Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weingut Emrich-Schönleber Rieslings

Frank Schonleber.JPG
Stoic Frank Schönleber enjoying his Thai chicken curry over rice

Last week proved to be very interesting meeting with two brilliant young winemakers who are still in their twenties but already doing fantastic things heading up their family's domaines. Monday was with François Bitouzet of Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur of Volnay and Meursault and Thursday was with Frank Schönleber of Weingut Emrich-Schönleber.

I took Frank Schönleber to my favorite neighborhood Thai restaurant, Thai Stick, in Millbrae, where we proceeded to drink, er taste, a bunch of his '06 and 07 Rieslings over rice and chicken curry and roast duck.

Frank took over his family's estate in the Nahe last year from his father, Werner; thus, 2007 is his first solo vintage. I told him that he was fortunate to start with such a great vintage, perhaps the best overall vintage since 2001 in my estimation. He forced a smile, but didn't beam, as he believed 2006, which he helped make with his father, has some terrific wines as well. Sure enough, we tasted some of the 2006s he brought and they were spectacular.

I've previously mentioned that in the Nahe, Helmut Dönnhoff is great, but those in the know search out the wines of Emrich-Schönleber.

Gault Millau's "The Guide to German Wines" bestows its highest 5-Star rating to just two producers in the Nahe, Hermann Dönnhoff and Emrich-Schönleber. But Dönnhoff's wines cost big buck, while Emrich-Schönleber's wines are much better values, though maybe not for long, as the buzz is spreading fast and many are discovering this brilliant producer and its thrilling wines.

The styles are also very different. Schönleber's Rieslings are much more ethereal and filigreed, very reminiscent of a Mosel. In fact I describe Emrich-Schönleber Rieslings as being like the Mosel of the Nahe, very delicate, minerally, and really refined.

Weingut Emrich-Schönleber.owns about 18 acres in Monzingen’s Frühlingsplätzchen vineyard and 10 acres in Halenberg. The two vineyards are just 500 meters apart but couldn’t be more different from each other. Frühlingsplätzchen has soft, crumbly red slate soils mixed with loam, while Halenberg has harder blue slate soils. Though Riesling accounts for over eighty percent of vines planted, there is some Pinot Blanc as well.

Germany has been on a roll and vintages from 2001 to 2007 are all great. 2007s offer relatively more moderate ripeness levels; hence, the wines offer consistency and purity across the range. 2006s offer mindblowing Ausleses, with perfect balance of richness and structure, for passionate Riesling collectors.

Frank and I enjoyed the following Rieslings with curry and roast duck. Riesling is one of the most versatile wines. Last Thanksgiving, my brother and I drank nothing but German Riesling (2007s from Leitz) with turkey, ham, pancit noodles, and pork rinds (seriously).

Nahe Riesling Kabinett Monzinger, Emrich-Schönleber 2007
Mainly from parcels in the Frühlingsplätzchen vineyard. A joy to drink! Pure, precise Riesling Kabinett offering vivid fruit and mineral flavors. Aromas of white flowers, apricot, pear, and cut-grass with focused, precise, well-delinated layers of fruits and minerals. Off-dry, sweetish fruity flavors that are crisp and sappy with excellent acid balance. A very lovely Riesling for pairing with shellfish that are just coming in season and with various Asian dishes. Riesling fans should not miss this. A great success in this vintage!

Nahe Riesling Spätlese Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen, Emrich-Schönleber 2007
Frank Schönleber say Frühlingsplätzchen means "nice little place in spring time". This is from the best parcels of the vineyard with vines averaging about 30-years-old planted in crumbly red slate and loamy soils. Very ripe, very sweet fruit hinting of peach, grapefruit, and guava, with layers of minerals and lavender honey. Fresh and open, with wonderful purity and outstanding richness on the finish. This is drinking very, very lovely.

Nahe Riesling Spätlese Monzinger Halenberg, Emrich-Schönleber 2007

From firm blue slate soils with quartzite. This is richer and riper with the same acid level as the Frühlingsplätzchen, thus it tastes more lush and sweeter on the palate—yet it starts out tight. After some time it opens up gloriously, revealing an almost opulent core of fruit with excellent minerality. Outstanding concentration. Very long finish.

Nahe Riesling Auslese** Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen, Emrich-Schönleber 2006
A special selection just below goldkapsel level for the estate, but you would almost think you're there! Excellent concentration, perfectly balanced. Very tight, but tremendous richness of fruit, with layers of sweet peaches and pineapples infused with minerals. Lovely ripeness all around. Vivid and fresh. A spectacular hedonistic experience. You have to be patient on this one, but it is definitely worth the wait.

Nahe Riesling Auslese** Monzinger Halenberg, Emrich-Schönleber 2006

A special selection from the Halenberg vineyard. This is even tighter than the Frühlingsplätzchen special selection, yet the incredible hedonistic richness is so perceivable. Very sweet. Very rich. Very concentrated. But so fresh and elegant as well. A powerful Riesling, with an energetic lengthy finish. Wow! Worth cellaring for many years.

Weingut Emrich-Schönleber
Soonwaldstraße 10a
D-55569 Monzingen
Tel.: (0 67 51) 27 33
Fax: (0 67 51) 48 64

Check for availability of Emrich-Schönleber Rieslings

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