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When this was first tasted in the summer of 2019, it needed to shake some of its SO2 on the nose, but that will just take time. Beyond the SO2 are delicate, beautiful florals. The palate is sprightly and fresh, with notes of grapefruit, mango, and cassis. I have 'great' underlined twice in my notes. This is a wine to age, or if opening now, do so about a half-hour early and pair with spicy foods or cheese plates. Cari Bernard
AJ Adam's "in der Sangerei" is from a parcel within Dhron Hofberg, fermented with native yeasts and bottled as a feinherb. The wine has a pale yellow green robe. The nose is a bit reserved with a touch of sponti, but with a bit of air and active swirling reveals aromas of lemon blossom, grapefruit peel, lemon verbena, anise, and wet stone. The just shy of mid-weight, off-dry palate offers pretty white stone fruit and pear skin flavors of startling intensity, giving way to a deeply salty, mineral core that would send geologists and poets scrambling for descriptors. But lest you think the rocks have the last word, there’s a lovely flush of fruit and spice that crests and then lingers as the earthy character subsides—all in a Feinherb, no less. And while there are many who think the summits of Riesling greatness are manifested in either their baroque Grosses Gewaches grandeur or nobly sweet timeless embrace, this is a convincing argument for just what manner of beauty can lie outside those categories. A sensational bottle with crab and charred scallion donabe rice, but I’d love to enjoy this with a plate of asparagus and Black Forest ham or even give it a spin with a ragout of peas, favas, and morels with a flurry of tarragon. John McIlwain
The 2019 Mélange is a blend from various vineyard sites around Kiedrich, Eltville and Hattenheim. The wine boasts a pale yellow gold robe. The nose is more layered and complex than the Trocken QbA with aromas of yellow fruit, orange blossom, bee pollen, and wet stone. There’s more concentration here as well, with ripe stone fruit and lemon curd flavors washing across a profoundly mineral foundation, the the interplay between the two making for compelling drinking. Simultaneously riper and drier than the other QbAs, this still offers excellent balance while one susses out all the effusive aromas and delicious fruit and stone flavors. Compelling now, but 5-8 years and beyond in the cellar should do wonders as the structural notes knit with the exuberant energy of the plush fruit. A fine pairing with pan-roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, kale, and cranberry beans, though there's enough sap here to get along famously with roasted guinea fowl or skate with brown butter and capers. John McIlwain
Another punchy 2019 German. Julian Haart’s Moselle is mostly sourced from Goldtropfchen with an assist from Ohligsberg and Gu¨nterslay. 11.5% abv. The robe is a pale greenish yellow. Upon opening a the is a touch of reduction; with ten minutes in the glass aromas of lemon blossom, apricot fuzz, lemon balm, and sea spray emerge. This gives way to ripe white peach, preserved lemon, and crushed herbs. The mid-weight, but agile palate is dry and racy with a firm mineral spine and tangy acidity buoyed by loads of white orchard fruits. This coltish offering shows great charm (and certainly energy over mass) but is rooted enough in stoniness to for the dedicated Mosel geology freak to derive satisfaction . This improves with air and a brisk decant isn’t out of order—though a couple of years in the cellar should take care of the reduction and certainly allow the mineral, acid, and vibrant cool fruit to knit. And while I’ll admit to a preference towards pradikat wines from the Mosel, this is compelling and vivacious and certainly worth a look. A fine pairing with a braised scallion and English peas starter anointed with fine olive oil, burrata, and fresh mint, though I’d also love to pair this with softshell crab or scallop crudo. John McIlwain
Covered in eroded gray slate, the south-southwest facing Unterstenberg lieu dit is the site on the Ayler Kupp that has some of the most water retention due to its location at the foot of the hillside. Fermented to just off-dry in 2019.
The 2019er Feils Fass 13 GG is from the south-south-east facing Saarfeilser Grand Cru site across the river from Ayler Kupp, with a warmer climate and higher levels of gravel in the soil.
