A Truly Special Riesling

Today’s Story: Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl

Reichsrat von Buhl was established in 1849 by Franz Peter Buhl, and the estate quickly became a benchmark of quality for Forster Riesling. Thanks to uncompromising quality, von Buhl Rieslings became some of the most expensive in the world and even filled the glasses of those toasting the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Even Otto von Bismarck became a loving fan of von Buhl wines and praised their Ungeheuer which is sourced from the best plot of the 29 hectare Grand Cru Ungeheuer vineyard.

In 1909, Franz Eberhard Buhl (the son of Armand von Buhl and Juliane Schellhorn-Wallbillich) orchestrated the marriage of the von Buhl and Schellhorn-Wallbillich wineries, establishing one of the largest privately owned German wine estates at over 200 hectares. At this point, Franz Eberhard changed the winery name to Reichsrat von Buhl (adding his title as a member in the house of Lords in the kingdom of Bavaria). Franz Eberhard passed away young in 1921 and his widow Frieda Piper von Buhl adeptly ran the estate until her death in 1952. With no familial heirs to the estate, Reichsrat von Buhl went to Georg Enoch Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg who was a political friend of Franz Eberhard.

Over time, Reichsrat von Buhl decreased in size to about 52 hectares of vineyard land thanks to financial challenges, though they maintained ownership of some of the greatest sites in Deidesheim and Forst. From 1989 to 2013, von Buhl was leased to Japanese business man Toyohiro Tokuoka but changed ownership in 2005 to a local businessman named Achim Niederberger. When Tokuoka’s lease ended in 2013, von Buhl went back to being a family-run estate and winery.

All vineyards owned by Reichsrat von Buhl are certified organic and the current team is unified behind natural and sustainable viticulture. All white wines from von Buhl are Riesling (except for two noble sweet wines) and all red wines and rosé are made from Pinot Noir. Of all the land planted to vine that von Buhl owns, 45% is classified as either VDP.Erste Lage® (Premier Cru) or VDP.Grosse Lage® (Grand Cru) – source. For more on this historic German estate, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Großes Gewächs

100% Riesling; 13% ABV

The 2014 Ungeheuer Riesling GG is transparent medium yellow in color with medium to deep straw hues. As the wine opens up, it constantly evolves and showcases its complexity transitioning from dominant aromas of dried gravel, petrol, and pineapple into apricot, peach, white florals, exotic Asian spice, honey, and smoke. Once in the mouth, this gorgeous Riesling displays notes of white peach, lemon zest, green apple skins, apricot, saline and crushed rock minerality, honeysuckle, beeswax, flint, and dried herbs. This is medium-bodied and bone-dry with gorgeous high acidity and a lush mouthfeel into an incredibly long finish.

Price: $70 (but looks like there is some in bond for ~$40/btl in 6 packs). To be honest I would buy the 6 packs in bond from Europe if I could, because this is absolutely worth every penny of the $70 I paid. Riesling is a variety I am trying to explore further, but this is certainly the greatest example I’ve had to date. Pair with chicken Pad Thai, roasted pork, or sushi.

Delicious Entry Level Alsatian Riesling

Today’s Story: Domaine Weinbach

Domaine Weinbach was established in 1612 by Capuchin friars and is named for the stream meandering through the property. Located at the foot of a hill called Schlossberg in Alsace, France, the property has been planted to vine since as early as the 9th century and the vineyards are surrounded by ancient walls named Clos des Capucins. During the French Revolution, the domaine sold as national property though came into the Faller family when two brothers acquired it in 1898. Domaine Weinbach remains in the family today and passed to Théo who expanded and improved the winery; then Colette (Théo’s wife), Catherine, and Laurence; and finally to Eddy and Théo who currently work alongside their mother Catherine. The domaine now totals 28 hectares which, since 2005, are entirely farmed according to biodynamic principles. All harvesting is accomplished by hand, and minimal intervention takes priority in the cellar.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Riesling Réserve Personnelle

100% Riesling; 13% ABV

The 2016 Réserve Personnelle is transparent and medium straw in color with water-white near the rim. On the nose, I get aromas of melon, lemon citrus, stone fruit, green apple, honeysuckle, petrol, saline minerality, and vanilla. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of white peach, pear, pineapple, apricot, white florals, petrol, crushed rock, mineral, cream, and straw. This is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity and a long, mouthwatering finish.

Price: $30. This is a great entry price to explore Alsatian Riesling, which alongside Mosel, Germany produces some of my favorite wines with the variety. Pair this with smoked whitefish, Thai food, or charcuterie with goat cheese.

