Tag Archives: winery

2011 Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp “Kern” Riesling Fass 9

Peter Lauer's iconic label

Peter Lauer’s iconic label

For me, 2011 is a difficult vintage in German Riesling. The summer was very warm, and the grapes ripened a lot which resulted in lower acidity levels in general. It made for really nice dry wines when I tried them in 2012, but by now, I find a lot of them to feel flabby and uninspiring. So in general, I tend to avoid 2011 German Rieslings, at least at the moment.

It’s nice when you come across a bottle that actually captures you and makes you come back to it. And that was exactly what this bottle of wine by Saar winery Peter Lauer did for me. Peter Lauer, now a member of the elite winemaker association VDP, has been making highly acclaimed wines for a while now, and while I still have not visited the winery (something I intend to remedy this summer), I have had a decent amount of their portfolio. Their labels are hard to miss, given their unique design, and there are many things that make this winery stand out:

They try to defy German wine laws by putting fantasy names that closely resemble abolished vineyard names on the label to truly designate terroir and where exactly the grapes were grown.

They also put the barrel number on the label, because traditionally this winery put the must from its different plots in different barrels to vinify them separately.

They tend to not use the usual designations of Kabinett or Spätlese, and it is rather the barrel number (the German word for barrel is “Fass”) that will indicate what style the wine is made in.

Their slogan is: “Riesling for advanced drinkers” (Riesling für Fortgeschrittene)…

The 2011 Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp “Kern” Riesling Fass 9 has 10% ABV with 35 grams of residual sugar/liter and hails from the Ayler Kupp vineyard, one of the prime locations along the Saar river. The “Kern” subsite is facing away from the Saar, on the far end of the Kupp. The winery considers it one of its premium sites, stocked with old vines. You can see it on this map:

Peter Lauer vineyard site map (Credit: Winery website)

Peter Lauer vineyard site map (Credit: Winery website)

The wine poured in a light yellow color like straw with hints of green. The nose was intense, with aromas of green apple and papaya, very fresh. The nose alone made me want to dive deeper into the wine. On the palate, it was light to medium bodied with a lot of heft to it. It was creamy, with lots of caramel, almost burnt caramel aromas (totally unexpected given its color!) and showed a lot of herbal character. I did not detect much fruit. The acidity was not noticeable, but not very prominent, but the sweetness was at the same time never overpowering. Towards the end, I detected some bitter aromas which did not quite fit in at that stage. The finish was of medium length. On the next day, the wine tasted a lot nuttier with walnut being the most prominent aroma on display.

This is not a Riesling as one usually expects a Riesling to be: The lack of fruit on the palate, the heaviness of the wine. There was so much going on on a different level than usually that made this wine a great experience. I am again and again surprised by what this grape can be capable of in the hands of the right winemakers. This wine is definitely worth a try and your time, especially in the darker months of the year. Peter Lauer wines are rather well available in the US.



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Meeting the Vintners: Weingut Kistenmacher und Hengerer, Heilbronn (Württemberg), Germany

The wines of Württemberg winery Kistenmacher & Hengerer

The wines of Württemberg VDP winery Kistenmacher & Hengerer

While visiting Germany back in November, Delta’s weird flight scheduling and pricing made it so that flying into Stuttgart instead of Frankfurt made my flight $400 cheaper. Stuttgart is about 2 1/2 hours from my hometown, and a train ride is about $30, so this was a no-brainer. A good friend of mine lives in Heilbronn, about 45 minutes from Stuttgart, and I decided to visit him for a weekend as well. While making those plans, I figured it could also be worthwhile to expand my scope and palate and go try some wines at a winery in Württemberg, an area I had never visited. A quick Google search made it clear that Kistenmacher & Hengerer should be the place to visit in Heilbronn: They were admitted to the elite winemaker association VDP in January 2013, are part of the Slow Food movement, and have garnered great reviews for their wines. In other words: Another no-brainer. I contacted the winery and after some very friendly back and forth we agreed on meeting on a Sunday morning to have some quiet time with each other.

Let me give you some background on the German wine region of Württemberg first (you can find more info on this website): Württemberg is Germany’s fourth largest wine region (only topped by Rheinhessen, Palatinate, and Baden) with 11,359 hectares (approximately 28,000 acres) under vine according to the German Wine Institute’s 2012 statistics. It’s located in Southern Germany, roughly in the area along the river Neckar between Stuttgart and Heilbronn. Unlike many other wine regions in Germany, the focus in this region is not on white grapes but rather red grapes. Again citing the German Wine Institute’s 2012 numbers the most prevalent grapes are: Trollinger (red) with 20.4% of the total area under vine, Riesling with 18.5% of total area, Lemberger (red) with 14.6%, Schwarzriesling (red) with 13.8%, and Spätburgunder (aka Pinot noir) with 11.4%. You probably have not heard of some of these grapes, and that is the other great news about this area: It’s bursting with indigenous grapes which are rather unique for this area and make distinct and interesting wines. And can boost your Wine Century Club application if you need more grapes…

