Traversing the German countryside...
for a week might bring to mind rolling hills, quaint villages, sauerkraut, and mustached-men in lederhosen. Kevin's week traveling with the Vom boden was everything you'd expect plus some blow-you-out-of-the- water wines! A huge thank you to the Vom Boden for facilitating this magical opportunity to visit with the tiny producers they’ve worked so hard to find. We’re so proud to represent these producers and the exquisite wines they create. Also a massive congratulations on the 10 year anniversary of Vom Boden, which is how this whole trip got started.
With German viticulture dating back to ancient times, this wine culture is nothing to scoff at. Known for their mineral-rich terroir, cool but lush climate, and electric expressions, these wines are hyper distinct and ultra delicious.
The journey starts in the town of Furth,
in the region of Franken, or “Franconia.” This region, spanning northern Bavaria, is known for its wine and as a popular vacation destination due to its many idyllic lakes and rivers.
With his vineyard sites located just outside of the city, meet the exceptionally talented winemaker Peter Leipold. Introduced to Vom Boden wines through Klaus Peter Keller, who many consider to be the father-of-modern-german-riesling, Leipold represents the best of the best within the new generation of German winemakers. This is no exaggeration. Keller has named Leipold as one of two up and coming winemakers “to watch closely.”
Married to one of the town’s “Riesling Princesses,” a centuries old tradition that exemplifies just how ingrained winemaking is in this region, Leipold is highly astute in the care of his vineyards and for the most part maintains them entirely by himself. Carefully propagating all of his plants from some of Germany’s highest-quality old vines, Leipold leaves no detail unconsidered. The wines express a “sort of electric tension” , says Kevin “there is something intensely German about them.” Currently focused on Silvaner, the more boisterous of the two famed German white grapes, he also produces a small amount of Reisling. Kevin was able to spend the day touring the vineyards with Leipold as a guide, and later enjoyed a home cooked dinner by his wife and popped a few (many) bottles. Leipold’s father was gracious enough to even entertain them with an accordion performance!
Heading west bright and early the next morning,
Kevin set out toward the tiny town of Walluf located on the banks of the Rhine river to visit the incredible, if not whimsical, Hans-Joseph (HaJo) Becker of J.B. Becker wines. A multi-generation winemaking family, succession was apparently passed onto HaJo’s father after his grandfather J.B., at age 73, jumped into the Rhine in order to save a drowning child, dying of a heart attack shortly thereafter. HaJo, now in his 80’s, wakes up every single morning to swim in that very river. This spirit of fearlessness (and irony) is all-too-evident in his wines. J.B. Becker, certified organic since 2011 (but practicing organic since the very start), represents itself in a humble and steadfast way that seems to do right by their viticultural practices not because they have to but because they should.
Learning since childhood from his father, HaJo, upon taking over operations in the later 1960’s, decided to make the daring switch from producing the then in-vogue sweet riesling to producing unheard- of-on-the-market dry riesling. Holding back a large amount for back vintage releases, HaJo cares less about the money than he does the quality of the wine. “This was a trip highlight", says Kevin, "For me Becker wines are a sort of canon. His mineral tones, petrol characteristics, and roaring acidity make his wines a hard-to-come-by delight. Being able to meet and sip with him, get to know his mannerisms and storytelling style. It all just further enhances my relationship to his wines and the narratives they tell.”
From there the group ventured down into the famed Mosel,
spending the first night in Alf. The next morning they embarked up the hill to the crazy vineyard sites of Dr. Ulrich Stein, who goes by Ulli (thought not to be confused with the irreverent german cartoonist Uli Stein.) Ulli’s sites are planted in “Blauschiefer,” (meaning blue slate) soils. It is this very terroir that enhances and perhaps defines his wine. Taking the backseat, Ulli likes to let the land speak for itself.
