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Rahsaan

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WTN: Three Days in the Mosel (Vollenweider, Schaefer, Haart, Grunhauser)

by Rahsaan » Mon May 07, 2007 9:27 am

Recently I had the pleasure of my first trip to the Mosel, which was great as I have long enjoyed the wines and been curious to experience the region first hand. I was also lucky that Peter Ruhrberg had plans to be in the region at the same time, and he arranged a dinner at Daniel Vollenweider's house for the first evening. As it was early May we naturally went for white asparagus in hollandaise sauce (what else?), which was perfect for the slew of rieslings.

And, while we had brought our own wines, Daniel had the range of 06s open for us to taste, which was interesting as apparently by some technical measurement the wines are even richer than the 05s, but to my tastes the prevalence of botrytis in 06 muddled the wines in comparison to the clarity and precision found in 05. As such, the 06 Wolfer Goldgrube Kabinett was plenty round and a bit heavy and dull on the palate, although not clumsy in the 03 style, just dull. The 06 Spatlese (labelled just 'spatlese'; and from the westward extension of the WG vineyard) suffered a similar fate as the kabinett, but the 06 Wolfer Goldgrube Spatlese was both richer and more precise than the simple Spatlese, and a much better wine. Even better than that was the Wolfer Goldgrube Spatlese GK which was dense, creamy, and way beyond Spatlese richness, but with the most shining minerality of all the wines that night. Unfortunately for Americans Daniel said that none of the Spatlese GK was scheduled to be imported to the US. Among the Auslese the Portz had the most freshness and drinkability while the Reiler and the Auslese GK were creamy rich concoctions that need further evaluation. The Auslese LGK was the standout of the four, with the best definition and precision to marry with the richness. The BA was fun, but of course hard for me to analyze.

And we were on to other wines as Daniel was eager to taste something besides riesling, so the 2001 Schmitts Kinder Randersackerer Marburg Silvaner Spatlese trocken was offered up for the asparagus and I thought it was quite nice, intense, rich, verdant, spicy, a perfect match for the food and a decent showing for the grape, but that was pretty much a function of my low expectations, because others found it quite disappointing. So, to carry forward the theme of disappointment, Peter offered up the 1996 Muller Catoir Spatburgunder Spatlese trocken that had apparently been glorious on release but recently started to fall apart, and while it was not technically dead, the interesting decaying leaves on the nose were not followed by much on the palate besides bright simple fruit. Finishing the trio was my bottle of 1999 Clos du Mont Olivet Chanteauneuf-du-Pape which was somehow someway off and to be discarded.

But, luckily Daniel was there (in his own home) to save us with first the 1986 Domaine de Chevalier Pessac Leognan which was a nice elegant, resolved, direct and drinkable Bordeaux, and then blind pours of the 2002 Comte Armand Pommard Clos des Epeneaux which was immediately recognizable as pinot noir although some people guessed new world because of the oak. However, I didn't find it too oaky, and despite the pungent nose it had a very fine structure and even better was the fact that its juicy fruit was surprisingly open, despite the fierce nails lurking in the rear.

The 1994 Maximin Grunhauser Herrenberg Spatlese was quite refreshing after all the red wine, drinking perfectly in a comfortable phase with plenty of crisp acid but also plenty of mature ripeness. This I like. This was so fun that Peter then opened a Valdespino Moscatel Sherry Toneles to make absolutely sure we were all swimming in alcohol, and as my girlfriend smelled the thick rich brew she began to stamp her feet and demand an exit from the Incessant Wine Talk, so it was back to our hotel to get some sleep in preparation for the morning.

And, bright and early we found ourselves at Willi Schaefer, along with Keith M. who had driven up from Stuttgart, and I steeled myself to fight through the toothpaste taste to find the merits in 06 wines that again seemed to be marred by a dull botrytis effect, as at Vollenweider, although this could also be a function of recent bottling, I don't know.