When the day of the visit came, it was pouring cats and dogs, but only after I had decided to walk the 30 minutes to the winery…and on a Sunday morning in Heilbronn, no cabs could me made out…the greater my joy when I arrived at Kistenmacher & Hengerer, where Sabine Hengerer greeted me with warmth and a smile, and some hearty breakfast foods. How better to start a wine tasting? Plus: There were some pretty excited dogs to be greeted! Still, I was quite nervous. I felt a bit out of my comfort zone, which in Germany is the Mosel and some of Rheinhessen regions. This was going to be different, wine-wise, people-wise. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of someone I had never met, and the list of wines and unknown grapes was long…

Yes, we were both excited...

Yes, we were both excited…

When Hans Hengerer first came down the stairs, he initially seemed the quiet type. There is a calm about him that struck me: He knows what he wants, and he knows how to achieve that. He is sincere about his wine philosophy and work, and not prone to long introductions to his wines. He likes to let them speak for themselves, and gave me plenty of time to assess them on my own, before we would talk about them. I really liked that. But let’s take a look at the winery:

Kistenmacher & Hengerer is the result of a “merger” between the Hengerer and Kistenmacher families that happened in the 1950s, and Hans Hengerer took over operations in the mid-1990s. Yet, the two families have a long history, with winemaking dating back to the 1400s and 1500s. But that does not really seem to matter all that much to winemaker Hans Hengerer. When I asked him about the long history, he was rather dismissive as if he saw it as potentially inhibiting. We talked about the differences to his parents’ generation when it comes to winemaking and it is clear that he has respect for what they did, but is finding his own ways. They took him to South Africa, and upon his return led him to explore the older and at times forgotten local grapes Muskateller and Samtrot, and Clevner, grapes many (including me) are, if even, only dimly aware of. All the while, he also produces Riesling and Spätburgunder (Germany’s Pinot noir). Hengerer strongly believes in intensive vineyard work and low yields: he produces between 70,000 and 80,000 bottles per year. Terroir matters to him, the soils he works on can be challenging, and he wants every wine to be the result of its climate and soil. Uniformity is as far from his idea of wines as you can imagine. Most of his wines are made in the dry style (90% of his Riesling is dry).



Hengerer is also a founding member of the group “Junges Schwaben” (aka “Young Swabia”), a group of five winemakers from the Württemberg growing region that began cooperating in 2002, and in which every one of the quintet makes one particular wine that is marketed particularly as a Junges Schwaben wine (in Hengerer’s case a Spätburgunder). Hans Hengerer’s sense of humor, a quiet, witty humor, shone through when he insisted with a wink that the group was called Young Swabia, and not Young Swabian”s” because none of the winemakers should qualify as “young” anymore (he was born in 1967). They wanted to highlight the awakening of the region, which is indeed moving rapidly from Trollinger-dominated vineyards to broader and more experimental wine making.

The tasting at the winery took around three hours, as I said, the Hengerers were generous with their time. I got to try 16 of their wines, beginning with the Rieslings from estate wine to late harvest, with a Gelber Muskateller and a cuvee of Riesling and Kerner thrown in, and then on to the reds, from lighter Trollinger to Samtrot to Clevner and his outstanding Spätburgunder. I will go into more detail about some of the wines in the next post, but let me say this: I loved the variety of grapes, and the variety of wines within single grapes. None of his wines were “easy”, they all had character. It really was like every wine was telling its own story. Hengerer insists that his wines take time, that they need to continue developing in the bottle and I can see what he means.

I wasn’t able to take many wines with me, but I decided to take some of the more unusual ones that I wanted Nina to try: the Muskateller, the Samtrot, a Lemberger and some cuvees. Most of them, and I am sure Hans Hengerer would like that, will still be waiting for a while until we open them…you can find more detailed reviews of the wines I tried in my notes here.

You can visit Kistenmacher & Hengerer Monday through Friday from 4pm until 6.30pm, Saturdays from 9am until 11am and from 1pm until 4pm or make an appointment via email or telephone. The winery is located at Eugen-Nägele-Str. 23-25, Heilbronn. Heilbronn is about a 45 minutes drive from Stuttgart.

With Hans Hengerer

With Hans Hengerer


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GranMonte Asoke Valley Winery – The Tasting Notes

The vineyards of GranMonte Winery

The vineyards of GranMonte Winery

Alright, as promised in my Meeting the Vintners article on GranMonte Asoke Valley Winery last week, I want to share some impressions on the wines I tried. We had the chance to try these wines with dinner, and some without, and that definitely shaped some of the impressions. All in all, I think the line up was pretty impressive. The wines expressed a ton of flavor, making them very appealing.

