Curiosity in the Mosel
2009 Steinmetz Geierslay Spätlese Feinherb
Old, Ungrafted Vines Speak of Smoke, Stone and Soil
"Man cannot live on Wehlener Sonnenuhr alone."
For the German wine fan, times are very good.
There is without a doubt a renaissance in German wine appreciation in the U.S. (we've been proud to be a part of this) and this new-found enthusiasm means that the selections available in the U.S. are becoming ever deeper, ever more diverse.
As good as the iconic Wehlener Sonnenuhr is, there is so much more to explore.
So today we present the re-discovery of a small plot of land, a storied vineyard in the beating heart of the Middle Mosel, long overlooked... in spite of old, ungrafted vines, a pastoral valley literally covered with slate.
From a small, 1.2-hectare parcel of the Wintricher Geierslay, Stefan Steinmetz has crafted a Mosel Riesling of a seriously uncommon spirit.
This is a must try for every Riesling explorer, though honestly for any lover of clarity in wine, of nuances of soil, flower and mineral, this is well worth the investment. The bottle is an absolute steal, a ludicrously small expenditure considering the depth and integrity of the Riesling itself.
I first visited the Geierslay with Stefan in the spring of 2009. The vineyard is tucked away, back into a side valley behind the Ohligsberg. The land, the soil, the air in this valley is moist, it all feels somehow greener and lusher than the postcard vineyards that face the Mosel itself.
At one point the Geierslay was topped by a windmill which was used to grind the formidable slate present in the soils. The slate would be broken up into manageable pieces, carried up to the windmill, ground down, and then scattered throughout the site as a sort of mineral-fertilizer.
If this is just an interesting bit of Mosel history, it's relevant here because the wine itself presents an extraordinarily fine display of mineral, a textural feel that seems to speak to this "pulverizing" history. I'd like to write something like, "this is the most mineral Riesling I've had from 2009," but somehow that's not quite right. It's more about the way the wine presents this minerality, or perhaps it's the greater context of the wine, its creamy, floral solitude offering the minerality an uncommon prominence.
Though the wine has gentle, rain drop washes of pear and green apple, mineral and soil is without a doubt at the very heart of this wine, softened as it were by smoke and the airy fragrance of freshly cut flowers. I know this can't help but sound either cheeky or hopelessly clichéd (or both), but the wine presents the feel of the vineyard itself.
The greatest compliment, I think, to the wine's spirit.
Stefan Steinmetz is a very serious guy - a very serious winemaker who has his ear to the soil, his hands in the soil, more than most. He knows the nooks and crannies of this area extraordinarily well, and you can tell he is very proud of his discovery of this parcel in the Geierslay. There's a sense that farming this land is both an honor and a sort of duty.
And rightly so: At one point, Wintrich claimed some of the most expensive vineyards in the Mosel at the end of the 19th century - higher in price, it should be said, than the now-famous villages of Brauneberg, Wehlen or Graach.
However, as many before me have pointed out, the fame of a vineyard is as much tied to the ambitions of those who work the soils, as it is to the inherent quality of the soils themselves... both are needed. And if Wintrich's fame dropped off in the 20th century, the future prospects for Wintrich look very good indeed.
It will be interesting to see what sort of title is appropriate for the email of Steinmetz's 2020 Wintricher Geierslay: "Legends of the Mosel?"
In all honestly, it wouldn't surprise me.
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