Picture: Ernst Loosen and Christian G.E.Schiller in Washington DC
I joined Phil Bernstein at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC for a tasting of the new Weingut Dr. Loosen releases, which was announced under the heading “The Doctor is Making a House Call.” Although most often associated with his sweet-style, low alcohol wines he makes in the Mosel Valley, Ernst Loosen also produces wine in the Pfalz in Germany and in Washington State and Oregon in the US. We tasted, however, only his sweet-style, low alcohol Weingut Dr. Loosen wines.
Weingut Dr. Loosen in the Mosel Valley
Ernst is the owner of Weingut Dr. Loosen, located just outside Bernkastel in the Mosel wine region, which is with a 130,000 annual bottle production one of the larger producers in the Mosel region. It is particularly known for the quality of the Rieslings and won the "Riesling of the Year" of the German wine magazine Der Feinschmecker in 1989. In 2001, the Gault Millau Weinguide named Ernst Loosen as the German winemaker of the year. Interestingly, for many years, Weingut Dr. Ernst Loosen was one of the dozen or so German Estates that got 5 grapes (out of 5 grapes) by the Gault Millau Weinguide. Last year, however, it lost one Gault Millau grape, while it maintained its top position in the Feinschmecker WeinGuide (FFF), along with 15 other estates.
Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller and Ernst Loosen in New York City
Ernst is not only a star in Germany, but also in the US. Only two German wines made it last year to the Top 100 wines of the Wine Spectator. One of them was Dr. Loosen’s Dr. L, a wine that is a big success in the US. The Loosen Dr. L. Riesling (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, $13) is a delightful wine and a good value. However, it is completely unheard of in Germany and only produced for the export market.
The wines of Weingut Dr. Loosen are prime examples of Germany’s famous delicious low alcohol, sweet-style Rieslings from the Mosel. These are exceptional wines, skillfully made by first-class winemakers like Ernst Loosen, essentially made by not letting the fermentation going its full course so that natural sugar remains in the wine and/or adding a bit of sweet-reserve (sterilized grape juice) to increase the sweetness level in the wine. These are the wines that are so popular among the fans of German wine in the world. When you go to the trendy restaurant Spruce in San Francisco, which has won many awards for its exceptional German wine portfolio, these are the wines you find there. German wine loving Americans drink overwhelmingly sweet.
But today, German wine loving Germans drink dry. There is no doubt about it. The overwhelming majority of the wines produced in Germany are dry. And the German (dry) grand cru Rieslings can compete with the best wines in the world. The word is getting around - slowly but surely - and more and more dry German Rieslings appear on the international market. But these are not the wines of Dr. Ernst Loosen. However, one of the so called friends of Ernie, a small group of winemakers who market their wines in the US through Ernst Loosen, Wilhelm Weil in the Rheingau, makes these dry grand cru wines, in addition to his noble-sweet wines, in the Rheingau, and so does Ernst Loosen himself in the Pfalz at his Weingut J.L.Wolf.
Weingut J.L.Wolf in the Pfalz
In 1996, Ernst Loosen took over the J.L. Wolf estate so that he could make traditionally crafted Pfalz wines to complement the light and elegant Dr. Loosen Rieslings he produces in the Mosel. In the classic style of the Pfalz, these wines are more full-bodied than Mosel wines, with higher alcohol and rich flavors of ripe fruit and stone.
Pictures: Ernst Loosen in Washington DC
The Pfalz region lies between the Haardt Mountains and the Rhine River, directly north of France’s Alsace region. As in Alsace, the mountains protect the area from harsh Atlantic weather, making it one of the warmer and drier areas of Germany. In this climate, achieving full ripeness is possible in nearly every vintage. Mature, fully ripened fruit is the key to making concentrated dry-style wines that have enough body to balance the naturally high acidity.
