptors. But lest you think the rocks have the last word, there’s a lovely flush of fruit and spice that crests and then lingers as the earthy character subsides—all in a Feinherb, no less. And while there are many who think the summits of Riesling greatness are manifested in either their baroque Grosses Gewaches grandeur or nobly sweet timeless embrace, this is a convincing argument for just what manner of beauty can lie outside those categories. A sensational bottle with crab and charred scallion donabe rice, but I’d love to enjoy this with a plate of asparagus and Black Forest ham or even give it a spin with a ragout of peas, favas, and morels with a flurry of tarragon. John McIlwain
(Was $72.99) Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Portugieser, with no added SO2. Totally dry, with a prickly, energetic mousse bolstering flavors of red grapefruit, tart crushed cranberries, wild strawberries and red hibiscus.
The 2019 Mélange is a blend from various vineyard sites around Kiedrich, Eltville and Hattenheim. The wine boasts a pale yellow gold robe. The nose is more layered and complex than the Trocken QbA with aromas of yellow fruit, orange blossom, bee pollen, and wet stone. There’s more concentration here as well, with ripe stone fruit and lemon curd flavors washing across a profoundly mineral foundation, the the interplay between the two making for compelling drinking. Simultaneously riper and drier than the other QbAs, this still offers excellent balance while one susses out all the effusive aromas and delicious fruit and stone flavors. Compelling now, but 5-8 years and beyond in the cellar should do wonders as the structural notes knit with the exuberant energy of the plush fruit. A fine pairing with pan-roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, kale, and cranberry beans, though there's enough sap here to get along famously with roasted guinea fowl or skate with brown butter and capers. John McIlwain
A blend from several organically farmed parcels around Kiedrich comprised of varying soils including sand, loam, loess, quartzite, and slate. Fermented with native yeasts in tank with 8 months on the fine lees (per importer). Bottled as a Trocken QbA from the ballyhooed 2019 vintage. The robe is a pale lemon curd yellow. The nose is a touch backwards upon opening, more likely from the screw cap closure, than sponti or excessive sulfur. After 15 minutes in the glass, things right themselves and the nose reveals pretty aromas of apple blossom, lemon peel, white apricot, and wet stone. The palate shows fine concentration and has a beautiful current of ripe, supple fruit rippling over a bed of finely articulated minerality. This is dry, but by no means severe with a racy energy highlighted by the rush of pure orchard fruit flavors framed admirably by a flinty, stony character and brisk, tart, freshness that makes the mouth water and begets another sip. There’s more dimension that the Trocken QbA and I suspect greater aging potential. Cracking with boudin blanc with apples, brown butter cabbage, and potato puree, though I’d love to pair this with crab pasta with green garlic once spring arrives. Really pretty stuff that nails the ratio of brightness to weight (and depth) and shines at the table. Lovely stuff, indeed. John McIlwain
One of the top wines from Fricke, the 2019 Lorcher Schlossberg comes from organically farmed vines planted between the late 1930s and 1950s in grey slate and chalk with quartzite soils. Fermented with native yeasts in steel tanks followed by seven months of aging on fine lees. This is an off-dry expression of the site combining deep stoniness with gorgeously ripe fruit.
Another punchy 2019 German. Julian Haart’s Moselle is mostly sourced from Goldtropfchen with an assist from Ohligsberg and Gu¨nterslay. 11.5% abv. The robe is a pale greenish yellow. Upon opening a the is a touch of reduction; with ten minutes in the glass aromas of lemon blossom, apricot fuzz, lemon balm, and sea spray emerge. This gives way to ripe white peach, preserved lemon, and crushed herbs. The mid-weight, but agile palate is dry and racy with a firm mineral spine and tangy acidity buoyed by loads of white orchard fruits. This coltish offering shows great charm (and certainly energy over mass) but is rooted enough in stoniness to for the dedicated Mosel geology freak to derive satisfaction . This improves with air and a brisk decant isn’t out of order—though a couple of years in the cellar should take care of the reduction and certainly allow the mineral, acid, and vibrant cool fruit to knit. And while I’ll admit to a preference towards pradikat wines from the Mosel, this is compelling and vivacious and certainly worth a look. A fine pairing with a braised scallion and English peas starter anointed with fine olive oil, burrata, and fresh mint, though I’d also love to pair this with softshell crab or scallop crudo. John McIlwain
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 and quartzite with gunpowder charges. This area of the slope is extremely dry, with cooler temperatures and lower yields (~25hL/ha).Cari Bernard
Thorsten Melsheimer has been farming organically in the Mosel since 1995 (certified ECOVIN) and became Demeter (biodynamic) certified in 2013. The 2016 'Handwerk' is actually a blend of three different barrels: a QBA trocken, Kabinett, and Spätlese, and the sum of these parts is a delightful slightly off-dry Riesling. Just a touch reductive upon opening, the herbaceous and cooler qualities of the vintage come through on the nose and the palate along with green apple, peach, nectarine, and tart apricot. This would be fantastic paired with spicy cuisine, fried foods, or brunch (it is only 10% ABV, after all). Cari Bernard
