Dönnhoff | Nahe
The Dönnhoff family came to the Nahe over 200 years ago. As with Emrich-Schönleber, the history here is of mixed agriculture. It was only with time that the estate began to concentrate more and more on wine, until that was the sole focus. Helmut Dönnhoff, one of the legends of German winemaking, took over the estate with the celebrated 1971 vintage. He has, in the years since, brought the estate to the pinnacle of German winemaking. Helmut’s son Cornelius has been working with his father for many years.
Weingut Dönnhoff is currently around 25 hectares, with key holdings in the Hermannshöhle, Brücke, Felsenberg and Dellchen. Indeed, one of the many assets of the estate is the diversity of terroir, from slate, sandstone, limestone (Hermannshöhle) to porphyry and loam (Brücke) to quartzite (Krötenpfuhl) and red sandstone (Höllenpfad). The estate’s style is grandiose, layer after layer of fruit that remains both pure and gossamer – a supernal elegance, perfect balance, a filigree that is simply ravishing. The estate is famous for both their Prädikat wines as well as their dry wines.
Dreissigacker | Rheinhessen
Jochen Dreissigacker’s family did not intend for him to be a vigneron, The generations old estate was to go to his older brother, with Jochen encouraged to pursue a more “down to earth” career. After earning a degree in accounting, a strong desire to make wine led him to an apprenticeship alongside Klaus-Peter Keller, and in 2001 he returned to the family estate with great ambition and ideas to reenvision the historic property.
In the past 16 years, he has converted the estate to organic viticulture, vastly reduced yields, and overhauled the winemaking practices to be far more gentle and conscientious. Complimenting their venerable holdings in Kirchspiel and Morstein, Jochen Dreissegacker has brought great focus and attention to their lesser known vineyards Geyersberg and Hasensprung. In his own words, “I wanted to take something good and make it truly excellent, to transform good flavor into an exciting experience, and elevate pleasant wines to an inspiring experience.”
Hofgut Falkenstein | Saar
The Weber family farms about 8 hectares of mainly old Riesling vines—over 40 percent ungrafted—in a remote side valley of the Saar, known as Konzer Tälchen (the little valley of Konz). Erich Weber and his wife, Marita, built up the property of the then-dilapidated Falkensteiner Hof (established in 1901) from scratch. All the Riesling grapes are hand-harvested and the whole grapes are gently pressed in a pneumatic press for two to three hours. The musts are left overnight to settle naturally and vinified with ambient yeasts in old oak Fuder casks.
Their top vineyard sites are located on various south-facing hillsides, including the once highly rated Krettnacher Euchariusberg and Niedermenniger Herrenberg. The soil is primarily gray slate, with some quartz. The father-and-son team of Erich and Johannes Weber believe in low yields (one cane per vine) to produce an array of light-bodied, unchaptalized dry (trocken), off-dry (feinherb), and sweet Saar Riesling wines—all of which are cask-by-cask bottlings.
Lauer | Saar
Although Weingut Peter Lauer has existed for several generations, the wines have only seen a wider distribution in the U.S. for the last few years, thanks to the inspired work of Lars Carlberg at the now defunct Mosel Wine Merchant. In no time at all, this has become one of the most talked about estates among German wine geeks. The style at Lauer is 180 degrees from their famous Saar neighbors Egon Müller and Zilliken – the focus is on dry and off-dry Rieslings as opposed to the residual sugar (Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese) wines of the latter two. Yet the hallmarks are similar: purity, precision, rigor, mineral. This is, after all, the Saar.
Florian Lauer took over the winemaking duties from his father in 2005 and has done an extraordinary job in bringing to light many overlooked and/or forgotten vineyards/parcels in the Saar. His focus is clearly on the tapestry that is the Ayler Kupp – numerous bottlings (Stirn, Kern, Unsterstenberg, Neuenberg) are a testament to the diverse expressions of this hillside. However, Florian has also reintroduced to the larger vocabulary of German wines simply awesome vineyards such as the Schonfels. In January, 2013, Lauer was welcomed into the VDP winegrowers association.
Leitz | Rheingau
Johannes “Josie” Leitz has become one of the more important winemakers in the Rheingau. Once the most celebrated and esteemed of German winemaking regions, the Rheingau has in the late 20th century and early 21st century been dominated by mediocrity. Josie and a new generation of younger growers (see Eva Fricke) are trying to change this. Josie has grown the estate from just under 3 hectares to around 40 hectares and in so doing has established some of the most popular bottlings in the U.S. While the savvy marketing, with names like “Dragonstone,” “Eins, Zwei, Dry” and “Leitz Out” has helped, the quality in the bottle is undeniable. And While Leitz may be best known for these more popular bottlings, the estate produces a range of single-vineyard Rieslings from celebrated sites such as Berg Schlossberg, Berg Roseneck and Berg Rottland that are among the best being made in the Rheingau.
Immich-Batterieberg | Mosel
One of Germany’s most erudite young winemakers, Gernot Kollmann has followed impressive turns at Van Volxem and Knebel with his current position, stewarding the once-dormant Immich-Batterieberg to the forefront of Mosel wine. Located in Enkirch, on the lower part of the Mittelmosel, its name and Jugendstil label refer to the Batterieberg or “demolition hill,” a steep cliff face of solid slate blasted to rubble by Carl August Immich in the mid-1800s to make it cultivable. The estate’s vineyards are located in Enkirch and the lineup (Batterieberg, Ellergrub, Steffensberg and Zweppwingert) recalls a previous legendary era in German wine, when all four were among the highest-ranked sites in the Clotten’s 1897 viticultural tax map for the Prussian government.
Grapes are hand-picked at extremely low yields and vinified close to dry in a combination of used barriques and stainless steel, utilizing exclusively ambient yeasts and minimal amounts of sulfur. Many of Kollmann’s techniques would be familiar to Immich’s 19th-century forebears, yet he is moving the estate squarely forward while staying rooted in tradition. The wines are compellingly vibrant and quintessentially terroir-driven.
Koehler-Ruprecht | Pfalz
Koehler-Ruprecht has existed since the 1700’s, but Bernd Phillipi’s hard word over the last 30 years has solidified the winery’s world class reputation. Bern’s biggest inspiration was his grandfather, and the wines reflect an attitude of winemaking more akin to the 1900’s than the 2000’s. In the vineyard, no irrigation, fertilizers, or herbicides are ever uses, and systemic treatments against pests or fungal illness are kept to a minimum, only in rare cases when necessary. In the cellar, long spontaneous fermentations occur in large, old German oak barrels with extended lees contact. Nothing is ever added or subtracted to the wine, and sulfur is only added moderately after alcoholic fermentation and before bottling.
Egon Müller | Saar
Egon Müller IV
This is perhaps the most vaunted estate in Germany – as the wine writer John Gilman has put it, this is “the DRC of Germany.” The estate focuses on a single vineyard, the Scharzhofberg. Likely cultivated since Roman times, the vineyard was managed by monks until it was secularized by Napoleon in the late 18th century. The history of the estate as we know it today begins in the late 19th century with Egon Müller the first – it was he who cemented the reputation of greatness at exhibits such as the 1900 Exhibition Universelle et Internationale in Paris. Egon Müller the second ran the estate for only a few years, dying in a tractor accident in the vineyard in 1941. Egon Müller the third returned from England as a prisoner of war in 1945 – this was his first harvest and he managed to bring in only 1,200 liters from 7.4 hectares. Egon Müller the third died in 1991, though his son Egon Müller the fourth had been working at the estate since 1985 and has since continued the legacy of greatness. The focus at the estate is Prädikat wines – Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese and (gulp) BAs and TBAs. These are widely considered to be among the greatest white wines in the world, with a combination of intensity, fine-ness and elegance that is simply incomparable.
Christoph Schaefer | Mosel
Schlossgut Diel | Nahe
Caroline Diel represents a new generation for Schlossgut Diel, the famed Nahe estate. Taking the reins from her father, Armin Diel, Caroline has redoubled the estate’s focus on quality and sustainable viticulture. Caroline is most comfortable in the vineyard, and the time spent there shows. Vineyard work at Diel is meticulous and as natural as possible. “There are so many directions you can go with pruning, canopy management, cover cropping… Once the grapes are harvested it is your job to not hurt anything and really to just get out of the way.” The cellars at Schlossgut Diel date back to the 16th century and are some of the most beautiful in Germany. Once in the cellar, a very traditional approach is taken. The majority of the wines are fermented in large barrels, with some smaller casks used for red wine (including used 4th and 5th use DRC barrels), stainless steel, and enamel tanks. Fermentations are ambient, and with the cool and naturally humid cellars the wines develop slowly and beautifully.
