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It's a ludicrous title for a vintage report, I know.
Still, I'm sticking with this title because it's stuck with me, ever since I shook Oliver Haag's hand goodbye and left my first tasting appointment of the 2008 vintage in Germany. (That was, by the way, April 18th, 2009, just to give you some context).
Let me try and explain what I mean by the word "important." The 2008 vintage presents, for the first time in some years, an authentic snapshot of what we used to mean by the words "Kabinett" and "Spatlese." If the last few years have turned the stage over to the Baroque masterpieces, the epics with layer after dripping layer, in 2008 we find something more intimate, smaller...2008 is less Wagnerian Opera and more Chamber music. Less the expansiveness of Jackson Pollock and more the detailed, tight, etched spaces of Albrecht Durer. For those of you who know sports, enter some sports analogy here. 2008 is concise and sharp.
For those children reared on the fatty-meat vintages of 2003, 2005, 2006 and even 2007, 2008 may feel a shade brutal - a lean little guinea hen. (As Joe has reminded me though, guinea hen can be very tasty.)
Or, to drop the meat analogy, 2008 has taut fruit that even at its most luxurious, is angular. The best of this bouncy class have a purity to them that can make you weep, so close to godliness are they. The best are balanced and really defined by a bone-curling rapier of acidity which is in turn infused with mineral that continues with tremendous penetration and length. If the spine is thin and taut, it is pronounced. This is the glory of 2008. But there is a dark side. At its worst 2008 is a bit more like howling lemons studded with unripe acids and sea salts - like gurgling ice cold battery acid with a dash of lemon and bitters.
It's great to line up your magnums of Egon Muller 1976 TBA in your cellar's foyer, on golden pedestals and backlit by cleverly placed halogen lights. Awesome. 2008, however, is not going to offer you very much. Apologies. Obviously the auctions in the fall will present some gems, but Oliver Haag told me he had scrapped a BA that was fermenting (just not BA-enough-ish) and he was in fact wondering if he would even send anything. Willi Schaefer has apparently made an auction Spatlese (which I did not taste but I bet will be psychotic because the 2008s at Schaefer are glorious) and Frank Schonleber poured for me an auction dry wine - a mega Grosses Gewachs if you will...Donnhoff did make two distinct Eisweins, one harvested in December and one in January, but he didn't make any Auslesen whatsoever.
The higher Pradikat wines are just not so "higher" in 2008. (That's OK, there are still the monumental, and misunderstood, higher Pradikat 2006s around for a song...)
This "petite" side of German wine, however, gets lost in the shadows of the botrytis-inflected, fleshy opera singers (even their rot is called "noble!") and 2008 is its curtain call. The QbAs, the whistling Kabinetts and even, many times, the fit-as-a-fiddle Spatlesen of 2008 just can't be denied. These are wines with a fresh, easy-go-lucky charm, sometimes delicate and content to just prance across the palate, a simple delivery of needle-pointed fruit and acidity. Others have sizeable ambitions, crackling, whip-tense energy and crystalline depths that still somehow explode in the mouth with a fairy-dust lightness.
This is a riveting side of Germany wine, a glorious side of German wine and in 2008, the best Rieslings (the Estates, Kabinetts and Spatlesen) will shatter across your mouth, ice-cold showers of fruit and mineral for your palate.
It is a genre of wine I love, and more importantly, a genre of wine I need. I love these wines for their honesty and transparency, for their balance, their contentedness, their energy and humility. I need these wines because after a tough Monday, these are the wines I want to sit on the couch and drink. With a poached Halibut and some herbs, these are the wines I want to drink. With friends on a warm, breezy, beautiful NYC day, these are the wines I want to drink. These wines can be perfect.
Which begs the question, and I mean this in all seriousness: Why can't there be 100-point Kabinetts???
For me, perfection does not have to overwhelm the senses - frankly, I don't think it should at all. It should bring us to our senses, not just leave us slack-jawed and dumbfounded...but that's just me.
Now, if I'm being provocative what I really want to convey is the simple, versatile, FUN OF RIESLING and if ever there was a vintage that was just plain FUN, it's 2008. As many people are going to point out, it's also the perfect vintage for the times. Prices across the board are going to be lower than they were in 2007 and the Kabinetts and Spatlesen will be bountiful. If 2008 offers few trophies for your gilded cellar, get ready to dust out the corner where you store the wines you actually drink - the weekday lineup of worker bottles. So enjoy.
So with that rambling introduction, this is vintage 2008.
It's lean and mean. Lots of people, including me, are going to say "classic." What does that mean? That means the sweet spot is in the center, or left of center - toward the QbA, Estate, Kabinett and the Spatlese. There are a few electrical Auslesen with enough concentration and extract to pull it all off, but I think these are more the exceptions than the norm. (A.J. Adam's Hofberg Auslese struck me as one of the most otherwordly Auslesen I had while in Germany. Wow.)
Most producers have made very solid wines, crisp and with good cut and verve. They crackle across the palate with uncommon energy. A few have spun just incredible wines. From my preliminary tastings, the sweet spot seems to be in the southern regions. I think the Nahe is probably the glowing heart of this sweet spot, though what I tasted in the Rheinhessen and Pfalz were tremendous as well. The Franken seems to have fared 2008 quite well; I thought Wirsching's wines were really solid and so were the few bottles of Furst I had. The Mosel seems to be where things are a bit shakier - if the potential for even more nervous, tense and mineral-driven wines is greater in the Mosel, so too is the potential for under-ripeness...or at least for the power of the acidity to overwhelm the fruit and the wine itself.
2008, like 2006, is a vintage where if you pick and choose, you'll score BIG. If you're sloppy and you buy whatever's discounted, prepare to add your own Sussreserve before drinking.
Like 2007, 2008 began very early. Flowering started in early June and the summer was in general moderate, even cooler, at least given the context of the last few years. There was good rain through the summer so those growers with a natural and honest obsession for vineyard work excelled; so long as you kept your vines well-tended, they had a good time through the summer. The fall is where things got a bit tricky, as is often the case. Rains began to fall in early September with an increase in temperatures which can get tricky. But this temperature spike proved to be a fluke, temperatures dropped again and if the harvest was not simple, at least things moved slowly. Rains were scattered and the low temperatures kept acidities high even as the grapes matured through September and October. "It was not until November that the long-sought-for Golden October really arrived," as the Mosel Wine Merchant Catalogue for the year declares. Those growers who waited and were rigorous in the vineyard finally did get what they were waiting for: Ripe, very healthy grapes.
The Wines? The Wines!
Disclaimer: Most of the wines below I have tasted only once, very early on in their development. When I visited Germany in April, most wines were not yet bottled (or maybe even worse, just bottled) and some of the higher Pradikat wines had not yet been blended. As those familiar with the development of German Riesling can attest to, with time (and often, only a matter of months, not years) those wines showing jagged or unbalanced acidities may come into focus, into balance. Many wines that feel on the fresh or even shrill side, with 6+ months and longer, begin to feel softer, fleshier and present more fruit. I have since, however, tasted a good deal of the wines again, at the industry tastings held by the importers Rudi Wiest and Therry Theise, and most of my notes were consistent. So that's good. In any event, these notes are meant as "first thoughts," not final judgments.