Eroica in Washington State
Promoting the worldwide ascendancy of Riesling was a big reason why Ernst Loosen began a joint venture with Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State a bit more than 10 years ago. He was convinced that it would take a seriously good New World Riesling to help bring the variety back to the forefront. Eroica was launched in 1999. Named for Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica is supposed to reflect not only its variety and site, but also its heritage: bold and forward from its Washington roots, elegant and refined from German inspiration.
Picture: Ernst Loosen and Bob Bertheau (Chateau Ste. Michelle)
Eroica is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle, the huge Washington State winemaker, and Dr. Ernst Loosen, the eminent Riesling producer from the Mosel region of Germany. The wine is made at Chateau Ste. Michelle from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley.
They make three kinds of the Eroica. The regular Eroica, an icewine and a single berry selection. The latter is made in the traditional German Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) style and is one of the few TBAs in North America. Literally, the word means a wine made from a selection (Auslese) of individually picked grapes (Beeren) which have been left on the vine until so ripe as to be practically dry (trocken) or raisened. They are raisened because of noble rot (Botrytis). This wine is made in very limited quantities, typically less than 75 cases a year. The single berry selection has scored a 98 in the Wine Spectator.
J. Christopher in Oregon
Ernst Loosen’s most recent project is a joint venture with Jay Somers in Oregon. Located in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley, J. Christopher Wines is a small winery that specializes in Pinot Noir made in the traditional style of Burgundy. The winery also produces Sauvignon Blanc modeled after the great wines of Sancerre. Owner Jay Somers has been making wine in Oregon for more than 15 years, including with Bill Holloran. Jay’s wines are hand-crafted in small lots and are sourced from some of the best vineyards in Oregon. The philosophy at J. Christopher is to produce wines in an Old World style that emphasizes focus, length and balance.
Picture: Ernst Loosen and Jay Somers
Jay Somers and Ernst Loosen met years ago, and quickly realized that they shared a similar taste and passion for Pinot Noir. Their friendship led to a partnership, and in 2010, they began building a winery and vineyard in Newberg, Oregon. The new venture, Loosen Christopher Wines LLC, produces wines under the already-established “J. Christopher” brand. As winemaker for the joint venture, Jay is in charge of all winery operations. Ernst sees his role as that of an investor who both supports the growth of the brand and broadens the winery’s exposure to Old World ideas and techniques.
The new venture, Loosen Christopher Wines LLC, will produce wines under the already-established J. Christopher brand. The venture has purchased a 40-acre property for a new vineyard and J. Christopher Winery on Hillside Drive in Newberg, Oregon. Planting of the first block of Pinot Noir will begin this spring. Barrel cellar construction is planned to occur before the 2010 harvest.
As part of the J. Christopher Wines, the two winemakers have started to produce a boutique bottling of Oregon Pinot Noir called Appassionata after their passion for Pinot Noir. So far, they have produced four vintages of their boutique wine but released none giving Appassionata extra time to barrel- and bottle-age. Appassionata is a collector’s item which retails in the $70 –$80 range.
What Ernst Poured
These were all 2009. The current exchange rate is Euro 1 = US$ 1.42.
Picture: Dr. Loosen Wines
Dr. L QbA 750ml 13.99 10.99
Erdener Treppchen Spatlese 750ml 32.99 26.99
Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese 750ml 33.99 26.99
Erdener Treppchen Auslese 375ml 33.99 27.99
Erdener Treppchen Auslese 750ml 66.99 54.99
Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese 375ml 33.99 26.99
Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese 750ml 69.99 54.99
schiller-wine: Related Postings
Wine ratings: Two American/German wines - Eroica and Poet's Leap - on Top 100 Wines from Washington State list for 2009
German American Wines: (1) NV Two Worlds Pinot Noir, (2) Poet's Leap Riesling and (3) Herrmann Wiemer's Finger Lakes Rieslings
The Jay Somers Wines of Bill Holloran, Oregon
German American Wines: (1) Pacific Rim Riesling (2) Eroica and (3) Woelffer's Schillerwein
Wine ratings: Top 100 of the Wine Spectator 2009 include Wittmann and Loosen Rieslings
Ernst Loosen Wines Up and Down