20150821-1488.jpg

Weinhaus Heger

Supplier/Importer: Schatzi

Region: Germany

Appellation: Baden

 

 

Just a few miles from the French boarder, in the region of Baden, Joachim Heger farms the extraordinary Grand Crus (Grosses Gewächs) of Ihringer Winklerberg and Achkarrer Schlossberg. On these steep, volcanic slopes, Joachim  gives voice to some schockingly unique, delicious expressions of pinot noir.  He is constantly pushing to maximize quality and his work has revolutionized the way we can interpret the potential of this ancient wine producing region.  Today, Joachim Heger is considered one of the finest producers of red wine in Germany.

When Joachim took over the winemaking in 1981, he began his life’s work, dedicated to redefining the potential of spätburgunder in Baden. Working tireless hours on the ancient, sun-baked volcanic terraces of the Kaiserstuhl, he has labored to maximize the vitality of his vineyards by employing sustainable techniques and replanting with selection-masalle. Walking the vines with Joachim, you can feel his passion for the land as he breaks down his terroir for you not just parcel by parcel but vine by vine. He is a gregarious, quick witted and intensely spirited tour guide, tearing through the vines in his van with no remorse.

The results of his work are supremely fresh, energetic wines with unmistakable depth and character. Unlike the dominant fashion for oaky, extracted spätburgunder, Joachim is focused on capturing clarity of site expression and freshness. This is achieved by hand harvesting at the peak of physiological ripeness. In the cellar the fruit is de-stemmed and given a cold soak (inspired by the work of Henri Jayer). The Grosses Gewächs wines ferment in 100% new, extra lightly toasted barriques, preparing the wines for a long life in the cellar yet making them hard to resist in their youth as well. In addition, Joachim also makes some ultra-delicious whites including the Erste Gewächs weiss- and grauburgunder from both the Winklerberg and Schlossberg. These selections re-define the potential of these varietalsdry, mineral-driven winesand they are among the most delicious, unique whites of Germany.

Heger is located in the Kaiserstuhl region of Badena small, compact area boasting 4200 ha of vines which are planted around the stump of an extinct volcano that rises above the Rhein River Valley, just east of the Alsace border. Geologically speaking, the Kaiserstuhl is a rare place indeed. Volcanoes in the Kaiserstuhl formed here during the late Tertiary period, at the end of a long succession of eruptions, starting in the Cretaceous. Heavily eroded volcanic vents mark the landscape and the rocks that remain are of the Miocene, dating between 16-19 million years of age. These volcanic rocks are of alkali-carbonate structure and contain elements of magnesium iron silicate, which can be found here as the gem peridota crystalline material meaning it has the ability to weather slowly and provide good drainage. Adding to the uniqueness of the region, prior to volcanic activity in the Jurassic, sedimentary layers formed in the eastern part of the Kaiserstuhl that resulted in the creation of two distinct neighboring geological formations. On top of this diverse mother rock, to varying degrees from 0 to 40 meters, are loess soils that were blown here after the last Ice Age from the northern Limestone Alps in modern-day Austria.

The climate here is equally intriguing. The Kaiserstuhl is the warmest place in Germany and boasts the largest selections of native orchids in Europe. Among the vines, wild grape hyacinths sprawl and iris plants blossom. Figs and apricots grow well here while rare butterflies, sand lizards and praying mantis are found in abundancespecies most commonly found in Mediterranean climates.

It’s a magical place and Joachim knows how to let it speak through his wines. The awards and accolades lauded to this estate are too numerous to mention here, but two of the most recent include “Winemaker of the Year” in 2013 by Gault Millau, and in the same year, Eichelmann’s Wine Guide also awarded Heger “Wine Estate of the Year.”

As for the estates, Dr. Heger is the original estate founded in 1935 by Dr. Max Heger. All of the Grosses Gewächs and Erste Lage wines are made under this label. Weinhaus Heger is a bigger estate with more flexibility. Joachim has worked with us as a Schatzi to find the best range of wines to offer in the US as many of these selections were not previously available. Heger is able to produce a wide spectrum of wines, from quality entry levels of great value to some of the best GGs in Germany. The estate names will be noted in the wine descriptions below.

