As a New Yorker, I’m lucky to have access to a few stores with perhaps the most extensive selections of rieslings from top German producers in the country. One of those stores, Crush Wine & Spirits, has an excellent free tasting every year that I look forward to as chance to gauge the quality of each new vintage. The good news is that the 2009 vintage has a strong crop of outstanding wines.
The quality of the wines was very high across the board, with no clunkers, which I generally find to be true with respect to German rieslings these days. With that said, here are some of my standout picks:
The Clusserath Apotheke kabinett offers an extraordinary amount of complexity for about $16 – mineral, good fruit, you name it – this is an eminently affordable way to see what German riesling is all about. For those who prefer a drier, stony style, the chalkily tasty Steinmetz Wintricher Geierslay spatlese feinherb competed very well with much more expensive Grosses Gewachs (“great growths”, similar to grand cru in other regions) bottlings, while maintaining a modest price of about $16. In the under $40 range, AJ Adam and Zilliken showed very strong wines, but the Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Spatlese managed to edge them all out with great aromatics, and a glistening, mineral-water-like palate.
My wife tasted one wine before me, and without knowing what it was or what it costs, she exclaimed to me “This one is REALLY good.” We had just had the excellent AJ Adam Dhroner Hofberg Spatlese just before it, so this had real meaning. I then tasted the wine also – the 2009 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Spatlese – and it was simply dreamy. Probably the best riesling I have ever had the pleasure to taste, and right up there with any wine I’ve ever tasted. We then looked at the tasting sheet for the price, and it turns out of course, that the Egon Muller costs a pretty penny, about $120 per bottle at Crush. My wife apparently has an exquisite palate and expensive taste. Lucky me! My note on this ethereal wine follows, together with my notes on all of the other wines tasted.
You may notice that the notes are less detailed than what I usually take; some nights, especially when you are tasting with your spouse, you just have to let the analysis go, and just enjoy the wines, and on this night, the wines were incredibly enjoyable. Try them for yourself! -Alan
- 2009 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Sometimes a wine makes me drop everything and forget about taking notes, and this was such a wine. Even in the midst of very good competition (including being tasted right after the excellent AJ Adam spatlese), this wine immediately stood out to my wife and me as different, on a whole other level. The nose is light and hard to glean much from, but appealing. The palate was so light and smooth, so harmonious that I immediately had an emotional reaction to it. Simply dreamy and captivating. This wine is a great example of how some exalted rieslings can remind you of water – and feel so wonderful, perhaps because it captures some essentialness, a feeling of innate need. The fruit is not unctuous, but a sweetness pleases you – the delicate texture floats across your tongue, lightly sprinkling gorgeous fruit and mineral flavors and then disappearing unnoticed while you are still in reverie. Only after loving this wine did we consult the price list and find out that it was quite pricey at $120ish per bottle. A truly wonderful wine, that requires contemplation to plumb its mysteries; this is what mineral water in heaven must taste like. 97-100 (97 points)
- 2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberger Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/26/2011) Delicious as always
- 2009 Ansgar Clüsserath Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/11/2011) Value pick of a tasting at Crush; shows wonderful depth for $16ish – lively fruit, mineral complexity, water-like smoothness on the palate. Will be a staple in our household. (90 points)
- 2009 Weingut Reuscher-Haart Piesporter Riesling – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/7/2011) A great deal at $15 for a 1L bottle; has good typicity, dryish on the fruits with a bit of pleasing richness. (88 points)
- 2009 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Very smooth and pretty, with a bit more floral aromatics than the Zillikens. Excellent value, a high level of deliciousness that reminds me a bit of the Egon Muller spatlese at a much much lower price. A definite buy. 92+ (92 points)
- 2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberger Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Delicious kabinett; as with earlier vintages, shows a bit more sweetness than a lot of kabinetts, but the depth of flavor here makes this wine worth the premium you pay. A definite buy.
- 2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberger Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Beautiful, appealing, smooth spatlese.
- 2009 Ansgar Clüsserath Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) A terrific amount of complexity for an entry level bottling; more detailed notes taken on a bottle had several days later, but this stood out as the value pick of the Crush tasting.
- 2009 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Nahe (2/3/2011) Slightly more pleasing than the Dellchen; both I and my wife preferred this bottling. Consistent with the exceptionally high level of Donnhoffs that I have had over the years.
- 2009 Dönnhoff Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Nahe (2/3/2011) Nice aromatics; liked this better than the F. Haag and W. Schaefer GG’s tasted just before.
- 2009 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Nahe (2/3/2011) One of my standby wines, an affordable look at the Donnhoff house style, and the 2009 is another excellent edition. Definite buy.
- 2009 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Outshone the Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich GG tasted just before; this one is just a shade more aromatic, with floral notes. Very nice on the palate.
- 2009 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Notes not kept, but from memory, this was good and consistent with the style of other Piesporter rieslings I’ve had.
- 2009 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Nahe (2/3/2011) Solid; a nice fine flinty mineral nose. Solid but not exceptional. Preferred this to the kabinett.
- 2009 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Nahe (2/3/2011) Solid; similar to the spatlese, this had a fine minerally nose. Consistent with the quality level of past vintages.
- 2009 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Wintricher Geierslay Riesling Spätlese feinherb – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) A much stronger stoniness than the prior wines; very flinty and mineral on the nose. Very nice on the palate; shows a bit of that spatlese unctuousness, but still a very dry stony wine. Very very good; an excellent value for those who like the dry style, as this competes well with the GGs tasted before it.
- 2009 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Good and stony.
- 2009 Zilliken (Forstmeister Geltz) Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Really delicious; fair amount of sweetness for a kabinett, but also a smooth, mineral water-like quality to it. Very very nice.
- 2009 Zilliken (Forstmeister Geltz) Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/3/2011) Very pleasing, like the kabinett.
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