Friesa, Ruché and Other Grapes of Monferrato

Town of Grana in the Setting Sun

Our second day in Piedmont began with a wild romp through the many Vini del Monferrato, led by Ian d’Agata. His fascination with the diversity of the Italian native grape varieties is quite infectious: how can anyone not be in love with Grignolino and Freisa? Whether you can pronounce it or not matters little, honestly. By the end of the day, many of us were searching for these wines at home and thinking of what and how we can get our hands on them. And that was even before we got to Ruché, but I am jumping ahead again. Back to Grignolino – a rather unique and delightful grape (unless you are the one making the wine apparently). Ian calls the wine made from this grape akin to a “big rosato”, but I would caution the reader to think more of the juicier, fleshier style than the pale rosé currently en vogue. I loved the wines immediately, as they combine some of my absolute favorite descriptors. The Grignolinos we tasted were floral, with light cherry and raspberry tones, spicy and with excellent acidic and tannic structure. My favorite was the Tenuta Olim Bauda Grignolino d’Asti 2015 Isolavilla that showed more structure than the others, and a more complex, riper core of cherry fruit. The long finish had cloves and other spices along with a bright, fresh acidity.  

We then moved on to discuss Freisa. I have had wine from this grape before, specifically the Giuseppe Mascarello Friesa. But, I only had it a few times and rather young wine at that. With its direct relation to Nebbiolo, Freisa can age magnificently, and we found that out at Cascina Gilli, when we tasted their 2004 Friesa Arvele. While the jury is still out on whether Friesa is the offspring or the parent of Nebbiolo, both share a lighter color and a highly perfumed nose. That of Friesa strays closer to strawberry and sour cherry, while still keeping the lovely rose petal of Nebbiolo. With age, the two become even harder to tell apart, gaining savory notes as well as earthy tones. We tasted five Freisa wines at the tasting, and I was happy to taste several more during my visit to Cascina Gilli, including a frizzante version – Luna di Maggio 2017. The wine showed only a touch of fizz, but it added to the brightness of the strawberry fruit on the nose and a lightness to the front palate. The wine got darker as it receded, with pepper, tobacco leaf and fine tannin toward the finish. 

Gianni Vergnano of Cascina Gilli

Paolo Vergnano of Cascina Gilli

Cascina Gilli’s Freisa 2016 Il Forno is the lighter of the two still versions, as it is vinified and aged in stainless steel. It shows a hint of rose petal on the nose with lots of ripe cherries up front and blackberries toward the back of the palate. The wine finishes long with fresh but ripe notes of fruit. The 2015 Arvele, on the other hand, sees twelve months of barrique (10% new) and shows darker, more liquorous cherry, with a hint of vanilla and cardamom. The palate is riper, richer, with fresh acidity and a spicy touch. In many ways, this reminds one of Nebbiolo on the nose and Barbera on the palate. Delicious. To show us how the wine ages, the Vergnanos were kind enough to share a 2013 and 2004 Arvele. Both wines showed young, with the 2013 showing sandal wood and cigar box notes along with the deep cherry fruit and the 2004… savory, meaty notes with earthy blackberry fruit, complex, rich but light on its feet. I could drink that wine all day. Another Freisa I have to add was the Tenuta Olim Bauda Freisa d’Asti 2015. A lighter, more feminine wine, elegant, showing spice and leather along with earthy tones on the nose. The mid palate was bright with red sour cherry leading to a tangy, spicy finish. I think I need some Freisa in my cellar right about now…

Ksenia Berta of Berta Paolo

Francesca Schiavo of Cascina Gilli

There are two other grapes that I must mention: Dolcetto and the red-berried Malvasia di Schierano. Dolcetto from Asti is not as well-known as examples from Alba or Dogliani, but both of the examples we tried were quite interesting in their own right. Dolcetto is a notoriously difficult grape to grow, nevermind the “sweetness” in its name and berries. However, when done right, it can have a bright, fruity personality, leaning toward blackberry and black cherry, with floral notes of violets. That is what I found in the Berta Paolo Dolcetto d’Asti Livroje 2017 – with notes of fresh beets and a ripe core of cassis pastry. The wine had a fresh finish of mulling spices and a hint of cinnamon. The Malvasia, on the other hand, is a very different kind of sweetness. Imagine Moscato d’Asti had a red-berried cousin, same sweet apricot notes, but with hints of red fruit in the mix, perhaps a few pomegranate seeds in with the peaches and cream. That is how I would describe Cascina Gilli Malvasia Di Castelnuovo Don Bosco 2017, poached pears, whip cream and that wine is a combination I cannot wait to try. 

