Archive for September, 2012
Without a doubt, winemaker extraordinaire Paul Fuerst is producing some of the finest DRY wines out of Germany. His wines deftly showcase amazing purity, class, terroir, nuance with breathtaking elegance, precision, refinement & balance whether he is working with Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muller Thurgau or Pinot Noir.
My wife Cheryle & I recently went to visit Paul at his home & winery on the western most edge of Franconia, Germany.
It was an added bonus that they had started harvesting grapes.
with son & heir apparent, Sebastian.
Their label–Rudolf Fuerst is centered in the town of Burgstadt….where they own roughly 20 hectares in the highly revered Centgrafenberg vineyard with its red sandstone soils, which showcase a very unique character in the resulting wines.
We were fortunate to taste the 2010 Hundsrueck “Grosse Gewachs”. It was surprisingly deeper, richer with more viscosity & vinosity than any German Pinot Noir we had previously tasted.
Paul also took us out to see his other spectacular vineyard site (Schlossberg) in the town of Klingenberg where he owns but 1 1/2 hectares of Pinot Noir. It was truly breathtaking.
This vineyard is one of the oldest Pinot Noir sites in all of Germany (over 100 years). It is slightly warmer than Centgrafenberg & is therefore normally harvested 1 week earlier. Because it is so stony, it can also handle hotter years like 2011 better than most others.
Paul produces 2 Pinot Noirs from this very special site–
& the other–Klingenberg Schlossberg Grosse Gewachs (GG)….which is Grand Cru in his mind.
In Centgrafenberg, Fuerst has, in addition to his Pinot Noir plantings, roughly 3 1/2 hectares of Riesling, 2 1/2 hectares of Pinot Blanc, 1 1/2 hectares of Silvaner & but 3/4 of a hectare of Muller Thurgau, (from which he makes a special wine for us, labeled as CF Muller Thurgau “Eurasia” . As the nickname suggests, this wine is really idea for many of the Asian inspired foods we have here in the Islands).
Regarding the Rudolf Fuerst portfolio of wines, the first level of quality wines they typically produce is labeled “Tradition” for Pinot Noir……AND….. “Pur Mineral” for white wines.
Depending on what the vintage gives, then some of the truly standout cuvees are labeled as Burgstadter Centgrafenberg (which for Paul is “Village” quality in a Burgundian model).
When conditions are right they will produce what they feel is equivalent to “Grand Cru” in quality & status. The initials GG (which stands for Grosse Gewachs) can be seen on either the label or bottle, as well as the approved vineyard designate, which for Paul is either Centgrafenberg…..or Schlossberg.
Fuerst also has roughly 1 1/2 hectares of Fruhburgunder, which Paul says is a mutation (not a clone) of Pinot Noir, which he reverently notes was nearly extinct just a short time ago. It is obvious this grape variety is dear to his heart…& he says for the region.
Because it naturally has low yields & ripens much earlier, it creates a fuller, richer red which has more impact on the attack (blueberry, plummy, dark fruit) in comparison to his more ethereal, refined Pinot Noirs.
Without a doubt, this is a true STANDOUT winery, well worth searching out for their wines, especially if you love purity, precision, class, finesse, balance & food friendliness.
Some of our absolute favorite Rieslings out of Germany come from Bert Selbach & Dr F Weins-Pruem.
Bert is a descendent of the iconic Pruem family of the Mosel River region & therefore has small but cherished holdings in the top vineyards above the towns of Wehlen, Graach, Urzig & Erden.
One of his showstoppers comes from a 1 hectare parcel in the great Wehlener Sonnenuhr Vineyard which results in wines of great filigree, lots of riveting minerality & breathtaking refinement, especially special because of his style of winemaking.
In the forefront of this picture one can see the ground (I believe one of JJ Pruem’s parcels) being made ready for replanting. This is because of the Flurbereinigung (government regulated vineyard “improvement” & consolidation) which is underway within the vineyard. Bert’s parcel is above & to the left. As you will notice each of Bert’s parcels have thankfully yet to be redone.
Bert’s holdings above the town of Graach, include a 1/2 hectare EACH in Himmelreich (wonderful pedigree, refinement & ethereal-ness)….Domprobst vineyards (bigger stones–more slate-iness & minerality.
Bert also owns a prized 1/2 hectare in Urziger Wurzgarten….
whose red slate gives a pungency & pronounced spiciness to the resulting wine which is VERY different from anything from Graach or Wehlen.
Finally, another REAL interesting, very small parcel in the Erdener Pralat vineyard. Bert noted that in 1907 this red & gray slate vineyard was only 600 meters in size, which was later increased to roughly double, at 1.4 hectares.
Bert’s winemaking & the resulting style of wines are like no other. We adore the pedigree, purity, transparency, remarkably ethereal-ness, riveting minerality & amazing lightness & deliciousness of his wines—young or aged. PLUS they are also always so unexpectedly well priced & therefore REALLY over deliver for the dollar.
