The Wine Country’s German Wine Buyer
German wines have all of the qualities we cherish here at The Wine Country—balance, beauty, complexity, depth, and the ability to enhance a wide range of foods. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my elegant Sonoma Chardonnays, beautiful Anderson Valley Pinots, powerful Napa cabs, and all the rest. But German wines, and especially German Riesling, is simply unique, and amazing.
This month our German wine offerings can be divided into three sections.
First, we have some new arrivals that include a couple of non-Riesling dry white wines that you won’t want to miss, plus some of the greatest German fruity-style Rieslings, including two mature bottling that are remarkably well-priced. The last wine in this part is a great DRY Riesling that you won’t want to miss.
This leads into the second section, a special offering of just-released DRY German wines, both white and red.
Finally, we made a special purchase of three outstanding Rieslings, both sweet and dry, that are from two of the best estates in Germany, and which we can offer at up to 30% off their regular price. You won’t want to miss any of them!
New Arrivals: Silvaner, Sauvignon and Riesling
(Sweet, Mature, and Dry)
2010 Hans Wirsching Silvaner
Iphofer Kronsberg trocken (dry), Franken
This traditional winery is one of Germany’s hidden secrets, producing the world’s greatest Silvaner—a bold dry white wine found only in this part of the world, Alsace, one region in Italy, and one winery in California. The onion-shaped bottle known as the bocksbeutel is the traditional vessel for the Franken Region, but many producers are giving it up to better accommodate modern wine racks. Pity. The wine is as distinctive as its bottle. There are lovely florals of orange blossom in the aroma, then BAM!, the super-dry, crisp, minerally cold wine hits you like a jolt of electricity. Serve as an aperitif or with smoked trout and cheeses. You’ll love this one! It also pairs exceedingly well with a plate of sushi and sashimi! And if you don't have any fresh fish handy, a nice piece of broiled sea bass or halibut will also make our taste buds sing.
$15.99 per bottle
2011 von Buhl Sauvignon Blanc, Pfalz
A sauvignon blanc from Germany, the land of Riesling? Yes, Germany has become a real "go to" destination for crisp, bracing sauvignon, full of lemon-grass, grapefruit and stony minerality. This wine almost seems charged with electric energy with its taut acidity, yet it's perfectly balanced to go with a wide array of foods like salads, vegetables, fish, shellfish, or goat cheese. The 2010 version of this wine was hugely popular with our customers once they tried it, and the 2011 is even better balanced and more intense than its predecessor. Add this to your sauvignon blanc rotation along with those New Zealand, Chilean, French and American versions; this one deserves to be included in the mix!
$19.99 per bottle
2010 von Hövel Riesling
Oberemmeler Hütte Spätlese, Saar, Mosel
Von Hövel's wine from the Hütte vineyard is always their most popular wine, and each vintage it really delivers. The 2010 vintage was perfectly tailored for von Hövel's characteristic style of crisp, zesty acidity supporting beautifully pure grapefruit and pear notes. The bright acidity of this wine makes the sweetness a little less pronounced than usual, and this wine would be delicious wherever you would serve an off-dry wine—smoked meats, chicken, Asian cuisine, or veal sausage. A classic Spätlese from one of the best producers in Germany.
$27.99 per bottle
2004 Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spätlese, Zilliken, Saar, Mosel
Wine lovers with experience in aging German wines will tell you that Riesling ages better that virtually any white wine in the world, but it’s not easy finding good, well-stored examples of wines with some age at a good price. So we were overjoyed when we were offered this brilliant 2004 Spätlese direct from one of the top estates in the Mosel, Zilliken. The wine is rich and complex, with a savory note to it that comes from bottle age. Although a Spätlese, maturity has mellowed the sweetness, so the wine drinks more like a rich Kabinett. The estate’s classic minerality is evident from the first sip, and the structure is firm and provides a solid foundation for its more-than-usual generosity. Still fresh and very much alive, the wine is entering its peak of maturity and demonstrates just how great a mature Riesling can be when expertly vinified from a great vineyard. This is an incredible price for a wine of this quality with nearly 8 years of age on it—don’t miss it!