Sunset over Castagnole Monferrato

Ian D’Agata with Luca Ferraris

Our rowdy, international team

I have had Friesa before, though never on this level, and both Grignolino and Malvasia are wines I could compare to previous vinous experiences. I admit, I was not prepared for Ruché. I did read about it, know some of its origins - while it has been planted on these hills for centuries, it was really the 20th century work of Don Giacomo Cauda, the parish priest, that brought the wine into its own. He was the first to appreciate the potential of this floral grape in making a dry wine from it. Ruché has since received a DOCG in 2010, and the young, yet motivated, Association of Ruché Producers is working together to promote the grape in Italy and abroad. It was with this group of producers that we had the pleasure of tasting on a warm summer day in Castagnole Monferrato. However, no amount of reading can prepare a person for a red wine that smells like a white one. I was stunned by the pure peaches and nectarines that were wafting from the glass before me. Floral, richly floral – that would be my first impression – lilacs, yellow and red flowers. The middle was bright, in the best wines it veered toward raspberry and cherry, with cardamom and coriander notes. Several older examples we tried added leather and herbal tones but the beauty of that floral and fruity nose had receded. Thus, I would drink it early, to enjoy the autumnal bounty of its fruit and floral components. Both of my favorite wines were from the 2017 vintage and showed their freshness and the bright tart cherry core. The first was Dacapo Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato 2017 Majoli, a ripe and rich example with rosehips, cherries and peaches on the nose, with a bright, red fruited mid that finished with pepper and a hint of spice. A beauty of a wine, which would not only be a great match for cheese, but stands up well to rich meats and sauces. The other was Crivelli Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato 2017, which showed a very floral nose, with violets and iris notes on top of the peach and dried berries. The mid palate was ripe but with a very refreshing acidic backbone, showing tart sour cherries and a chewy, dense finish. An elegant, bright expression, yet brimming with sweet berries and floral notes - simply delicious!

Marco Crivelli

Renata Bonacina of Dacapo

Several other wines showed undeniable beauty of the grape, as well as its potential. One was the 2017 Vigna del Parroco, made by Luca Ferraris who recently took over the original vineyard of Don Giacomo (thus the name). Bottled in the old-school bottle, the wine remains an homage to the man who saw the beauty of this grape. The wine inside fulfills the promise as well, bright, floral and fresh, with a wonderful zing of acidity on the palate and a freshness to balance the rich berry fruit. The Ferraris Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato 2017 Clàsic opened with darker cherry, but then, veered toward peach and ripe nectarine! The mid-palate showed darker cherry tones as well as a lovely note of minerality leading to a zesty finish. Cantina Sant’Agata Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato 2016 showed a different approach, a richer, sweeter cherry and a blue-red floral profile. Violets and roses coming to the fore on the nose, allowing the sweet ripe fruit to caress the palate. The brighter, tarter cherry on the finish gave balance to the wine, and a freshness to go back for another glass. And the Garrone Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato 2017, showing the floral freshness and the bright, ripe crushed berries. The richer mid-palate of the wine is due to the red clay soil of the vineyard, according to Dante Garrone. There is a lovely spice note as well as a deep herbal tone toward the finish that adds a savory note to the wine. If you have yet to try Ruchè, make this your next vinous discovery – it is guaranteed to bring a smile, even on a warm, muggy day. 