Granted, I feel like all reviews should come with some sort of grand disclaimer, because wine is just too complicated a beast to taste once, score, and move on - as if in that instant, everything was revealed, perfectly and objectively interpreted and...compute, compute, compute...the righteous score pops out on the other end. But that's another issue.
I should note too that I did NOT visit J.J. Prum. This was strategic as I personally have no ability to taste these wines young and make any meaningful proclamations about quality or how the wines will age.
So, without further ado...
Middle Mosel - Weingut Fritz Haag
This was my first visit after I landed in Germany. Frankly, it was only a few hours after I landed in Germany that I found myself sitting alone with Oliver Haag, on a sort of miserable, cold and rainy Saturday in April. Oliver was, as Oliver usually is, in a buoyant mood with lots of energy. He had a spring in his step; you can say the same things about the 2008s.
I had heard great things about the collection and they are indeed very, very good, as you'd expect from what I think can safely be called one of Germany's greatest estates. The entire collection in 2008 is lean with a green apple profile affixed to a dense and salty core of mineral - they have very, very sharp edges. In most cases, this sharpness is thrilling, an expression of that just incredible bounce and precision that Haag's always seem to have. An acrobat that makes even the most technical and difficult moves seem easy and 100% natural. Many of the dry wines - and Oliver's producing nearly 50% dry wines these days, which surprised me and will probably surprise many U.S. consumers - have a very distinct herbal edge to them, not unlike Gruner Veltliner. Notes of flowers, lavender, spring greens and even pepper show themselves on occasion at this first tasting in April, though upon tasting them again in New York in June they were already beginning to settle down and the fruit develop further. With time, I'm sure the wines will improve only more, incorporating all the diverse flavors and making them more an integrated part of the whole. All the wines showcase a beautiful purity of fruit, another hallmark of the vintage. There is no getting around the fact that the 2008s at Haag are just not at the level of the 2007s, though I think this is to be expected as the 2007s at Haag were damn-near holy. It should also be said that these are among the best wines in the Mosel in 2008. Wine geeks are gonna love the wines for their expression of mineral and focused acids.
2008 Riesling Trocken
I definitely found this too shrill, too tart. It's grapefruit, salt and lemon pith with a mildly sadistic acidity. But I'm an American and I like sweeter wines, or so the stereotypes go.
2008 Brauneberger Juffer (BJ) Trocken
If this was blunt and sort of square-feeling, monolithic in its presentation of tart green apple and lemon and citrus and just way coiled up when I first tasted it in Germany, it is already developing nicely. Make no mistake, it is sort of a bruiser in the making with taut hammer-like fruit, sharp edges and great purity. This is well balanced and holds a lot of concentration - not a given in 2008. A very, very good dry that is still going to take some time to really show its stuff.
2008 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Grosses Gewachs (GG)
Yes indeed folks, 2008 presents us with the Fritz Haag Estate's first ever "Grosses Gewachs" from the Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr (BJS) vineyard and this wine is a freakin' monument. Harvested at 92-95 Oechsle (Oe) with 8.2 residual sugar (RS) and almost 8 grams/liter acidity, it has incredible breadth and power, with super-fine lime shavings, pear and green apple skins and a gorgeous presentation of minerals. I tasted this bottle on two separate occasions in Germany and the second time it showed even better. A fortress of a dry Riesling and I have no doubt when it lands next September (by law, these wines must rest until the September of the following year) it will be AWESOME as it was already showing formidable concentration and cut. Find yourself some of this.
2008 Brauneberger Juffer Feinherb
I like this wine very much - it has great balance and a playfulness about it. I've actually had this wine twice as it was presented in mid-February in NYC as part of Rudi Wiest's 2008 Vintage Preview tasting, a small industry luncheon. It's developing very well with a perfect push and pull of fruit and acidity. Makes me sad that "Feinherb" is essentially a dead category in the U.S. as there are some awesome wines out there. Americans, never really put off by the "Halb Trocken"designation, are understandably wondering what the hell Feinherb means. Most often, especially in the Mosel, I find it means "damn good."
2008 Brauneberger Kabinett
This is very good, as one should expect. Harvested at only 88 Oe with over 8 grams/liter acidity this is what Mosel Riesling should be. Great tart fruit with definition and clarity, fresh green apple and even some grapefruit and lemon pith. A solid core of mineral with that herbal complexity well incorporated. On the palate the wine has just so much cut and lift it feels like it just smacks your palate, with a raucous, playful grip. Just damn fun to drink. Consistent notes from three different tastings over two months.
2008 Brauneberger Spatlese
This was in a weird place when I visited Germany in April, though at the Wiest tasting in NYC in June it was already coming into very good form. I think Oliver has a special affinity for the Spatlese Pradikat because the 2007 was just extraordinary and the 2008 is very promising. Leaner for sure with a green apple skin, citrus fruit core but very well delineated and proportioned and exquisitely balanced. Good stuff.
2008 Brauneberger Spatlese "Erste Lage"
Another sweet spot of the 2008 Haag collection: Richer with more concentration and stuffing than the regular Spatlese without question. Great length, detail and balance.
I did taste the Auslesen in Germany; they were not presented at the NYC Wiest event. They were still decidedly lean in Germany and not showing what they will become so I'll refrain from commenting. So move on folks, nothing to read here!
Middle Mosel - Weingut Gunther Steinmetz
I'm going to put Steinmetz directly after Haag, which probably feels incongruous to many a German wine fanatic. Fritz Haag is one of the elites of Germany; Steinmetz is not widely known. But still, both call Brauneberg home and if there is a winemaker who is more in tune with his vineyards, more intimately connected with the sky, the vines and the soil than the young Stefan Steinmetz, I'd like to meet him or her.
This is a kid with a *serious* instinct; if you believe in reincarnation than Stefan has been a winemaker in every life he's ever lived. It's only a matter of time until this estate is rediscovered, because he is making soulful Middle Mosel Riesling.
This was my second time visiting Stefan and I had asked for a small vineyard tour - frankly I had never been up in the Juffer and I just wanted to get up into the site. Three hours later and after surveying a number of side valleys and forgotten vineyards that Stefan was bringing back to life (and full of rare charms it should be mentioned, like old ungrafted vines) we returned to the estate. Three hours in to the visit and I had yet to taste a wine.
That was to change, and aside from an awesome meal put together by his mom (far and away the best asparagus soup I had the entire trip), it should be said that sitting down to taste with Stefan is an endurance test. He sits across the table, never swaying or spitting, and hours later when you have no idea who you are or how you got yourself into this, he's going down to the cellar for more. It's the best, what can I say.