As such, the QbA was quite heavy and dull, although there was so little made apparently it will not be for sale in many places, so you needn't worry about it. To my tastes the Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett and Spatlese were both relatively heavy, dull, and lacking sparkle or verve, although Peter found something to like in the spatlese. The Graacher Domprobst Spatlese #17 was a pleasure, more acid than the Himmelreich but also more depth and this was a definite purchase, although the Domprobst Spatlese #12 did not convince me, seeming to be lower acid than the #17 and also a bit dull. The Domprobst Auslese #11 had a nice structure and good potential, but was reserved and probably needs to be revisited later, but the Himmelreich Auslese was the one to drink now, richer and more concentrated than the Domprobst #11, but also with brighter acids and a more friendly showing. A definite purchase. The Domprobst Auslese #10 was a beast, richer and heavier than the other Auslese wines, more like a BA, but also more backward and in need of more time. For the actual BAs I found the Domprobst more interesting than the Himmelreich, deeper and creamier with more complexity, but again these wines need to be evaluated over time. Upon leaving we were not exactly enthused about 06 chez Schaefer (apparently in contradiction to some critics) but there were still some nice wines and it will be interesting to see what happens with more time in bottle.

After lunch we presented ourselves at Reinhold Haart because although Peter had a feeling that the 06s would not yet be in bottle, he still wanted to see what Theo would have open to taste. We started with the 04 Piesporter Domherr Spatlese which was such a finely etched wine after tasting all the 06s in the morning and therefore a pleasing start, but it had been opened for 7 days and was starting to sour-out to my palate. So then the two 06s that were in bottle came around, the Piesporter Grafenberg Spatlese which was very "flatteur" and fun although a bit too whimsical for my tastes at the moment and the Wintricher Ohligsberg Auslese which was rich with lots of knuckly angles but not yet fully defined, more difficult to taste. Moving back to things already well settled, the 03 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese and Auslese both seemed to be in difficult stages for me and a bit clumsy, although others around the table thought they were developing in a positive direction with more apparent acid. The 01 Piesporter Domherr Auslese was easier for me to like, with its broad crisp and fine mineral structure, a vintage we all love, and should only become more complex with time. Similarly, the 05 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Auslese was also lovely for its rich bright balanced textures, even after being opened for 4 weeks. Stepping back in time, the 71 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Auslese had entered the pungent petrol drying out stage, but many of us loved it, although unfortunately my girlfriend went straight for the dump bucket as she couldn't handle the flavors, which means when our rieslings come around in 30+ years I'll be drinking all alone...

However, this night I was not drinking alone, as we retired to the house of Peter's friend Phillip who is currently working at Schloss Leiser. Thirsty animals that we were the 05 Grunhauser Abstberg Kabinett was probably served before it had a chance to sufficiently cool down. But still, I enjoyed the balance of round ripe fruit and fine underlying structure, although Peter and Phillip found it less thrilling than last year. Next was the bottle Theo Haart had given us for dinner, the 1992 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese, which was confusingly mute at first, prompting guesses from "too old" to "corked" to ring out. But, it revived with some air to show some complexity, although never tons of energy and didn't convince me, although Peter had some lovely moments with his last sips. Much more electricity was found in the 1994 Grunhauser Abstberg Kabinett which was racing with shrill cucumber juice in an absolutely thrilling way that braced the teeth for excitement but yet was perfectly poised and not at all "sour" or "rustic" to this taster. Peter called it "uncompromising" and I agreed, although I also called it "damned delicious". Stepping forward a decade, the 2004 Phillip Veser Zeltinger Sonnenuhr was the wine that Peter and Phillip had participated in and was never put on the market with just 120 bottles made. It had been the team's first year making their own wine, and while it did not scream out to win competitions it was a perfectly enjoyable rendition of pale slatey fruits that got better and better with air. But then it got too cold in the backyard and we retired upstairs for cheesecake and More Sugar with the 2005 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Spatlese which was ripe ripe and primary, with a slight thread of fine mineral underneath. I found it to be quite delicious until the 2005 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese was poured, which to my tastes made the Eitelsbacher look clumsy as it just melted in the mouth with waves and waves of gentle rich elegant fruit. Ripe yes, but not at all a BA auslese. Lovely.