Franco Cavallero of Cantine Sant’Agata

Dante Garrone

One final note, because there is a wine that Asti is known for throughout the world that needs to be mentioned. Of course, I have tried many Moscato d’Asti in the United States, and there are few wines that provide the sheer pleasure and drinkability of a good Moscato. However, it was not the focus of our tastings on this trip; rather, we concentrated on the red grapes of the region, with Barbera leading the way. However, we had several delicious versions throughout our time in Italy, often served with light, summery desserts. One Moscato that deserves a special mention appeared at our table at Collisioni, along with its charming winemaker, Roberto Garbarino. This was more than just a pleasurable aperitif, or a light dessert wine. Roberto’s 2017 Hiku Moscato, made from old vines (and sadly, in miniscule quantities) showed a minerality, and a depth to balance the floral, spicy and fruity wine. Excellent wine indeed. I cannot wait to return to the hills of Monferrato! 


Collisioni: What Begins with Barbera Must End at Nizza!

My experience at this year’s Collisioni Progetto del Vino began the same way my first forays into Italian wine did, years ago, with Barbera. Why Barbera? My wine education began with Mosel Riesling, I loved the ripe juicy fruit and the bracing, cleansing acidity it provided. After a bit of research, Barbera was the obvious choice – bright, with ripe fruit and beautiful acidity. It did not hurt that both were also ridiculously affordable, even for a college student. I settled on Barbera d’Asti, and a name easily recognizable: Michele Chiarlo, Barbera D’Asti “Le Orme”. It was exactly what I had hoped for, with ripe red fruit and yet a bright mid palate, leading to a clean finish. One bottle led to another… and so it was through Barbera that my interest in Italian wine was born. 

Years later, I was able to try Barbera with age, thanks to a good friend, Eric Guido, who shared more than a few of his bottles with me, and it added another layer to my love for the grape. Age-worthiness not only provides the ability to develop a more complex array of flavors, but also a deeper emotional attachment to the wine. Wines are like books to me (shocking analogy for someone who teaches literature) – and a good book must be held on to, cherished, reread over the years. Tasting decade old Barbera was exactly that, the same bright, juicy fruit, but so much more nuance, texture and power. The wine Eric brought to dinner was 2005 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia, a powerful, ripe and rich version indeed. However, having tasted the Barbera Superiore and the Nizza wines, including some excellent older bottles, I can say without a doubt that Barbera can age. Yet, I am jumping too far ahead. When asked if I would like to come to the Collisioni earlier and learn more about Barbera and Vini del Monferrato, the answer was obvious – yes, please!

I jumped on a red-eye flight to Milan and arrived at Costigliole D’Asti by midafternoon, just in time to taste about 40 Barbera d’Asti at the Castello di Rorà. The ability to taste a group of producers at the same time can be just as valuable as single producer tastings, though for different reasons. A tasting with a single producer, at their cellar, allows one a deeper understanding of the specific wines, of the soil and the story that goes along with them. However, a group tasting, like the one at the Castello, gave a broader impression of Barbera d’Asti and its potential. We saw a multitude of winemaking styles and were able to assess how the grape responds to these techniques. Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the Barbera we tasted, as well as the aging potential of the superiore style. The best wines showed ripe, red cherry on the nose, along with a hint of spice. The mid palate varied from a lusher, riper red fruit, to a tart cherry, balanced in by the bright core of acidity. My favorite wines tended to finish with a hint of savory, meaty note with a long, dry finish. 

Ksenia Berta of Berta Paolo

Wines of note: Alfiero Boffa Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2013 Cua Long – mineral, deep cherry tones, serious already and shows aging potential; Berta Paolo Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011 La Berta – savory, rich cherry tones with a deep, lush feel; the long, spicy finish keeps going – even with age on the bottle the wine feels fresh and young; Cascina Gilli Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2015 Dedica – powerful, riper fruit leaning toward black cherry, savory and spicy notes, needs time to integrate; La Gironda Barbera d’Asti 2015 La Gena – fresh (no oak), tangy red fruit, notes of iron, good grip on the finish; Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2015 Le Rocchette – complex, deep sexy cherry fruit, mineral, structured, will age; Villa Giada Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2015 Quecia – bright, tangy cherry fruit, impressive balance.