The 2008 collection here is very likely the best Stefan has ever made (yes, that means better than 2007). He has absolutely nailed it and it couldn't be more obvious. The best of the wines are forceful as all get out, with a rich texture though there is a fierce acidity that powers through the wines ruthlessly, with shocking clarity. While they share a style with Haag (think clarity, cut), they are not as poised or as perfect or as polished. They do not have a certain demureness that Haag has, they are wilder, though not inelegant and with excellent proportions. The comparison, though hardly perfect, could be made with two greats in the Nahe: Steinmetz is to Haag what Schafer-Frohlich is to Donnhoff. How do you like that?
I tasted a boat load of wines with Stefan, my favorites were the following:
2008 Brauneberger Juffer Feinherb
Awesome finesse, great energy on the palate with fruit, mineral, salt herbs and cream.
2008 Mulheimer Sonnenlay Kabinett
A kinky palate of green apple and minerals, staining and though you can feel some sugar on the mid-palate, the acidity on the backend is cruel and violent, that whip-crack of 2008. Awesome.
2008 Brauneberger Juffer Spatlese *
A screaming nose of rocks and flower petals with a simple fruit that hammers the palate. This wine is just incredibly focused, piercing and unapologetic. Not for the faint of heart as this is one of the most forceful wines of 2008, but just glorious. Yeah man.
2008 Brauneberger Juffer Auslese and the Kestener Paulinsberg Auslese
Both very impressive, with an electricity uncommon to an Auslese. Both were taut and angular though with shocking citrus fruit and just excellent clarity and form. I look forward to tasting them again to get a better grip on these wines - nonetheless the potential is immense. This is a collection not to miss.
Middle Mosel - Schloss Lieser
I'm a HUGE fan of Schloss Lieser. If you like the style of the wines at Steinmetz or Fritz Haag then you're very likely to like the wines at Schloss Lieser. In fact, on the scale from perfect and demure to wild and forceful, Thomas Haag and his Schloss Lieser estate sit somewhere in the middle.
Thomas Haag (the winemaker/owner of Schloss Lieser) is the older brother of Oliver Haag (the winemaker at Fritz Haag) and the two brothers obviously talk. The winemaking styles are very similar and they both have plots in the Brauneberger Juffer. That said, I have a weird thing for Schloss Lieser: In 2006 these were some of my favorite wines out there; the 2007ers are just glorious. I find the wines of Schloss Lieser more angular, a bit more funked-up with a very expressive mineral-and-earth severity; not quite as wild or as textured as Steinmetz, but not as staid as Fritz Haag. Though Oliver is using more and more wild yeasts in his fermentations, Thomas to my nose seems to use more, and I like this "stank."
With this as an introduction, the 2008 collection is very solid and while I liked it a lot in Germany, I think it showed even better two months later in NYC. To my palate, at the moment at least, Schloss Lieser may have edged out Fritz Haag for 2008. Joe agreed with me and he doesn't have the bizarre fascination/obsession I have with Schloss Lieser, so there you go. To me, they are razor sharp and their expression of mineral and earth is just so nuanced - the clarity here is exceptional. While these are not monuments to bury in the cellar, they are beautiful, refreshing wines to drink over the next 5+ years. Those of you who like more delicate, classic wines will LOVE them. The fruit is pure and honest, the wines have very good detail and intensity, great balance, great transparency and taut acids that give them so much tension and energy. The entire collection is edgy - nervy - if a bit blunt. While the fruit is pure as all get out, it's very often accompanied by a lot of salt, mineral and herb on the palate, as at Fritz Haag. These wines have a Gruner quality to them; they are wildly aromatic, like being thrown into the middle of a spring salad, tossed with pears and green apples. I like them a lot.
2008 Riesling Estate
Lovely, fresh as all get out with that spring ocean water feel, lemon, good concentration and enough of a little kick to wake you up. Bouncy and a great sipper.
2008 Lieser Spatlese Trocken
This bottling is 100% Niederberg Helden and would essentially be the estate's GG, if Thomas had elected to release it as such. It shows great potential and will be - as it always is - one of the values out there in world class dry Mosel Riesling. Deep monstrous lemon and stone fruit, steel, dried flowers and an almost Frankonian acidity, chewy and meaty. As deep and pure as the wine was, it was also shut down HARD when I visited it. I'm very excited to revisit.
2008 Riesling Kabinett
Sourced from various plots in Lieser - both the Niederberg Helden and Schlossberg - as well as a tiny plot in Graacher Himmelreich. It's surprisingly fat (in the context of the vintage), pungent with deep fruit. Bizarrely, the acidity feels sort of tapered and lean. In June in NYC, the wine showed more soil and mineral nuance and I liked it even more.
2008 Juffer Kabinett
Great; just classic Mosel Kabinett. An awesomely expressive nose of soil, mineral. On the palate, there is green apple, pear and peach, great detail of slate and beautiful acidity that almost feels sweet...great concentration and though it is rich with a creamy feel, it retains an awesome focus. This is really, really nice juice bordering on damn fine. One to stock up on and suck down over the next few years.
2008 Juffer-Sonnenuhr Spatlese Erste Lage
Smells more perfumed and tastes sweeter than the Niederberg Helden. If it is a bit leaner and more gossamer on the palate, it also doesn't quite feel as cut as the Niederberg Helden. If this is a skinny little model, there's a bit of baby fat to round it out whereas the Niederberg Helden is a muscle man; big though absolutely ripped. The fruit profile here is a bit more exotic, washing into melon and even unripe pineapple and a beautiful florality. A lovely wine.
2008 Niederberg Helden Spatlese Erste Lage
This is staining, with big fruit. As broad as this wine is, it has tremendous definition and again, a just stunning array of stone, mineral and slate across the palate. 2008 is about transparency in the Mosel. There is a tremendous herbal complexity, a dusting of fresh spring greens across the citrus and a great hammer of acidity. Good stuff. For me, not as elegant as the BJ but I liked its rawness and if you are a rock-head, go long.
In 2008 Thomas Haag has made Auslesen and GKA from both the BJS and the Niederberg Helden, but I'll wait to taste them again before writing anything as I don't think they were quite ready to be tasted when I was there. Needless to say they have tremendous energy and acidity and botrytis is not prevalent. I believe the BJS GKA was harvested at 106 Oe with 120 RS and 8 grams acidity. Yowzer.
Middle Mosel - Willi Schaefer
If Fritz Haag and Schloss Lieser made really lovely wines, Willi Schaefer seems to have edged them out in 2008. (Sorry Schloss Lieser, you know I love you.) Stefan Steinmetz made *awesome* wines, the best of his young career, but they too are just not at this level yet. In 2008 there are only a handful of estates that somehow turned the nerve of 2008 into something riveting, positive, even downright glorious - Willi Schaefer is one.
Make no mistake: This is an awesome, stupid-good collection.
