Saturday, March 1, we seized the opportunity to visit Artisan Wine Depot’s new store in Los Gatos.
The event was a tasting of German wines from the southwestern Rhine and Mosel regions. We arrived with great anticipation. We were not disappointed. The Rhine and Mosel visit Artisan with great success.
Our History With This Region
Trocken[pullquote]Trocken is German for dry, … On a wine label, it indicates a wine that is dry rather than off-dry (halbtrocken), sweeter (lieblich) or sweet (süß). Technically, trocken wines are not devoid of residual sugar, but have, at most, a few grams per liter, which can be perceptible but is not overtly sweet.[/pullquote]
The first pair of wines were 2012 Riesling Trocken (dry Riesling) from Dr. Loosen and Weingut Robert Weil.
Dr. Loosen’s “Red Slate” (Mosel, $16, BARGAIN) opened with citrus aromas veering toward white peaches. On the palate there are flavors of blood orange with just a hint of pear. The wine is produced exclusively from estate-owned vineyards in Ürzig and Erden that have the iron-rich red slate soil, then fermented naturally in 3,000-liter casks. According to our host, this wine is made with “a lot of technology, stainless steel, highly managed fermentation, giving a clean, fruity style.”
The Robert Weil (Rhinegau, $26) was less to our taste with more acid and less fruit. Our host freely admitted the presence of petroleum distillates in the aroma, easily detectable by both of us, and not a feature we enjoy. Lots of minerality here for those that enjoy slate. In contrast to the Dr. Loosen, the Weil is made in a more traditional manner, fermented in giant oak barrels and using natural yeast. Those petroleum aromas make us wonder about the provenance of those barrels. Did, perhaps, some fir trees go into their manufacture? Retsina, anyone? Not surprisingly we liked the high-tech wine better.
Moving slightly up the sweetness scale, Weingut Fritz Haag offered a 2012 Riesling Estate (Mosel, $27). This wine is a “Feinherb,” the word that describes the balance between sugar and acidity, usually indicating the wine is Halb Trocken, or “semi-dry.” This wine meets that description precisely with excellent sugar-acid balance. Aromas and flavors of green apple, white peach and pineapple are followed by a spicy, slightly smoky finish.
Kabinett[pullquote]Kabinett (literal meaning: cabinet) … [are] … wine[s] … made from fully ripened grapes of the main harvest, typically picked in September, and are usually made in a light style. In the German wine classification system, Kabinett is the lowest level of Prädikatswein, lower in ripeness than Spätlese. A German Kabinett is semi-sweet (lieblich) by default, but may be dry (trocken) or off-dry (halbtrocken) if designated so.[/pullquote]
The next wines were Kabinett. This is a broad category, as explained by Wikipedia→
First up was another from Fritz Haag, a 2012 Riesling Kabinett Brauneberger (Mosel, $27). Smoke on the nose is followed by flavors of yellow peaches, honeydew melon and oranges, with hints of caramel. The finish shows honey and anise.
Dr. Loosen also offered a 2012 Riesling Kabinett “Bernkasteler Lay” (Mosel, $24). Juicy and racy, with bright, engaging flavors of green apple, key lime and pear.
Maximin Grunhauser finally broke the string of 2012s with a 2011 Riesling Kabinett Herrenberg (Mosel, $29). We were not fond of this one.
Spatlese[pullquote]Spätlese (literal meaning: “late harvest”…) is a … wine from fully ripe grapes, the lightest of the late harvest wines. Spätlese is a riper category than Kabinett in the Prädikatswein category of the German wine classification … Spätlese is below Auslese in terms of ripeness. The grapes are picked at least 7 days after normal harvest, so they are riper and have a higher must weight. Because of the weather, waiting to pick the grapes later carries a risk of the crop being ruined by rain. However, in warm years and from good sites much of the harvest will reach Spätlese level.[/pullquote]
Dr. Loosen was back again with a 2012 Riesling Spatlese “Urziger Wurzgarten” (Mosel, $26). Aromas of ginger followed by flavors of pineapple, dried apricot and pear, accented by gooseberry hints. Ripe melon and spice round out a very pleasant experience.
Weingut Robert WeiI offered a 2012 Riesling Spatlese “Tradition” (Rheingau, $39). If you like citrus and minerality, this is the wine for you. Add the touch of lavender on the finish and you have another very nice wine..
The third Spatlese was from Weingut Fritz Haag 2012 Riesling Spatlese BraunebergerJuffer (Mosel, $30). Aromas of bing cherry, almond blossom and hazelnut. The flavor is tinged with herbs, nuts and vanilla with undertones of slate.
Overall, this was our favorite category. We would happily drink any of these three wines!
Auslese (literal meaning: “selected harvest”…) is a late harvest wine, … riper … than Spätlese in the Prädikatswein category of the Austrian and German wine classification. The grapes are picked from selected very ripe bunches in the autumn (late November-early December), and have to be hand picked. Generally Auslese wine can be made in only the best harvest years that have been sufficiently warm. A small proportion of the grapes may be affected by noble rot [botrytis fungal infection] in some regions although this never dominates the character of the wine.
Our old pal Dr. Loosen is back with a 2011 Riesling Auslese “Erdener Treppchen” (Mosel, $55). Very rich and honeyed, this is loaded with a gorgeous array of mango and pineapple flavors, as well as peach and apricot. A great dessert wine but you’ll need to visit your dentist the next day.
The Los Gatos branch of Artisan is more open with light and air. In the Mountain View store, we always tread carefully in fear of knocking bottles off the racks. The Los Gatos location is a welcome addition to south peninsula shopping!