No, it's not that Schaefer, nor is there any relation to Willi's legendary property in Graach an der Mosel. Karl Schaefer is a 175-year old estate in the Pfalz that has been absent from the US for decades, and we're excited to introduce them to you as a Chambers St. Wines exclusive. The estate has long been a vocal supporter of dry and lightly off-dry wines in Germany, even in the 60s and 70s when it was fashionable to go as sweet as possible. At one point, Karl Schaefer was as famous and well thought-of as what our colleague, John Truax, likes to call the "3 B's" of the Pfalz, Basserman-Jordan, Von Buhl and Bürklin-Wolf. This old, somewhat under-the-radar estate received a shot in the arm in 2008 when the young and talented Jan Gross came in to run the show and make the wines, similar to the story of Gernot Kollmann at Immich-Batterieberg, and the results have been remarkably impressive.
Jan, a native of Bad Dürkheim where the estate is based, has studied winemaking in various regions, including the Beaujolais and seven years in Austria. He makes crisp, chiseled, elegant Rieslings, and prefers cool fermentation in very large oak barrels and stainless steel tanks to preserve clean mineral character and vibrant but subtle fruit flavors. Often wines from the Pfalz can be heavy and dense, but Jan's style is one of filigree and finesse; it's linear and focused in the best sort of way.
Schaefer is distinct from its fellow Pfalz estates in that it still has old, terraced vineyard sites. Many of the larger estates in the region had terraces flattened years ago so the vines could be worked by machine, an unthinkable proposition at Schaefer, where hand-harvesting is preferred. The Pfalz is warmer and less humid than the Mosel, so harmful rot isn't as big of a risk. As a result, Jan chooses to farm organically and the wines are better for it.
Like many great Austrian Rieslings and the better German dry ones, these need time to unravel, and opening the wine ahead of time or decanting isn't at all out of the question. Stylistically, the wines offer a combination of the best the Pfalz has to offer, incorporating the structured minerality of someone like Rebholz further south and the generous fruit one would expect from nearby Müller-Catoir. The wines are bright and invigorating, and we’re excited to have them on our shelves.
A quick note about the labels and their charming foxes: we don’t have any problem with a great critter label, just as long as it’s not being used to cover up some industrial monstrosity in the bottle, which certainly isn’t the case here. Lest you think that the foxes were some kind of a nod to the modern market, take a look at this great picture of a 1955 Dürkheimer Propelstein, courtesy of Lars Carlberg. -jfr