Rieslingfeier 2015 Participating Growers

Hofgut Falkenstein
Attending winemaker: Johannes Weber
Country, region: Germany, Mosel (Saar)

The Weber family farms about 8 hectares of mainly old Riesling vines (over 40% ungrafted) in a remote side valley of the Saar. Erich Weber and his wife, Marita, built up the property of the then-dilapidated Falkensteiner Hof (established in 1901) from scratch. In those days, Erich was one of the only organic growers in the region. The winemaking is old school; all the wines are vinified with ambient yeasts in old oak Fuder.

Their top vineyard sites are located on various south-to-southwest-facing hillsides, including the once highly rated Krettnacher Euchariusberg and Niedermenniger Herrenberg. The soil is primarily gray slate, which is typical for the Saar. The father-and-son team of Erich and Johannes Weber believe in low yields (one cane per vine) to produce light-bodied dry, off-dry and nobly sweet wines.

Eva Fricke
Attending winemaker: Eva Fricke
Country, region: Germany, Rheingau 

Eva Fricke does not come from the Rheingau, yet she may be part of the story of how the region saves itself. The Rheingau is perhaps the most famous winemaking region in Germany. However, over the last few decades the great names of centuries past seem to have lost something essential. There seems to be an unspoken philosophy of “good enough” and a complacency that has mired even some of the legends of this region.

Leave it to an upstart from Saxony, a strong-minded winemaker with a few hectares in Kiedrich and Lorch, to try and change this trajectory. After studying widely (in Australia, Bordeaux, the Piedmont, Spain) Eva returned to Germany to focus on the Rheingau. She worked with J.B. Becker and then with Johannes Leitz where she was the vineyard and operations manager. 2006 was the first vintage of her estate – microscopic quantities were produced. Still, she has quickly established a reputation in Germany and abroad with wines that have the textural breadth of Rheingau Rieslings, yet with uncommon rigor, focus, mineral.

Immich-Batterieberg
Attending winemaker: Gernot Kollmann
Country, region: Germany, Mosel

One of Germany’s most erudite young winemakers, Gernot Kollmann has followed impressive turns at Van Volxem and Knebel with his current position, stewarding the once-dormant Immich-Batterieberg to the forefront of Mosel wine. Located in Enkirch, on the lower part of the Mittelmosel, its name and Jugendstil label refer to the Batterieberg or "demolition hill," a steep cliff face of solid slate blasted to rubble by Carl August Immich in the mid-1800s to make it cultivable. The estate’s vineyards are located in Enkirch and the lineup (Batterieberg, Ellergrub, Steffensberg and Zweppwingert) recalls a previous legendary era in German wine, when all four were among the highest-ranked sites in the Clotten's 1897 viticultural tax map for the Prussian government. 

Grapes are hand-picked at extremely low yields and vinified close to dry in a combination of used barriques and stainless steel, utilizing exclusively ambient yeasts and minimal amounts of sulfur. Many of Kollmann's techniques would be familiar to Immich's 19th-century forebears, yet he is moving the estate squarely forward while staying rooted in tradition. The wines are compellingly vibrant and quintessentially terroir-driven.

Karthäuserhof
Attending winemaker: Christian Vogt
Country, region: Germany, Mosel (Ruwer

Winemaking here surely goes back to Roman times, though the “official” founding of the estate was in 1335. Napolean secularized the region in 1811 and the property was auctioned off in Paris. Miraculously, the family that bought the estate over 200 years ago still owns it. This is one of the oldest and most prestigious estates in Germany.

