Tag Archives: 2011 vintage

Meeting the vintners: Weingut Karl Erbes, Ürzig (Mosel), Germany

So much better than Hollywood

Some of my readers might remember our awesome tasting at Vereinigte Hospitien in June (if not, the venue is described here and the tasting notes are here). It should not be a surprise to you if I say that this tasting was not the last tasting of the day…we had an appointment with Stefan Erbes at Karl Erbes winery.

From Trier we headed to the autobahn to race to Ürzig (about 35 minutes down the Mosel, but our car was weighed down by the accumulated wine boxes in it, so we might have been a bit slower) because we had made arrangements with Stefan Erbes of Karl Erbes winery there. I first came across this winery, low and behold, through my friend ManSoo (yes, you have heard that name before). When friends of ours had given Nina a wine weekend along the Mosel as a birthday gift in 2011 we were looking at a lot of wineries.  ManSoo suggested we give them a try, so we did. It was not a mistake. The tasting that day was epic: Stefan opened bottle after bottle, and we had tons of fun. We even came back the next morning for some of their sparkling wine (made like champagne, but cannot be called that for trademark reasons). We went back several times since, and Stefan has become a good friend.

View towards Erdener Prälat and Treppchen

For those unfamiliar with Ürzig let me quickly recap why I like that village so much. Ürzig is nestled to some steep hills along the Mosel. Just driving into it from the Autobahn gives you an idea how steep when the view opens up to the Mosel. This village is all about wine. The drive down the sloped roads also reveals vine after vine, even in the village. It is home or close to three of my favorite vineyards: Ürziger Würzgarten (Spice Garden), Erdener Treppchen (Little Steps), and Erdener Prälat (Prelate).

Karl Erbes winery is a rather young winery, founded in 1967. Karl Erbes had been cellarmaster for other wineries when he decided to start his own winery. Stefan, his son who is now in charge of wine making, joined in in 1984. The winery owns about 5 hectares (about 12.3 acres) in the Würzgarten and Treppchen, with ungrafted vines up to 80 years old. They recently were able to snatch a small lot in the much coveted Erdener Prälat (there is usually a scramble for lots there: only a handful of winemakers own or rent land in this tiny vineyard). I am really excited about this, because a) I love the Prälat wines and b) I love Stefan’s style of winemaking, so the combination should be great! The winery has a tasting room and wine bar where you can go and try their wines with some food during the summer months. It is a great way to spend an evening.

Stefan and I

Stefan is a great guy. I will never forget how open and welcoming he was when we first stumbled into their tasting room. There is nothing artificial about him: He is a straight talker, but he also has a wonderful sense of humor. He strongly cares about his wines, but there is also a human connection that I really enjoy. Last fall, I spent one day harvesting with his crew and the way he took care of me was really heart-warming. Silly me had not prepared a lunch package (hell, I was glad I made it out there at 7.30 AM!). So, he just brought me some of his mother’s home-cooked meal with a pastry bun and hot coffee for lunch. It was a great experience working in these vineyards, although I am glad I only did it for a day. My muscles were hurting the next few days…I later went with my mother, and we had a great time as well (Stefan’s uncle, who runs the wine bar, actually was able to convince my mother that riesling can be good…a feat I never accomplished). In short, it is one of the friendliest and most hospitable wineries I know.

Another cool thing is that Karl Erbes was smart enough to stash away bottles of each vintage and hold on to them. Their list of rarity wines is phenomenal (and so are the prices for these wines – for some 25+ year wines you pay as little as $15!). We have had incredible 1996 and 1997 wines, I tried a 1977 (my birthyear), and we have an 1987 put aside for another of Nina’s birthdays. It is a great chance to actually buy and try some old rieslings without paying a fortune.

The line

Alright, with that, to the wines. We tried a total of 15 wines from Kabinett to Beerenauslese and ice wine, all 2011. If you are unaware of the wine levels in Germany, check out my at a glance sheet. As before, I will write about some wines seperately. All grapes are riesling grapes.

We started with two dry spätlesen from Würzgarten and Treppchen (he even produced a dry auslese, but we did not try that one). Again, it became clear that 2011 was a great year for dry rieslings. The 2011 Erdener Treppchen Spätlese trocken was mild with the typical Treppchen aromas of yellow fruit. The 2011 Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese trocken was fuller bodied and had more muscle to it with its terroir typical floral notes. Both wines were quite good, but I do prefer the sweeter wines (as you should know by now).