Willi Schaefer and his son Christoph are just benign, smiling beings who walk lightly, speak softly and are completely and totally unpretentious. They just happen to be two of the most gifted winemakers out there and for the tidiness that my brain prefers, I'd love to figure out what their "sweet spot' is. Just recollecting the last four years is sort of freaky. The 2005s, a monumentally-sized vintage, were great at Schaefer. 2006 was a difficult, opulent, botrytis-riddled vintage and they made one of the most luxuriously beautiful collections out there. I drank so much 2006 Kabinett I'm almost embarrassed (I guard my last two bottles closely). 2007, such a different vintage, again epic. And now, a cutting, razor-blade of a vintage and they've juggled it easily, with grace and incredible intensity. These guys just can't NOT make great wine.
The 2008s are simply amazing. Someone, somewhere, is thinking to themselves: "Are they better than the 2007s?" I don't know. Let's just say I think the 2008s are just as good as the 2007s and that is saying a whole hell of a lot.
For those of you who get confused, bewildered and upset at your inability to remember the different Fuder numbers for all of the Schaefer's various potions year in and year out (and I'd include myself in this camp), go ahead and exhale because if there's one good thing about 2008, it's the simplicity. At Weingut Willi Schaefer while there will be Kabinetts from their three sites (Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich and Domprobst), after that *everything* is from Domprobst. There are three Spatlesen (one will be an Auction wine) and only two Auslesen (again, one will most likely to go Auction). Now even I can remember that. Here we go...
2008 Riesling Estate
I drank a boatload of the 2007 Estate after missing it in 2006, so it's nice they were able to make some again in 2008. The 2008 is sourced mostly from Himmelreich and highlights the beautiful purity and "freshness" of 2008. Salty and floral on the nose - almost a grassiness - with a vibrant mouth-watering palate of green apple and wet slate. Such a beautiful, delicate palate, a lightness that has great pep and verve and if this bottle is on the simpler side, it's just perfectly proportioned and drinks well above it's QbA category, as is normally the case with the Schaefer Estate. This is one of the great secrets of the wine world, and in 2008 it is a bottle that's just too fun to drink; stock up.
2008 Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett
To my palate, not a tremendous step up from the Estate, which maybe makes some sense as the Estate was sourced mostly from the Himmelreich site, so there you go. I'd add that this isn't a bad thing in the least, because the Estate is damn fine and so is this Kabinett.
2008 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett
Very lean and airy like the Himmelreich, yet with a shade more presence and heft and with a bit more exotic fruit with a succulent apple and orange quality that is so immediate it's almost scary. Slinky, elegant and lean and so incredibly fine on the palate that even without the details, the wine is just texturally a lot of fun. A needle-nosed acidity delicately crackles on the backend providing a great energy and crispness. I have a soft spot for the Schaefer's Wehlener Sonnenuhr; the 2007 Kabinett has evolved into a just beautiful bottle, with intensity buoyed up by such a fine acidity. My guess is the 2008 will only get better so if you can find some, buy it.
2008 Graacher Domprobst Kabinett
As good as the other Kabinetts are - and they are good - to my palate, this is where the SERIOUS magic of the collection begins in 2008. This is an astonishing Kabinett and if there's a contender for the 100-point Kabinett, this is one. Monumental? No. But just an exquisitely beautiful nose of flowers and an incredible depth of fruit that is both complex and explosive on the palate. Apple, ripe oranges with a fine dusting of peach. This is featherweight, yet holds the concentration of a wine twice its size, almost staining though it walks across the palate with incredible delicacy. Amazing juice. I'll say that again: Amazing juice.
2008 Graacher Domprobst Spatlese #10
A lovely, lovely, lovely nose of peaches with shavings of pear and green apple, beautiful balanced between the tart and the sweet. This is that little, hat-tipping gesture of perfection that just puts this collection over the top. Again, the thimble-sized proportions of the wine totally belie the coating density and intensity of the fruit and minerals on the palate. Great polished acidity with zip and grip. Like one of those tiny clown cars; so petite yet when the doors open 40 clowns get out with luggage to boot. Amazing.
2008 Graacher Domprobst Spatlese #5
This was harvested at a slightly higher Oechsle level and it does show more heft and texture on the palate, though either my bottle was showing a bit closed or this wine is just a bit more of a brooder. There is citrus, perhaps even monumental citrus, buried deep within this wine though for the moment these notes are more a rumble in the distance and more immediate are the salty, herbal, garden-fresh notes. If this is the richer of the two Spatlese, have no doubt the acidity whips it into flawless shape and this is another great Spatlese that will require more time and as things go, probably prove to be a shade better. But who knows.
2008 Graacher Domprobst Spatlese #6
This will go to the Auction and it wasn't poured for me and I remain bitter and angry about this. That said, I made the off-hand remark at the tasting that I love half-bottles and as the Schaefer's weren't going to be bottling till the Friday after my visit, they agreed to bottle 10 cases of the Domprobst Kabinett in half-bottles just for us, so that's cool. I try to allay my feelings of abandonment, shame and despair at missing the Auction Spatlese by considering this incredibly kind and generous act by Willi and Christoph. So there you go. I hear it's awesome and I want some.
2008 Graacher Domprobst Auslese #8
Another magical bottling from this magical collection. A dizzying nose of green apple, stone fruit and even citrus giving the bottle just a freakish complexity though everything is harmonious, sound. A sheened little core of acidity runs through the wine, giving it great definition and lift. On the leaner side, as the vintage dictated, but just amazing.
2008 Graacher Domprobst Auslese #11
Another wine going to Auction. I didn't taste it so I don't want to talk about it. Insert whining sound here.
Middle Mosel - Rheinhold Haart
I was about a half-hour late to this appointment and I have to admit to feeling a bit rushed and sort of whacked out...I can't remember exactly why. A full day under the bright Mosel sun imbibing lots of Riesling? (I got sunburned at lunch with Thomas Haag, and that always makes me feel weird and hot.) Maybe it was the traffic coming from Graach? Who knows.
Add to that the fact that when I arrived, the 2008 collection at Haart wasn't even really assembled, let alone bottled. I don't believe anything I tasted was the "final blend," not even the Piesporter Kabinett and all the Spatlesen I tasted were individual parcels. Even at the more recent Wiest tasting in New York, none of the 2008s were presented. These wines need time. So because of all these factors, Iill wait to write much about the 2008 collection. If I had to sum up what I tasted though, in a few words, it'd be something like: Taut, powerful, coiled-up, long, cut. The wines are dense, as Haart's wines most often are, with good concentrations and dizzying and mean acidities - which I like. If the 2006s were a bit too much for me, I thought the 2007s were just FANTASTIC at Haart and I expect the 2008s will be very, very, very good to possibly great. No one spins the decadent, Baroque-ness of Goldtropchen into something finer, or more elegant than Haart. I can't wait to revisit.
Middle Mosel - A.J. Adam
Cross the famous bridge in Piesport coming from the direction of Haart, hang a right, drive up the Mosel about 5 minutes, hang a left and there you are in the village of Dhron. A.J. Adam's house looks kind of suburban in a strange way - though in that simpler, more straightforward architecture that the Germans prefer. I don't know why, but it didn't seem like a winemaker's pad to me. Well, I'll go ahead and work on redefining this concept because the 2008 vintage here is genius, another one of the few collections that spun 2008 into something absolutely, undeniably magical. I believe this collection is, along with the 2008 Schaefers, among the best I tasted in the Mosel and in Germany as a whole.