When there's Beerenauslese available from this legendary estate, you just say yes. (AP 16) Cari Bernard
Different German estates use their AP numbers for different reasons. For example, at Hofgut Falkenstein, they use the AP numbers to refer to specific fuders (1000L barrels). At Willi Schaefer, numbers correspond to a 'style'. So for the Graacher Domprobst Spätlese there is a #5 bottling and a #10 bottling. Both Andrea and Christoph Schaefer have explained that the #5 is more concentrated and dense, whereas the #10 is lighter and fresher. This holds true in 2018, the #5 is SO YOUNG, wound up and dense, notes of Fuji apple, peach candy, wildflower honey, and a creamy finish. Hold onto this bottle please, this beautiful wine has so much to show, give it ten plus years to get there!! Cari Bernard
Different German estates use their AP numbers for different reasons. For example, at Hofgut Falkenstein, they use the AP numbers to refer to specific fuders (1000L barrels). At Willi Schaefer, numbers correspond to a 'style'. So for the Graacher Domprobst Spätlese there is a #5 bottling and a #10 bottling. Both Andrea and Christoph Schaefer have explained that the #5 is more concentrated and dense, whereas the #10 is lighter and fresher. This holds true in 2018, the #5 is SO YOUNG, wound up and dense, notes of Fuji apple, peach candy, wildflower honey, and a creamy finish. Hold onto this bottle please, this beautiful wine has so much to show, give it ten plus years to get there (will age even longer en magnum)! Cari Bernard
We've written before about our love for Sylvaner, an unfairly neglected variety. And nowhere is the grape loved more than in Baden, where its light shines brightest. And in our eyes, Stefan Vetter is making some of the most compelling examples, through diligent farming and a focus on terroir that rivals anyone in Burgundy or the Mosel. Farming is organic, though not certified, fermentation is with native yeasts, and there is minimal use of sulfur. Gambacher Kalbenstein is a parcel of old vines in limestone and sandstone soils and should be considered Vetter's grand cru and the 2017 GK is a beauty! The nose is effusive with aromas of white flowers, apple skin, cool herbs, wet stone. The mid-weight palate is an attractive mélange of orchard fruit (white peach, Mirabelle) flavors and pithy, citrusy Meyer lemon oil notes, with a fine-grained, chalky mineral frame. The finish is lifted, long, and lingering. This is delicious now with a decant, but will dazzle with a few years in bottle and is enthusiastically recommended. John McIlwain
Organically farmed Weissburgunder from loess and volcanic soils on the Kaiserstuhl. Whole cluster pressed. Aged for 12 months in neutral barrel, followed by 6 months in stainless steel with minimal sulfur addition after malolactic fermentation, per importer.
From 30 year-old biodynamically farmed vines. 50% direct pressed into barrel, 50% of the grapes fermented on the skins. Weighs in at a mere 10% abv. Pale golden robe. Upon opening there's just a touch of reduction on the nose giving way to aromas of pear skin, white apricot, and bee pollen. The palate is dry and savory with yellow fruits, a fresh stony component and the faint hint of a prickle to it. There is good texture and cut here without the blowsiness of some Chasselas/Gutedel/Fendent. The balance between splashy freshness and the more sapid notes is both agreeable and delicious. John McIlwain
The last of a bevy of samples from a grower I didn’t really know, but whose wines have really made me take notice. Zeireisen 2016 Spa¨tburgunder “Schulen.”The vines are grown organically in limestone soils interspersed with alluvial stones. Vinification is with native yeasts and the wine sees a bit of new oak. I’ll admit I’m not inclined toward most Spätburgunder as the wines from the early aughts combined ego and cooperage absolutely obliterating any sense of terroir--a shame really. But between Wasenhaus, Enderle and Moll (and of course the dazzling Hofgut Falkensatein sui generis bottling), we seem to be in something of a renaissance (though given the recent leaps and bounds perhaps naissance is a more accurate term). The robe is a dark ruby. The nose offers pretty aromas of Keemun Imperial tea, wild cherry, cassis, and wild violets. The palate is lithe, and displays beautiful equipoise between the just-verging-on-lush black fruit, and a zangy, pungently stony mineral core. The mid-palate shows dimension without veering into ‘zaftig’ and gives way to a mouthwatering, lean—though but by no means austere—finish. Delicious now, but given how this has opened up over the last couple of hours, there’s plenty of complexity forthcoming and I’d feel comfortable laying a few bottles down for the next 4-7 years. This balances freshness and earthiness deftly and is well worth a look. Fabulous with pan-roasted magret of duck with donabe kabocha squash, and braised baby bock choi. This is truly exciting Spa¨tburgunder and if I found this kicking around in Marsannay or Maranges, I’d be living the glamorous life of importer, chasing down my C.O.D. accounts. Good stuff, friends. As we “in the biz” say, “the real f'in’ deal.” John McIlwain