Our House Riesling Value/Obsession: Stein Palmberg-Terrassen

Posted by Joe Salamone

Forgotten Terraces | Old Vines
2011 Stein Palmberg-Terrassen
Spätlese Feinherb

Stein's Palmberg is one of the most cherished bottles in the store; a previous "Wine of the Year" winner, this off-dry Riesling remains one of the PROFOUND values of the Mosel.

It is also a profound expression of the relationship between a vineyard and a winemaking family. Perhaps the critical factor in the depth, the beauty, the magic of this wine is love?

Spend even the briefest bit of time in the vertigo-inspiring and slate-riddled Palmberg-Terrassen with Ulli Stein and you sense it immediately: a deep love for the place.

Palmberg-Terrassen Vineyard

This is an unknown vineyard, a forgotten curiosity even to most Mosel experts, yet the Stein family has spent the last 50+ years tending this vineyard, rebuilding its terraced walls after years of neglect, pruning the old vines with un-grafted roots, not only keeping them alive but in fact allowing them to thrive.

Thus, while many of the famous vineyards of the Mosel have been bulldozed to make access roads for trucks, to make production easier, the Palmberg remains untouched, a forgotten Riesling-garden that is well off the beaten track. It is a magical place - we have been under its charm since I first visited this site nearly five years ago.

Because of its isolation, the Palmbergalso flaunts seriously old, un-grafted vines - we are talking up to 100-years-old and beyond.

In 2011 this Spätlese Feinherb is full of EVERYTHING that has made it so well known and well loved to our audience. This edition is super-juicy, it dances across the palate, saturating, a glaze of lime and apricot and peach, stone fruits fleshed out with a dash of sugar (13 grams for those who like numbers) and kept perfectly in check with a vigorous acidity, a blue-and-red slate wash of minerality that leaves the palate fresh, invigorated. The Palmberg also has a tell-tale herbal quality, a wild flower aromatic that is distinct and enticing.

The Palmberg, though literally awash in slate (both in the vineyard and in the bottle), receives ample water and the framework of the wine tends to be bigger, more muscular. The magic of this wine is the amplitude of the bottle matched to the finesse that feels so natural. And with all this, it also combines an impressive complexity without feeling too burdensome.

The Palmberg is, at the final accounting, a joyful bottle of wine - a Riesling-cocktail that is just so easy to drink.

This quality, as well as the price, makes this our house Riesling. It is just so versatile - absolutely gulpable yet serious enough, pedigreed enough to *strongly* deserve a place in the cellar of all Riesling collectors.

If Ulli Stein remains largely unknown in the U.S., in Germany, in the Mosel, he is something of an icon - a rebel with many causes. As the German wine scholar David Schildknecht has written: "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; nurturing ancient vines with a fertilizer-free, organic regimen and pruning artistry; and battling the entrenched German Wine Law and powers that be."

This is as soulful as German winemaking gets. If this is as important as Germany winemaking gets (the preservation of hard-to-work, steep slate sites), it is also as FUN as German winemaking gets. That's a damn good combination.

Stein farms 1.8 hectacres of the Palmberg; quantities are limited. To order, please email us at offers@crushwineco.com or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits