August 11, 2008

Jefferson Loved Riesling [Roots 5]

Thomas Jefferson was a big Riesling fan. He stocked the cellars of the White House with it. Toured vineyards along the Rhine. Even recorded drinking a 60+ year old Hochhiem wine during a tour of Germany. He was known to be partial to wines from Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau. Alas, the long history of this illustrious producer includes an assault from Phylloxera and a replanting on Vitis labrusca rootstock.

But at Weingut Carl Schmitt-Wagner, the grapes are grown on own-rooted vines that are legitimate antiques, planted in 1896 in the blue Devonian slate on the steep slope of the Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg vineyard above the Rhine.

The vineyards had long been in the possession of the Benedictine Convent of St. Maximin until Napoleon liberated them from their possession. The Schmitt-Wagner family took over the secularized estate in the early 1800s and have produced wines from the 9 acre parcel up to the present.

Their Kabinett level Riesling is certainly one of the best values from the Levenberg List of own-rooted vineyards. It's usually priced around $20. Even for a 2002 vintage, I recently found at K&L Wines.

A vibrant, honeyed nose with classic burnt rubber, goût petrol. White flowers and tangerine zest finish the bouquet. This wine has beautiful balance and integration. Limestone-laced Fuji apple with a nervy acid (Clementines) carries into a honeyed, chalky finish.

As with the own-rooted Cabernet Franc we tasted recently, I'm struck by the purity and (unbelievable) integration of this wine. The mineral and fruit elements are beautifully intertwined, creating a holistic experience of the terroir. It's tougher to break these wines down into individual parts. Their beauty seems to rest in their sum.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, and I love the idea of seeking out own-rooted wines. It's on the Levenberg list, but be sure to check out the wines from the Campi Felgrei DOC in Campania. Lovely, lovely stuff--all piede franco, or own-rooted vines.
- wolfgang