Amazing…..from the ground to the bottle!!!!!!
One of our favorite Californian winemakers is Van Williamson. Over the years we have had a bevy of terrific Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Petite Sirah & Zinfandel he produced while at Edmeades. Each have been some of the very best we have had out of Calfornia for their respective grape variety. They were not fruit forward, flashy or fashionable…..but were instead honest, artisan, handcrafted, often wild & wooly wines which were very personal to him. Furthermore they even got better with bottle age.
We were greatly saddened when the Kendall Jackson group (owners of Edmeades) let him go. For me, it was the end of an era.
We are now happy, however, to report Van Williamson has created his own label with the first wine having just arrived into Hawaii. The project is simply named “Witching Stick” & from what he has told me so far includes a Zinfandel, a 2011 Durell Vineyard designated Chardonnay & a 2011 Cerise Vineyard designated Pinot Noir. A NEW chapter…..and we are super excited.
Here is a note I just received from Van Williamson, winemaker/owner on the newly arrived 2010 Witching Stick Zinfandel which I thought you might find interesting.
Vines Planted: 2000
Vines: Field Blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cinsault, from neighboring Dupratt vineyard. Roughly 85 percent Zinfandel.
The vineyard located on Greenwood Ridge 1200 feet above the Anderson Valley sits in an area that use to be known as Haley’s Flat. This vineyard is located in both the Anderson Valley AVA as well as the Mendocino Ridge AVA. Of all the vineyards located in the Mendocino Ridge AVA, none has more influence from the valley. The rim location allows the fog to rise up and give the vineyard a morning cooling affect that does not happen in other areas of the Mendocino Ridge AVA. The dry farmed grapes have the smallest berries I have ever seen on Zinfandel clusters. The unique growing site allows for the fruit to rippen fully at lower sugar levels. The darker ripe flavors are apparent in the aroma but the big surprise is when you taste the acidity and tight structure on the palate. No flab and fat zinfandel flavors but more elegant restrained flavors with a long finish of sweet sour cherries. The other varieties in the blend come through with some age worthy tannin structure as well as a meaty spice rack bouquet. The wine makes you want something to eat, it leaves your mouth juicy wet wanting a bite of cheese, must be lunch time.
The wine was fermented with naturally occurring yeast and bacteria and aged in French oak for 18 months with 50 percent new oak for 6 months of aging time. The fruit was harvested first week of November. Most years the grapes are harvested the last week of October.
For me, this a real departure from the wildly rustic, manly, hedonstic, Zins he used to make. Alot of course has to do with his grape source which is in the cool end of the Valley, 1200 feet up. I love its resulting elegance, high toned fruit & remarkable buoyancy….& how it just keeps opening up with layers of nuance with air time. Yes, it still has the character & artisanal feel of a Van Williamson styled wine, just in a very different genre…..12.8 alcohol, naturally!!!!!
There were only 200 or so cases produced, so don’t miss out & grab some while you can.
It has been a whirlwind week with lots going on! Fortunately, we were also treated to some very special wines which made things seem much better. Here are a few of the highlights.
2002 Robert Denogent Pouilly Fuisse “Les Carrons” MAGNUM
Jean Jacques Robert is regularly grouped with the high profile “Gang of Four” from Morgon over in Beaujolais. In case you have not heard of this group, they take a very “back to basics” philosophy, culture & approach to producing their wines from the vineyard to the winemaking to the bottling. It may seem unusual for a Maconnais producer like Robert Denogent to be included with these Beaujolais renegades, but when you understand their thinking, practices & culture better it makes total sense. Fortunately for Robert, his family has a stable of small, old vine parcels from which he produces his small lots of worldly Chardonnay. Les Carrons, for instance, is a scant .6 hectare pacel of 90 plus year old vines planted in very rocky, thin soils. Although I have really appreciated his wines for many years, this 2002, now 10 years old, was a truly superb, stunning, absolutely delicious, provocative Chardonnay, which in a blind tasting, I believe many btasters would guess it to be Cote d’Or rather than Macon. WOW!
1996 Colin Deleger Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru “En Remilly”
I have been a BIG fan of Michel Colin & his wines for many years. Unlike many of his peers who produce more showy, flashy wines, Michel instead crafts Chardonnays which are very elegant, refined, sublime & classy. This particular 1996 was fabulous. Talk about having a wine at the perfect time of its life!!!!! The nose was glorious with incredible complexity, nuance & pedigree coupled with marzopan, roasted nuts, creamsicle AND lots of limestone-ness. I was also completely mesmerized with how vibrant & alive the inner core of fruit & structure still showed. A real knockout! Michel has already started to divide up his vineyard holding between his 2 sons, Bruno & Philippe, who are now producing wines under their own labels. For me, Michel is still kindpin in that family & this wine clearly reminded me of that.
