The Klaus vineyard at Weissenkirch in the Wachau

Private Collection: Champagne & Riesling

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Agrapart NV Champagne Extra Brut Terroirs Bl de Bl

A non-vintage blend from parcels in Avize, Cramant, Oger, and Oiry. The Terroirs has a pale lemon yellow robe, a fine bead and a soft mousse.The nose is generously scented with notes of  Meyer lemon peel, apple blossom, and sea spray the on nose. The palate is lean, tense, savory, and nervy with flavors of green apple, lemon curd, and chalk. There's a fine stony core to the wine that carries over on the persistent, finish. There's a lot to like here and I'd love to try another bottle with some Watch Hill oysters or prawns. John McIlwain

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Krug NV Champagne Grande Cuvée

Purchased in 2009, so this bottle has some real age.

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Lahaye, Benoît NV (base14/15) Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature disg 2019

This wine is made in a style that we absolutely love. Based on the 2010 vintage, the base wine is aged in barrel, and the ripeness and minerality attained through pristine biodynamic farming shine through. Like many who work without chemicals in the vines, Lahaye believes that balanced Brut Nature Champagne is only possible with this sort of vineyard work. The Brut Nature often has quite a bit of reserve wine in the blend, adding further complexity. Almost entirely Pinot Noir, the nose is flinty, chisesled, earthy, and toasty, showing notes of sweet and tart lemon, and tangy quince. The palate is vinous, ripe, yet totally dry with some barrel influence. Full-textured, creamy, and chalky on the finish, this bottle is an ultra-dry Champagne lovers dream come true. MSB 

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Lahaye, Benoît NV Champagne Blanc de Noirs

The first thing I noticed about this wine when I poured it in the glass was how incredibly fine the bubbles are. Certified biodynamic since 2009 and organic since 2007, Lahaye's Champagnes are a testament to what good vineyard work can do for a bottle of bubbly. On the nose, there's an initial burst of tangy yellow fruit such as mirabelle plum. Further nosing reveals a floral, raspberry note. More ethereal than rich, the wine maintains a certain level of vinosity while also being quite airy, lacy, and delicate. Constantly changing in the glass, this wine over-delivers for its price and offers a lot to contemplate. Dosed at 5 grams/liter. MSB

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Marie-Courtin 2015 Champagne Extra Brut Présence Sans SO2

70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, biodynamically farmed. Fermented in tank and bottled without dosage or SO2.

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Alzinger 2012 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Höhereck

Höhereck has always been tough to get ahold of -- perhaps the importer passed on it (can't take everything, right?) or perhaps there just wasn't enough to grant the U.S. any kind of allocation. Either way, it's here now and it's terrific. The aromatics are really vivid and open and the wine is dense and richly textured, completely saturated with minerals. It's super-compact right now, so it's clearly one for the ages, yet if you're into striking florality intertwined with stony complexity (and who isn't?) drink up now. -jfr

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Alzinger 2012 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Hollerin

Whereas Höhereck is all flowers and steely, white stone minerality, Hollerin is earthier and slightly more wild with notes of sage, tarragon, lemon and lime. This is a linear, Saar-like focus to this wine with loads of acid. There's more body here, a little creaminess but still that filigreed, delicate sense. It's also saturated with minerals, almost in an aggressive way. Even stony wine fanatics might be taken aback by it, this monument to minerality. -jfr

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Alzinger 2012 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Loibenberg

Everyone's always saying "Steinertal, Steinertal, Steinertal," but Loibenberg is the sleeper hit in this lineup. Aromatically it's so savory that it could almost pass for a Grüner Veltliner, with a sense of spicy florality, green fruit, spring peas and lentils. On the palate, though, it's just epic. It's equally stony and opulent, but the power is really tightly coiled right now. It's densely tannic with tons of mineral extraction, but it's still lithe and lively; while there's more power here than Steinertal, it still just dances on the palate. Decant, decant! -jfr

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Alzinger 2012 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Steinertal

The less said about Steinertal Riesling the better. Conventional wisdom says it's Alzinger's best wine and one of the greatest in Austria. Our allocation is miniscule so please let us know right away if you want some. Please don't forget Hollerin, Höhereck and Loibenberg -- they're all tremendous wines. -jfr

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Prager 2001 Wachau Grüner Veltlinger Smaragd Zwerithaler

Aged Riesling is far more easy to come by than aged Grüner Veltliner, so far fewer people have had the chance to be introduced to the charms of Austria's signature white grape with over 10 years of time in the bottle. Zwerithaler isn't one of Prager's better-known sites; it's actually been years since we've seen a current release. The rich, pithy, peachiness of Prager's 2001 Rieslings is really dialed back here (albeit still somewhat present). In its place is a laser-like sense of acidity and pervasive stoniness. With time this will continue to develop more and more earthy, mushroomy secondary character in place of the fruit, but right now it's zingy and bracingly mineral. Very cool wine and really quite tasty. -jfr

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Prager 2001 Wachau Riesling Smaragd Klaus

Few pleasures compare to that of aged Prager. The 2001 Klaus is pure magic, and drinking quite, quite well at the moment. Is it at its peak? It very possibly has a few more years to go and a bit more fat to shed, so we happily encourage you to both drink and hold. This beauty isn't going downhill anytime soon, and we plan to still be checking in on this well into the 2020s. Klaus is holy ground for Riesling and is perhaps the greatest site in the Wachau. 2001 is a terrific vintage, the best Austria has seen since 1997, and this wine is absolutely seamless. Broad-shouldered and muscular, yet well-defined and brimming with energy and freshness. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2011 Nahe Dellchen Riesling Grosses Gewächs

Dellchen is a steep site in Norheim, downstream for the Niederhausen/Oberhausen center where Dönnhoff resides. The soil is a classic Nahe mixture of slate toward the bottom of the site and volcanic elements out toward the sides. The nose is impressively chiseled, especially within the context of the fairly fruity vintage, with fresh, lean and precise mineral tones. I was very excited when tasting this one — the body is just what great German Trocken should be — lighter than comparable wines from Austria or Alsace but with no lack of fruit or depth. Green apple, lemon, strawberry, honeydew melon, and all followed by a stony rush on the penetrating finish. Simply terrific dry Dönnhoff! -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2011 Nahe Felsenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs

The ground is 100% volcanic soil here, and the result is a spicier GG than the slatier Dellchen. Salty, spicy, even a bit fiery in a way. Invigorating! The fruit here tends toward more citrus flavors, rather than the berries and melons of the estates other GGs, but there is a distinct rus of blood orange and grapefruit on the slaine-driven finish. Felsenberg is, like Hermannshöhle, the only site where Dönnhoff crafts both excellent dry and sweet wines. -jfr

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Dönnhoff 2011 Nahe Hermannshöhle Riesling Grosses Gewächs

Ferments in stainless steel then matures in stück on the fine lees for two months, then a month back in steel before bottling. Helmutt Dönnhoff told me that his idea of Riesling is like "Mountain Spring Water — Clarity is the most important thing." This has the most complex aromatics of the three GGs. Intensely mineral with some CO2 still showing, along with light, white crisp stony notes. Very poised and the longest and most colorful of the three GGs. -jfr

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