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I was reading the fabulous profile of Ulli Stein on the Vom Boden website, and was concerned by the idea that the Mosel was in crisis as a wine region, with many of the vines (and the more than 2000 years of tradition) disappearing as estates close and winemaking families desert the incredibly steep and difficult-to-farm vineyards on the slopes. But surely, I thought to myself, there are so many great growers there, like Clemens Busch, and Weiser Künstler, Philippe Lardot, and A.J. Adam, to name a few. Then it dawned on me that those ARE the growers and that I've been living in a Chambers Street Wines bubble my whole life! Thanks to many colleagues over the 2+ decades we've been open, in the last decade namely two Johns (Ritchie and McIlwain) championed the aforementioned producers, and a small community of wine-geeks (is that what we are now?) continuously bought them across the country, so I had this impression that this was what life was like and that everyone knew about the crazy-steep, slate vineyards of the Mosel. It turns out that the wines produced from the historic vineyards of the Mosel are indeed fewer and fewer over the years, and the struggle to preserve these prized parcels is very real. It makes the wines more precious in a way and also makes me wish more people got to try them! Hence this little offer of two wines from particularly special vineyards that Ulli farms with dedication along with his small team.
I have always loved the wines of Ulli Stein. His dry ('Trocken') wines remind me of great Muscadet, or Chenin on schist. Even with his off-dry ('Feinherb') wines, I only sense ripeness, never sweetness. There is a particularly chiseled minerality and sharpness to Ulli's wines, balanced by a subtle density that calms and frames the acidity. I would say they are my favorite wines from the Mosel, but I will probably see Gernot and Clemens sometime soon and will have to explain myself! So let's just say that I'm by no means an expert, but Stein's wines are special and I encourage all to try them. Don't be afraid of Riesling! If you're worried about a little residual sugar, try the Trocken. Any fan of wines taste like stones instead of fruit should definitely be drinking these!
Some info on the producer from the Wines of Germany website:
"The Stein family began cultivating wine in the Mosel region of Germany in the 16th century, back when wine growers typically practiced their professions only part-time. Heinrich and Erna Stein were the first in the family to dedicate themselves to winegrowing as a full-time occupation. In 1948, they founded Weingut Stein, where Heinrich focused on producing high quality wines. His sons Ulrich and Peter took over the business in 1982, consistently refining their father’s experimental approach and pushing the boundaries of winemaking in the region. Ulrich Stein, or “Ulli,” graduated with an oenology degree from the prestigious University of Geisenheim, completed his PhD studies in biology, and went on to dedicate his life to producing high-quality Mosel wines from ancient vines planted on laboriously steep slopes.
Ulli saw tending and reviving old vines in the Mosel region as crucial to upholding the traditional viticultural practices of the region and necessary to preserving the region’s winemaking future. In his view, climate change and rising temperatures meant that white grapes along the riverbank and at the lower third of the region’s slopes ripen too fast, endangering classic wines that are dependent on cold weather like Eiswein and low-alcohol Feinherb and Kabinett bottlings. He found that the region’s old vines better adapted to the effects of climate change, as their deep root systems handled drought and heavy rainfall better and had fewer problems with botrytis. Hence Ulli’s advocacy efforts for the preservation of the vines on the iconic steep slopes.
Additionally, as rising temperatures make for an increasingly inhospitable environment, Ulli fought to gain permission to plant non-native red grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Mosel. Along with some other wineries, his persistent efforts to revive Spätburgunder and other red grapes led to the region’s repeal of the ban on red-wine production in 1986, which had been in effect since 1933! In this way, Ulli is both protecting the past and the future of the Mosel." Wines of Germany
Grey-slate, steep terraces, old vines, and un-grafted rootstocks? Sign us up! Uli Stein's Palmberg Alte Reben Trocken is sourced from a steep parcel of 90+ year-old vines. This shows the sharp and lean side of Riesling with notes of slate, ocean air and plenty of minerals.
Comprised of multiple small parcels on the Himmelreich in blue slate soils. 100% ungrafted vines averaging over 75 years old, farmed loyally by Ulli Stein, the mineral magician of the Mosel. This is always a just-barely off-dry wine, and the cool 2021 vintage is fully in effect here, keeping things racy and fresh.