My Favorite Riesling Thus Far

Today’s Story: Bioweingut Johannes Zillinger

Bioweingut Johannes Zillinger is a roughly 350 year old winery located in Niederösterreich, Austria. Though Johannes took over the winery in 2013 from his father Hans, he started learning about winemaking at a very young age and grew an early appreciation for organic winemaking. Somewhat of a pioneer in Austrian winemaking, Hans turned organic in 1983 and this helped lay the foundation of Johannes’ view of the vineyards as a habitat that should not be “poisoned” with chemicals. In 2013, Johannes also turned to biodynamic farming which is much more strict than organic farming. For instance, all of his wines are spontaneously fermented, lightly filtered or unfiltered, and little or no sulfur is added only at bottling if needed.

Johannes Zillinger produces a broad range of natural wines, with annual production numbers coming in right around 100,000 bottles. With vineyards covering 18 hectares, Johannes makes everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Riesling to Zweigelt with several blends and NV bottlings in between.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Numen Riesling

100% Riesling; 13% ABV

This Riesling, like all of Johannes’ wines, is spontaneously fermented. Further, the Numen Riesling is unfined, unfiltered, and there are no added sulfites. Though many people seem to be unfamiliar with natural wines, anything from Johannes Zillinger seems to be a great place to start.

The Numen Riesling is medium to deep gold in color, which kind of surprised me as most that I’ve tried are lighter. The nose is incredibly aromatic with aromas of peach, golden pear, yellow apple, meyer lemon, white florals, white pepper, petrol, and cream. Overall the nose provides a very exotic, slightly spicy and complex experience. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of apricot, peach, lemon citrus, green apple, white spice, jasmine, and mineral. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a long, dry finish.

Price: $50. This is quite possibly my favorite Riesling to date and I highly recommend trying it. Pair this with Chinese or Thai food, roasted pork, or Cajun food.

Rare Riesling from Napa

Today’s Story: Palmaz Vineyards

Palmaz Vineyards, as it exists today, was founded in 1997 by Julio and Amalia Palmaz. Julio is a medical doctor by trade, credited with being a co-creator of the heart stent, though he and his wife Amalia always believed that close attention and care to their land can produce superior quality wines for generations to come.

Before I get too far, I’d like to take a step back to the origin of winemaking on their plot of land. In 1852, a man by the name of Henry Hagen moved to the West Coast in pursuit of Gold Rush treasures. Though he originally lived in San Francisco, in 1881 he purchased a plot of land at the southeastern edge of Napa Valley against Mount George and founded Cedar Knoll Vineyard and Winery. At that time a pioneer in Napa Valley, Hagen produced high-quality wines served throughout San Francisco high society and even won a silver medal for his brandy at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.

Fortunes changed, however, with Hagen’s death in 1895 and, as many wineries of the time experienced, the onset of Prohibition in 1919. With 450 acres of land in the hands of Hagen’s kin who didn’t share his passion for wine, winemaking ceased and the estate fell into disrepair.

Circling back to the Palmaz family, Julio and Amalia purchased, restored, and modernized the long-lost winery while building an estate totaling 600 acres with 64 acres under vine. One of the coolest features of the winery is their caves, which total 100,000 square feet and are listed as the largest in Napa Valley. The winery is built into an 18-story cavern behind Mount George, allowing for gravity-flow production of wine while also providing a naturally cool environment. The crowning achievement, in my opinion, of the Palmaz renovations is in their “fermentation dome” where the ceiling showcases high-tech data points and charts for easy monitoring of the wine during fermentation. This thing looks like it could control the Starship Enterprise so I highly suggest you take a look at pictures online and on their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2009 Louise Riesling

100% Riesling; 13.2% ABV

Palmaz is known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly the Gaston which is produced from the best lots and only in certain vintages, several of which I’ve been able to enjoy. If you find a bottle of their Cabernet on a shelf, I suggest you give it a shot (though it is not cheap at about $130-150 per bottle). All this being said, I was unaware Palmaz produced a Riesling and I am excited to review it today.

Almost perfectly clear, this Riesling is pale straw/yellow in color with rim variation of water white. The nose is classic Riesling with aromas of petrol, green apple, and lime zest as well as pineapple, white florals, and slight nutty notes. Once in the mouth, this light- to medium-bodied white showcases notes of tangerine, peach, green apple, lemon peel, beeswax, and slight white spice. This is a creamy textured Riesling and not as dry as I prefer, showing medium acidity and a rounded medium length finish. 150 cases produced.

Price: $95. This is high in my opinion, though I think the rarity of this bottling plays into the price. I’d say skip this one and look toward Alsace or Mosel if you’re spending that kind of money. Pair this (like most Rieslings) with Chinese food, spicy Thai food, or even Tex-Mex.