The Chambers Street Wine Awards: German Edition!

6/1/2007 -

It has been a very exciting year for German wines at CSW with the tail end of the 2005 vintage selling briskly and the extremely limited-production high- quality 2006's arriving mostly with some more to arrive throughout winter/spring 2008. Since I have arrived at CSW I have made sure that German wine has a big presence on the shelf and also that there is a big range of styles. From taut and lean Franconian Silvaners to big, rich botyrized Middle Mosel Rieslings there is something to please everybody's palate. There were so many wines to choose from and so many categories, as this is German wine, so bear with me through all these.

The first award goes to the best 2005 that we still have on the shelf. That is an easy no-brainer. The 2005 F. Weins Prum Erdener Pralat Auslese is an absolutely stunning bottle of wine and easily one tbe top Auslesen of the 2005 vintage. Bert Selbach is a very underappreciated winemaker because people consider this estate the "wrong Prum" when in fact it is not. Studert Prum or S.A. Prum are much lower in the pecking order and if it was not for JJ Prum, F. Weins Prum would be the top estate in Wehlen. But enough about whose best and on to this wine. Here is my note from August 2006 when I tasted at the estate. Floral nose with peaches and some cream elements. Fantasic complexity and ripeness. Long palate with great acids. Seemed a bit backwards too but no shortage of material here. Lovely finish. Ultimately this will need a decade or two of proper cellaring but I have not tasted a better version of Erdener Pralat from the vaunted 2005 vintage. This is one of those wines I look at on the shelf and am puzzled why it is still in stock as it is that good.

Up next is the best Feinherb we have in the store and that is easy as this is also the best value of the year. The wine is the 2005 Gunter Steinmetz Alte Reben Feinherb. What a wine! Rich and ripe with a viscous texture and all different types of pitted stone fruits. Great concentration and purity of flavor along with a fantastic mid-palate. Really outdoes its price point.

Next is the best Feinherb that we have on pre-arrival and that was a tough decision but it came down to which was more memorable as the two wines that were in the running were qualitatively equal. The 2006 Karthauserhof Spatlese Feinherb is a smoking bottle of wine. After a marathon tasting at the estate we tasted around six Feinherb bottlings from 2004, 2005 and 2006 and this was the star. Wonderful Karthauserhofian minerality on a sleek, precise frame and not too sweet, not too dry, just feinherb. Great purity and concentration and just so drinkable but also, like Karthauserhof wines do, this will age beautifully.

The next award goes to the Kabinett of the year and that was a very easy decision. In this day and age of souped up Kabinetts posing as Spatlesen and Auslesen it is refreshing to taste a real and authentic Kabinett. The bottle in question is the 2006 Karthauserhof Kabinett and it is killer. Zingy, zippy, fresh and crispy with that lovely mineral water character that lets you know you are in Karthauserhof-land. So graceful and elegant with lovely concentration, purity and flavor definition.

Up next is the Spatlese of the year. This was easy. The 2006 Schafer-Frohlich Bockenauer Felseneck Spatlese is brilliant as usual. The GK version was my Spatlese of the year last year and this wine was almost qualitatively equal. This is clean and pure with lovely red fruits, acid and chunky minerals. The acidity is really intense, as that is the trademark Schafer-Frohlich style. The concentration is prodigious as is the epic finish. The quality here is really astounding for the money. This is for the cellar, not to drink young.

The next award goes to the Auslese of the year and that was tough as 2005 and 2006 were amazing Auslese vintages but after a serious perusal it has to be the 2006 JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Auslese. This was redonkulous and the only 2006 I tasted at the estate. It had that crackling Himmelreich minerality, intense botrytis, great richness, huge viscous texture and unreal acidity. Just an amazing wine. This is an infant now but will age gorgeously for up to 25-35 years. This wowed me but not as much as the next wine.

The next award goes to the GK Auslese of the year which was the easiest decision I have made all year. The 2006 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese GK may be the best Riesling I have had all year. Here is my TN. What a wine. I was absolutely blown away. First poured it was all texture, serious sulfur and not much else. You could tell though something was stirring beneath the surface. The texture though was sensational. Like the most delicate velvet. Sulfur was just part of it but if you have patience it goes away and the aromas become quite profound. So after an initial sip this was put back in the fridge and forgotten about till later. Later came and this wine had it all and then some. Incredibly fragrant nose of slate, green apples, honey and pear. The palate was epic. Incredibly concentrated with layers of the cleanest botrytis you have ever tasted, oodles of apple, pear and even an exotic hint of quince. The finish is long. I mean James Joyce sentence long. Went on and on but not boring you . . .but enrapturing you. Vivid too. The flavors are so well defined it is awe-inspiring. It does not quit and goes in waves. The nose kept opening and opening too until it became intoxicating. The best young Prum I have tasted. Yes this is young, I know, but this is very special, and will be fervor inducing in 25 years. I need me some more.We only have this in ½ bottles now but are selling 750's on pre-arrival for January.

We move on to the best Dry Riesling that we have in stock which was a tough decision as there were so many great ones but the clear winner had to be the 2006 Schafer-Frohlich Halenberg Grosses Gewachs. Tim Frohlich has become something of a darling among German dry wine aficionados as his dry wines have quickly catapulted him to the forefront of the dry wine scene. His 2005 Halenberg was my favorite of that vintage and the 2006 Halenberg makes it two years in a row. Insane levels of minerality and cooling pit fruits are the trademarks of this wine along with stellar concentration and length. There is a decent wollop of sulfur so this needs at least five years in the cellar. But what you have is one of the great dry wines of the world for a song.

The next award goes to the best Dry Riesling that we have on pre-arrival is easy. Yes it is expensive but it is so worth it. The wine in question is the 2006 Rudolf Furst Burgstadter Centgrafenberg Riesling "R" and this is a wow wine. I think Paul Furst is the most underrated producer of German wine in America. He is definetly not underrated in Germany as his wines sell out almost as soon as they are released. This is his top Riesling and is just amazing wine and probably my favorite dry German wine that I have tasted in years. Here is my note from my vist this August. Nose is young and showing all young primary fruit. Mostly stone fruits. More elegant than the '05 with a touch less concentration but still has a wonderfully viscous texture and palate-staining extract on the finish. Lovely wine in need of four or five years in the cellar.

The next award goes to the best Silvaner of the year and this was an extremely difficult decision too as there are so many great Silvaners in Germany and I have a perverse addiction to all things Silvaner. But the best one had to be 2006 Rudolf Furst Burgstadter Centgrafenberg Silvaner "pur mineral." This is like drinking the purest rainwater you can imagine. Here is my note from my visit to the estate in August. Very earthy and mineral nose with hints of apple and lime. Clean wine with medium levels of acidity and dazzling purity. Lovely grip on the finish. This wine is being sold on a pre-arrival basis.

The next to last award goes to the Spatburgunder of the year and that was tough too but alas it has to go to Paul Furst again. I don't want his head to get too big but he is that great a winemaker. The wine in question is the 2005 Rudolf Furst Spatburgunder Burgstadter Centgrafenberg. Paul Furst has the reputation as the finest producer of German Pinot Noir and deservedly so. This wine is beautiful and cements 2005 as a classic vintge for Spatburgunder and perhaps the best since 1997. Here is my note from my visit in August. Lovely nose with sweet green elements, red berry fruit and some spice. Palate is dense and concentrated with enormous structure, Just epic stuff that is painfully young now but has great potential.

-Lyle Fass

The final award goes to the Burgunder of the year which is any Grauburgunder or Weissburgunder based wine. I tasted an amazing Weissburgunder at the Wittman estate when I was over there in August but failed to obtain any and it also was frighteningingly expensive. But no tears were shed by me as the 2006 Rebholz Im Sonnenschein Weissburgunder Grosses Gewachs became available again to me so it becomes available to you. This is epic Pinot Blanc with aromatic complexity you find only in great white burgundy. This has a soft pillowy texture and outrageous concentration. The wine is everchanging in the glass and nuances keep developing. Wonderful purity and length

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