This was my first visit to A.J. Adam and I have to admit I was way curious to meet this guy. AJ is young and he's sort of come out of nowhere and all of a sudden, to my palate, he's making some of the greatest Mosel Rieslings out there. The 2005s were very, very good; the 2006s too opulent for me but undeniably good. The 2007s are nothing short of AWESOME. Unless you're an American Mosel Riesling buff, you've probably never even heard of the village of Dhron or of its grand site - the Hofberg.
Well, it's time to pull out the map and revisit because this kid is going to be a star. I just can't fathom how he won't become a star, unless he pulls some sort of Prince Ludovisi, goes nuts and rips out all his vines and hides in the cellar, harboring all the wine he's made for some unfathomable reason. If the wines get out there, they make a *serious* impression.
As exceptional as this estate is, the story here is all too common. AJ's grandfather was a winemaker, though he quit in his 80s and AJ's father wasn't interested in making wine. So the lineage ended...or rather, it skipped a generation. In 2000 AJ began again as it were, with one single hectare. He now has just over two hectares and is looking to double his acreage in the next few years. If this goes as expected, he'll have about four hectares and this is the number he wants to stop at.
If these statistics haven't quite sunk in, please note again that he is currently farming only 2 hectares. That means, if he doubles in size, he'll be as big as the famously small Willi Schaefer estate.
Great things come in small hectares?
The village of Dhron rests a bit inland from the Mosel, and therefore the Dhroner Hofberg does not sit on the Mosel either, or benefit directly from the effects of the river. The world's changing though, and if the grand old vineyards along the Mosel needed the river for its ability to even temperatures, to reflect light, etc, this dependence is lessening and faltering as we enter the age of global warming. The wines that the Hofberg is producing, at least under AJ's watch, are inspiring and the site in general is impressive, meandering as it does into a side valley with gracious curves, steep slate-filled parcels and a babbling brook in the valley. Adam has a sort of uncanny confidence and like Tim Frohlich, whatever he says just has a sort of unquestionable stamp of authority. It doesn't hurt that he seems to be rarely wrong. It takes some cojones to plant your flag in a vineyard no one's really heard of, and to insist on its greatness. But greatness is what he's getting and I tend to agree with Terry Theise that his wines have all the presence and might needed to bring this sleepy little village WAY back into the Mosel spotlight.
The style at Adam is similar to Haart and to Piesport in general; they are full Middle Mosel Rieslings with density balanced by forceful acidities. That said, Adam's wines are less Baroque, less round and polished. There is something more serious about Adam's wines; they are more stern, more cut with incredibly purity of fruit, just a shocking minerality and a clarity that is flawless and awe-inspiring. The best of the wines, in both 2007 and even more so in 2008, have a maniacal electricity to them, a live-wire of lime and citrus that just rips through their core. While they can be forceful, for lack of anything smarter to say, they are just exquisitely beautiful.
2008 Dhroner Riesling (Feinherb?)
Sourced from 25-year-old vines planted at a density of 8,000 vines per hectare; yields are around 55 hectoliters per hectare. That's pretty serious for a "basic" Riesling and the wine shows it. Apple skins, herbs and soil notes - a slight funk from wild yeasts, though beautifully integrated by notes of slate and rock. With perfect balance this is totally lip-smacking juice with guts and heft. If there's anything bad to say about this wine it's that it's maybe too serious to be just a crisp little summer sipper. Maybe put on some Beethoven while you sit on the patio and drink this; or read some James Joyce or something suitably unintelligible. Just to balance out the cosmic seriousness, you know?
2008 Dhroner Hofberg "Grand Cru"
This is a QbA wine, though again with serious seriousness. (You got that?) Sourced from vines 50-60 years old, the wine was raised only in old wood. It was harvested at 91 Oe with 15 RS and shows great fruit through the midpalate, serious peach, peach skins, green apple and stone fruit, though the wine finishes with a crackle. Kick ass.
2008 Dhroner Hofberg "GG"
The "GG" here alludes to the "Grosses Gewachs," the great dry wines that can only be labeled as such by the VDP members. Adam is not a VDP member so he can't call the wines "Grosses Gewachs," even though the site does qualify as a "Grosses Gewachs" site. Who cares, this is all politics and regulations that don't mean much with respect to the quality in the bottle. Just know this is the top dry Riesling from Adam. In 2008 it was harvested at 96 Oe with absurd yields of 35 hectoliters per hectare. He uses a basket press for all this juice, ferments with wild yeasts and everything is done in old wooden barrels. The VDP demands that all members wait until September to release their GGs, believing they need time to mature. Adam will hold his wine - though no one his making him - till July when it will be released.
2007 Dhroner Hofberg "GG"
I wanted to taste last year's version and AJ was cool enough to break out a bottle for me. It's a stunning bottle of wine with just massive density and depth. Next to the 2008s, the 2007 feels damn exotic and pungent, with a ripe nose of lime skin, lime oil, mandarin, tangerine, orange and citrus skin blanketing the palate, studded with rocks, slate, spice and salt. The wine is just incredibly perfumed and though the midpalate almost shows a sweetness, ripe extracts playing tricks on the brain, the acidity on the back end is disciplined and severe, providing a balance this is great, if not tumultuous. Great, but not for the faint of heart.
2008 Dhroner Hofberg Kabinett
And on we move to the Pradikat wines, which for me, are the sweet spot here. The GG is an immense bottle and something to reckon with, but the fruity wines are just about perfect. They trade a bit of the force and abruptness of the dries for...well, er...perfectness. The 2008 is a mineral-and-terroir freak's dream - it smells like spring water and rocks with an extra helping of rocks. A light dusting of lemon pith and green apple with peach give the palate some fruit to think about and the wine just falls perfectly across the palate in a microscopic lightning storm of fruit, mineral and acidity. Incredible detail and nuance of fruit. Great.
2008 Dhroner Hofberg Spatlese
A big step up from the Kabinett in its fruit profile, in the wine's evident ripeness; 20% botrytis gives this wine an opulent depth - ripe pear and melon though also deep base notes of guava and kiwi all accentuated by honey and a gorgeous florality and rich spice, like saffron. As opulent as this feels in the context of the lineup and the vintage, it is still incredibly nimble with a shit-ton of wet slate through the palate and an acidity damn near 9 grams a liter, keeping this wine's voltage righteous. Way, way good.
