Wine of the Year #1 - Joe's Pick
2020 Stein Riesling Palmberg Kabinett Trocken

Posted by Joe Salamone


For my wine of the year, I chose to celebrate one of the great marriages of vineyard and winemaker with Ulli Stein's Palmberg Kabinett Trocken.

For over a decade Stein has been a staff favorite. There are few winemakers anywhere as fascinating as Ulli and few whose wines offer such whispering honesty. This is as soulful as German winemaking gets.

Whenever Stein releases a Kabinett Trocken from Palmberg, I get really excited. It's one of my favorite wines from Stein. In 2020, the wine is totally stunning.

photo of the featured wine

For Germany, 2020 is a purists vintage. Kabinetts were a staggering success this year and Stein's Palmberg Kabinett Trocken is easily among the best we've tasted. It reverberates with a crystalline energy.

At its best, Kabinett Trocken is one of the most singular wines on earth - it combines intensity with weightlessness and shocking finesse. As vintages seem to get warmer with each passing year, experiences like this become the true rarities. Stein's style makes him uniquely equipped to make great Kabinett Trockens. They are all about balance, subtlety, and incisive minerality.

In many wine circles, Palmberg 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. They have dedicated themselves to 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.

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 its amplitude matched to the finesse that feels so natural.

You definitely sense this in the 2020 Kabinett Trocken. The wine is animated by an expertly judged precision and harmony. It thrives on a quiet, almost pensive finesse. There's an incredibly fine stony core with a tense, blazingly clear, and nimble structure.

Ulli Stein is one of the most gracious winemakers that I know, but this belies an intense rebellious streak. I've always been happy with David Schildknecht's description of Ulli, a rebel with many causes: "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."

There's no way to adequately capture the importance of Ulli's wines. In a world where striving for greatness seems most important, these wines work on an entirely different and more humble wavelength. When Ulli hits the mark, there's something beautifully and quietly persuasive about the wines. The 2020 Palmberg Kabinett Trocken is an excellent example of this.

To order, email or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
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