The Final 2006 Offer - The wonderful dry wines of Schafer-Frohlich, Rebholz and Kunstler

4/21/2007 -

When I traveled to Germany in August of 2006 I fell in love with the Grosses Gewachs and Erstes Gewachs bottlings. These are literally translated as Great Growths and are a relatively new category in the ever changing German wine arena. These are dry wines that when translated into regular German nomenclature are Spatlese Trocken. Make no mistake about it these are thrilling wines and incredible expressions of the particular vineyard sites. One of the reasons they are so good is because they have to comply with a complex set of criteria that include low yields, a specific amount of residual sugar (or under that specific amount) and a tasting by a panel. There are many other complex criteria that these wines have to comply with in order to be branded Erstes (Rheingau) or Grosses Gewachs (everywhere else) but I will not bore you with them here. But what I will bore you with is how rare these wines actually are in the States.

Not many of these are brought in by the importers because there is not yet a market in the US for noble dry German white wine. That is unfortunate for the producers, but lucky for the consumers who are getting these wines at a much lower price than they are actually worth because they have not been hyped like White Burgundy, White Rhône or even California Chardonnay. Americans are still pigeon-holed into just liking German sweet wine, when in fact the number one question I am asked in my years of retail is "Do you have a dry white wine?" But then again everybody still thinks that all German Riesling is sweet when in fact what they are commonly mistaking for sweetness is actually ripeness. Riesling has incredible versatility and can make wines that are bone dry to sweet and viscous and everything in between.

The three producers in this offer are known for their dry wines especially Kunstler and Rebholz. Schafer-Frohlich is just brilliant at everything they do. Sweet, semi-sweet and dry, Tim Frohlich can do no wrong. I did not taste Tim's quartet of Grosses Gewachs in 2006 but did mention to him how brilliant I thought his 2005's were across the board. Tim confidently said his 2006's were better. I placed an order on the spot for as much as he could give me which was not much. I will be offering three of four. The Felsenberg unfortunately was sold out at the estate before my order could get confirmed. Needless to say I am very excited to offer these in 2006 based on the sheer genius of the 2005's. You should be excited too.

Gunter Kunstler, many people consider, makes the greatest dry wines in all of the Rheingau. I would be hard pressed to find anybody else who reaches Gunter's hand with dry wines in the Rheingau. His Holle is powerful and rich but also has a lightness of touch that needs to be tasted to be believed. His Kirschenstuck is all haunting elegance with astounding purity, complex aromas and wonderful deep, resonant minerality. These are beautiful wines that really show the care Gunter puts into his wines and the nobility of these two fantastic vineyard sites.

Hansjorg Rebholz, who was Hans Gunter Schwartz's protégé at Muller-Catoir, has risen to the top of the Pfalzian hierarchy and is considered the best winemaker in Germany. After tasting there last summer I would not disagree with that statement. His wines are very powerful with a serious structural backbone which enables the wine to age for many years. The acidity is high, the aromas are beguiling and the purity is astounding in Hansjorg's wines. Wines from this site, Kastanienbusch, exclusively planted to Riesling, take a very long time to come around. Hansjorg also has another wonderful site called Im Sonnenschein which is planted to Pinot Bianco and Riesling. His Pinot Bianco is absolutely incredible and for my $$$$ the best Pinot Bianco in the world. You cannot believe the complexity that Hansjorg gets out of Pinot Bianco (Weissburgnder). Riesling is also incredible from this site but in my mind Pinot Bianco takes the cake when we are talking about Im Sonnenschein.

In short these are breathtaking wines that should be in every German wine lovers cellar and are also great wines for CA chardonnay or White Burgundy drinkers looking to make the "move." These wines are being sold on a pre-arrival basis and will be here in the Fall. The pre-sell will last till the end of August and then the prices will go up. In many cases Chambers St. Wines will be the only source in the US.

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