The next morning my girlfriend and I did some walking in the hills outside Bernkastel, for a good dose of activity that did not involve ingesting wine. But, luckily after lunch she was ready to succumb to my wishes, and we drove down to the Ruwer to visit Maximin Grunhauser. This was well worth the effort because unlike the previous visits in the Mosel the entire range of 06s was singing here. I don't know if this was because the wines had been in bottle longer, or if somehow the deleterious effects of botrytis had been limited. But, starting with the 06 Riesling QbA there was pleasure in the fresh crisp and round wine, which was not as heavy as the Schaefer QbA. Moving to the Herrenberg Kabinett was an absolute pleasure as the crisp bright jewels starting shining in my mouth, with plenty of flesh but plenty of focus. Lovely. The Abstberg Kabinett did not show as well at the moment, more backwards, denser, more serious, but very very clear and seemed to have great potential. The Herrenberg Spatlese was not shy about its sugar, and was a bit more muddled at the moment than the kabinetts, but the combination of great depth and structuring acidity was more attractive than what I had tasted in the previous two days. Full stop glory was the Abstberg Spatlese, which was even deeper and more serious than the Herrenberg, but with that lovely bracing mouth-wakening acidity that gave it such excellent balance and made me reach quickly for the my wallet. The Herrenberg Auslese was rich but so precise and shining with minerals, a combination I absolutely adore, and while the Abstberg Auslese was deeper with more spicy botrytis and fewer shining minerals, it had such amazing clarity that I started dotting the page with stars. The Abstberg Auslese Fuder 45 was a touch less impressive at the moment, more structured and angular, although still reeking of potential so will need to revisit with time, but the Herrenberg Auslese Fuder 49 was a joy to behold with its creamy BA style fruit but such mineral clarity. However the game was not yet over, and we escalated further with the Abstberg BA which was such a seductive combination of creamy fruit and shining shimmering glistening mineral clarity, this is the type of wine I like/love/adore.

So, it was a great trip.
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Marc D

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Re: WTN: Three Days in the Mosel (Vollenweider, Schaefer, Haart, Grunhauser)

by Marc D » Tue May 08, 2007 8:11 pm

Rahsaan, nice notes, it sounds like you guys had a great time. Is 2006 shaping up to be another vintage that is better for the higher Pradikats? I think I better stock up on more Kabinets from 2004, or search out wines from Saar or the Ruwer.

Thanks for the notes.
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David M. Bueker

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Re: WTN: Three Days in the Mosel (Vollenweider, Schaefer, Haart, Grunhauser)

by David M. Bueker » Tue May 08, 2007 8:37 pm

I truly fear that the days of kabinett may be numbered. 2006 is (to my early and few tastings) another auslese+ vintage.

I would indeed load up on the remaining 2004s on the market.
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Rahsaan

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Re: WTN: Three Days in the Mosel (Vollenweider, Schaefer, Haart, Grunhauser)

by Rahsaan » Wed May 09, 2007 6:55 am

Yes, it was a good time, and as David said there seems to be no relief from the High Pradikat Vintage Syndrome. Terry Thiese's take can be found here:

http://www.skurnikwines.com/msw/2006vintagereport.html

Furthermore, when we were there last week the weather was unseasonably warm and dry (as it had been for all of April) so most crops were several weeks in advance.

Although of course there is still plenty of time for 2007 to take shape..
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Re: WTN: Three Days in the Mosel (Vollenweider, Schaefer, Haart, Grunhauser)

by JC (NC) » Wed May 09, 2007 12:39 pm

Rahsaan,
I found myself printing out your notes for future reference. I will try to buy with your recommendations in mind.
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Re: WTN: Three Days in the Mosel (Vollenweider, Schaefer, Haart, Grunhauser)

by Marc D » Wed May 09, 2007 12:54 pm

Thanks for the link. I love the way Thiese writes, turning what sounds like a total disaster (the 06 vintage) into something extraordinary.

"Imagine going to a smorgasbord but all the preps are foie gras, ... bon appetite"

I love this next statement:

"And it isn’t just ripeness, or even ripeness-plus-definition. Many of the ‘06s have a smoldering magma-minerality that made me think of the ore note in top Wachau wines. You get the sense of huge armies of hirsute muscular giants hammering iron in a boiling factory way below the ground."

He has great style, and his report, with its details of unclean wines and grapes turning into vinegar in the vineyard seems brutally honest, given that his livelihood is tied to selling the wines. I guess he realizes that he is in the business for the long term, and I get a feeling that I can trust what he reports as being accurate.

Still, no substitute for tasting the wines yourself, which isn't always possible for me. All the more reason that I appreciate your notes from the visit!

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Rahsaan

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Re: WTN: Three Days in the Mosel (Vollenweider, Schaefer, Haart, Grunhauser)

by Rahsaan » Wed May 09, 2007 2:28 pm

Marc D wrote:Thanks for the link. I love the way Thiese writes, turning what sounds like a total disaster (the 06 vintage) into something extraordinary.


Yes, and while he was frank about the difficult conditions, I guess he will be less frank about variations within his portfolio (everybody wants the "best" don't they), which seem to be especially important in 06.

On the bright side, the VDP will soon be taking its show on the road, so there should be lots of notes posted on wine forums from "impartial" private tasters.. :wink:

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