Selbach-Oster | Mosel
Barbara and Johannes Selbach
One of Germany’s most erudite young winemakers, Gernot Kollmann has followed impressive turns at Van Volxem and Knebel with his current position, stewarding the once-dormant Immich-Batterieberg to the forefront of Mosel wine. Located in Enkirch, on the lower part of the Mittelmosel, its name and Jugendstil label refer to the Batterieberg or “demolition hill,” a steep cliff face of solid slate blasted to rubble by Carl August Immich in the mid-1800s to make it cultivable. The estate’s vineyards are located in Enkirch and the lineup (Batterieberg, Ellergrub, Steffensberg and Zweppwingert) recalls a previous legendary era in German wine, when all four were among the highest-ranked sites in the Clotten’s 1897 viticultural tax map for the Prussian government. Grapes are hand-picked at extremely low yields and vinified close to dry in a combination of used barriques and stainless steel, utilizing exclusively ambient yeasts and minimal amounts of sulfur. Many of Kollmann’s techniques would be familiar to Immich’s 19th-century forebears, yet he is moving the estate squarely forward while staying rooted in tradition. The wines are compellingly vibrant and quintessentially terroir-driven.
Spritzer | Rheingau
Bernd and Andreas Spreitzer
Andreas and Bernd Spreitzer have worked relentlessly to revitalize this historic estate, one of the oldest in the Rheingau dating back to 1641. The brothers have furthered their predecessors approach to farming as naturally as possible by implementing a novel system of rotating cover crops, and favoring horse drawn plows over tractors. Converting the winery to solar power has been the latest of their modifications to the estate. It is this kind of forward-thinking ambition that has put Spreitzer back on the map as one of the most compelling estates in the Rheingau today.
The heart of the Spreitzer estate lies within the classified Lenchen vineyard which includes the single parcels of Rosengarten, actually a walled in clos, and Eisenberg. These rich parcels sit close the Rhein river and produce lush, opulent wines such as “303”, named after the record breaking ripeness of 303 degrees oechsle that was achieved in 1920. Doosenberg, richer in quartzite and sitting at 600 meters elevation offers a beautiful counterbalance to these wines with its firm, mineral core, and penetrating structure.
Trimbach | Alsace, France
Dating back to 1626, Trimbach is undoubtably one of the most iconic estates in Alsace, and a benchmark of quality for the wines of the region. Jean Trimbach represents the 12th generation of the estate. The Trimbach family has shown the admirable capacity of embracing modernity while remaining true to the traditional winemaking of their illustrious past. In the cellars, stainless steel tanks are used alongside century-old wooden casks, and technology is used in the cellar only to the extent of ensuring the most honest expression of the vineyards.
The jewel in the crown of is undoubtably the Clos Ste. Hune in the village of Hunawihr. Farmed by the family for over 200 years, the limestone subsoils of this vineyard give the wine an incredible balance of finesse and concentration, and these wines have proven to be some of the most ageable whites on the planet. The mosaic of soils that makes up the whole of the Trimbach estate is a Riesling geek’s dream with limestone, granite and sandstone intermingling to create a great diversity of varietal wines from one very integrated place.
Von Winning | Pfalz
Von Winning maintains some of the oldest parcels in the Grand Cru sites of Forst, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg. Andreas Huetwöhl and Stefan Attman work in tandem to craft the wines of the estate – every decision is informed by passion for the Pfalz terroir and experiences at estates in the Côte d’Or and abroad. For example, the estate’s newer vines are planted at a very high vine density – 9,500 vines per hectare, as opposed to the more typical less than 5,000. This creates competition amongst the vines, forcing the roots to grow deep, and naturally reducing yields. The vineyards are planted to a single-cane trellising system, prevalent in Burgundy, and Grosses Gewächs wines ferment in 500-liter French barrels.
Von Winning practices organic and sustainable viticulture. The estate’s premium wines are treated with a minimalist approach and with the highest respect in the cellar. Gentle clarification, a natural and spontaneous fermentation and the abandonment of fining agents create wines with a distinctive indigenous and very elegant style. Pumping the juice or wine is never necessary in the gravity-flow winery, allowing for minimal, and gentle vinification.