Monday, February 26, 2018

JJ Prüm Winemaker Dinner at BToo in Washington DC/ USA, with Wilhelm Steifensand ("Herr Prüm") and Chef Bart Vandaele

Picture: Wilhelm Steifensand ("Herr Prüm") and Owner/ Chef Bart Vandaele at BToo in Washington DC/ USA

Wilhelm Steifensand was in town (Washington DC) to present the world class wines of Weingut JJ Prüm at a winemaker dinner at BToo on 14th Street, NW.

Wilhelm Steifensand is best known for having been the owner and Managing Director of the P.J.Valckenberg Wine Merchant House from 1988 until 2011. He sold the P.J.Valckenberg Wine Merchant House in 2015. He kept Weingut Liebfraustift in Worms of which he presented one wine. Recently, he married into the J.J. Prüm family and became "Herr Prüm" as husband of Dr. Katharina Prüm.

Chef Bart Vandaele's BToo on 14th Street in Washington DC, NW, is a leading restaurant in the Nation's Capital.

Pictures: BToo on 14th Street, Washington DC, NW

Weingut JJ Prüm

Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm is without doubt one of the most exceptional producers of wine in Germany. Although the Prüm family was well established as viticulturists and winemakers, having been tending vines along the banks of the Mosel since the 17th Century, the Joh. Jos. Prüm estate only came into being in 1911, when the property was divided up among seven heirs. One of them, Johann Josef Prüm (died 1944), laid the foundation for the estate as it is today, his son Sebastian (died 1969) continued his work. Today it is run by the third generation, Dr. Manfred and Amei Prüm, and fourth generation, Dr. Katharina Prüm and her husband Wilhelm Steifensand, who was our host.

Today there are at least seven wineries that bear the Prüm name several generations later: including Alfred Prüm, Dr. F. Weins-Prüm, Jos. Christoffel Jr. (formerly Christoffel-Prüm), Studert-Prüm, Weingut Steffen Prüm, S.A. Prüm, and J.J. Prüm. Several more Prüm intermarriages and mergers are also responsible for several more prominent names in German wine, including Weingut Dr. Loosen and Weingut Robert Weil.

Picture: Prüm Family Tree

The estate has 20 hectares of vineyards planted with Riesling. The Joh. Jos. Prüm portfolio includes a number of great vineyards, but it is undoubtedly the vines in the Wehlener Sonnenuhr on the opposite bank to the town of Wehlen and the Graacher Himmelreich that are most readily associated with the estate.

Pictures: Wilhelm Steifensand with Annette Schiller and Christian Schiller at BToo

Naturally Sweet Rieslings

The Riesling vines of Weingut JJ Pruem are grown on the region's decomposed blue slate soils, at incredibly steep inclines. The vines are own-rooted (non-grafted). Grapes are meticulously hand harvested and destemmed before being gently crushed into steel tanks where they ferment almost always with native yeasts before being moved into 50-plus-year-old, 1000-liter oak casks where they age until bottling. There is minimal CO2 pumping. These are wines of great aristocracy, renowned for their precision, focus and finesse. The JJ Prüm wines have a reputation for being very long-lived.

Stuart Pigott: 10 Things Every Wine lover Should Know About... J.J. Prüm

wine.searcher December 12, 2013

No. 1. Mosel idol: Take a look at Wine-Searcher's summary of the world's 50 most expensive wines, and you'll find that none has as many white wines listed as Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm. This estate, located in the village of Wehlen in Germany's Mosel wine region, is also known to wine lovers around the world as “J.J. Prüm,” or simply “J.J.”

Its Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) takes 6th place in the most-expensive list, with an average price of $5,647. At no. 32 is the estate's Riesling Beerenauslese (BA), and the Riesling Eiswein is at 43. All of these wines are from the famous Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard site.

Recent auction results at Zachy’s give an idea of J.J. Prüm's desirability. In September, 12 bottles of 1983 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese "Gold Cap" sold for $2,450, and at the La Paulée auction in March two lots of 3 bottles of 1959 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling TBA each went for $15,925.