Let me start with a couple of whites:

The 2012 Sole Chenin blanc Viognier, which contains 93% Chenin blanc and 7% Viognier grapes, was fermented in stainless steel and French oak barrels and spent four months on the lees. It has 13% ABV, 5.4 gr of acidity/liter and 3.8 gr of residual sugar/liter, which under German wine laws puts this in solidly dry territory. The wine poured in a clear, light yellow and had an incredibly fresh nose with banana and citrus aromas. On the palate, it showed good fruit in the beginning, mostly citrus, then it became quite creamy on mid-palate to be followed by bitter orange rinds which were surprising but not unpleasant. The acidity kept the wine refreshing, which made it a great companion in the tropical heat.

The 2012 Verdelho poured in a stronger yellow color, and showed a nose full of tropical fruit: a bucket full of papaya and passion fruit. Absolutely loved it. On the palate, it was almost medium-bodied, silky and creamy, with good acidity and nicely lingering finish with some lemon pepper aromas. I enjoyed this wine for its great drinkability. I wasn’t quite sure how to pair this with food, but with a wine like this I don’t actually feel like it needs pairing. Again, very enjoyable white wine.

The 2013 Verdelho, which had just been bottled, in contrast was of very light color, almost as clear as water. The nose had mostly gooseberry aromas (which I underlined four times in my notes), papaya, some chewing gum, and just jumped at me in its fruitiness (yes, even after the previous two wines!). Again, this wine was more on the medium-bodied side, passion fruit the dominating aromas. The mid-palate seemed a bit wobbly, but that might be due to its recent filling, and the finish came through strong with a nice peppery touch. Strong showing.

I really wasn’t expecting the whites to be this fruity and light given the climate. That was a very nice surprise.

In the winery shop.

In the winery shop.

We then moved on to the reds, and we were in for some treats.

We started with the, again recently filled, 2012 Heritage Syrah. Made from only Syrah grapes, this wine ferments in stainless steel and then spends 12 months in French oak. 13% ABV, and a healthy acidity of 5.67 gr/l. It poured in a medium ruby red, and the nose showed cassis, sour cherries, some branches and slightly earth aromas which were complemented by violets. I really enjoyed the fruitiness of this wine on the palate, with raspberries and some jam. It was earthy, had great tannins, and combined subtlety with a good backbone. The finish was just beautifully long, it lasted and lasted and lasted (I wrote down 25 seconds +). The coolest thing about this wine was how it stood up to steaks paired with super spicy oils. We just couldn’t believe how this wine worked with such heat. Incredible.

We then tried the 2009 Orient Syrah, one step up from the Heritage Syrah. The grapes come from their three oldest and lowest yielding blocks in the vineyard, were fermented in stainless steel, and then moved to 83% French, and 17% American oak barrels for 12 months. The wine had 14% ABV and 5.1 gr/l acidity. The color was decidedly darker than the Heritage Syrah. The nose was very restrained, seemed much more old world in style than the previous wine. There was some leather, some prunes. On the palate, this full bodied wine showed great balance, was just the right amount of dark fruits with earthy aromas ( I really enjoyed how earthy this one was), tannins to hold it up. It also showed a long finish and was a pleasure to drink. Not as exciting as the Heritage, but definitely well made.

Probably Nina’s favorite of the night was next: The 2009 Asoke Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah, GranMonte’s flagship wine. Made with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah grapes, the must ferments in stainless steel before spending 14 months in 83% French and 17% American oak barrels. The final product has 14% ABV and 5.8 gr/l of acidity. It was pitch dark in the glass, almost black. Wow. The nose was decidedly Cabernet Sauvignon, branchy, a bit green peppers, with red berries and vanilla aromas. Very expressive nose, intense. On the palate, all I got initially was cassis, cassis, cassis, so strong. The wine had great tannins, showed some tobacco, heft and a good mouthfeel. The balance was there, the finish was good. Everything came together in this wine. As I said, Nina really really liked this wine. For me, it was too powerful, I think. I am not a fan of these big reds. Again, this was a great wine, it was just not meant for me. I am more at home with the earthier, less expressive wines.

The final wine was, how could it be otherwise with me, the just filled 2013 Bussaba Chenin blanch Semillon, a white made in the late harvest style. It contains 60% Chenin blanc, 35% Semillon, and 5% Canadian Muscat grapes. The color was very light, almost watery (not what I expected in a late harvest style white). The nose showed intense aromas of honeydew, mango, and mint. On the palate, it was most of all refreshing, again showing this great acidity that Nikki is capable of expressing in her whites, that never make this boring or feel too sweet. It retains a lightness and seems to have the right ingredients to also age well.

All in all, as you can probably tell, I was quite impressed. The wines showed finesse and craft, and most of all, were pretty tasty. I was told by the owners that some of their wines are now available in San Francisco, and when I did a quick Google search, I found the Thai restaurant Koh Samui & The Monkey at least offered some GranMonte wines in mid 2013. Might be worth checking out!

Wine and company make people happy

Wine and company make people happy

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