On to the three semi-sweets: The Erdener Treppchen Spätlese halbtrocken was nicely silky on the tongue, with a good amount of acidity. But it was a bit too heavy for my taste. The Ürziger Würzgarten Kabinett feinherb was, again, floral but with distinct minerality to it and some not overpowering fruit. My star in this line up was the Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese feinherb: full of minerality, awesome perfume notes in the nose, silky texture, long finish. Just a great, great typical Mosel wine.

On the sweet end of the spectrum, we tried ten wines. This is where Stefan is really strong. The Ürziger Würzgarten Kabinett was an explosion of fruit, with some banana, and the sweetness wrapped in healthy acidity. The spätlesen and his auslesen will be dealt with in a seperate post.

We finished with the Beerenauslese (BA) from Treppchen and Würzgarten. The Treppchen had so much fruit in it that it was hard to wrap your head around. The viscosity on the tongue, the sugar and acidity playing on your tongue, the seemingly endless finish made this wine incredibly sensuous. At 301 grams of residual sugar per liter, you would think it is all syrup, but it was not. The Würzgarten, with an insane 315 grams of residual sugar per liter, was much more lively than the Treppchen. The wine was dancing on my tongue with tons of dried fruits. These wines are not for daily consumption, and they are not ready for consumption at this point. But they will be stellar in many years to come…

But we were not quite finished yet. Stefan was pouring us a browny, slightly milky wine without telling us what it was and asked us what we thought of it. The wine tasted somewhat off, it had a somewhat muggy smell. It had some salty notes in it, too. Turned out it was berries he harvested as ice wine on February 3, 2012. That is pretty far into the new year, even for an ice wine. The problem was that some berries were rotten at that point. So, he cannot sell it as an ice wine (grapes have to be healthy), but it was still an interesting experience…

We had big plans to go back once more after an insane 24 hour Rome trip the next week, but it turned out that a night without sleep was not the best starting point for going to theirs the next morning. So we had to skip that. But I am really looking forward to the next visit!! Stefan speaks good English, so please go and visit them if you get the chance. Readers in Europe can order their wines through their website at winery prices plus a modest shipping fee. There is absolutely no reason not to try their wines.

With that, we ended our trip to the Mosel in June 2012. I so cannot wait to go back.

Back in my hometown

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Meeting the vintners: Weingut Reuscher-Haart, Piesport (Mosel), Germany

I am slowly but surely getting there, catching up with my winery visit notes from the Germany trip. A couple more to go, and I promise I will also be posting more tasting notes and shorter pieces soon…

But back to the story: For June 16, I had made arrangements with Weingut Reuscher-Haart for around 4:30 to 5:00pm, right after the tasting at Weingut Dr. Hermann. We were about 2 1/2 hours into our tasting there when I realized that there was no way we could hold that time frame. I stepped outside and gave Mario Schwang, owner and winemaker at Reuscher-Haart, a call. He was more than relaxed: We should come whenever we were done. If he was not there, then his father Hugo would do the tasting. No problem at all. We are always welcome. This response gives you a really good impression of Mario. He is one of the nicest and coolest winemakers I know. Ever since our first tasting there in 2011 he has let us know that we are always welcome, whenever.

The Reuscher-Haart winery has a long history. The two families date back to 1624 (Reuscher) and 1337 (Haart) respectively, and the coat of arms on their labels bring that home. The winery is still located where the seat of the Haart family was, with a garden adjacent to the Mosel. The merging of the families happened in 1919 when Elisabeth Haart married Matthias Reuscher. Their portraits adorn the tasting room, too. Mario and his father Hugo have a very clear vision: They have cut back on their yields to increase quality in their grapes, and since 1987 they have been using integrated, natural methods of protecting their grapes without inescticides. The vinification also happens in gentle steps: Reuscher-Haart owns temperature controlled stainless steel barrels that lets Mario and Hugo use very low temperatures (5 to 8 C) in fermentation to preserve natural aromas. They clarify their wines without any clarifying agents.

Mario (left) at our wine tasting in 2011

We first came in touch with this winery through my friend ManSoo (whom else?). He suggested stopping by there and our first wine tasting in June 2011 was awesome. First, Mario’s father Hugo took us on a Vineyard Safari in their old Land Rover. We drove through the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, stopped occasionally and Hugo filled us in on their gentle approach to cultivating vines, and what the work in the vineyards means for the winemaker. After a good hour or so, we headed back to the estate and had a tasting with Mario. Not only did we have a lot of fun, we also liked their wines a lot. The basic Gutsriesling is probably the best price-value bargain you can get at the Mosel (I mentioned it previously here). We had been back for their wine presentation in August 2011, and Nina took some of her visiting friends there and had a great time, too.