This will be somewhat of a re-launch for Joachim’s wines in the US, having left his former importer in 2013 without another option in mind. Needless to say, we are lucky to have met him in the Motel One Bar in Düsseldorf this March.

 
weingut_max_ferd_richter.jpg

Weingut Max Ferd. Richter

Supplier/Importer: Schiverick

Region: Germany

Appellation: Mosel

 

 

The estate of Max Ferdinand Richter has been owned by the Richter family for more than 300 years. Today this enterprise, owned and run by winemaker Dirk Richter, is one of the leading producers of top Rieslings in the heart of the central Mosel area with total holdings of 43 acres and an annual production of about 10,500 cases. Richter produces fine wines that are well known throughout the world. They produce a wide variety of wines from estate-grown grapes that reflect the individual style of each single vineyard. The terroir of their steep vineyard sites is generally fresh weathering grey slate.

THE WINEMAKERS at Richter believe that great wine comes from the vineyard, not the cellar. With this in mind they strive for precision in their daily viticultural work. The challenge of cultivating vines on the steep, slate slopes of Mosel is overcome by fastidious handwork, small crop sizes, all-natural fertilizers and sustainable farming practices. Additionally, all harvesting is done by hand. Vinification starts with gentle pressing and slow temperature controlled fermentation in traditional old oak barrels (fuders). This careful, deliberate process preserves the vineyard-grown quality of the grapes, develops the unique character of the single-vineyard cuvees, and to gives Richter wines exceptional longevity.

 
V0E9911-2-1.jpg

Weingut Dreissigacker

Supplier/Importer: Schatzi

Region: Germany

Appellation: Rheinhessen

 

 

Ancient chronicles reveal that 1728 was an excellent year for wines. Perhaps even back then, the generation that founded the winery (now known as Dreissigacker) was blessed with a good harvest because at that time, founding father, Jacob Sauer, not only farmed a wide range of agriculture but succeeded at cultivating a vineyard, lying the foundation for generations to come. Be that as it may, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the focus shifted to winemaking when Adolf Sauer III decided to export his wines to England. After the Second World War, in 1952, the husband of Christa Sauer, Philipp Dreissigacker, took over the business and forty years later, in 1991, all other agricultural pursuits were abandoned to focus solely on winegrowing when Frieder and Ute Dreissigacker took charge. At that time the winery used conventional methods to cultivate a large number of different grape varieties, but when their son (and current proprieter) Jochen Dreissigacker entered the business in 2001, radical changes were made–crucially, converting the estate to employ labour-intensive, organic viticulture. Today, the name Dreissigacker stands for outstanding rieslings of the highest quality, both in Germany and abroad.

Rheinhessen is a supremely unique expression of German viticulture. Normally when we think of the greatest vineyard sites for riesling, we envision the breathtaking slopes of the Mosel or the hand-worked terraces of the Rheingau but in the best villages of Rheinhessen, the vines grow on gentle slopes with shallow deposits of loess and loam, overlying a bedrock of active limestone—reminiscent of the great terroirs of Burgundy– and is packed with history. In fact, the vineyards surrounding Jochen’s town of Bechtheim are the oldest known sites for growing wine in the Rheinhessen. Historically, these plots of land were reserved exclusively for viticulture. As early as 1780, the Prince of Leiningen issued a decree in Bechtheim that resulted in Germany’s first demarcation of terroirs; this decree threatened to punish anyone who planted grape vines outside of the specifically designated, predestined areas – a ground-breaking step on the path toward modern, high-quality viticulture. Today, this historic soil that is over 230 years old, is used to grow Jochen’s young vines. These sites produce wines of great depth and concentration with scintillating tension amongst fruit, ripe acidity and mineral structure.

Jochen Dreissigacker is a young vigneron, fiercely dedicated to giving voice to some of the most exciting vineyard sites of Rheinhessen, though according to his parents, he was not destined to become a vigneron. Jochen’s older brother was to inherit the family-business while he was encouraged to pursue something that was more “down-to-earth”–what resulted as an education in accounting. Despite his degree, Jochen couldn’t ignore his strong desire to make wine and began apprenticing with various winemakers–most notably of which was the iconic Klaus-Peter Keller. After several years of working alongside Keller, Jochen took the reins at his family estate.

“Luckily, my brother bought a neighboring winery in 2006, so we could both practice the professions we love. Today, both wineries work closely together.”

Jochen continues to focus on enhancing the vitality of his soils using natural methods, limiting yields, harvesting by hand and vinifying with native yeasts; here, he captures the individual mineral character of each of his parcels, revealing wines with power and depth without the weight of high alcohol that many of the region’s more famous wines possess.

Since converting to sustainable farming practices in 2001, the soil has been successfully restored and the estate is now certified Organic. Dreissigacker sows green manure to boost the humus allowing cover crops to loosen the soil with their roots, absorb all superfluous nitrogen and, in conjunction with microorganisms and other soil-dwelling life forms, constantly regulate the nutrient content of the soil. If necessary, weeds are removed mechanically, the area around the vines is hoed and on occasion, if necessary, they add small quantities of organic fertilizer. All of these measures help to create balanced plant growth and strengthen the root systems, encouraging them to penetrate deeper into the mineral-rich layers, absorb additional nutrients and better resist disease. In addition to mindful farming, Jochen tremendously reduces his yields–sometimes as low as 15hl/ha! At the beginning of summer the crew cuts off at least one third of the grapes on each vine. As a result, the bunches that remain on the vine absorb additional nutrients, light and air, ensuring optimal quality.

Accompanying the importance of soil composition, climate and farming techniques, is the act of picking and pressing the grapes. Jochen and his team handle the grapes very carefully; bruising the skins is avoided to prevent oxidation or premature fermentation, both of which can be detrimental to the quality and result in a loss of flavor. Once the grapes arrive at the winery, most are macerated to extract additional aromas and structure. The fruit is then pressed and left to ferment without any further interference to ensure a natural fermentation process.

“A few years ago, when the time came for me to take over the family winery and realise my own ideas and vision, I made a decision. I wanted to take something good and make it truly excellent, to transform good flavour into an exciting experience, and elevate pleasant wines to an inspiring experience. In all that I did, I worked with the unique mineral composition of our vineyards, the local climate and microclimate and harnessed my deep passion for winemaking. Ecology, sustainability and the respectful use of the existing resources has gradually changed the face of our vineyards. Imagination and pragmatism were my daily helpers in my search for the perfect wine.”

 —Jochen Dreissigacker

Jochen is at the vanguard of the revolution in quality for the region. We are excited to be working with him and cannot wait to taste the continued fruits of his labor.

 
DSC_0452-1200x796.jpg

Weingut Heinrich Spindler

Supplier/Importer: Schatzi

Region: Germany

Appellation: Pfalz

 

 

In 1620, Sontag Spindler moved from Burgundy to the Pfalz where he began to purchase vineyards and became a viticulturist. He purchased the Kirchenstück in 1656, one of Germany’s most revered parcels, from the old hospital in Deidesheim.  Like many German vineyards, the family’s holdings were splintered in the early 1800s, by law of the Napoleanic Code, and Johann-Josef Spindler’s holdings were divided evenly amongst his three sons: Heinrich, Eugen and Wilhelm. Each son established a separate winery— hence the birth of Weingut Heinrich Spindler. The estate is a very traditional winery located in the village of Forst in the Pfalz. Today the winery is run by Markus Spindler, great-grandson of Heinrich Spindler, who is carrying the estate through its 11th generation of winemaking. Spindler is blessed with all of the top Forster sites, and his style is very nuanced and pure with more attention given to detail and finesse than to power and richness.

Markus began his winemaking career in 1996 where he spent three years as an apprentice at the following estates: Dr. Deinhard (now von Winning), Egon Müller and Friedrich Becker. Markus was not convinced he wanted to lead the life of a vigneron after these internships, and after eighteen months in civil service, he embarked on a year-long stage at Schug Winery in Sonoma, California.  Moving abroad and taking some time to reflect on his family estate helped put things into perspective for him.  “I needed the distance to realize what a treasure we have at home,” he said. After California, Markus enrolled in Germany’s leading winemaking institution in Geisenheim, Rheingau. During this time he ventured to the Languedoc to apprentice at Château Capion and to Austria where he worked for the esteemed FX Pichler in the Wachau. Markus wrote his final thesis about aroma development throughout the aging process of riesling, after which he graduated and returned to Forst to take over the Heinrich Spindler estate in 2007.

The village of Forst is charmed with some of the most dynamic vineyards in the Pfalz—if not in all of Germany.  The vineyards cover the slope between the village and the Haardt (Voges) Mountain forest, which offer a good amount of shelter from inclement weather.  The top sites tend to be in the middle of the hill, much as in Burgundy, at 120 to 150 meters, facing south and southeast.  Here the soils are rich in potassium and basalt, and they rarely suffer from drought because the soil structures are deep.  There are several basalt quarries in the area which have long been mined for roads and construction, the shards of which have been scattered in the vineyards since the 1800s to retain heat and improve quality.

