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Vintage generalizations are both useful and pernicious. On one hand they make certain years easy to buy (and almost easier to sell—ask anyone who sold 2005 Burgundy); on the other hand more heterogenous vintages feature some true gems that may get lost in the absence of hype or easy generalizations. Following on the heels of the buy-everything-you-can-get-your-hands-on 2019, 2020 defies easy categorization—less aromatic pyrotechnics, flamboyant fruit, and textural extravagance, for instance.
But when the wines are on, there seems to be even greater clarity and terroir articulation, though none of them will shout it at you. These are wines of nuance and finesse with nearly intimate detail if you lean in to listen. Yes, the acid is there and a crystalline salinity, and it's knit with pure, ripe orchard fruit flavors with savory herbal nuances in many cases too. Everything seems beautifully integrated and seamless—though rooted, rather than soaring, but deeply satisfying. And this leaves one grasping for vintage comparisons: some say 2002, 2004, 2008 or some sort of hybrid of 2014 and 2016? I'm not sure which if any is apt, but the wines in today's offer have this beautiful, self-contained character. Each one possesses layers of subtlety and waves of charm in addition to fine mineral cut and energy. This filigree and detail doesn't announce itself with a shout, but expresses itself with quiet confidence—Riesling for introverts. John McIlwain
The Eva Fricke 2020 Rheingau Riesling Trocken has a pale green pale yellow robe. Bottled under screw cap, this shows some reduction and a hint of spritz upon opening, which blows off to reveal aromas pretty aromas of lime skin, white flowers, and stone on the nose. Flavors of grapefruit peel, apple, and salt on the palate with racing acidity and ripeness following. Good depth and incisive stoniness on medium length finish. Harmonious and energetic. Very good.
Pale yellow Robe. Nose more expansive and broad than the Fricke. Yellow flowers (buttercup?), Rainier cherry, pear skin, brine, lemon balm on the nose. The palate is saltier if less tart, with more of a lemon curd, pithy, herbal mid-palate and saline sea spray element on the finish. This seems a touch more expansive rather than darting and vertical, but is persistent all the same. Very good length. This will gain depth with a couple years in the cellar. Lovely after aromas and texture. Yum! John McIlwain
Purportedly a younger vine/early harvest bottling from the red-slated Nahe Grand Cru Frühlingsplätzchen. Yellow green robe. More aromatically effusive than starkly mineral on the nose. There’s a soft green forest floor, bosky character that gives way to aromas of river stone, key lime zest, and bracken. The palate as punchy and herbaceous, with fine pebbly soil notes and a flash of sorrel on the finish. This is savory and mouthwatering with a fine bit of brightness bringing up the finish. Should positively vibrate with a green curries or roast fish (or delicata squash) with salsa verde (with plenty of capers). Great energy here.
A kabinett trocken positively begging for superlatives and far-fetched analogies Uli Stein's 2020 Palmberg Alte Reben is sourced from steep parcel of 90+ year-old un-grafted vines. Decidedly pale yellow robe. The most ebullient nose of the wines: white flowers, bee pollen, apple blossom, honeysuckle nectar, underripe white peach skin, a faint hint of acacia honey (were it not sweet) and salt (whew!). The palate is the most dynamic and concentrated, seeming to reach skyward and plumb firmly the mineral depths of the site simultaneously. The mid-weight, dry palate offers flavors of salted plum, peach pit, orange oil, salt, and lady apple, girded by a firm slatey core and imbued with wave upon wave of white and yellow orchard fruit flavors, giving way to a savory, palate-staining finish. This is excellent but only revealing a hint of what’s to come. This is showy and long without seeming flashy and cries out more time in the cellar to allow the dry extract and fruit to knit with the crystalline structure. Beautiful stuff and worth tucking away for the 5-10 years and beyond.
Comprised of multiple small parcels on the Himmelreich in blue slate soils. 100% ungrafted vines averaging over 75 years old. Ulli Stein, the mineral magician of the Mosel somehow lives up to his stellar 2019 Himmelreich Feinherb with this glorious 2020. Less flamboyant, but somehow more knit and balanced, this still displays the Stein energy. Just off-dry, with lifted aromas of Meyer lemon zest, apple blossom, white cherry, and rock dust on the nose. The palate is focused and stony, with white stone fruits fanning out from a sneakily substantial mineral core, yet this intensity is seemingly weightless—quite a feat. This is a joyful feinerb, wearing its whisper of sweetness deftly and electric acidity and minerality with confidence. Fabulous. John McIlwain