Susanna Galandrino of La Gironda

Our Monferrato experience concluded at Nizza, with an amazing lecture on the terroir of the DOCG by Alessandro Masnaghetti, who has completed a map of the region’s vineyards. We were then able to taste thirty-six Nizza wines from the excellent 2015 vintage, presented in flights by municipality.  Nizza DOCG is young, having received its status in 2014, but the ambitious and forward-looking Association of the Nizza Producers is seeking to establish the reputation of its wines in the world by focusing on quality and a unified approach to the marketplace. The wines have a minimum of 18 months aging, of which six must be in wood, the Riserva wines up that amount to 30 months of aging, 12 in wood. Having tasted the excellent 2015 vintage, I can confidently say these are wines built for age and power. They possess the fruit and the structure to mature, and, having tasted a few older examples at the Gala dinner after the tasting, these wines age well, developing savory, earthy tones that enhance their complexity and make for excellent pairings with rich, meaty foods of Piedmont. 

Alessandro Masnaghetti

While some producers are clearly still finding their way with the use of oak aging, my favorite wines tended to show excellent balance between the use of wood and the bright, fresh cherry tones of the wine. A great example is the Dacapo 2015 Nizza, which spends 12 months in barrique, yet shows all the beauty of sweet bright red fruit Barbera is prized for and the depth and length of a wine meant for the cellar. It is already a complex wine, and I can only imagine what it will develop into. Another wine that impressed me was the Villa Giada 2015 Nizza Dani, which also spends a full year in oak. Again, I found the balance impeccable here, with a darker cherry on the nose, leaning toward lusher, richer notes, but the bright acidity and the redder note in the mid palate brought one back to Barbera, with a spicy, if lusher, finish. The third wine was Alfiero Boffa 2015 Nizza La Riva showing brighter, redder cherry tones, leaning to sour cherry and with a bright, tart finish. This one was the most “ready” of the wines, but with clear potential ahead. 

The La Gironda 2015 Nizza Le Nicchie, on the other hand, showed a riper core of blue and red berries with hints of vanilla above cherry tones. I clearly needs time to develop, but the serious, complex mid palate shows immense potential. Another impressive wine was the Sant’Evasio 2015 Nizza – showing ripe bing cherry, and rich sweet mid palate where the ripe, soft fruit meet the structure of the wine. If structure and power is your calling, I suggest the Tenuta Olim Bauda 2015 Nizza, which spends 30 months in oak, developing a power and seriousness beyond many others wines. The fruit here is more subdued, brooding, begging for a few more years in the bottle, but it will reward with time in the cellar. The last wine I must mention is the Cascina Garitina 2015 Nizza Neuvsent, a giant wine, clocking in at 15.6% alcohol level and over 7g of acidity. The old vines of the vineyard curb the yield and the high elevation and the exposed position of the vineyard further concentrate the flavor. Use of larger oak barrels allows the brightness of the fruit to shine through. This is surely a wine of unusual power and concentration, but impressively balanced and the serious, mouth-coating fruit, playing off the high acidity suggests the possibility of aging and taming the beast within. 

Renata Bonacina of Dacapo

Gianni Bertolino of Tenuta Olim Bauda

Andrea Faccio of Villa Giada

I wanted to take a brief moment and thank the Associazione and the Consorzio for their hospitality, and the amazing staff of Collisioni Progetto Vino for all their help. We were invited to join the Nizza producers at their yearly Gala, and were humbled by the generosity of our beautifully dressed hosts. We had the opportunity to taste some of the older vintages of Nizza wines, and see their potential for ourselves. Chef Enrico Bartolini’s food must be commended as well – for many of us it was the last night in Italy and he delivered a truly sensational experience. I don’t even know whether to talk about the incredible appetizers, the stunning, Barbera-colored risotto or the veal that melted in my mouth. I have yet to discuss all the other wines tasted during our Monferrato adventure, the perfumed Ruché, the bright and spicy Grignolino and the deep and age-worthy Freisa. But, I promise I will get to them soon! I cannot wait to re-taste some of these wines at home, and surely will be looking to cellar several Nizza wines in order to enjoy them in years to come.