Riesling is the main variety here, comprising 83% of the estate’s holdings. Other white varieties include pinot blanc, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris and the top vineyard sites are located in the villages of Forst, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg.  Heinrich Spindler has been farming sustainably for nearly twenty years (i.e., no herbicides, artificial fertilizers, pesticides, etc.).  Markus decided to officially convert to organic viticulture in 2012, what was an easy and natural transition because the groundwork had been laid in the preceding decades.  2015 will be the first vintage where all the wines will be legally recognized as “organic.”

“I think if you want to make top level wines with character, the basis is healthy soil with a great variety of microorganisms, insects and a high humus. It’s important to me to have an ecosystem in my vineyards with variety, both above and below the soil.” 

Markus plows his soils, plants cover crops and uses compost fertilizers that he makes himself. All of the top sites are harvested by hand, with the picking crews making two and sometimes three passes for quality. Maceration is short, pressing is gentle and everything flows via gravity. Fermentation starts with ambient yeast, but sometimes cultured yeast is used in order to ensure the rieslings finish fully dry.  Markus prefers long, cool ferments that take place in stainless steel tanks and neutral Stück (1200L casks) and Doppelstück (2400L casks).  The wines remain on the fine lees, with occasional batonnage, until they are bottled between February and June.

“We think the goal of German wine is to express its fruitiness and minerality—its deepness in conjunction with its finesse.” 
—Markus

 
DSC_0426-1200x796.jpg

Weingut Josef Leitz

Supplier/Importer: Schatzi

Region: Germany

Appellation: Rheingau

 

 

Under the direction of Johannes Leitz, Weingut Josef Leitz has earned the reputation of being one of Rheingau’s top growers and moreover, one of the finest producers in Germany. Since taking over his family estate in 1985, Johannes has grown his holdings from 2.6 hectares to over 40, most of which are Grand Cru sites on the slopes of the Rüdesheimer Berg. Once the home of some of the world’s most sought after and expensive wines, the region fell to mediocrity in the years following the Second World War. Josi has made it his life’s work to reclaim the intrinsic quality of his native terroir and introduce the world to the true potential of the Rheingau.

The Rheingau is a small region, stretching only 20 miles from east to west. It is marked by a course change in the Rhein River’s flow to the North Sea from its origins in the Swiss Alps. As the Rhein flows north along the eastern edge of the Pfalz and Rheinhessen, it runs directly into the Taunus Mountain range which has a subsoil comprised of pure crystalline quartzite. Rivers, no matter how mighty, are lazy and the Rhine has yet to break through the quartz infrastructure surrounding the town of Mainz. At Mainz, the Rhein turns west and the 30 km stretch between Mainz and Rüdesheim makes up the majority of the Rheingau. Even though the region is further north than the middle Mosel, its south facing slopes get hotter than the narrow Mosel Valley which therefore provides important diurnal temperature variation.

Leitz’s estate vineyards lie entirely on the westernmost part of the Rheingau on the Rüdesheimer Berga steep, south-facing hillside of extremely old slate and quartziteplanted entirely to riesling, encompassing the Grand Crus of Schlossberg, Rottland, and Roseneck. Leitz trains his vines in a single-cane, cordon system to improve the quality and character of the fruit, differing from the majority of Rheingau growers where the practice has long been to prioritize yield via a double-cane system. Johannes is a firm believer that the crucial work of the vigneron takes place in the vineyards. Focused on farming as sustainably as possible and working by hand, the grueling hours of labor on the ultra-steep slopes allow these ancient vineyards to reach their maximum potential.

After harvest, Josi is equally focused on working gently in the press house and ageing the wines on their gross lees. Johannes selects bottle closures to reflect, and more crucially serve, the individual cellar practices employed for each wine; Stelvin closures are used for wines raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness while wines raised in cask are bottled under cork to allow for a long development in the cellar.

With the 2011 vintage, Leitz began to designate the pre-1971 parcel names on select bottlings, reviving the individual voices of “Hinterhaus” (Rottland), “Ehrenfels” (Schlossberg), and “Katerloch” (Roseneck). He has also resurrected the once neglected site of Kaisersteinfels, which has become one of the most sought-after wines of the Rheingau. “Der Kaiser” sits high, just beneath the forest line of the Rüdesheimer-Berg, with a spectacular view overlooking the confluence of the Nahe and Rhein Rivers. The singular terroir on the westernmost point of the Rheingau is composed of quartzite, very old grey slate, as well as some iron-rich red slate and produces wines with incredible complexity and length.

In 2011 Johannes was recognized by the esteemed Gault Millau as “Winemaker of the Year.” We could not be more excited to be a small part of the Leitz project.  We believe that these are some of the finest white wines in the world.