Friday, June 1, 2012

Report from ... Germany Day 3: The Rheinhessen Tour - May 31, 2012

Here we are, Germany, Day 3 and the touring really begins. Four wineries of the Rheinhessen, small walking tour of the Roter Hang and dinner where angels fear not to tread ... and of course there's plenty of wine.  Time to take a look ...

The day begins on the bus as Ernst Buscher, our illustrious leader, runs us through some facts about the Rheinhessen.  He talks about the change in attitude in German wines, "We don't want to sell more wines, we want to sell better wines."
First stop: Kuhling-Gillot, partnered with BattenfeldSpanier (by marriage) but the houses are kept separate
The tasting tables are set for our arrival
Although this man is never introduced formally I suspect he might be Frank Schuber (this is a guess based on our itinerary) ... here he makes sure all the starter wines are poured.
Our starter wine of the day, this is a Quinterra 2011 Riesling: their "basic" wine which is taken from 5 vineyards in 5 villages ... Quin = five / Terra = soil. (*** 1/2)
Owner, Carolin Spanier-Gillot, speaking about her winery: 45 hectares of land, 7 Grand Cru sites, 95% is estate wine, plus there is two hundred years of winemaking history for the winery but always under different names because women have always been to the ones to take the reigns.
Our tour is very brief ... we walk across the hall from the tasting room to the small barrel room where Pinot Noir is aged.  on the door are the two Grand Cru vineyard sites the winery has for Pinot Noir.
One of the smallest barrel rooms I have ever seen, a mere 24 barrels (max)
The time for touring is over and we break into the bottles.  Starting with this 2011 Oppenheimer Riesling: apple, lime, mineral with a peachy-stony finish. Crisp and clean.  (****)
It is decided that we shall taste the two house styles.  This is a bottle of BattenfeldSpanier, her husband's winery - they keep the two labels separate because they are two distinct styles of winemaking.  This 2011 Hohen-Sulzan Riesling is slate and peach pit driven on the nose, while the palate is all mineral. (*** 1/2+)
2011 Nierstein Riesling: green apple and lime aromas give way to peach, green apple mineral and the loveliest of acid bite on the tongue. (****+) ... The winery holds back 4000 bottles of this wine each year to sell again in 4 years time when the wine has time to mellow and really develop.
BattenfeldSpanier 2011 Molsheim is all stone and chalky mineral ... the soils in which the grapes are grown are very Chateauneuf-du-Pape-esque, very rocky and stony - as the wine indicates (****).
This picture better indicates the soil types the grapes are grown in.  On the left the BattenfeldSpanier with it's white limestone ... on the right Kuhling-Gillot and it's red slate.
The 2010 Pettenthal Riesling is a Grand Cru (Grosses Gewachs) wine: dried peach adn apple with lime and mineral (****) - they harvest the grapes almost three weeks later than other Rieslings, in fact the vines have already shed their leaves by the time they come thru in early November.
2008 Kreuz Spatburgunder (also a GG) made from Burgundy 667 clones.  Pretty and spicy with cranberry, black cherry and a touch of oak ... well balanced tannins on the finish. Aged in 50% new oak (****+).  "I try to make a good German Pinot Noir using my experience from France" says Carolin. 
Carolin with her bottles. "We will never match Burgundy," she says about German Pinot Noir, "but then we don't want to ... it's a totally different climate."
Weird Pic of the Day ... in the bathroom of Kuhling-Gillot, the fly on the bowl is actually painted in there.
Passing by the Roter Hang soils ... more on these later.

Arriving at Weingut Raddeck
Ernst and Stefan Raddeck confer on what is going to happen, how long we have and I'm sure lunch is also a topic here.