Karthäuserhof is located in the Ruwer Valley; it is one of the smallest winemaking regions in Germany with around 200 hectares under vine. The vocabulary of the Ruwer includes the notes common to Riesling, the stone and citrus fruit, yet these are not the core of the matter. At their heart, Ruwer wines are about the forest. Since vintage 2008, Christian Vogt has been in charge of the winemaking at Karthäuserhof. Christian worked closely with the legendary, retired winemaker Ludwig Breiling for a number of years – indeed Breiling still consults and there have been few significant changes either in vineyard work or cellar management. While the estate is well known for their Prädikat wines, uniquely, Karthäuserhof is equally as famous for its dry Rieslings

Keller
Attending winemakers: Klaus Peter and Julia Keller
Country, region: Germany, Rheinhessen

Founded in the late 18th century, there can be no doubt that winemaker Klaus Peter Keller and his wife, Julia, have brought this family estate to a pinnacle of German winemaking. In the last decade, they have refocused the winery on dry Riesling and have become a critical force in the renaissance of dry Riesling in Germany. Few estates have achieved the level of critical praise or have inspired such a fanatical following (a double-magnum of 2009 G-Max recently auctioned for nearly 4,000 euros, an unprecedented price for a dry German Riesling). Jancis Robinson, writing in the Financial Times, called Keller’s wines the “German Montrachets.” The German wine review Gault Millau has given Keller basically every award out there including "Producer of the Year," "Collection of the Year" and in 2007, "Dry Riesling of the Year.”

Located in the southern Rheinhessen, the home of Liebfraumilch and other ponderous horrors, the Keller’s home village of Flörsheim-Dalsheim is an unlikely hot spot for German winemaking. Yet, in the Middle Ages these were some of the most storied vineyards in Germany; the wines of Morstein, Hubacker, Kirchspiel and the Abtserde (currently considered a subplot of the Brunnenhäuschen) were all reserved for the top church officials, including the Bishop of Worms himself. Keller has almost single-handedly brought these sites back to fame (this time, a fame that far surpasses the clergy in Worms); these are statuesque wines, forceful and dense with a polished fruit yet, above all else, they flaunt their minerality and dance across the palate.

Josef Leitz
Attending winemaker: Johannes Leitz
Country, region: Germany, Rheingau 

Johannes “Josie” Leitz has become one of the more important winemakers in the Rheingau. Once the most celebrated and esteemed of German winemaking regions, the Rheingau has in the late 20th century and early 21st century been dominated by mediocrity. Josie and a new generation of younger growers (see Eva Fricke) are trying to change this.

Josie has grown the estate from just under 3 hectares to around 40 hectares and in so doing has established some of the most popular bottlings in the U.S. While the savvy marketing, with names like “Dragonstone,” “Eins, Zwei, Dry” and “Leitz Out” has helped, the quality in the bottle is undeniable. And while Leitz may be best known for these more popular bottlings, the estate produces a range of single-vineyard Rieslings from celebrated sites such as Berg Schlossberg, Berg Roseneck and Berg Rottland that are among the best being made in the Rheingau.

Egon Müller
Attending winemaker: Egon Müller
Country, region: Germany, Mosel (Saar
)

This is perhaps the most vaunted estate in Germany – as the wine writer John Gilman has put it, this is “the DRC of Germany.”

The history of the estate as we know it today begins in the late 19th century with Egon Müller I – it was he who cemented the reputation of greatness at exhibits such as the 1900 Exhibition Universelle et Internationale in Paris. Egon Müller II ran the estate for only a few years, dying in a tractor accident in the vineyard in 1941. Egon Müller III returned from England as a prisoner of war in 1945 – this was his first harvest and he managed to bring in only 1,200 liters from 7.4 hectares. Egon Müller III died in 2001, though his son Egon Müller IV had been working at the estate since 1985 and has since continued the legacy of greatness. The focus at the estate is Prädikat wines – Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese and (gulp) BAs and TBAs. These are widely considered to be among the greatest white wines in the world, with a combination of intensity, fine-ness and elegance that is simply incomparable.

Selbach-Oster
Attending winemakers: Johannes & Barbara Selbach
Country, region: Germany, Mosel

Johannes Selbach and his wife Barbara, with the increasing help of son Sebastian and daughter Hannah, manage their vineyards and winery with passion and respect for the estate’s traditions. A full 50% of their 21 hectares are on their original rootstocks. Top sites include Zeltinger Himmelreich, Schlossberg and Sonnenuhr as well as Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Graacher Himmelreich and Domprobst. These vineyards of weathered Devonian slate are on a steep, contiguous slope facing south-south west and represent some of the most prestigious sites in all of the Middle Mosel.