2008 Dhroner Hofberg Auslese
Very simply, one of the best Auslesen I had while in Germany and in all honesty, I cannot conceive why this is not being imported by Terry Theise. Though it should be said I was so moved I requested as much as I could for the store, without (hopefully) being a selfish oaf. For you statisticians, this wine was harvested at 110 Oe with 130 RS countered by 9.5 grams of acidity per liter. That, ladies in gentlemen, is what you call Mosel tension. Aristocrats in the audience feel free to say "nervosite" with that little lift on the "e." In a vintage where most people couldn't coax a little bit of botrytis to flesh out their GKAs, Adam somehow lathers 80% botrytis - a shimmering, golden and pure botrytis I should add. The juice here is all basket pressed and it is just electric, crackling across the palate with intense lime oils, citrus fruit, mandarin orange and studded with rock candy and spice. Just magnificent transparency and for all the wine's glossy fruit, tones of soil and slate are beautifully present. Just psychotic density, so compact with a frightening power. My note ends very simply: "Best Aus of the trip so far."
Lower Mosel - Stein
"Dr. Ulrich Stein is infamous for such lost causes as serious Pinot and Cabernet on the Lower Mosel; the reclamation of abandoned, frighteningly steep sites and battling the entrenched 1971 German Wine Law. It seems, though, that he is more a David than a Don Quixote, because he has won them all: His reds routinely stump the stars in blind tastings; he has almost single-handedly rescued some of the Terrassenmosel's potentially greatest acreage and last year he argued and won his case before the EU court against Germany's prohibition of 'vin de paille' (Strohwein)." David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate
That Stein remains largely unknown in the U.S. shocks and disheartens me, yet at the same time I feel like it can't help but be this way. Ulli Stein is too content and peaceful a person, too soulful a person, too incredibly nice a person, too wickedly intelligent a person to really get very caught up in the day-to-day marketing of his wine. In a way, and I know this can't help but sound cheeky, he is too good for it. He can't sell his wine because it is too deeply a part of himself. His wines are less "his life's work," and more simply an expression of his life.
At Stein "winemaking" is really an interaction with a greater community and greatness lies not in the score you're awarded by the traveling experts, but by the way in which you function and conduct yourself in the world as you go about making your wine. For this reason, if I was only allowed to drink one wine from Germany, it would be a Riesling from Ulli Stein, from his Palmberg-Terrassen vineyard. Not because it is the best Riesling from Germany, but because this vineyard, this winemaker, are the best that Germany could ever offer. Do you understand?
2008 Blauschiefer Trocken
A fine wine, simple with cutting fruits and an acidity that is damn crispy. Refreshing and simple and not trying to be much more. "Slam it down," as one German importer I know likes to say.
2008 Blauschiefer Feinherb
Very good fruit though showing in a strange place. Will come around for sure, and though it has a nice presentation of fruit I probably prefer the sharpness of the Trocken.
2008 St. Aldegunder Himmelreich Kabinett Trocken
If you like Mosel Kabinett Trockens you'll like this, though it should be said that the Mosel Kabinett Trocken is a stern genre of wine, with acidities that simply spank your palate. ("You've been a bad palate, a very bad palate!") This is tense with a cutting green apple fruit that is formidable and a staining and lean zippy profile.
2008 Alfter Holle Riesling Trocken**
Ulli's home overlooks this site and it has generous soils and very rarely has water problems, so the wines tend to be a bit more luscious. Though you have to dial everything back given the cut of the vintage, still, this wine does show a riper fruit, the apple turning to pear and even melon and some slightly underripe mango. Perfumed, graceful across the palate with good acidity. Very nice.
2008 Bremmer Calmont Riesling Trocken**
This is one of the most dramatic, inspiring and severe sites in the world, with inclines of nearly 70%. This is also one of the sites that Ulli is doing everything he can to save, because working this vineyard it incredibly expensive, hard and dangerous and there aren't that many people who are willing to do it. I loved the 2005 Trocken version of this wine - it was one of the first Stein wines I ever had. The 2008, at least at this point, is creamy and wasn't showing particularly well.
2008 Domwein QbA Trocken
This is actually a rocking little bottle of wine and showcases the real charm a QbA can show. This is where the Stein 2008 portfolio gets *very* serious. This is a slamming bottle of wine with a great, airy perfume. Defined notes of apricot, mandarin orange with a very detailed minerality that is awash both in the nose and across the palate. The palate has a ripe green fruit quality, with lime blending in to more tropical notes of kiwi and guava. Glossy, extremely elegant and linear with a great, energy and acidity. This is damn fine juice and another 2008 to seek out and stock up on.
2008 St. Adegunder Palmberg-Terrassen Spatlese Trocken
A rich unctuous nose, especially given the context of the collection and the context of Stein's wines. Great, pungent apricot, marmalade, orange, peach and slate on the nose edged by a delicate pine-needle resin and forest-floor notes, not unlike an earthy Ruwer Riesling. On the palate the wine has an uncommon richness that is very dense and compact, even powerful. This wine harbors a very serious power and great delineation and as young and taut as this wine is, it's fun to drink now but will show its real fireworks in a few years. A great 2008 and probably my favorite wine of this collection.
Nahe - Schafer-Frohlich
Let's cut to the chase: Schafer-Frohlich's 2008s are near-perfect. This would be the one estate where I'd be inclined to say the 2008s are better than the 2007s - and the 2007s are incredible. They are wicked sharp, with a stinging detail of mineral and acid, with a transparency that is frightening. These are the most thrilling aspects of this classic vintage. What Schafer-Frohlich, however, achieved in 2008 that almost no one else achieved, is a monumental depth and concentration of fruit, certainly different from 2007, but more in type and not degree.
Tim too seems to think this is perhaps his greatest vintage and while I was blown away by the wines when I visited the estate in April, I was happy to have a few colleagues and friends taste the wines recently in New York at the Wiest tasting and have a similarly strong reaction.
I have no doubt these are among the absolute best wines from 2008 in Germany. While I have always personally preferred the style of Schafer-Frahlich's wines to those of Donnhoff, still, I can't help but believe in 2008 there is a noticeable quality difference - and I would have not said that in 2007 where I think both created just superb wines. Different, for sure, but of a similar quality. In 2008 I believe Schafer-Frohlich has significantly edged out Donnhoff.
But to the wines...
2008 Estate Trocken
The quality starts at the very first wine here; even the estate has an uncommon richness and even a fatness to it. This depth and heft though has a sort of raucous snap to it, green apple fruit studded with rock and salt.
2008 Schlossbockelheimer Trocken
So the majority of the visit was conducted in German, so I might be goofing some of his explanations, but the dry wines in 2008 are assorted on a hierarchy that goes from Estate, to "village" to "vineyard" and then finally the "Grand Cru" or Grosses Gewachs (GG). So in this hierarchy, this represents one of the two "village-level" dry Rieslings I tasted, along with the Bockenauer next. The fruit is sourced entirely from the Felsenberg vineyard - but again, it is only called "Schlossbockelheimer" as a way of suggesting a quality and/or specificity level. It is pure, with great fruit and the lemon-green apple profile so characteristic of 2008 gains complexity here, with citrus oils and spices. It has good force on the palate and good structure. A very good wine which I think suffers only because of the extreme quality surrounding it.