Skurnik/Theise Tasting: 2017 German Wines

I’ve been lucky enough to attend these tasting for years, and get a peek at the new
vintage for myself. Obviously, to judge a vintage from a tasting – even as
extensive as this one – would be unfair. But I can offer my impressions – and
honestly, I was surprised. I was in the Mosel and Nahe area during the early
part of this harvest, thus I already knew the quality of the fruit coming in
was very high, a big relief after a disastrous spring with hail and frost. I
knew that this meant a smaller crop – and would result in a more concentrated
wine. But what surprised me, and I must say quite pleasantly, was the
brightness of the fruit and the impressive zing the wines had. I was prepared
for the baroque and lush yellow peach and sappy, dripping apricots with hints
of orange blossoms from the botrytis… and I was met with bright white peach,
pear, and loads of ginger! A multitude of delicious Kabinetts, lithe and
bright, sunshine and stone. In some ways, it reminded me of 2002, if one was to
see 2015 as 2001 (I don’t think 2015 is exactly like 2001 – but the pair made
for a good comparison). While perhaps not spiking to the heights of the 2015s,
these offer a depth and beauty. Yet, a word of warning – do not mistake the
brightness of these wines for lightness. They are big, serious and will show
their true power if given the chance to age. I cannot speak for the Auslese
wines, I tasted too few to even make a guess, but the Spatlese have power and
structure to develop over time. A side note for the lovers of Scheurebe – this
is the time to grab some, the cat is out and it is hungry. 

Selbach-Oster

It is always a pleasure to taste with Johannes and Hannah Selbach. Their wines represent the Mosel I fell in love with: floral, full of grace, with a nod to history but not afraid to be themselves. They are not the wines that scream for attention, but they reward patience and introspection. I am
currently drinking my stash of 2002 S-O Spatlese (Zeltinger Sonnenuhr *) and I
am very happy I waited. White peach, mineral, flowers… a true Mosel Riesling. 

2017 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese feinherb Ur Alte Reben: Green peaches, deeply aromatic with herb and pear. Ripe mid, leaning quite dry with bright acidity over the rocky, mineral-laden fruit. This needs time but should prove to be another excellent Feinherb.  

2017 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese : Already a beauty - this wine opened up with bright white peach and floral notes, big sexy peach and pear in the mid with minerality adding edges to the curves. Quite creamy but with a long ginger and zest finish.

2011 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese: Once the hint of petrol blows off - this wines is grabs you, ripe, candied lemon, ginger, smoke, and loads of autumnal fruit. While clearly bigger, it has much to give in terms of structure and minerality - a great showing for a still young wine. I really enjoy tasting these back vintages together with the new wines - as a reminder of how much patience is rewarded. 

Hannah Selbach

2016 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Anrecht:  This has all the best qualities of the 2016, light floral, elegant wine, teeming with ripe yellow peaches in the mid and a mineral core. Long sweet and tart finish. Delicious.

2017 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Auslese ‘Schmitt’: While most Selbach-Oster wines prefer the quiet of chamber music and polite conversation….Rotlay and Schmitt are the rowdy rock stars. This wine is no exception: rich melange of tropical fruit and berries, ginger, acid, stone, power… And for all that, this stays light, avoiding the sappy, sugary tones. An excellent wine, and will require and reward patience.

 Weingut Spreitzer  

From the Mosel, it seems right to jump to the Rheingau, trading in the floral notes and pastels for steel and muscle. And Weingut Spreitzer is Rheingau, even in the persona of Andreas himself. But don’t mistake the steel in the wines for coldness, they will greet you with open arms, if given the chance. The feinherbs and kabinetts are a great example of that, I am on my last bottle of the 2012 Kabinett halbtrocken and it is delicious now, citrus and lime galore. 