Thorsten Melsheimer has been farming organically in the Mosel since 1995 (certified ECOVIN) and became Demeter (biodynamic) certified in 2013. The 2016 'Handwerk' is actually a blend of three different barrels: a QBA trocken, Kabinett, and Spätlese, and the sum of these parts is a delightful slightly off-dry Riesling. Just a touch reductive upon opening, the herbaceous and cooler qualities of the vintage come through on the nose and the palate along with green apple, peach, nectarine, and tart apricot. This would be fantastic paired with spicy cuisine, fried foods, or brunch (it is only 10% ABV, after all). Cari Bernard
Sourced from old vine parcels in Ürzig and Zeltingen in the Mittelmosel. The 2016 Alte Reben from Molitor displays a pale yellow, hinting at gold, robe. The nose offers pretty aromas of white flowers, citrus blossom, spices, and peach skin. The mid-weight palate has a zesty mineral attack, followed by a flush of ripe stone fruit flavors and filigree of cool crushed herbs, culminating in a long sapid, mouthwatering finish. Though dry, this is by no means austere and will charm on its own, though I'd love to give this a whirl with sautéed scallops in brown butter atop a celery root purée or morels and English peas stewed in butter. John McIlwain
When there's Beerenauslese available from this legendary estate, you just say yes. (AP 16) Cari Bernard
Different German estates use their AP numbers for different reasons. For example, at Hofgut Falkenstein, they use the AP numbers to refer to specific fuders (1000L barrels). At Willi Schaefer, numbers correspond to a 'style'. So for the Graacher Domprobst Spätlese there is a #5 bottling and a #10 bottling. Both Andrea and Christoph Schaefer have explained that the #5 is more concentrated and dense, whereas the #10 is lighter and fresher. This holds true in 2018, the #5 is SO YOUNG, wound up and dense, notes of Fuji apple, peach candy, wildflower honey, and a creamy finish. Hold onto this bottle please, this beautiful wine has so much to show, give it ten plus years to get there!! Cari Bernard
Different German estates use their AP numbers for different reasons. For example, at Hofgut Falkenstein, they use the AP numbers to refer to specific fuders (1000L barrels). At Willi Schaefer, numbers correspond to a 'style'. So for the Graacher Domprobst Spätlese there is a #5 bottling and a #10 bottling. Both Andrea and Christoph Schaefer have explained that the #5 is more concentrated and dense, whereas the #10 is lighter and fresher. This holds true in 2018, the #5 is SO YOUNG, wound up and dense, notes of Fuji apple, peach candy, wildflower honey, and a creamy finish. Hold onto this bottle please, this beautiful wine has so much to show, give it ten plus years to get there (will age even longer en magnum)! Cari Bernard
The Forster Musenhang is an Erste Lage (Premier Cru) site, situated high on the slope to the Haardt Mountains, and its soils are laden with limestone and weathered sandstone. This is one of Markus' cooler sites, where he organically farms a 0.6 hectare parcel. Aromatically, Musenhang (the slope of musing) floats on a spectrum of floral and spice tones, including lime blossom, vanilla bean, and nutmeg. The palate is fairly weighted, but stays nimble with interlacing ribbons of minerality, that carries notes of black truffle oil and lemon zest through to a finely dry finish. Serious Riesling, but remains accessible to all. - David Salinas
The Forster Musenhang is an Erste Lage (Premier Cru) site, situated high on the slope to the Haardt Mountains, and its soils are laden with limestone and weathered sandstone. This is one of Markus' cooler sites, where he organically farms a 0.6 hectare parcel. Aromatically, Musenhang (the slope of musing) floats on a spectrum of floral and spice tones, including lime blossom, vanilla bean, and nutmeg. The palate is fairly weighted, but stays nimble with interlacing ribbons of minerality, that carries notes of black truffle oil and lemon zest through to a finely dry finish. Serious Riesling, but remains accessible to all.
- David Salinas
How do I know Spring is coming? I start craving ramps, favas with pecorino. And those morels and asparagus should be here soon, right? Also, new bottlings of delicious Sylvaner are making their way here from Alsace and Germany. And the 2019 from Stefan Vetter is a about as vernal as anything you could want. Weighing in a 10% abv. and loaded with sweet green charm, this is a beauty. Fermented in a blend of stainless steel and barrel and bottled unfiltered with a minimum of sulfur. Crushed soft green herbs? Check. Lime zest, apple blossom aromatics? For sure. Just enough mineral zang and bright acid to cut thru the vinaigrette on your asparagus or the brown butter with your shad roe? Indeed, friends. And while the pleasures of more baroque Franken Silvaners are not lost on me, the unfurling sweet springtime joy of this bottle is singing especially sweetly now. Now when do the softshell crabs get here? John McIlwain
Organically farmed Weissburgunder from loess and volcanic soils on the Kaiserstuhl. Whole cluster pressed. Aged for 12 months in neutral barrel, followed by 6 months in stainless steel with minimal sulfur addition after malolactic fermentation, per importer.
From 30 year-old biodynamically farmed vines. 50% direct pressed into barrel, 50% of the grapes fermented on the skins. Weighs in at a mere 10% abv. Pale golden robe. Upon opening there's just a touch of reduction on the nose giving way to aromas of pear skin, white apricot, and bee pollen. The palate is dry and savory with yellow fruits, a fresh stony component and the faint hint of a prickle to it. There is good texture and cut here without the blowsiness of some Chasselas/Gutedel/Fendent. The balance between splashy freshness and the more sapid notes is both agreeable and delicious. John McIlwain
The last of a bevy of samples from a grower I didn’t really know, but whose wines have really made me take notice. Zeireisen 2016 Spa¨tburgunder “Schulen.”The vines are grown organically in limestone soils interspersed with alluvial stones. Vinification is with native yeasts and the wine sees a bit of new oak. I’ll admit I’m not inclined toward most Spätburgunder as the wines from the early aughts combined ego and cooperage absolutely obliterating any sense of terroir--a shame really. But between Wasenhaus, Enderle and Moll (and of course the dazzling Hofgut Falkensatein sui generis bottling), we seem to be in something of a renaissance (though given the recent leaps and bounds perhaps naissance is a more accurate term). The robe is a dark ruby. The nose offers pretty aromas of Keemun Imperial tea, wild cherry, cassis, and wild violets. The palate is lithe, and displays beautiful equipoise between the just-verging-on-lush black fruit, and a zangy, pungently stony mineral core. The mid-palate shows dimension without veering into ‘zaftig’ and gives way to a mouthwatering, lean—though but by no means austere—finish. Delicious now, but given how this has opened up over the last couple of hours, there’s plenty of complexity forthcoming and I’d feel comfortable laying a few bottles down for the next 4-7 years. This balances freshness and earthiness deftly and is well worth a look. Fabulous with pan-roasted magret of duck with donabe kabocha squash, and braised baby bock choi. This is truly exciting Spa¨tburgunder and if I found this kicking around in Marsannay or Maranges, I’d be living the glamorous life of importer, chasing down my C.O.D. accounts. Good stuff, friends. As we “in the biz” say, “the real f'in’ deal.” John McIlwain