Wines of the Year! Begins Today

Posted by CrushWine

Stephen & Joe's Wine of the Year!
2008 Stein Palmberg-Terrassen Spätlese Trocken
Forgotten Terraces - 100-Year-Old Ungrafted Vines

This is one of the most evocative DRY Rieslings from the classic 2008 vintage. Yet, even more, it is a profound expression of the relationship between a vineyard and a winemaking family.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth?

The 2008 Stein Palmberg-Terrassen is likely the greatest Riesling value on earth. (A wine made from 100-year-old ungrafted vines on steep, slate-riddled slopes for ~$25?!)

Extraordinarily, this is a bottle that overwhelms the stereotypes of the vintage.

Where many Rieslings seem to speak with shrill and even dilute voices, Ulli Stein's Palmberg-Terrassen is dense and saturating, muscular, darn-near glossy with extract - apricot, orange, lime zest, razor-sharp citrus, wild green herbs and that pine-needle resin quality you get on great Ruwer Rieslings.

The Palmberg STAINS the palate, it reverberates with minerals, slate and a forceful, refreshing acidity.

This is a dry Riesling with more than enough zing to be your "house white" all year long yet, make no mistake, the seriousness and pedigree here mean this is a bottle we *strongly* believe deserves to be in the cellar of all Riesling collectors.

Extremely pungent and muscular right now, at the moment this is a bottle that shows best on day two (and with a big decant) and will reward cellaring for 5+ years, conservatively.

This is a wine - a vineyard - that has so haunted Joe and me that we wanted more than just words to describe it. Joe first visited the site in early 2008 and came back with stories of the site and of the wine. The Steins have essentially made a study of the forgotten corners of the lower Mosel their life's work, and St. Aldegunder's Palmberg is the closest to their hearts. So we asked Lars Carlberg of the Mosel Wine Merchant and Ulli Stein if they'd film just a bit of this special vineyard - we thank them for indulging us. Click here to watch the video.

As steeped in history as the Mosel is, we understand it's a contentious proposition to take a vineyard, a wine, out of obscurity and bestow on it such a weighty title - wine of the year. But let us suggest another contentious idea: More important than the vineyard, more important than the winemaker, is the relationship between the two.

Put me in charge of Romanée-Conti and I don't care about the "Grand Cru" status - believe me you'd be trading up to Two Buck Chuck. I just don't have the skills to realize the potential of the vineyard. Drop Jacques Seysses in Michigan's northern peninsula and as brilliant as he is, you just can't squeeze blood from a stone.

This is where the Palmberg and the Stein family come in. Spend even the briefest bit of time in the Palmberg with Ulli or his father and you sense it immediately - the love and affection they have for this place. As Lars writes in his excellent post on the site: "After the Second World War, when others ignored its promise, Ulli’s father re-cultivated what had become largely wild terrain. He pruned old vines, planted new ones, repaired drywall terraces, cleared small sections and planted anew, put in fresh wooden stakes, and removed hedges." (Ulli's father, Heinrich, is a skilled gardener, and there is an attention to detail in the vineyard that feels garden-like, including a small terraced "shrine," see photos here.)

While the "great" sites of the Mosel have largely been "renovated" (Flubereinigung is the German word) to make them more accessible for mechanized farming, the Palmberg remains unscathed, with its old terraces and its even older, ungrafted vines. In fact, for the last 50 years, Ulli Stein and his father have been selecting the best vines and replanting them in the vineyard. Their criteria? Vines that produce extraordinarily small berries of great concentration - watch the video for shots of these grapes, it's incredible.

Finally, though of no small importance, climatological changes have benefited the Palmberg. Things have gotten warmer, and the famous historical sites that could ripen grapes 50 years ago, now sometimes ripen the grapes too much. Additionally, vineyards that are drought prone are beginning to suffer more and more in our hot summers. The Palmberg is tucked away, slightly off the Mosel, and with an excellent water source and very old vines - it is well positioned to handle the new climate.

Ulli Stein remains largely unknown in the U.S. and likely, it will remain this way. He simply isn't searching out the limelight. He does not submit his wines to the Gault Millau (Germany's most important wine journal) and largely ignores the requests of critics. For Ulli, greatness lies not in the score you're awarded by the traveling experts, but by the quality of your interactions with a vineyard.

Both Joe and I have a profound respect for Ulli, for his winemaking and his wines. This is something I've spoken about before - I wrote it in my 2008 vintage report, and I stand by it: 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 know what I mean?

Stein farms 1.8 hectacres of the Palmberg. In 2008 this small vineyard produced just two barrels of wine, slightly over 200 cases. Support great, soulful, winemaking. To order, reply to this email or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Stephen Bitterolf
Joe Salamone
Wine Buyers
Crush Wine & Spirits

2008 Stein

Riesling St. Aldegunder Palmberg-Terrassen Spätlese Trocken (Dry)

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