My first memorable experience with Willi Schaefer was three years ago. A wine buddy was hosting a big house party and we wine geeks were having a party within the party with a BYOB corner set up. My contribution was a bottle of Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese #14, 2006, which I hadn't tried before. It was a great bottle and I was trying to be surreptitious about the whole thing - pouring it under the counter, so only the innermost circle of my wine friends would enjoy a taste - when along comes a hipster party crasher and says he's heard there was a bottle of "great German Riesling with petrol" and could he have a glass. Sure my friend, I said, and quickly poured him a glass of Koehler-Ruprecht that was standing on the table. I hope the party crasher enjoyed his glass of diluted fruit and harsh kerosene.
Many things have happened since but one thing sure hasn't changed. I'd still do the exact same thing.
Another thing hasn't changed: Willi Schaefer still sculpts immortal, ethereal Rieslings.
Importer Eldad Levy says 2016 was botrytis free vintage, so the Riesling fruit remained pure across the entire range and even the Ausleses don't have any hints of the spices botrytis may impart. Contact Eldad for prices but be prepared to learn everything has been sold out.
This is pure, not very complex, but decent plus for the level, with green apple skin and a touch of minerals. Tasted alongside the 2015, it comes off as more complex and better focused. Analysis aside, it’s a better, more interesting, wine overall.
This is the sweet version of the village wine. It smells as dry as the trocken, but it is, of course, sweeter on the palate. The fruit shines more overall, grapefruit with a dash of sugar, with the minerals in the background.
Graacher Himmelreich, Kabinnet
This is honeyed and fruity, almost luscious within the Kabinnet frame, and while I prefer leaner Rieslings, it’s so enticing and attractive, so well formed, that it wins me over.
Graacher Domprobst, Kabinnet
This is the kind of lean Riesling I look for, although I love both it and the Himmelreich this year - I'm a little flippant here, I loved them both last year as well. This is the more mineral laden of the two, a picture perfect rendition of the Mosel, a nuanced balance of apples and slate, sugar and acidity.
Graacher Domprobst, Spatlese #10
This is where the wines truly started speaking the language of minerals - not an easy language to abstract at first - because the minerals pull every which way.
Graacher Himmelreich, Spatlese
At the Spatlese level, the Himmelreich again shows as a more honeyed, luscious wine, but the differences are less pronounced than they were in the Kabinnet flight. Still, it’s such a sexy, attractive wine, although more straightforward than the Domprobst.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Spatlese
Sheer elegance, airy, ethereal, with a lightness that is pure magic and laser sharp focus.
Graacher Domprobst, Spatlese #5
On the one hand, it’s more concentrated than the #10, on the other, it’s more mineral and complex, with the coolness of the Sonnenuhr, yet with more weight and presence. In every sense, it’s the complete Spatlese of the flight. .
Graacher Himmelreich, Auslese #4
I guess the Ausleses are really backward because this is the first Himmelreich that doesn’t immediately put out. It’s so reticent that it actually feels lighter and more understated than the Spatlese. The true measure of Schaefer's genius craft is how he manages to retain so much acidity in an Auslese.
Graacher Domprobst, Auslese #11
This displays what I expect from a young Auslese to an even greater extent. A mass of fruit that can’t yet pull the trigger. Concentrated, yet balanced, it will need decades to unravel the mysteries of all those minerals. Here, too, the acidity is a marvel.
Graacher Domprobst, Auslese #14
This is the Schaefer masterpiece of a flagship wine and everything in the tasting led to a single glass that is a seamless marriage of the gift of nature and man's handiwork.