2001 Colin Deleger Chassagne Montrahet Premier Cru “Les Vergers”
Here is yet another example of Michel Colin’s amazing, masterful skill. I absolutely adored how transparent, sublime & highly refined this wine tasted. Despite being 11 years old. this 2001 was remarkably youthful. Still, I am now convinced that the Colin Deleger white wines typically need some bottle to show its true pedigree & character. Be patiemt.
1991 Francois Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Charmes”
We have been VERY fortunate to have tasted a truly amazing number of older Jobard Premier Cru in the past 12 months.. For me, each has been a REAL revelation!!!!! Because these wines are tightly fisted & vigorously structured in their youth & very old style, many tasters would be underwhelmed by the Jobard wines upon release. Be patient!!!! It really is worth it. I wish I could convey how glorious these wines can become. It is true, however, these wines (even the older ones) are not for everyone. They are high in acid & when aged get a fresh bread, oxidized/sherry-like character which is NOT for everyone. I happen to love it! Plus the inner core is so full of vigor & amazing purity. This taste of the 1991 is yet another example of having a terrific wine at an ideal time. TRULY AMAZING!
The other night we had a terrific opportunity to taste some older rustic red wines at VINO. BYOB wine tastings can be such fun!
1997 Domaine de la Grange des Peres
Owner/winemaker Laurent Vaillé has rather quietly gained cult status for his ‘tour de force” Cabernet-Syrah-Mourvedre based red wine from his vineyard in the l’Hérault of the Languedoc near Aniane which he purchased in 1989. Here, “the limestone is hard and abundant and the soil poor, no one thought he would ever have any success planting a vineyard on his plot of choice. Though it took dynamite and bulldozing to clear twice the amount of limestone, boulders, and glacial scree that was found in his neighbor Aimé Guilbert’s Daumas Gassac vineyards, he found ideal terroir for his grapes“. Having worked & studied with such masters as Jean-François Coche-Dury (Meursault), Gérard Chave (Hermitage), and Eloi Durrbach (Domaine Trévallon, Provence), therefore sourced his Syrah, Marsanne, and Roussane cuttings from Gérard Chave and his Cabernet from Domaine Trévallon.
On this night, the 1997 was closed down initially, but with air the gaminess & wildly rustic characteristics of the Mourvedre first came out, combined with bay leaf, autumn leaves, forest floor nuances. Then the intricacies & pedigree of Syrah came forward…. mesmerizing & so intriguing. The blend was really binded together by the dollop of Cabernet which gave the wine a background of grandeur & class, especially in the mid palate. I hope I have more in the cellar!
1994 Domaine Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”
It took me a long time to understand & appreciate the Bandol wines of Domaine Tempier. If I had started off having older, “library” renditions like this though, my learning & appreciation curve would have been much faster that’s for sure. The wildly rustic, hearty, innate masculine & well structured character found in young Tempier is greatly tempered & intergrated with some bottle age coupled with a real savoriness & soulful-ness. I am also so RE-impressed with every older bottle how youthful & spunky the fruit in the wine’s core is AND how even more food friendly they become. Definitely a real treat!!!!!
1996 Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie “Cote Blonde”
This Syrah based northern Rhone-ster was so impressive!!!!! dark, sinister, brooding with lots of roasted coffee grinds, roasted meat, earth, sandalwood nuances…..deep, resounding fruit…… still though harmonious, majestic & amazing. It certainly was a WOW wine & I am sure inspired many of the tasters to go out & buy some of this iconic producer’s newer releases.
1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo “Cascina Francia”
Another SENSATIONAL, masterful Barolo from Giacomo Conterno!!!!! I really thought I knew something about Barolo & Barbaresco & have collected quite a few over the years, BUT have come to realize this producer is King of Hill. The very core of this wine is gut wrenchingly good, deftly combining power, mega-intensity & structure with incredible breed, complexities & soulfulness. WOW!!!!!
This producer’s 1999 Barolo is a benchmark.
With White Burgundy, I am always amazed at how the terroir really shines through again after the fruit & oak has had an opportunity to resolve itself with additional bottle age. Furthermore, I also really enjoy how harmonious & even more delicious they can become.
Last night was a golden opprtunity to sample 3 slighly aged white Burgundies.
1996 Amiot Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru “Les Caillerets”
The Domaine is based in the village of Chassagne-Montrachet (in fact the Premier Cru Cailleret vineyard can be seen directly out their winery’s window) with a smidgeon of holding in Puligny Montrachet (3/4’s of a hectare in Les Demoiselles) & 1/4 of a hectare in Montrachet. The 1996 on this night was very pretty, ethereal, remarkably light & minerally on the palate. It is a wine, however, I suggest you drink up.
This Grand Cru smelled & tasted Grand Cru in breed & pedigree, with power, depth & a profound stoniness. It was so amazingly harmonious & seamless & therefore was a terrific drink to say the least.
1997 Ramonet Puligny Montrachet “Champs Canet”
Although this wine was still alive & kicking, it is another I suggest drinking up. It probably should have been served before the Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne.