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Visiting Hofgut Falkenstein in the first week of July this year the heat was stifling. Rain was nowhere to be found on the horizon, and the vines were further along compared to previous years; clusters of grapes were already drooping with weight under the large leaves. I couldn't help but think back to my visit in mid-June of 2016, the clouds still heavy with rain, most vines just beginning to flower, winemakers concerned about the endless fight against downy mildew coupled with the threat of heavy rains damaging the new flowers. What a difference a year makes!
In a nutshell, 2016 in Germany started just about on track with annual averages, coming out of a mild winter. Things took a turn with a nerve-frazzlingly wet spring and early summer, spreading the threat of peronospora (downy mildew) and rot, not to mention frost and hail. The weather eventually righted itself with a long, dry and warm end of summer and beginning of harvest. Temperatures skyrocketed in September, causing some sunburned grapes and increase in sugar levels, but October brought cooler temperatures just in time to preserve acidty. Yields were very low for some, but the quality of the grapes was high; the beginning of the harvest season was ideal and grapes could be selected in multiple passes. Estates harvesting in November ran into some rains in late October, although there was little rain in the Saar during harvest, where Falkentstein is located. In most regions botrytis couldn't settle in due to the dry weather leading into October, but with such clean grapes on the vines some winemakers held out for Eiswein and were duly rewarded after a series of deep frosts in the winter.
Speaking with Erich and Johannes Weber at Falkenstein this past July, their excitement for the wines of 2016 was encouraging. They echoed the sentiment that many other winemakers had expressed: the undeniable sense of relief and pride in making it through a challenging vintage with quality wines to share. Many of the wines of the 2016 vintage are showing an elegance and lift that is gleefully refreshing. The incredible concentration found in 2015 has ratcheted down a bit, in exchange for delightful wines with balanced acidity, clean fruitiness, and mineral cut. In the case of Hofgut Falkenstein, on average, alcohol is down and for some wines acidity is up from 2015; the wines are proving to be incredibly accessible right out of the gate, with balance and aromatics that give a nod to an ability to age. For the Webers, 2016 is looking to be a fantastic vintage, and we are very excited to have the wines here at the shop**.
For those who are new to the wines of Hofgut Falkenstein, see here and here for more details and anecdotes about the estate. Please note, not all wines on offer have been tasted (it's true, sometimes we must buy before we try). Rest assured we will fill in the tasting note gaps as soon as we get our hands on those bottles! Cari Bernard
**The first tranche of wines will arrive Wednesday, 8/16.
Tasted moments after I arrived at Hofgut Falkenstein on a sweltering day in July, I failed to get notes down on any sort of paper. I do remember being very pleased with the fresh intensity of the mousse, brightness of the acidity, notes of green and yellow stone fruit with a refreshing citrus zestiness and stony minerality...a delightful, dry sparkling Riesling (tasted again back in the states, this all still holds true)! Pair with cheese and salty appetizers, rich pâtés, vegetable gratin, turkey or ham! Cari Bernard
Altenberg stands further afield from the estate, with mostly gray slate, a cooler microclimate, and south/southwest exposure. Cool-toned, minty and floral on the nose, bright saline notes light up the palate with lemon zest and juice, underripe apricot, green apple skin and green plum. Cari Bernard
The Webers were able to obtain this 0.2 hectare parcel two years ago, located on the Krettnacher Altenberg with old vines upwards of 70 years in age on green basalt soils (with quartz and gray slate): a 'dream parcel' according to Erich Weber. Water-white with green flecks in the glass; white flowers, green apple and the freshness of mineral water over stone fills the nose and is mirrored on the palate along with tart but slightly soft notes of lemonade and greengage plum. An ethereal first offering from this vineyard! Cari Bernard
Jasmine, pollen, and apricot aromas with just the slightest bit more weight on the palate than Ober Schäfershaus, notes of juicy nectarine mingle with an assortment of citrus: tangerine zest, meyer lemon and yuzu come to mind. An ideal wine to pair with fresh summer salads, fish crudo, oysters on the half shell. Cari Bernard
Sourced from a parcel of ungrafted vines on the Herrenberg. Herbal and fresh, marjoram, sweet oregano, raw green pepper, green tea leaf, the wine is elegant and balanced with a cool minerality and notes of plum, strawberry, and mango--but all green. The 24 g/L of residual sugar is whisked off of the palate by the incredible acidity, making for a dry yet silky finish. Cari Bernard
Sourced from a south-facing parcel of 60-70 year-old vines on the Herrenberg. The palate is clean and light with notes of green tea and peach, starfruit and white grapefruit zest, fantastic balance and tension awash with minerality. Cari Bernard
This gloriously elegant magnum will bring loads of energy to even the weightiest Thanksgiving table. The nose is c lassic Saar riesling with citrus, freshly mown lawn, and a hint of white petals. Niedermennig riesling always impresses me with its extraordinarily pure petrol tones. The palate impresses with its balance of opulence and linearity. The light sweetness is balanced by extraordinary energy. This wine will go head to head with the tartest cranberry sauce, pair fantastically with turkey or rich pork dishes, and complement richer sides like butternut squash mash or stuffing. Make sure to save some for the pumpkin pie. AP#11. Andrew Farquhar
We are so excited to have two different Kabinett wines in NYC this year! AP 12 is also sourced from the Großschock on Euchariusberg, from an old-vine plot near the Gisela parcel used for the 'Alte Reben' (AP 8) bottling. Tropical with a green floral note on the nose, the palate is tart and juicy with notes of mango, apricot, candied pineapple and sharp lemon oil. Cari Bernard
The two different Euchariusberg Spätlese bottlings (AP 6 and AP 14) are sourced from two separate parcels, found further up the Großschock slope from the plots used for the Kabinett wines. Honeyed yuzu and stone on the nose, the palate is ripe and fresh with notes of tangerine and lemon juice, crushed peach, white strawberry and ginger, balanced and elegant! Cari Bernard
The two different Euchariusberg Spätlese bottlings (AP 6 and AP 14) are sourced from two separate parcels, found further up the Großschock slope from the plots used for the Kabinett wines. Notes of smoke, stone, basil, and slight reduction on the nose gives way to an incredibly delicate palate, drinking closer to a Kabinett in style. Linear and light, with hints of red grapefruit, salted green mango, peach candy, lime oil, and stony minerality. Cari Bernard
A light ruby with rose rim; bright and linear, with a piquant nose of red flowers, paprika, tangy red currants. On the palate this Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is fresh, tart and willowy, reminiscent of a Rosso di Valtellina, with crunchy red fruits--wild strawberries, sour cherries, red currants, cranberries, raspberry seeds; the wine snaps to a slightly drying structure with a whisper of pink roses and cloves on the finish. Cari Bernard