Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tasting at Weingut St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen, Mosel, with Nik Weis – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Picture: Tasting at Weingut St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen, Mosel, with Nik Weis

The Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), organized and led by Annette Schiller, took place from September 6 – 12, 2015. The group was small - there were 7 of us, including Annette and Christian Schiller.

The tour took us to the Rheingau, Mittelrhein, Ahr, Mosel and Nahe. In the Mosel area (Mosel – Saar – Ruwer), we visited 3 producers: Dr. Loosen, St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis and Van Volxem (Saar).

This posting covers the visit of Weingut St. Urbans-Hof. For the Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), see here: Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Nik Weis was our host. His charming wife Daniela Weis greeted us.

Pictures: Approaching Weingut St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen, Mosel

Weingut St. Urbans-Hof

St. Urbans-Hof is a rather young wine estate by European standards. The winery was established in 1947 by the grandfather of the current owner Nik Weis. Nik’s father, Hermann Weis mastered the art of vine grafting and was well known in Germany and beyond for his skills. He was particularly known for his work with the Riesling grape. In the beginning of the 1970s, he pioneered the use of Riesling in Canada, which was then still new to the idea of quality wine making. Hermann Weis planted the first Riesling vines in the Niagara Peninsula. This developed later into the Vineland Estate Winery. At home in Leiwen he expanded the estate considerably and his son Nik now cultivates 33 hectares in a broad spectrum of outstanding sites in the Mosel and Saar valleys. The majority of the production goes into the export and the St. Urbans-Hof wines are widely available in the US and Canada.

Pictures: Weingut St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen, Mosel

The Mosel Valley

The Mosel River begins in a mountain range in France (where it's called Moselle) and runs northward near the border with Luxembourg until it flows into the larger Rhine in Germany. More than two millenia ago ancient Rome sent its armies north over the Alps to this lovely forested and watered region, and tried to push beyond. The "Vandals" kept them from settling for long north of the Mosel, and thus the beautiful river towns along the Mosel River became Roman frontier encampments, then settlements, and finally the largest evolved into true Roman towns with public baths, villas, roads, bridges, theaters, and of course the ubiquitous Roman vineyards - the descendants of which line the riverbanks today.

Viticulture has been present on the Mosel since the ancient Romans brought cultivated grapevines here two millennia ago. The region's unique geologic and climatic conditions are the basis for growing great Riesling along the Mosel its tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer. The cool continental climate, with some Atlantic influence, its slate soil and the steeply-hilled topography are all nature's gifts both for winemakers and wine aficionados.

Weingut St. Urbans-Hof is in Leiwen. Nik Weis: Our town of Leiwen, picturesquely surrounded by vineyards as if from an 18th-century landscape painting, has in the last few decades taken on a new dynamism. With 450 hectares (approximately 1,112 acres) of vines, Leiwen is one of the largest wine villages in the Mosel region. From here, it's a close drive to the region's capital and tourism center of Trier, or the European banking metropolis of Luxembourg.

Pictures: Nik Weis Welcoming the Group


Although vineyards had belonged to the Weis family for centuries, Nicolaus Weis founded the winery in 1947. In the early years, he built cellars and winery buildings on a hill on Leiwen's periphery. He named his estate for the patron saint of German winemakers, St. Urban, and 'hof' (the German word for 'estate'), St. Urban's Estate.

In the 1960s his son, Hermann assumed management of all operations. During Hermann's tenure, the nursery expanded to become one of Germany's largest. He established himself as a world-recognized vine breeder, especially noted for his work with Riesling. At the beginning of the 1970s, he pioneered the use of this noble variety in Canada greatly contributing to the introduction of Vitis vinifera into this country still new to quality winemaking. He planted the first large parcel of Riesling vines in the Niagara Peninsula under the title of St. Urban Vineyard, later to become Vineland Estates Winery.

Hermann was always interested in, and so kept his canny eye cocked towards, purchasing top Mosel vineyards. In 1989, he purchased some of the Mosel and Saar's top sites in the high-level villages of Piesport, Ockfen, and Wiltingen. Together with his wife Ida, a daughter of the Saar, he extended his vineyard area to the relatively expansive 33 hectares (approx. 82 acres).

In 1997, their son, Nik(olaus) joined the winery. Father and son together restructured the vineyard holdings by selling off those of lesser quality and acquiring further parcels of greater quality. 2004 heralded another expansion for the Weis family with Nik's marriage to Daniela who added to the family's holdings with her's of the Mehringer Blattenberg. Daniela Weis holds a holds a Master's Degree in Business Administration. Nik and Daniela's family today includes their small children Nic(olaus) and Clara.

Pictures: Tasting with Nik Weis


Today, Weingut St. Urbans-Hof comprises 33 hectares of Riesling in some of the finest sites of the Middle-Mosel (Leiwener Laurentiuslay, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Mehringer Blattenberg) and the Saar Valley (Ockfener Bockstein, Schodener Saarfeilser Marienberg, Wiltinger Schlangengraben).

A large part of St. Urbans-Hof 's holdings are located upon steeply-sloped, slate-filled hills, situated at up to 60° exposure to the sun. The dark slate heats up faster than do other soils; the river's warmth both ameliorates temperature variations and reflects the sunshine to the leaves (their sugar factories), therefore maximizing their ability to benefit from the river.

Another peculiarity is that these river valleys are bookended by the Hunsrück and Eifel mountains whose high, cool air flows at night into the valleys to chill the grapes. This aspect contributes to acidity retention, helping to create an intense spectrum of aromas and flavors.

In autumn the reaction of the cool air upon the warmer river water creates morning fog with the resultant dew settling upon the grapes. This is an environment which encourages the spread of the mold botrytis cinerea ('noble rot' or, in German, 'edelfäule') necessary for the world's most prized sweet wines.

Pictures: Daniela Weis Joining the Tasting


The Riesling is gently crushed then left to rest in the press for up to three hours to allow the components locked in the berries' skins to be extracted by contact with the juice. The grapes are then pneumatically pressed, releasing all that turbid juice, and drained by force of gravity into stainless steel tanks located immediately below the presses. The juice rests overnight to allow the gross sediment to settle. Later the clear juice will be racked into other tanks.

The wines ferment spontaneously without the addition of cultured yeasts. The yeasts which are found naturally in the cellar, or which come into the cellar from the pressed skins, ferment the juice naturally.

The use of the typical 1,000-liter Mosel fuder barrel gives the wines the right amount of 'breathing', of oxygen exchange, to develop greater complexity and refinement. As the barrels aren't new it's not about imparting an oaky character to the wines. In combination with stainless steel tanks, employed to retain intensity of fruit and freshness by trapping elements from cooler fermentations, these barrels are a primary method of transferring the Mosel essence into your glass.


2012 Laurentiuslay Leiwen Riesling GG

2012 Saarfeilser Riesling feinherb
2014 Wiltinger Riesling Alte Reben
2014 Laurentiuslay Leiwen Riesling feinherb

2014 Bockstein Ockfen Riesling Kabinett
2008 Goldtröpfchen Piesport Riesling Kabinett

2007 Bockstein Ockfen Riesling Spätlese
2005 Goldtröpfchen Piesport Riesling Spätlese
2002 Saarfeilser Riesling Spätlese
2014 Bockstein Ockfen Riesling Auslese
2010 Laurentiuslay Leiwen Riesling Auslese
2009 Goldtröpfchen Piesport Riesling Auslese

2010 Saarfeilser Riesling TBA


Thanks you Nik for an outstanding tasting.

Pictures: Bye-ye

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