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If you’re any sort of habitué of Chambers Street Wines, there are certain growers' tastings (remember tastings?) that one should never miss, not only for the wines, but for the chance to meet some truly delightful, dedicated people. One grower who comes to mind is the charming, quick-to-smile Gernot Kollman from the revitalized Immich-Batterieberg. Dating from 1425 and owned by the Immich family until 1989, the subsequent owner neglected the farming and winemaking to point of driving the storied winery to bankruptcy.
Gernot (late of Van Volxem and Knebel) was able to to purchase the estate with a few investors in 2007. His first vintage was 2009. In short order Immich -Batterieberg has regained its reputation by dint of acquiring and reviving choice old vineyard plots and farming those plots organically. Cellar work has also been refined with the goal of working with little intervention as possible. With native yeast fermentation and moderate use of sulfur. The resulting wines, are as my former colleague Cari Bernard has said, "true standard-bearers of the terroir and the vintage."
While currently the furor is for the 2019s that have entered the market, Gernot's wines are released late, often kept on the gross lees until right before bottling. Furthermore these are wines built to age, with the exception of the C.A.I.. All of the wines, while lovely upon opening, were more expressive and detailed on days two and three, revealing great nuance and terroir expression. All this is despite the reputation of 2018 being a "solar" vintage. With organic farming and old to downright venerable vines (many ungrafted), Immich-Batterieberg is particulally well-suited to handle warmer vintages. And in the case of 2018, there is fine cut and dynamic energy to the wines. In short, the wines are beautiful and a worthy candidate for cellaring. John McIlwain
Escheburg is a blend of old vine (about 60 year-old) parcels from remarkable terroirs in Enkirch. And the 2018 edition is a beauty. The robe is a pale lemon sherbet yellow with touches of green. The nose hints at yellow flowers and bee pollen, before picking up stone fruit, spice, melon, and lemon verbena notes. The palate is dry, but by no means austere, with good concentration, an array of white and yellow orchard fruit flavor,s and a salty mineral kick that carries on to the lengthy and mouthwatering, stony finish. This offers plenty in the way of geology lessons, but manifests in a salty/rock collection manner rather than mouth-puckering acidity. Not only is it layered and nuanced, but it was positively delicious with Thai curry noodles and mango salad, the texture holding its own with the coconut in the dish while the “inner mouth perfume” (terminology lovingly stolen from David Schildknecht) is captivating. And while everyone is scrambling to grab 2019s, to neglect this would be to miss out on one of the marvelous 2018s. Kudos to Gernot Kollman for a lovely wine in a woefully under-appreciated vintage. There is fantastic potential here and 5-7 years in the cellar should be rewarded amply. John McIlwain
C.A.I. stands for Carl August Immich, owner of the estate in the 19th century, who used gunpowder charges to blast out part of the mountainside in order to plant vines. Grapes are sourced from vineyards in the Mosel and Saar valleys, vinified in stainless steel. The 2018 has a pale robe. There's a malty, yellow-fruited richness to the nose along with wisps of peach skin and lime zest giving way to a subtle and enticing mineral character. The palate is dry with stone fruit and salted pineapple notes, with a fine mineral core and long, zesty, lifted finish. This is delicious, though it should gain with a year or two in the cellar. John McIlwain
Gernot's parcel of the Ellergrub is 2.2 hectares of mostly ungrafted vines, over 80 years old. Farming is organic, fermentation is spontaneous, and the wine ages in a neutral oak barrels.The robe is a pale yellow. The nose is a bit muted upon opening with attractive aromas of white flowers, salted peach, acacia, and green tea on the nose. The concentrated palate is just this side of off-dry (11g/l RS, I’ve read) but shows the density and breed of this special site. The palate has a fine equipoise between ripeness and pungent soil notes, with white stone fruit enrobing an iodine mineral core giving way to an expansive, spicy, lingering finish. This is still tightly wound, but has all the elements to make for compelling drinking with 5-10 years in the cellar and beyond. And though only beginning to strut its stuff this makes me glad to have socked away a few bottles despite the solar reputation of the vintage. Fine stuff from Gernot and Immich-Batterieberg and a vineyard that has grown near to my heart between his bottlings and those of Weiser-Künstler. John McIlwain
This wine is sourced from a portion of a 1.1 hectare monopole within the Zeppwingert. The 60-year-old un-grafted vines are planted in gray slate and quartzite soils on terraced plots, in this drier and cooler portion of the slope. The 2018 boasts a medium pale yellow robe. Golden flowers, orange blossom, Meyer Lemon peel, crystallized ginger and wet stone feature on the nose. The palate is both concentrated and propulsive with a touch of RS (11g/l) lending not sweetness, but tethering the fruit to the undercurrent of firm minerality. Flavors of Bosc pear nectar, green tea, and white peppers are lent gravitas by the pebbly stone core beneath the ripe white and yellow fruit, with a whisper of cooling herbs (is that wild fennel fronds?) on the finish. Currently this is more about potential than a fully realized wine at present, but oh, what potential! This gains dimension in the glass and one eagerly awaits what day two will reveal. There’s enough pleasure here to enjoy with a moderate decant and food, but there are so many layers that I’d hold off for 3-5 years and drink beyond that for at least a decade. A stellar 2018 and a marvelous Batterieberg. John McIlwain
Gernot works 8 terraces here of 100-year-old vines on grey slate and quartzite adjacent to the Batterieberg. The wine is a pale straw yellow with hints of green. The nose offers exuberant aromas of white peach, any apple, melon, candied ginger and wet stone. The plate, though technically off-dry, is dry tasting and decidedly mineral, with a briny, stony core enrobed by ripe orchard fruit and white strawberry flavors with a hint of pithy citrus character that knits with the earthy character on the pungent, palate-staining finish. This is the most overtly mineral of the lineup and is displays the most pronounced old-vine character. This has grand potential and is seemingly coiled at the moment. Decant 6 hours ahead if drinking now but better to wait 5-7 years and beyond for the towering structure to knit. Impressive stuff. John McIlwain