Tag Archives: ürziger würzgarten

1997 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese* and 1999 Bonnes et Guerre Pommard AOC

Two beauties, meant for each other

Some pairings seem to be made in the heavens: Think steak and malbec, think cheese and sweet riesling, think cooked beef and burgundy wines…the list is endless. But sometimes, we have the chance to reconsider our preconceived ideas, and be surprised, because a whole new horizon opens up as we do.

On one of these days, Nina and I were visiting Stefan Erbes of Karl Erbes. We were trying our way through his newer wines and on to older wines. I mentioned it before, but the cool thing with his winery is that his father has stashed away wines of virtually every vintage. We were trying the 1996 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese against this 1997 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese* (they make up to a *** Auslese to distinguish between them according to what Stefan and his father consider the most stellar ones). Both tasted beautifully, unfortunately I cannot find the tasting notes for that visit. Stefan started explaining that he had had the 1997 with a grilled steak the other day and that that was amazing. This is when I intervened and told him to stop pulling my leg. I was incredulous. A steak and a Riesling Auslese? I know Riesling is versatile (think Korean food and riesling), but that versatile? Stefan just laughed, handed me a bottle and challenged me to try it out.

The next day, we did. We threw coals on the grill and seared beef steaks with friends. And, oh man, did it work. The wine nor the steak were ruined by the pairing. Incredibly, the sweetness of the wine gave the steak a new feel and aroma, and the smokiness of the steak gave the wine a certain depth. I was stunned. We stocked up on the wine (because it is amazing, steak or not) and were looking forward to the next BBQ Riesling dinner.

The occasion arose when we made plans with two good friends for dinner. She is falling more and more in love with German Riesling, while he has remained a bit skeptical, but is definitely indulging in the older vintages we’ve brought along. We agreed on steak, a butternut squash with sage risotto and baby potatoes. This was to be followed by a cheese platter, our usual routine.

I knew I wanted to take another bottle of wine, too, and my eyes fell on a bottle of 1999 Bonnes & Guerre Pommard. It was a gift by my French exchange partner and great friend Fred (another match made in the heavens). Pommard is a very well renown village just south of Beaune on the Cote d’Or and my friend knew full well that it is also the sister city of my home village Nackenheim. He had brought two bottles of this wine. I have not been able to find out anything about Bonnes & Guerre, so if any of you know them, please let me know. The first of these bottles I shared with two friends in my last weeks in Germany before heading over to Ann Arbor. It was an utter disappointment: The wine had clearly been dead, whether of cork or another flaw or just bad wine making, I could not determine it. It was just sad. So, I had been worrying about the bottle sitting here in Ann Arbor for a while, and I decided it was time to take it and see…

The Pommard and the decanter

The white was opened and left to breathe for about 30 minutes prior to tasting, the red was decanted and stood for about 45 minutes. We had parts of the Würzgarten with our steaks, and then some of the Pommard as well. That led over to the cheese course, where we also had both wines.

My notes on the 1997 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese* (the wine had 7.5% ABV): The color was surprisingly light, not as ambered as one would expect an Auslese to be when 15 years old. The nose initially was not very prominent, I could not distinguish any particular aromas. As the wine opened up, there was peach in the nose. On the palate, the wine was very fresh, no significant indications of ageing. The peach aromas came through very nicely, the acidity in the wine balancing the reduced sugar beautifully. I guess I was most endeared by how fresh the wine still tasted. About 2 hours into the evening, the wine opened up further and there were tropical fruits coming in. The wine paired nicely with our steaks, but we were also happy to have preserved some for the cheese, because it definitely shone more on the cheese course, when it opened up and was supported more by the goat cheese we were having. It is a marvelous piece of art that Karl Erbes created…

So light…

I knew this bottle of 1999 Bonnes & Guerre Pommard AOC was not flawed as soon as I uncorked it. The cork looked clean and intact, and when I poured the wine into the decanter, a full blown raspberry attack was going on. I don’t recall ever to have had such a prominent and distinct raspberry aroma in the nose. The wine was incredibly light in color, almost translucent. There was no darkening or browning on the edges when poured into the glass. It was remarkably fresh as well. In the nose, the raspberry aromas persisted, with some jam and tartness mixed in. I also smelled something like dough batter, but that might have been my brain playing tricks on me (I love raspberry tartes). There were also notes of chalk in the nose. On the palate, the wine was condensed, but very fruity. The alcohol of 13% ABV was noticeable, but at no instance was the wine heavy. Later in the evening, when we were having cheese, the wine showed cherry, plum and slight tomato notes. There was also a certain earthiness to it. The wine was such a surprise to me. I had expected it to be flawed or a heavier, darker pinot noir. The light color deceived that it was deep and subtle and strong. The finish was long, and it shone through.

Was this a pairing made in the heavens? I think it was. Trying old wines with friends, from two regions in the world that matter a lot to me, both fruity, both light, both deep. They expressed some great European wine making, and to have them side by side, was an experience I likely will not forget for quite some time…

Playing with filters to show how light it looked…

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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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The Vereinigte Hospitien tasting in June 2012

The line up

Finally, here are the tasting notes for our awesome tasting at Vereinigte Hospitien in June. As you might remember (if not, here is the initial report), we were sitting in Germany’s oldest wine cellar (the walls dating back to the 300s A.D.), soaking in the awesome atmosphere as our host Marc was picking up some bottles to try. And he did not let us down!

