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As we catapult towards the holiday season faster than we may want to, the major upside is that new wines are finally appearing on our shelves (along with second tranches of some of our favorites we've had to do without during the summer). Many wines have returned from Claus Preisinger, including the newly-released 'Xtravaganza' sparkling Sankt Laurent, a wine he made in 2013 and 2014 only. We're also excited to welcome new cuvées from Holger Koch and Daniel & Jonas Brand, a proper autumnal rosé from Umathum in Burgenland, and there are also some new faces in the mix.
Jan Matthias Klein is the 7th generation winemaker at Staffelter Hof, a long-standing estate in the small town of Kröv. Aside from being a member of the Klitzekleine Ring (for a write-up on that intrepid group of winemakers, see here), he's been making a small collection of natural wines (no-added SO2) in the Mosel, including a delightful blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, and Muscat with just a touch of skin-contact. Also new to the shop is the Grüner Veltliner from young Kamptal winemaker Christoph Heiss under his Malinga label, balanced and elegant and made with low amounts of added sulfur.
Also in, the new vintage has finally arrived from Michael Wenzel: his 'Wild & Free' wines (Pinot Gris and Gelber Muskateller) and his wonderful, dry Furmint. We hope you are inspired to find something new or get the chance to check back in with some old favorites. Happy drinking! Cari Bernard
Holger Koch's wines are the sleeper hits of Swabia. His Pinot Noirs run the gamut from fresh, red-fruited, and bright to structured, umami-rich, and quite serious; and the Weiss and Grauburgunder wines showcase his dedication to making quality, complex wines from these regionally less-exalted grape varieties. 'Ja Goutte!' is, as the label may suggest, a more casual wine for drinking in the now. A blend of younger-vine Weissburgunder, Müller-Thurgau, Gewürztraminer, and Grauburgunder (15% whole cluster fermentation) aged in a mix of stainless steel and 500L neutral barrel. White fruit and flowers, stone on the nose, the wine has a lovely energy bolstering ripe pineapple, green herbs, white peach, apricot, Fuji apple with saline minerality on the finish. Enjoy with meatier fish, roasted chicken, cheese plates, risotto. Cari Bernard
Michael Wenzel is one of the few winemakers left in Austria making dry Furmint (a grape usually found in noble sweet wines of both Austria and Hungary). His father, Robert, brought Furmint clippings from Hungary back into his family's hectarage in the mid-eighties. Michael continues to plant vines and has been looking for ways to adapt the grape to the current terroir of Rust. So far the results have been (for us) a benchmark example of the variety. Scents of quince, white blossoms, apples, nectarine and herbs waft from the glass readily; the palate is powerfully concentrated with stone fruit and quince balanced with crystalline acidity. Fantastic! Cari Bernard
A new wine from the Brothers Brand in the northern Pfalz: mostly Portugieser with Cabernet Franc making up the balance. Carbonically macerated in stainless steel, bottled after malo and left to rest in bottle for six months before making its journey over to us. No fining, no filtration, no added sulfur. The wine is a beguiling color, a mix of dark magenta, maroon, and Tyrian purple. This is a great end of summer (chillable) red; make sure you invert the bottle before opening for lees distribution, adding a creamy texture to the tart red fruits on the palate (think: cranberries, red currants, pomegranate). Cari Bernard
Jan Matthias Klein is the 7th generation winemaker at Staffelter Hof, in Kröv, Middle Mosel, a long-standing estate with a total of 9 hectares. The 'Little Bastard' is an example of his more recent forays into natural wine. The steep, slate vineyards are farmed organically, which is not business as usual in the Mosel. Little Bastard White Blend is Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Müller-Thurgau and Muscat, all spontaneously fermented in stainless and then aged in old fuder separately. Blended and bottled unfiltered with no added sulfur, this is a delightful skin-contact white for everyday enjoyment. Just enough texture to balance the heady tropical fruit and floral notes, with flavors of peach and tart apricot coming through from the Riesling. Cari Bernard
Organically farmed, hand harvested, and spontaneously fermented in a mix of stainless steel and concrete tanks, then aged for 9 months in neutral oak; Dornfelder, Sankt Laurent, and Portugieser come together to make for a refreshingly juicy, dry chillable red, with notes of black raspberries, red plums and a undercurrent of soy sauce and meaty, mushroom umami. Delicious with grilled meats, pizza, fried chicken, burgers! Cari Bernard