2008 Bockenauer Trocken
Bockenau is where the Frohlich's live - it's where the estate is located, along with their favorite vineyard, the Felseneck. Again this village-level wine is actually a single-vineyard: It is sourced entirely from the Felseneck site, but presumably from the least optimal parcels and youngest vines. It presents a considerable step up in elegance, in finesse. The nose is also much more expressive, with a complex detailing of slate on the palate and a creaminess that makes it also feel more substantial, more staining. No lack of mineral or acidity; a great wine.
2008 Monziger Fruhlingsplatzchen Trocken
The first of the "vineyard" wines I tasted, all of which can be considered "Spatlese Trocken" - harvested as they were all around 95 Oe. While Tim has for many years made a GG from Monziger's Halenberg site, I had never tasted a Fruhlingsplatzchen from him and was psyched to do so - as it's one of my favorite sites in the Nahe. Emrich-Schonleber's bottlings from the site are some of my favorite dry Rieslings out there, though maybe I just like its long goofy name and its sort of wonderful meaning: "Little piece of spring!" Tim makes only 2000 liters of this wine. It has that mineral core that for me is Fruhlingsplatzchen. If Halenberg is the more famous vineyard, the more complete wine, still, I can't help but love the fine, detailed mineral simplicity of this wine. The 2008 smells like mineral water, with faint dustings of lemon and peach. It is just super-fine in the mouth with a staining intensity that is sort of surprising. Great stuff.
2008 Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Trocken
If the Felsenberg GG is the Grand Cru, think of this as the 1er version from the same vineyard? This shows all the exotic fleshiness that can so often be Felsenberg - and the 2008 is damn near showy, especially in the context of the vintage. The fruit is sweet and perfumed, ripe apples, peach and apricot. It has tremendous stuffing and very good purity; one of the richer wines of the lineup - softer and rounder than most of Frohlich's wines, though again this is meant gingerly and to be taken in the context of the vintage. None of these wines is anything less than quite angular. Still, I can't help but feel like the Felsenberg is one of the more undistinguished of the great sites of the Nahe, except the sub-parcel "Felsturmchen" bottling by Donnhoff, which counters the belly-fat of the vintage with a fighter jet acidity. But I digress.
2008 Bockenauer Felseneck Trocken
An animal of a wine; wild, raucous. Great complexity of fruit, green apple, lemon, peach and a whole melange of stone fruits - serious extract. Tim told me the yields, even for just this wine, were at a maximum, about 40 hectoliters per hectare! As great as the depth of fruit is (again, a signature of the 2008 Schafer-Frohlichs) this is so meaty and salty - with such a wickedly complex expression of earth and soil and funk. Pure, pounding acids that just clamp down on the back end. Awesome.
2008 Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg GG
The big four. All spectacular monuments of German wine. Harvested at 100 Oe with maximum yields of 23-30 hectoliters per hectare. If I hold a lower opinion of Felsenberg, this wine could be enough to make me reconsider. The wine has incredible concentration, a big, bulging midpalate of clearly layered fruit - peach, apricot, orange and even lime - though it is needle-fine on the palate and one of the most convincing, defined and elegant Felsenberg I've ever had. The aromatics here are just explosive and fresh, dappled with minerality and flowers. The midpalate also has interesting metallic notes woven in to the wine perfectly, adding complexity. A just awesome wine, even though it's not the best of the GGs.
2008 Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube GG
Another one of those crazy sites in the Nahe I love. The Kupfergrube is the biggest of the 08 GGs at Schafer-Frohlich. A dark, rich profile of deep fruit, ripe peach, dark notes of melon and orange skins, soil tones, dappled minerals and steel. A bruiser whose heft will most likely need a bit of time to really express itself but has the potential to be just a glorious dry Riesling.
2008 Monziger Halenberg GG
A very expressive and complete nose that if not as deep and dark as the Kupfergrube, has a similar fullness to it. The fruit here is ripe though with just great clarity and detail - peaches and melon, delicate bitter nuances, earth and even a light dusting of tobacco in the mix. Again, this massive concentration though the palate itself is a bit more muscular, more finessed and energetic on the palate than the Kupfergrube. Just about perfectly proportioned.
2008 Bockenauer Felseneck GG
A wild and sponty nose with mind-boggling complexity. I think this is without a doubt the greatest of the GGs - but that said I think it is also the most difficult to comprehend, especially when young. It is like the Halenberg just beautifully complete - yet is has more tension, a denser muscle to it paired with more force, more raw power and thundering potential. It has just about everything, a freak-show melange of fruit, from green apply, oily apple skins, peach, apricot, stone fruits orange and lime zest - incredibly clarity and precision here. It is just explosive on the palate, absolutely staining and if anything its power, especially at this young age, is unnerving. Still, there is no wine in 2008 I've tasted with such power AND focus. An absolutely great wine and without a doubt one of the top dries of the vintage.
2008 Bockenauer Felseneck Halb-Trocken
A jamming little wine, again for me the logic of the halb-trocken shines with the oh-so-natural balances they pull off with ease. As you'd maybe expect by this point, this wine is very serious, a great soaring nose of flowers, lemons, green apple skins and a slate and steal combo playing out across the midpalate. Very impressive concentration for the general lightness of the wine. Very good.
2008 Bockenauer Kabinett
I tasted this quite early in its development and it was still showing considerable yeast - creamy tart notes that at the moment overwhelmed the fruit. The palate has considerable energy, a little whiplash of acidity and Tim told me he stopped the wine with an extra 5 grams of sugar as compared to 2007 just to deal with the significant acid of this wine. Tasted the "Estate" Kabinett in New York in June and while I'm fairly sure this wine was sourced entirely from Bockenauer, I'm not sure the two are the same wines. In any event, the bottling tasted in New York had developed nicely, with a lazer-like palate, awesome minerals and a wildness that was somehow volcanic. Great acids.
2008 Bockenauer Felseneck Spatlese
This is year in and year out, one of Germany's best Spatlesen and it will be a great wine in 2008, if a bit more serious and intellectual than the 2007. Harvested at around 96-97 Oechlse, another monster wine for 2008, yet with all the electricity of this vintage. This wine definitely shows some funk - "sponty" as the Germans say - on the nose, though this does blow off after the bottle is opened and it will incorporate with time. It is surprisingly rich and creamy on the palate with a nose that is meaty and salty and mineral more than it is fruity. This is as about as transparent as wine can get - if it were any more so you'd just be spooning rocks and dirt into your mouth. I don't think it's as complete as the 2007, yet for you rock heads this will prove to be one of the most challenging and compelling wines of the vintage, without a doubt. Eager to follow this as it develops.
2008 Bockenauer Felseneck Spatlese GK
This wine had finished fermenting 3 days before I tasted it. In fact, I was the first non-Frohlich to taste the wine. Tasting wine this young and this raw is not something I'm terribly accustomed to, and this wine was overwhelmingly lemon and cream - tart. Way too young to know but based on my experiences with the 2006 and 2007 I have VERY high hopes. If it turns out to be as ruthless and rocky as the Spatlese, could be a masterpiece. We'll see.