Stefan addresses the group inside the winery ... we then head outside for the tasting.
Stefan is a hand-talker, he is not teaching us his technique of playing the piano ... I took quite a few shots during his remarks and if I were to put them in a flip book he's appear to be dancing.
Raddeck Edition "S" Riesling 2011: big peach, mineral and spiced apple on the nose; salty-mineral notes, mac apple, peach pit and well-balanced acidity on the palate (****+)
Raddeck 2009 Spatburgunder - Edition 2Hugel (2 Hills) in Barrique: 2 years in barrel, 30% new; made from 50% German and 50% Burgundy clones.  Spiced oak and dried cranberry aromas; lovely mineral, cranberry, and spiced strawberry on the palate (****+)
I told you, Schott Zwiesel is everywhere ... you can see the Pinot Noir reflected in this picture.
A pleasant lunch at Raddeck consists of pork, potatoes and white asparagus (in season) as I have yet to see it, in baton format - up until now it has been cut up and sauced.
Spot the church tower in the middle of this picture ... this is the location of Germany's first vineyards planted by the Romans in the 700.  There is still a 3 hectare plot of vines planted in the church's courtyard.
Tower in the vineyard ... these are ld communication/look out towers, "used in the days before cell phones".
Visiting up close the steep slopes of the Roter Hang.  According to Stefan Raddeck this is very expensive land these days, everyone wants a piece and there are only three ways to get a plot: 1) Kill - 2) have an uncle will it to you - 3) marry into it.  Ernst pipes up with, "the looks will disappear but you'll always have the hectares."
View up the steep slopes - not sure the steepness really comes through here.
Looking out to the vineyards of the Roter hang: they measure 4 km by 400 m or a mere 170 hectares
Ernst shows us the best wine view of the Rheinhessen as rated in a 2012 survey (this is the monument erected to commemorate the spot - the view is behind it).
The View (right side) - above was the left side.

Maybe a little washed out but the little pink piece of land south of Mainz along the Rhein (to the right of Mainzer Becken) is the 170 hectares of the Roter Hang vineyard area ... it's red slate that is usually found hundreds of meters under the earth's surface.  It is 290 million year old soil with 15% iron content, a mix of sandstone and clay.
Shards of the soil
Arrival at Becker Landgraf winery.
Owned by Johannas (pictured) and Julia (not) ... the J2 on the label represents them - they own 9 hectares.
Best White: 2011 Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) & Chardonnay blend: creamy with hints of vanilla, and a nice mineral seam; you'll also find white peach and floral notes.  only 5-10% of this wien sees oak. (****)
2008 Spatburgunder Rosenberg - Lagenwein is the Best Red poured.  Floral, cherry and cinnamon smells; cherry, vanilla, a touch of cinnamon, spice and sour cranberry on the palate along with some tannin weight.  They use their oldest vines (40 years), all new barrels, 2 years in the oak and one in bottle before release. (****+)
Johannas' father-in-law owns Becker Tanks - check out these miniatures in the entranceway.
Arriving at Weingut Gysler, a bio-dynamic winery run by
Alexander Gysler since 1999 - "Nature knows best ... she knows what she needs to make things grow."
We assemble in the tasting room upstairs.
Best wine: 2007 Riesling JC names after his two daughters - Johnanna and Caroline: 1 year in large wooden casks, and made only in good years from a mix of their oldest vines (31 & 42 years old).  Full flavoured with salty-minerality, lemon peel and pith and a hint of petrol - nice complexity (****+).  Next vintage is the 2011.
This Kabinett is a 100% US market product (all 6000 bottles) it keeps a bit of sweetness along with ripe pear and nice minerality. (*** 1/2+)
Our place for dinner.
Inside the "Engel Diner" - warm and cozy.
Wines included a Bader 2009 Spatburgunder: red fruit, lush cherry, silky tannins, hint of spiced cranberry ... needed a chill to round it out.
paired with an Italian dish: Veal with Tuna Fish Sauce ... seems that I came to Germany to eat Italian.
Wagner Stempel 2009 Silvaner: showed a nice white fruit and mineral character with a touch of bitterness on the finish
paired with Pike-Perch (?) - supposedly a Canadian fish ... I have heard of pike and I have heard of perch, but ...

Our intermezzo wine ... this Keller 2009 Kirchspiel Riesling had lovely ripe white fruit, great acid balance, a sweet entry and a dry finish ... peachy and elegant. (**** 1/2)
And finally, a Werther Windisch 2011 Gewurztraminer Auslese with floral, rosy, lychee, peachy sweetness and a touch of spice.
paired with lemon-strawberry yogurt mousse.

We thank out chef: H. Mayer
Then pile intot the bus for the trek back to the hotel ... it's a quiet ride back.

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