Koehler-Ruprecht was my first encounter with major league German Rieslings and I can still remember sniffing the 2004 Kalstadter Saumagen Auslese and thinking to myself, "this has it all!". My friends' experience was similar. I know because it is a shared experience that we've discussed it several times since.
Something else we've discussed is a certain feeling of disillusionment for Koehler-Ruprecht that has edged into our collective consciousness over the past three years. For one thing, virtually all my wine friends - myself included - prefer delicate Mosel or elegant, lithe Nahe, thus Pfalz always comes off somewhat clumsy in comparison (admittedly, our base of comparison is limited to Koehler-Ruprecht themselves and Muller-Catoir, but while I'm not sure how typical they are, they are widely recognized as regional benchmarks) . And then, winemaker Bernd Philippi's style is not for novices; nor, judging from what I've tasted and what I've read, does it show very well in its youth. Especially its Ausleses, it seems. And none of us had never had any of his wines in their maturity.
I drank this wine all by my lonesome in Cambridge. My suitcases were already filled to the brim with vinological loot and thus when I ran into this wine at BLM Wine and Spirits, I knew exactly what I wanted to drink with my takeaway Sushi.
This particular bottle was not about kind karma. My first attempt at opening it broke the cheap plastic corkscrew the saleslady at BLM gave me and when I went out to buy a new one the next morning, I found a parking ticket on my rental's windshield, silent witness of my carelessness at parking near a water hydrant.
Was it worth it? Let's talk points for a change. An Auslese should be worth at least 90 points in order to be worthy of the label, and this one makes the grade with a couple of points to spare and its sense of place and unique personality would be worth another point.
The nose is very memorable yet makes me feel edgy at the same time, as it dances perilously close to the edge of kink, pulling back with a shade of a wink. It shows chalk, black tea, petrol and burned rubber, combining for an almost bretty impression, while gently shoving the sugar coated apples to stage right. The palate is fresh, light and elegant, yet packed with flavors, and although the wine is an Auslese sans any mention of trocken, its balance is such that it doesn't register as more than off-dry, despite measuring in at 10% ABV and showing plenty of ripe fruit. It's not as silently domineering as K-H's wine can be in their youth, instead etching well-measured phrases across the palate, only wobbling at the finish, where a lightly alcoholic strand flares up.
Koehler importers Giaconda have not imported the "R" series to Israel. I paid 60 USD for it. If I throw in the 100 dollar fine I might eventually be coerced to pay, this is the most expensive Riesling I've bought to date.