The winery is located in Piesport, home of the Goldtröpfchen (Gold droplets). Reuscher-Haart owns vineyards in Goldtröpfchen, Domherr (Canon, as in a priest assigned to the cathedral), and Falkenberg (Mountain of Falcons) as well as the lesser known Günterslay and Grafenberg. Most international readers connect Piesport with “Michelsberg”. That, unfortunately, is the least appealing vineyard in Piesport. Unlike Goldtröpfchen, Domherr and Falkenberg, it is not located on the Northern side of the Mosel, where it would get full sun exposure all day, but on the South bank of the river, in flat terrain that used to be farmland and was not used for growing wines until a couple of decades ago. Another thing one should know is that the Goldtröpfchen used to be much smaller and was extended significantly under the German Wine Act of 1971. Old Piesport wineries were fighting this and got permission to label the core piece of Goldtröpfchen as “Piesporter Domherr”. So Domherr is the heart of Goldtröpfchen. Unfortunately, hardly anyone knows this and Domherr has therefore not been as succesful as the Goldtröpfchen…

During our vineyard safari 2011: Piesport Goldtröpfchen behind us, Piesporter Michelsberg on the other side of the Mosel

By the time we finally made it to the winery, we were already two tastings in and it was approaching 7:00pm. We were also constrained by the European soccer championships, because we wanted to watch the match that night which started at 8:45pm. This did not right by Reuscher-Haart, but given that Mario is a member of the “Weinelf“, Germany’s national soccer team composed of winemakers, he understood. Also, we were just three weeks away from Mario’s wedding, so their level of relaxedness was even more impressive. Another thing that happened was that we completely forgot to take pictures which is why I am using photos of older tastings there…

Member of Germany’s wine soccer team!

Mario had to run some errands, so we tried the first wines with Hugo. It is always interesting to get a glimpse into the relationship in these family businesses. While Hugo is obviously very proud of Mario and his work, he is still very much involved in day to day decision processes. The latest contention they had was about labelling. Mario has tried out a new label design for one of their export bottles to the U.S. and Hugo was not fond of it. The cool thing was that we got to discuss the virtues of both approaches, and that there are no hard feelings involved. It is a dispute about how best to present their products.

Their newest project is the planting of a new grape called cabernet blanc. Hugo explained that it is a new crossing between cabernet sauvignon and resistant grapes. Its main advantage is that it is fungus resistant. The berries are small and leave room for air between the grapes. In taste, it is being compared to a mix of sauvignon blanc and riesling. I am already curious about the results.

We tried a total of nine wines that evening and were very happy with what we got to try. I will write about some in seperate posts. If you are unclear about what some of my designations mean, check out the at a glance sheet on German wine classifications.

The line in 2011

We began with their dry wines. Most of them had not been bottled yet (Mario and his father believe in late bottling, given the wines as much time as they need to ripen), so we just went with the two 2010s they still have available. The 2010 Piesporter Falkenberg Riesling Kabinett had aged quite nicely: good fruit, very fresh still, nicely long in the finish. The acidity was pleasant. The 2010 – Urgestein – (a dry Spätlese from the Domherr) was awesome. Coconut in the nose it was a powerhouse on the tongue with a forceful acidity. Very impressive.

The two semi-sweets were both Spätlesen from the Goldtröpfchen. The 2010 Spätlese RZ 13 had nicely aged, but was not really my taste. I would have wished for some more sweetness in the wine. The 2011 “Überschwang” was a beautiful delivery of a classical Mosel riesling with a fruity nose with a not overbearing sweetness.

I compared their dry and sweet gutsriesling in a seperate post here.

Their sweet wines of 2011, though, were all very impressive. The Goldtröpfchen Kabinett had apple notes, was very fresh with an awesome amount of acidity and will probably be good for a while. There were two spätlesen from the Goldtröpfchen, one with 9% ABV and the other with 8.5%. The 9% ABV one was incredible: gooseberry and tons of tropical fruit on the nose and with the same notes on the tongue. It was fresh and is well worth storing. The 8.5% in contrast, had hints of sauerkraut on the nose (yes, that was weird!) and seemed a whole lot sweeter on the tongue. I think it needs a bit longer to settle and show its true colors.

We had to rush out to get to see the match, so we did not try their blush and red wine of 2011, but I remember the 2010s as pretty decent, too. It was great seeing Mario and Hugo again, and I wish we had had more time to spend with them. They are both visionaries and it is great to learn from them. I look very much forward to our next encounter and what they will come up with next. Mario speaks great English, so don’t hesitate to go visit! And make sure you ask for the vineyard safari. You can find Reuscher-Haart wines in the U.S. German and European readers can order their wines through the winery website. Pricing is quite reasonable, and the wines are well worth the money.

Steep vineyards in the Goldtröpfchen

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