Christoph Heiss has not only taken over the family winery, he's also releasing a few wines as a side project under the 'Malinga' name, using only choice parcels of the family's 12 hectares of vines. Located in eastern Kamptal, the vines grow on mostly loess soils, and the family started conversion to organic farming in 2013, (wines should be certified starting with the 2018 vintage). Grapes are hand-harvested and ferment spontaneously, the wine ages on the lees for ten months in 500L neutral oak barrels before being bottled unfined/unfiltered and with low sulfur addition. Herbs and pollen on the nose give way to a medium-bodied palate with an oily richness deftly balanced by the vibrant acidity of tart nectarine, racy sour cherries and orange zest. Cari Bernard
'Xtravaganza' is a blanc de noir, 100% Sankt Laurent, méthode traditionnelle with five years on the lees, bottled with no dosage, and low levels of added sulfur. Rumor is he only did this bottling in 2013 and 2014, and that's it. Heady notes of toffee, wildflower honey, and oxidized pineapple on the nose, there's definitely a savory mineral quality to the wine, an herbal note intertwined with the acidity of a just-ripe apricot, citrus peel, and red berry fruit. Cari Bernard
Claus Preisinger's first vintage was in in early 2000s, after stints working in California as well as with Hans and Anita Nittnaus in Burgenland, where his vineyards are also located. His 19 hectares of vines have been certified Biodynamic (Respekt) since 2008. This vintage of the Kalkundkiesel is Grüner Veltliner, Weissburgunder, and Muskateller selected from a variety of vineyard sites on the north shore of the Neusiedlersee, with soils containing limestone and pebbles. The wine spends three months in amphora and is bottled with no added sulfur. Wildflowers, honey, peaches, and wood shavings on the nose, the palate has a lactic creaminess, with notes of yellow peaches and golden delicious apples, white florals, olive brine, and just the lightest bit of texture and leesiness. Cari Bernard
It's back! Unusually slender for a red wine bottle, the Puszta Libre! bottle shape takes its inspiration from vintage soda bottles, a cheeky nod to how chuggable this wine is; and if that's not enough we are also instructed by the label to "drink cold"! Mostly Zweigelt with Sankt Laurent, fermented in stainless steel and aged in large (600L to 1000L) used oak barrels. A purple-ruby in the glass, the 2018 vintage is fun and energetic with notes of black raspberries, raspberry seed, tart red plum, and leesiness on the finish. Cari Bernard
Although I may be in the minority here, Sauvignon Blanc from Styria is my favorite iteration of the grape. Gone are the overly green grasses and tell-tale stench of cat urine in litter boxes; the Sauvignon Blancs from Styria show vibrant stone fruits and a deep mineral cut, layered with a smoky elegance and an age-worthy balance of acidity and structure. Green Dragonfly is sourced from a vineyard planted in 2006, with rootstocks selected to thrive on rocky mountain terroir and a Styrian clone that has looser bunches of smaller berries with thicker skins. Salty and savory on the nose, the Green Dragonfly is actually a touch fuller than the Blue Dragonfly in 17, bursting with juicy stonefruit, Fuji apple, and wild strawberries on the powerful finish. Cari Bernard
Finally we are into fall rosé season, my favorite of rosé seasons. Gone are the months of knocking back rosé for solely refreshment's sake, here comes the putting on of sweaters and heaping up of the cheese plates and the drinking of rosé that can stand up to an entire meal and then that cheese plate. The Umathum Rosa is a blend of equal parts Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent, and Blaufränkisch, grown with biodynamic practices on a mix of schist and gravel. Grapes are hand-harvested, with fermentation and aging in stainless steel tank. Slight reduction upon opening, some time with air brings out fresh, ripe wild strawberries with their tops, savory herbs, tart pomegranate and raspberry seeds, and red cherries. Cari Bernard
Michael Wenzel's family has been making wine since the fifteenth century in Burgenland, their home and cellar still in the small town of Rust, on the western side of Lake Neusiedl. Ever the tinkerer, Michi started the 'Wild & Free' line of wines, which on average have about 10-15 days of skin contact and are bottled without fining, filtration, and with low sulfur added. This process lends a deft texture and balance to the highly aromatic Gelber Muskateller, sourced from the Lockvogl vineyard. A field of flowers, mint, pineapple and nectarine flood the nose, the palate is light and sharp, tangy and bright, with the faintest whisper of chalky texture, citrusy wild strawberries, apricots, and flowering herbs on the finish. Cari Bernard
The Wenzel wine that first caught my attention, Michael's 2015 Pinot Gris 'Wild & Free', did so because it was a complex, natural wine that was both fun and sophisticated; food-friendly but stood well on its own. For the 'Wild & Free' line of wines, grapes are hand-harvested, and spend between 10-15 days in contact with the skins before pressing. Wines age in neutral barrels. The 2018 conjures the same delight as the 2015: beautiful floral scents, deep, umami notes of umeboshi plum mixed with sour cherry, blood orange, raspberry, wild strawberry, and red grapefruit zest, medium-bodied with the lightest tannic tack and bright acidity—elegance and drinkability! This would be a great bottle to take you from hors d'oeuvres all the way through the main event this holiday season. Cari Bernard