$29.99 per bottle
2002 Trittenheimer Felsenkopf Riesling Auslese, Milz LaurentiushofA perfectly mature 10-year-old Auslese from a superb vintage and a top producer for less than $40? Unbelievable! Ten years of cellar age has made this great wine even more complex, rich, and savory, and with maturity comes the fascinating earthy, mineral and savory elements in Riesling while reducing the perception of sweetness. A brilliant wine at its peak of perfection!
$34.99 per bottle
2009 Weilberg Riesling Grosses Gewachs, Pfeffingen, Pfalz
German wines labeled "Grosses Gewachs" are DRY wines from vineyards that are considered the "Grand Cru" of Germany. From a top vineyard in the Pfalz, the 2009 Weilberg "Grosses Gewächs" from the excellent Pfeffingen winery is a delicious but serious, profound wine that shows remarkable depth without heaviness. The richness, extract, and complexity of this wine shows clearly why Grosses Gewächs are among the most sought-after wines in Europe, and increasingly here as well. This was served to a German wine class here in the store, and everyone in the class loved this wine, and we sold out of it immediately! As you can see, we got more, but this is limited. A truly great DRY Riesling from Germany.
$41.99 per bottle
New DRY Wines, Riesling, and Pinot (Noir, Gris, and Blanc!)
Every spring, America’s best importer of German wines, Rudi Wiest, holds a “Dry Wine Tour” to introduce the new vintages of dry wines from Germany. Available for tasting are some of Germany’s greatest dry wines, and the quality is never less than dazzling. Although the emphasis is on dry Riesling, other varieties are also available, including Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Yes, Pinot Noir. Germany grows a lot of it, and although for years it was rather thin and uninteresting, that’s changing fast, and Germany is working hard to become a real source of serious Pinot Noir wines that can stand up with Burgundy, California, and New Zealand. But the whites really are the big story here, and we were very impressed with almost all the wines we sampled. In fact, the biggest problem we faced was deciding which wines NOT to buy for the store!
So this month we’re offering the first batch of these terrific DRY wines, one each made from Riesling, and each of the three Pinots, Noir, Gris, and Blanc. By purchasing now we got the best possible pricing on these wines below their regular list price, and we think they represent remarkable values considering the outstanding quality in the bottle.
2010 Schloss Schonborn Riesling Spätlese trocken (dry)
Winkel Hasensprung, Rheingau
The Winkel Hasensprung vineyard is right next to perhaps the most famous vineyard in all of Germany, Johannesburg (so famous at one time the grape was best known as Johannesburg Riesling!). The quality of this terroir in the Rheingau clearly shows in this wine, which is just brilliant. Excitingly fresh nose full of peach, apricot, and floral notes, yet one sip and you know this is a perfectly balanced, bone-dry Riesling of impeccable quality. There’s real depth and complexity, with notes of flowers, spice and stone fruits, and the acidity is refreshing and crisp without every becoming sharp or shrill, and the finish is long and delicious. Wines like this are why dry German Rieslings are gaining popularity at a rapid rate. (Regular price, $32)
$27.99 per bottle
2010 Rebholz Pinot Blanc (dry), Pfalz
The wines made by Hansjörg Rebholz have attained “cult” status in Europe and on the East Coast, on account of their rarity and remarkable quality, and they’re very expensive as a result. So we were delighted to taste this outstanding Pinot Blanc, which is quite honestly the best dry Pinot Blanc I have ever tasted, and is available at a most reasonable price. Displaying the intensity of flavor and depth that has made Rebholz famous, this is a wine that combines power and elegance in a perfect fusion of elements. Crisp, bracing, full of stone fruit notes accented with citrus, bone-dry yet round and deep, this is about as versatile a white wine as anyone could ever want, delicious to sip by itself, but even better with food, everything from fish to smoked meats, Asian stir-fry to roast chicken. A great wine at a bargain price! (Regular price $26)
$22.99 per bottle
2011 Dr. Heger Pinot Gris (dry), Baden
Pinot Gris seems to do well in a lot of places from Alsace to Oregon, but although it’s not the most widely planted variety in Germany, it’s an important one and is usually of high quality. It’s rounder, softer, and presents a lighthearted, lively drinkability. This dry bottling from the most respected estate in Baden is simply delicious and is a joy to drink. Full of the usual array of stone fruits scents (peach, apricot, nectarine), bone-dry but soft and inviting, this is a wine to drink—no, to quaff—with delight and abandon. And at the low price for a full liter of wine (equivalent to $14.25 for a 750ml bottle), this is the kind of wine you can open for a crowd, and not worry if you need to open another bottle (which you will!). Is this the ultimate Summer white? (Regular price $23)