Here is the wine list:

1) 1987 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese

2) 1987 Erdener Prälat Riesling Spätlese

3) 1990 Kanzemer Altenberg Riesling Auslese

4) 2011 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett

5) 2003 Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Spätlese

6) 2011 Trierer Augenscheiner Riesling Spätlese

We began with a tasting of two 1987 wines from two of our favorite vineyards: Ürziger Würzgarten and Erdener Prälat. It is Nina’s birth year and Marc had learned that from the blog. We had tried the Erdener Treppchen Spätlese before, so now we were able to compliment this tasting experience that I described here.  Just think about that: we were able to try three similar quality wines from three connected vineyards of a 25 year old vintage. Maybe it is just me, but I get pretty excited about that!!

Both wines were spätlesen and they had remarkably similar profiles. The Ürziger Würzgarten had 10.4 grams of acidity per liter, with 41 grams of residual sugar; the Erdener Prälat was slightly higher in acidity at 10.5 grams and sweeter with 45 grams of residual sugar. At 84 degree Oechsle (a scale to measure the sugar in the harvested grape), it had the highest Oechsle for any of their spätlese in that year.

The Ürziger Würzgarten’s nose was flowery and fresh, one could say a typical nose for this vineyard. On the tongue, it had a sizeable amount of acidity, which gave it an incredibly fresh taste. The acidity persisted throughout the tasting. It was hard for me to discern what fruits I tasted.

The Erdener Prälat was remarkably well preserved. The nose was full of peach and once the wine reached our mouths, it broadened out, fully taking command of our taste buds with peach and apricot. The acidity only appeared more towards the end. It had a long finish.

It was interesting to see how different these two wines tasted. You could definitely tell the terroir in them, but the higher residual sugar in the Prälat probably helps explain why the acidity was less pronounced in it.

Two beauties

Another interesting thing we learned was that Vereinigte Hospitien did a chemical analysis of the Würzgarten and it produced a fascinating result. One thing that you hear over and over again when tasting older rieslings is that they tend to be more balanced, because the sweetness goes down and the acidity stays, so the wines become less fruit-pronounced. However, the chemical analysis showed that the amount of sugar in the wine had not gone down – at all. There was still the same amount of sugar in the wine! We just do not taste it anymore. Apparently, there is no real explanation for that. One guess is that the sugar transforms into longer-chained molecules that our taste buds cannot taste…crazy, right?

We then went for a 1990 Kanzemer Altenberg Auslese. Kanzem is at the river Saar, a small contribuary that meets the Mosel just south of Trier. Saar wines are usually more mineralic and have higher acidity levels than the Mosel, which makes for very interesting wines. Kanzemer Altenberg is one of the top vineyards along that river. The bottle had been recorked. The wine has 52 grams of residual sugar, harvested from fully ripe grapes.

Upon opening and pouring, we saw a dark orange wine, with a salty and sherry like nose. On the tongue it was weirdly metallic, some hints of passion fruit. It then fell flat fast. We decided the bottle was flawed (actually, Marc, who knew how it should taste decided…but it did taste odd). The second bottle we opened was very different: lighter in color, the nose full of gooseberry. On the tongue, it had a fabulous acidity, lively fruit notes and just gave us a great mouth-full of wine. The texture was wonderful. A great wine!

We then tried a 2011 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett. The Scharzhofberg is the Saar’s most famous vineyard and its wines rank among my favorite. It has a hard to describe terroir note to it that I just find incredibly endearing and comforting. This one did not let us down. At 88 degree Oechsle, this Kabinett is actually a wine that could have been labelled as an Auslese, two spots higher. It has 9.8% ABV. The nose was fruity and flowery. On the tongue I tasted banana and apricot, with a looooong finish. Just a very decent, yummy wine.

Nina’s highlight, and I was pretty impressed, too, was the 2003 Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Spätlese. Initially a single-owned vineyard by Vereinigte Hospitien, they are now leasing some out to other winemakers. The color was light and fresh. The nose full of strawberry and cream, with vanilla thrown in. On the tongue, the same tastes prevail. The sweetness is wonderfully balanced by a fresh acidity. Later on, we tasted caramel notes creeping in. Long finish, too. It was such a fun wine. We have had another bottle since, and that was just as good. A great wine at a great price ($15).

We finished the tasting with a 2011 Trierer Augenscheiner Riesling Spätlese, a vineyard completely owned by Vereinigte Hospitien. At 72 grams of residual sugar and 92 degree Oechsle, the first thing we noticed was sweet peach in the nose, complimented by perfumy and flowery notes. The taste was floral as well (I am bad with discerning different floral notes), the texture silky. The wine seemed incredibly concentrated, and definitely not yet ready for consumption. I bought a couple of bottles to see where this one is headed to…

As you can see, it was quite the outstanding tasting: old and new, Saar and Mosel. The full variety, even of just the sweeter rieslings, came out beautifully. I am looking forward to many more tastings there…

Bliss…

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