Herr Paul Grieco touted the wines for this tasting as “the greatest Riesling from the greatest Riesling vineyard in all of Germany”.
And, I may be mistaken, but I believe he silently wept numerous times throughout (no doubt with at least 5 grams of acid and 10 grams of residual sugar per tear, because that’s how he rolls.)
Like lemmings gathered at the edge of a cliff with naive anticipation, we filled the confines of Terroir EVil last week to take part in one of the most special Riesling tastings to hit Gotham in ages. We are nearing the end of this year’s Summer of Riesling and were joined by many of the valiant conquerors of the Summer of Riesling 2010 Wine Bar Crawl.
The Bernkasteler Doctor is only 8.1 acres in size but it’s place in the wine world is legendarily grand. In the 13th century, the Archbishop of Trier was in this area of the Mosel Valley when he bacame deathly ill. After countless cures didn’t work, he was poured Riesling from a humble flask from this vineyard and was cured. From then on, it became known as “The Doctor”. Today, it is the most expensive agricultural land in all of Germany.
Led by Barbara Rundquist-Müller, who currently oversees the vineyard, we were led through seven Rieslings and experienced the “trilogy” that Barbara says make these wines truly special: minerality, fruit and acidity. The vines are pre-Phylloxeria—their roots travel more than ten meters down and are therefore protected from the louse’s jaws—and clock in at 80-100 years old.
1. Riesling Kabinett, Bernkasteler Doctor, Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Muller Burggraef, 2008, Mosel-Saar Ruwer
Barbara described it as having the “charm of youth”. Light straw in color, giving off notes of fresh stone fruits. On the palate, a vibrant, peppery acidity carried tasty notes of pear juice. The blast of acidity felt like a quick hailstorm of pleasure moving through my mouth.
2. Riesling Kabinett, Bernkasteler Doctor, Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Muller Burggraef, 2005, Mosel-Saar Ruwer
Light gold in color, we begin to see some of the more classic notes this vineyard is known for. A buttery, salty lanolin on the nose with a hint of petrol creeping around the corner. Again, notes of concentrated, canned pear juice, but, man, that acid was a different beast. It sent a cleansing sensation from the tip of the tongue to the back of the throat, and then, as if on lurching ship, it came rifling forward again back to the tip of the tongue.
3. Riesling Spatlese, Bernkasteler Doctor, Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Muller Burggraef, 2003, Mosel-Saar Ruwer
Due to a very hot vintage, Barbara called this the “Dolly Parton” wine—a lot up front, not a lot in back. Light/medium gold in color, with rich honey and caramelized apples rising from the glass in waves. Reminded me of Jelly Bellies candy. On the palate, it had the flavor of red Macintosh apples rolled in caramel and drizzled with peach syrup.
4. Riesling Auslese, Bernkasteler Doctor, Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Muller Burggraef, 2003, Mosel-Saar Ruwer
Medium gold in color with hints of amber. Tangerine, citrus and candied fruit on the nose. The flavors on the palate confirmed the nose and were INTENSE, with a rich, unctuous body and a long, lasting finish.
5. Riesling Auslese, Bernkasteler Doctor, Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Muller Burggraef, 2001, Mosel-Saar Ruwer
2001 was a spectacular year for German Riesling and put them back on the map (with skyrocketing prices to boot). Light tawny in color with the look of golden honey. On the nose, a staggeringly complex array of candied nectarines topped off with notes of kerosene and nail polish. The rich aroma seemed akin to that which would arise from Aladdin’s lamp. Paul made a reference to eating the famed Ortolan bird, where one would cover the head in a cloak to trap the aromas and to hide themselves from God’s watchful eye as you sunk your teeth into its forbidden flesh. Extraordinary acidity on the palate with notes of peaches rolled in parafin.
6. Riesling Auslese, Bernkasteler Doctor, Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Muller Burggraef, 1959, Mosel-Saar Ruwer
Surprisingly still eliciting some golden color, the 1959 gave off hypnotic notes of old mint chapstick, campfire smoke piercing through heavy winter air and notes of spice. On the palate, cedar and earth came forward, mixed with fall cooking spice and kerosene. The acidity was still lively and filled the wine. A joyful, medicinal, evergreen note carried the long finish.
7. Riesling Beerenauslese, Bernkasteler Doctor, Dr. H. Thanisch – Erben Muller Burggraef, 2006, Mosel-Saar Ruwer
A surprise addition to the lineup, Barbara said it was “still a child”. Upon tasting, I left my human form and was flung through the cosmos, seeming to return an hour later in a resounding crash. Such purity of fruit—the apricots seemed to be singing from the glass like angels in a choir. Paul accurately called the wine “deafening”. The finish held me in a transfixing embrace for so long I could have watched Casablanca from start to finish and still experienced it.
The cellar for the vineyard is carved from the slate rock and lies 30 meters below the vines themselves. It is here that I wish my body to be entombed upon my passing…preferably near a barrel of the 2006 Beerenauslese.