2017 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Doosberg Riesling Alte Reben: Did someone ask for Rheingau? Lean, bright with grassy and herbal tones on the nose, core of pineapple and tropical fruit in the mid, underscored by ginger and stone. Intense Trocken - on par with the GG in style.

 2017 Weingut Spreitzer Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen Riesling Großes Gewächs: Shockingly good, especially for such a young GG, already stunning in its stony armor, but look under - and it is ripe and rich, bursting with tangy fruit. This is wine of power and elegance. One of my favorites from the tasting.  

Andreas Spreitzer

2017 Weingut Spreitzer Winkeler Jesuitengarten Riesling feinherb Alte Reben: Floral and earthy, with a core of white peach. Bright middle of tangy fruit over mineral, light zesty finish, drier than it seems. The balance here is key. Delicious.

2017 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Kabinett: Bright, autumnal fruit with notes of pear and even apricots. rich wine, with a serious mid-palate and a long finish. It will really reward a few years of patience.

2017 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spätlese 303: This is, in many ways, an Auslese, if perhaps brighter and more lifted. With 98 grams of RS and 10g/l of acidity - it is a beauty. Ripe, rich fruit, hints of tropical notes and orange blossom from the botrytis, mirabells take over the mid, adding a zing and bite. Long sweet and sour finish with lemon curd. Excellent wine.

Jacob Schneider

I love Hermannshohle Wines, I can’t help it. Especially as a Spatlese or Auslese. With age, they show cream and red berry notes that are simply irresistible. And here is a family that makes amazing wine from the vineyard, both dry and lieblich. How are they still a secret? I recently had the trocken version - the Magnus - and it stood up well to a Chablis in a flight. Purity and texture. The wines I tasted today, the 2017 vintage, were in the same vein - purity, great fruit and the acidity to match

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Riesling MELAPHYR Qba trocken: Mineral, smoke, herbs and grass - what a pretty little QBA. Although little may not be fair - it is packed with spicy citrus fruit. 

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Riesling “Auf der Kertz” feinherb: Peaches, red slate, load of apples. This shows good sweetness up front and in the mid, with a tangy, zesty note of ginger, mint and lime.  


Jacob Schneider

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Klamm Riesling Kabinett : A real Kabinett has become a rare thing. This is one - full of yellow and white peaches, but light, lithe, and…the glass is empty.

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese: This was a rather intriguing Spatlese, in a room full of white peaches, this one swung for the apples, and riper toward the mid, apple pie, nutty notes and quince. Lovely citrus and spice on the finish with perhaps a hint of savory herbs. 

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese : Another one of my favorite wines at the tasting - a Spatlese of stunning purity. My notes say - “Perfect. Buy. Cellar. Enjoy.” And that really is all that is needed, with bright acidity (9.8 g/l) and excellent levels of RS for a Spatlese (70g) - it is both ripe, and bright, sweet and refreshing. It will need some age to come together, but this is a star.

Weingut Darting

Heike Darting

One table I never miss at tastings is that of Weingut Darting. And I always know what to expect - honest, delicious wines, made with love and skill. Oh, and the best Rieslaner in the land, of course. But this year there was more the Durkheimer Hochbenn Muskateller Kabinett Trocken 2017 was impossible to resist, deeply aromatic with sweet yellow flowers on the nose and bright, acid driven mid. Summer and shellfish are calling. 

Talking about the summer, is there a better summer-time party wine than the Darting Durkheimer Nonnengarten Riesling Kabinett? I mean, it already comes in liter bottles. To me - that says party time! The 2017 is very bright, ripe and clean, with a delicious citrus tang on the finish.

…. and then there was the 2017 Ungsteiner Honigsackel Scheurebe Spatlese. Showstopper. Big delicious tropical notes, mixing with the salty sea breeze and whole garden of herbs. This was delicious, and so very scheu. 

Donnhoff

The tower needs no introduction. I was lucky enough to visit in late September and capture the above image. Standing with Helmut on that vineyard road, discussing the vintages and the impending harvest - that is a Riesling geek dream. The Donnhoff 2017 wines show class, and I really enjoyed the power and elegance of the 2017 Felsenberg Riesling “Felsentrumchen” GG. Spicy, with a long midpalate and a bright finish. This is showing well already. 