The Selbach-Oster’s heritage in the area dates to the 1660’s: Selbach’s ancestors shipped their estate wines along the Mosel in their steamship, the wine carried in oak barrels made by cooper Matthias Oster, the great-grandfather on the paternal side of the family. Thus, the winery developed as both a top estate producing some of the region’s best wine, and also as a négociant and brokerage firm, consolidating the production of smaller growers. Johannes has slowly been reviving the use of traditional oak Fuder in his cellar, bringing in new large casks every few years. Vinification is carried out in a combination of Fuder and stainless steel, and predominantly with wild yeasts.

Van Volxem
Attending winemaker: Roman Niewodniczanski
Country, region: Germany, Mosel (Saar)

Charismatic Roman Niewodniczanski first purchased the celebrated Van Volxem estate in 1999, with an eye toward returning to the era at the turn of the 20h century when German Riesling was valued higher than even the most prized Bordeaux and Burgundy. He’s connected himself directly with that time by studying the period in-depth and purchasing plots in the Saar’s most exceptional sites, all of which were then considered the highest caliber. Roman has a stunning collection of old vines, many still on their own rootstock and some over 100 years old. From these he produces fantastically-textured, subtle wines of terroir, all finishing dry or off-dry as was once typical in the Saar.

Today Van Volxem is comprised of 63 hectares, including choice parcels in the Kanzemer Altenberg, Gottesfuß, Wiltinger Kupp, and the Scharzhofberg. The wines are moderate in alcohol, rich in acidity and structurally dense and complex. Committed to making natural wine in sense of traditional German Naturwein, – i.e., Roman eschews over-manipulation, preferring to let his historic terroirs speak for themselves. These are heady, ethereal wines of contemplation and are among the most unique on the Saar.

Von Winning
Attending Winemaker: Andreas Hütwohl
Country, region: Germany, Pfalz

Von Winning maintains some of the oldest parcels in the Grand Cru sites of Forst, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg. Andreas Huetwöhl and Stefan Attman work in tandem to craft the wines of the estate – every decision is informed by passion for the Pfalz terroir and experiences at estates in the Côte d’Or and abroad. For example, the estate’s newer vines are planted at a very high vine density – 9,500 vines per hectare, as opposed to the more typical less than 5,000. This creates competition amongst the vines, forcing the roots to grow deep, and naturally reducing yields. The vineyards are planted to a single-cane trellising system, prevalent in Burgundy, and Grosses Gewächs wines ferment in 500-liter French barrels.

Von Winning practices organic and sustainable viticulture. The estate’s premium wines are treated with a minimalist approach and with the highest respect in the cellar. Gentle clarification, a natural and spontaneous fermentation and the abandonment of fining agents create wines with a distinctive indigenous and very elegant style. Pumping the juice or wine is never necessary in the gravity-flow winery, allowing for minimal, and gentle vinification.

Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken
Attending winemaker: Hanno Zilliken
Country, region: Germany, Mosel (Saar

Hanno Zilliken is a living legend in the Mosel. Taking over the estate with the baroque, botrytis-inflected 1976 vintage, the wines of Zilliken have epitomized the lightness and elegance of Saar Riesling for well over 30 years. The 1983s are masterpieces of this complex vintage, the 1990s and 1997s remain young and fresh. There are many who feel the 2005 vintage marked Hanno’s crowning achievement; this is a legendary collection.

Yet, the best of Zilliken may still be to come; Hanno’s daughter, Dorothee, has been working with her father since 2007 and is in a great position to continue the estate. Geltz Zilliken has exceptional holdings in the Saarburger Rausch and Ockfener Bockstein and one of the most impressive, deepest and coldest cellars in the Mosel. Few have descended into this multi-level cellar and forgotten the experience. Zilliken is one of the few German winemakers to exclusively use old wooden Fuder in the fermentation and elevage of the wines – the estate has about 80 Fuder in the vaulted cellar. Most famous for their sweet dessert wines, this is an estate that has in recent years begun to show a keen sense of balance with their dry Rieslings.

 

 

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