2008 Bockenauer Felseneck Auslese
If Tim Frohlich has a weak spot, for me it is at this category. His Auslesen are very good, no doubt, but they just don't have the purity, the ruthless exposure of rock and mineral, the angry, sinewy cut of his dry wines. They tend to be riper and creamier, as if all the fat he's able to cut off the dry wines and the Spatlesen end up here. That said, the 08 is one of my favorites thus far; a super-ripe profile, ripe melons and even mango dappled with fresher more delineated stone fruits, great clarity and in 08 it is less billowy and considerably more precise. It also has a damn riveting length to it with howling acids that bark up at the end and linger for quite a while. Compelling.
Nahe - Donnhoff
Helmut Donnhoff is probably the most respected producer in the Nahe and a figure that nearly every German wine lover admires and in some way worships - as they should. As stated, I am not a card-carrying devotee of Donnhoff's wines, though there is just no denying that when he is on, these are some of the most polished, stylish, beautifully proportioned and simply breathtaking Riesling on the face of god's great earth.
I think the 2007s were just amazing, nearly across the board, and when I look at my Cellar Tracker I'm sort of shocked and embarrassed by how much I bought. But I'm not worried, they're great. Though 2006 was trickier there are some glorious bottlings of just uncommon luxury. For 2008 the range is again excellent, though I have to say I don't think they are at the peak levels of 2007. They are very good, they are pure and have great energy, but they are just not as complete as they have been in previous years. In my opinion it is a very good, but not a great, vintage for Donnhoff.
2008 Estate Trocken
This is all sourced from the Felsenberg and it does have great class to it - a seriousness above it's entry-level position. It has very good purity, simple fruit though well integrated and proportioned. Good fine minerality and a nice lean framework. A good dry Riesling no doubt.
This is essentially the Leistenberg Kabinett Trocken - "Tonschiefer" means gray slate in German and speaks to the soils of the site. Another very nice bottling and it does show a bit of that "perfect elegance" that I find in Donnhoff's wines. Really floral, a fresh detailed nose of fruit and mineral. The fruit is brisk, lemon pith and apple skin, but it is finessed and impressive elegance.
2008 Felsenberg Trocken
This is basically the GG - Donnhoff has declassified it in 2008 and calls it just plain old Trocken. He says this is simply because he needs a single-vineyard dry Riesling. If this is a strategic move in these tightly budgeted times, all the better for us. I haven't seen pricing for this wine, but if it's significantly below the price of the GGs this could prove to be one of the crazy values of the vintage because to me this drinks superbly. I don't know, I don't usually like the wines from the Felsenberg that much, though maybe 2008 is its vintage? Somehow the opulence and fat that the wines can't control is restrained in 2008? Whatever it is, this wine has just a stunning movement and grace on the palate. I liked this bottling a lot - a beautiful perfumed fruit with an exceedingly elegant nose if that makes any sense. Good power and concentration on the palate, but again, its shows great restraint, proportion and elegance. This was just a beautiful wine and maybe winemakers do this all the time, but after I sniffed and sipped this wine I put it down and gave Donnhoff a smile, acknowledging the quality of the bottle. He smiled back and said too he *really* liked this bottle in 2008. Maybe he was just playing me, but I think this is a wine to watch in 2008 for Donnhoff.
2008 Dellchen GG
A joyful, bouncy wine - a veritable cornucopia of peach, pear, orange, tangelo and even dusting of lime. The 08 Dellchen is very expressive, richly perfumed and very fruity on the palate. While I think it suffers a bit from integration and elegance, it's definitely a fun bottle to drink with good depth and power.
2008 Hermannshohle GG
This wine was showing tense and closed; extreme minerals. It is currently brooding and seriously structured, though the natural strengths of the Nahe shine here in 2008 because this wine has significant concentration and depth. It feels rich and creamy on the palate and you just can't miss the grace of the Hermannshohle, even this young. This wine has a big future ahead of it and while I doubt it will ever be as good as the 2007, it's still an awesome bottle of dry Riesling.
Creamy yet with good intensity and nerve; pear and melon with a fine mineral mid-palate. Very pretty and a solid sipper.
2008 Krotenpfuhl Kabinett
One of only two Kabinetts Donnhoff has made in 2008. A fun, peppy nose of grapefruit, tart green apple and some darker notes of raspberry - feels even sort of spicy. The Krotenpfuhl always shows a goofy soil expression and it's here again. While it's in fine balance, the acidity doesn't quite feel as sharp as it could be.
2008 Leistenberg Kabinett
A significant step up from the Krotenpfuhl; comes off as extremely slinky and elegant next to the Krotenpfuhl. This is a more serious bottling and was showing more closed, as you'd expect. Still, very nice concentration with that hallmark spectrum of creamy stone fruit that Donnhoff does so well. Very, very elegant with great acidity and I think this wine has a big potential. When this begins to open up, for you classicists this might very well prove to be one of the sharpest and most compelling Nahe Kabinetts in 2008.
2008 Kupfergrube Spatlese
Donnhoff and Schafer-Frohlich share a parcel of the Kupfergrube that has as its backdrop, a massive wall of rocks. These rocks of course reflect the light but they also hold the warmth and so the wines often have considerable size and heft. As with the Schafer-Frohlich Kupfergrube, this is a massive and deep wine. It is big and fleshy with dark ripe fruits, massive complexity and if it loses something for all its depth, it's still a damn impressive Spatlese.
2008 Kirschheck Spatlese
The Kirschheck is always quick to develop and is very approachable at a young age. While it isn'ta vin de garde, I'm not of the opinion that to be a great wine it must develop with age. That's fun and these are the wines that we all want to cellar - but what's wrong with coming out of the gate looking pretty and serving up the treats of the vintage? Nothing, that's what. So make a note - this bottling is usually under-priced and drinks well young. Especially after the Kupfergrube the Kirschheck shows bright and vibrant, with peppy peach and even - yes - some red fruits. While the wine is not terribly elegant, there's something about the energy, verve and life of the wine that is very appealing. I dig it.
2008 Brucke Spatlese
Showing closed but still, you can't mistake the power and muscle of this wine and the concentration here is MASSIVE. In riper vintages this wine is a rich, decadent, Baroque masterpiece - while there's no denying the breadth of this wine, sometimes it's a lot of flesh and flowing gowns for me. It will NOT be this opulent in 2008, but for you purists, this might prove to be one of the more compelling and chiseled Bruckes to come around in a long time. Like the Leistenberg Kabinett, there's a tension here that I find way compelling and if they develop as I think they will, these two bottlings will be a dream for the classicists. In 2008, Brucke might even thrill the rockheads out there? I for one am *very* excited by the prospects of this wine.
2008 Hermannshohle Spatlese
Way clamped down - again - though already showing so, so elegant. Again, this is likely to be a beautiful Hermannshohle.