The 2017 Hermannshohle Riesling GG is a different beast, still elegant and powerful, but brooding, darker and deeper than the Felsen. This one needs time, the complex flavors will surely find their way through, and calm the brooding storm. It is a masterpiece, but patience is required. 

Kruger-Rumpf

Phillip Rumpf

I really enjoyed the 2017 Kruger-Rumpf wines, especially the lieblich side. Starting with the floral, tangy and sexy Muensterer Rheinberg Kabinett, and on to the more lithe, peachy and pear-y Muensterer Im Pitterberg Kabinett shat showed my favorite Riesling note - red berries (think red currant). But my two favorites were the Spatlese from Dautenpflaenzer. 

First, the Riesling: a striking balance of sweet, tropical fruit, with its tangy, sappy notes, and the brightness and lightness of a true Spatlese, staying savory and rich without overwhelming the palate. And then there was another Scheurebe. The 2017 Scheurebe Spatlese is a beastly thing. Rich, sexy, plush at one moment and racy at the next. Deep and complex. Catch me if you can. 

A Few Other “Do Not Miss” Wines

Sebastian Strub

Guido Justen

Enrico Saam

There were many standouts in this tasting. Every single A.J. Adam wine I tried was delicious, but I must highlight two. First, the Dhron Hofberg Riesling Feinherb “In der Sangerei”, powerful, with peaches and grapefruit notes, with the mid-palate leaning mineral and a dry, spicy finish. And the Dhron Hofberg Riesling Kabinett, with its mint, sage, savory herb nose over ripe white peach and pear. Delicious. 

I can never say enough about the baroque beauty of Merkerlbach wines. Their 2017 Kinheimer Rosenberg Riesling Spatlese “2” is the perfect example. Old school Riesling, perhaps even Old Skool. Spicy, savory, with an understated elegance and a tart richness that keeps you coming back for more. But the star was the Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese Lang Pitcher “#7”, the melange of spices, tropical botrytis-influences aromatics and the bright Urziger fruit is simply delicious. Seek this one out. 

Strub is another estate that I cannot help but love. Their wines are a great representation of the people who make them - the smile is earnest, and the sun shines both from their faces and their wines. Sebastian is a perfect example - and I really enjoyed discussing the wines and the vintage with him. The 2017 “Thal” Feinherb defines the style, floral, bright, with a herbal note in the mid and a long, zesty finish. The “Soil to Soul” Kabinett is always a ridiculous value, but the 2017 offers a generous helping of pineapple on top of the ripe peach and the creamy mid rounds the whole thing off. I enjoyed both the “Herzstueck” and the Pettenthal Kabinetts, both showed bright apple and peach, ripe mid and an excellent core of acidity. The nod perhaps goes to the Pettenthal, which showed more minerality and a deeper, complex finish with ginger tones. 

While I always enjoy the wines of Meulenhof, I was even more surprised with the 2017s. These showed finesse and brightness that really served to underscore the deep fruit characters of their wines. My favorites were the Erdener Trepchen Riesling Spatlese Alte Reben and the E.T. Riesling Auslese #102. Both wines showed peaches, white flowers, hints of tangerine and excellent depth, with the Auslese adding more cream and riper peach and apricot to the mix. 

The wines of Weingut Kunstler are Rheingau wines. Elegant, masculine, with a hidden core of power and a clarity that borders philosophy. My favorite wine was the Hochheimer Kirchenstuck Riesling Kabinett Trocken, because it personified all of the above, a true Rheingau wine, masculine, complex and yet, crystal clear. One cannot overlook the Berg Schlossberg Riesling GG from 2016 either, elegant, but with yellower fruit and a more delicate feel, as expected from the vintage. 

Overall, the 2017 vintage seems extremely promising. And, at least in my case, will probably offer a good amount of wine for long term storage while I enjoy the 2016s. Overall, Riesling rewards those who can wait… but that, of course, may be just my opinion. 

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