Alf, Mosel, DE : Stein
Not just an impeccable winemaker, the man can also throw a pretty insane party. Residing in what he has turned into a bit of an artist’s enclave " Haus Waldfrieden", the first night there Ulli hosted a massive trade tasting, complete with grilled sausages (of course), photographer Wolfgang Wesenerand (famous for his portraits of Warhol, Basquiat, and Debby Harry among others), and LA based DJ Skinny Pablo. Ulli apparently insisted on popping bottles until the early morning (4 am to be exact.) The group was naturally up bright and early for a cliff-side vineyard hike. Stein wines seem to be the perfect representation of this dichotomy between stoic diligence and uninhibited fun.
Traben-Trarbach, Mosel, DE : Weisler Kunstler
Staying within the region of Mosel, they then ventured to Weisler Kunstler. “This is one of my favorite riesling profiles of the moment. Humble farming on some epic vineyard sites”, tells Kevin. “When I say that this vineyard is built into a cliff-side, I’m not exaggerating. There were rocks dug into the cliff face that we used as steps. Not a hike for those afraid of heights.” Aside from the insane mineral rich soil structure, these vines benefit immensely from the fact that the river widens at this juncture. Acting as a mirror of sorts, the river bounces light back into the vineyards, helping to balance out the cooler climate effects. “You consider this steep,” jokes winemaker Konstantin Weiser, “but this is mosel… so we call it normal.”
Weiser’s flippant humor, which seems to carry freely-over into everything except the winemaking itself, showed up again later that day as he gave the group a cellar tour. Located below river level, the cellar is dripping wet (and counter to all intuition- this is actually a GOOD thing for the wine). Switching on the lights a huge electric shock shoots out. Weiser laughs. The mold, covering pretty much every surface, simultaneously eerie and a little baroque, keeps humidity levels constant and is great for aging. “These wines have incredibly great value. You just don't find Riesling of this quality at this price point very often.”
Piesport, Mosel, DE : Julian Haart
The next visit is paid to winemaker Julian Haart. One of two winemakers introduced to Vom boden by Peter Keller, Haart, along with Peter Leipold, is granted that oh so hard to come by Keller praise. Haart's touch really shines in his selection of parcels. Taken with the fractured terroirs of the Mosel, Haart has worked to identify some of the most exciting and usual vineyard sites in the area. Expressing as a clear hommage to Keller, Haart's electric wines allow the slate dense terroir to do the talking.
Thörnich, Mosel, DE : Hermann Ludes
Staying in the Mosel, Kevin next went to view the exalted Ludes estate. Established in the 1950's but producing only tiny amounts of wine (never even enough to go to market), the estate holds a certain intrigue for the other winemakers in the region. When Vom Boden's owner Stephen first started the business he immediately picked up four Mosel producers he believed to be of outstanding quality. Weingut Hermann Ludes, who first connected with Stephen by sending him an instagram DM that just said "Want to come taste some Riesling?" is the FIRST Mosel producer to be picked up by Vom boden in close to a decade! Run by Hermann's grandson Julian, their wines are available on the international market for the first time since the estate was founded in the 1950's. Located on a plot that Stephen describes as "– an old school, legendary-in-a-quiet-sorta-way estate", the wines were for years produced and enjoyed exclusively by family and neighbors and have only recently begun to be produced with high enough yields to be available internationally. Needless to say this wine is super hard to get a hold of.
Ayl, Mosel, DE : Peter Lauer
The trip commenced at the revered Peter Lauer estate. "This is a property I wish I could’ve spent more time at. Lauer is truly one of the greats," says Kevin. Lauer, being one of the very first producers picked up by VomBoden, was a great symbolic end to the week. Staying in a bed and breakfast located right on the property, the group was enlightened not only in the realm of Lauer's winemaking practices but also on the conception of Vom Boden. "When I was starting Vom Boden I approached Lauer and said look, let me represent you, if you'll agree to come over to me I know I can make this business work" Stephen told the group. Lauer's wines are remarkable not just for the role they played in Vom boden. "His winemaking is beyond precise. I have seen few winemakers who approach the process with such meticulous discipline," tells Kevin.
"This trip was truly incredible and has left me feeling more inspired and energized than ever."