$18.99 per liter bottle
2010 Dr. Heger Pinot Noir (dry), Baden
Pinot Noir is on the rise in Germany, but it’s tough to find one that is both good enough, and priced low enough to compare favorably with Pinots from other countries. So we were delighted to find this terrific Pinot that offers excellent quality for less than $20. And that’s for a FULL LITER of wine, equivalent to only $14.99 for a regular 750ml bottle! But price doesn’t matter if the wine doesn’t measure up. Not to worry, this is a fresh, delicious Pinot Noir, full of fruit and textbook varietal character Notes of strawberry and cherry, perfectly balanced with acidity and a very silky texture, this is a light, oh-so-drinkable wine that is perfect for summertime gatherings and meals featuring salmon, chicken, or lighter meats. Great value! Regular price, $24)
$19.99 per liter bottle
A Special Buy of End-of-Vintage Rieslings
Occasionally wine distributors are left with a few cases of great wines just as the new vintages are arriving. Rather than try to sell them case-by-case, they sometimes offer them to retailers like The Wine Country at a very special price on the condition that we take it all, however many cases are left in stock. Sometimes these wines are really “leftovers” that nobody particularly wants, but sometimes there are some real gems available at prices that can’t be beat. We found three outstanding examples of these “end of vintage” specials from top importer Rudi Wiest recently, and here they are at savings of up to 30%. Each of these is a truly outstanding wine, and with prices that will never be repeated. Of course, quantities are very limited, and once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. Don’t wait!
2009 Schloss Lieser Estate Riesling Kabinett, Mosel
Schloss Lieser is one of the rising stars of the Mosel. This is a textbook example of a German Kabinett, the lightly sweet and refreshing style of Riesling that only Germany can manage. 2009 was a great vintage in Germany, and the wines have a gentle and perfectly balanced nature that is a joy to drink. This Kabinett is a bit sweeter than “off-dry”, yet it’s full of crisp acidity and bright fruit flavors that work beautifully with food, and also tastes great as a late-afternoon quaffer. The low alcohol is a bonus, making it possible to enjoy this wine as an aperitif or with a light first course salad, and still have room for a nice red with the main course. Very versatile, and very, very delicious! (Regular price, $24)
$17.99 per bottle
2008 Schloss Lieser Riesling Spätlese Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr (Erste Lage), Mosel
We know it’s a mouthful, but Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr (brown-burger yuffer son-en-ur) is one of the greatest vineyards in Germany. It’s an “Erste Lage”, which means first growth, comparable to a Premier Cru in Burgundy. Why does it matter? Because vineyards like this produce Germany’s most profound wines, and in the hands of Schloss Lieser, the vineyard produces a wine that realizes its full potential. 2008 was a vintage that produced firm, structured wines with excellent aging potential, but also with ripe fruit that allows the wine to be enjoyed in its youth. This is a classic, brilliant spätlese, rich and full of fruit, its sweetness moderated by crisp acidity and amazing minerality. We thought this was sold out long ago, but were lucky to get the last case. One of the greatest wines of the vintage in the Mosel, and obviously very limited. (Regular price $35)
$27.99 per bottle
2007 Weilberg Riesling Grosses Gewachs, Pfeffingen, Pfalz
Read the description of the outstanding 2009 near the beginning of this article; then imagine the same wine with a couple of extra years of maturation in a cool cellar. 2007, like 2009, was considered an excellent vintage in Germany, particularly for dry wines, and now that it’s beginning (just) to mature, the true quality of the wine is starting to show. This is a little reticent when it’s first opened, especially if it’s too cold right out of the ‘fridge. Give it a little air (decanting wouldn’t hurt), let it warm up a bit, and you’ll experience real complexity, minerality and length in a perfectly balanced dry Riesling of incomparable quality. I could just smell this one for hours, and with every sip it seems to offer additional nuances and flavors. Normally older, more mature wines cost more than new releases, but because we bought the last two cases, we can actually offer this for a bit less than the 2009. Not to be missed! (Regular price $50)
$34.99 per bottle