What makes this achievement all the more remarkable is the fact that as a category, sweet whites still struggle to gain the popular recognition which experts accord them, and all the “J.J.” wines stand out for their finesse and delicacy rather than their power.

Pictures: Wilhelm Steifensand, Chef Bart Vandaele, Laurent Lala (Elite Wines) and Annette Schiller at BToo

No. 2. It's all about longevity: It’s not without justification that wine lovers and collectors are skeptical about the aging potential of white wines – just think of how many white Burgundies of excellent provenance from vintages in the 1990s faded prematurely. What has won the J.J. wines their global following is a flawless track record on aging. Even the basic Joh.Jos. Prüm Riesling Kabinett, which retails for an average $25 excl. tax, will keep for at least five to ten years if well cellared. The Riesling Kabinett from the famous Wehlener Sonnenuhr site will keep much longer, with the 1981 Riesling Kabinett from J.J. still tasting lively.

The higher you climb up the ladder of the Prädikat system (in ascending order of sweetness and price, the classifications are Spätlese, Auslese, BA, TBA/eiswein) the longer the wines need to reach their best form and the longer they will keep. The top wines of the 1930s, '40s and '50s are still generally in excellent condition, though extremely hard to find.

Pictures: Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm/ Mosel

No. 3. "Struck-match" aroma: Even some of the world’s most influential wine critics have been mistaken about the distinctive "struck-match" aroma of young J.J. wines. It is not caused by sulfites, as commonly supposed (these wines having no more added sulfites than most other rieslings from the Mosel).

J.J. has a tradition of always doing wild yeast fermentation, and of minimal handling of the young wines in order to preserve their more delicate aromas and freshness – for which the technical term is reductive winemaking. Put very simply, oxidation accelerates the aging process while reduction puts the brakes on. Certainly, the residual fermentation aroma which the J.J. wines have when they come onto the market isn’t always appealing to those unfamiliar with it. But if this aroma were to be knocked out of them in the cellar, then they wouldn’t have that amazing aging potential and would also lose aroma as a result.

The struck-match scent naturally disappears with bottle aging. The lighter wines need some months for this process, while some of the high-end wines require a couple of years before their peach, exotic fruit and floral aromas properly unfold.

Picture: Christian Schiller and Joh. Jos. Prüm at Weingut JJ Prüm (2016). See: See: Tasting at the Legendary Weingut J.J. Prüm with Amei Prüm – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016

No. 4. Staying sweet: Every now and again, the estate produces a dry wine in response to requests from particular clients and when the vintage makes this possible (they always choose grapes with no botrytis). However, these wines are almost never exported. Director Dr. Katharina Prüm isn’t fundamentally against dry rieslings from the Mosel, but she told Wine-Searcher: “This isn’t our main thing, and I don’t want to make it that, because obviously Joh. Jos. Prüm stands for the sweet wines."

Pictures: Tasting with Amei Prüm at Weingut JJ Prüm. See: Tasting at the Legendary Weingut J.J. Prüm with Amei Prüm – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016

No. 5. Barely a century old: Joh. Jos. Prüm was founded in 1911, and it wasn’t until the 1920 and '21 vintages that the first sweet Auslese wines were produced. The first BA followed in 1934, and the first TBAs in 1937 and '38. World War II seriously interrupted the estate’s development (there was no harvest at all in 1945), but with the 1949 vintage it was back on course with great Auslese, a BA, two TBAs and the estate’s first eiswein (made from grapes picked frozen by accident!).

Picture: Christian Schiller with Katharina Prüm at Wegmans in Virginia (2011)

Picture: Manfred Pruem and Annette Schiller at Weingut Robert Weil/ Rheingau

Picture: Christian Schiller with Manfred Pruem (2011)

No. 6. Pivotal trio: Although many people have worked with dedication to quality at the estate since 1920, and continue to do so, just three members of the Prüm family have steered J.J. during that period. The first of these was Sebastian Alois Prüm (1902–1969), who started working at the estate aged just 18. After his sudden death in early 1969, he was followed by his son Dr. Manfred Prüm. Since 2003, Manfred has been assisted by his elder daughter, Katharina, and the first vintage which she was properly responsible for was 2007. By the way, she and her father are both doctors of law, not medicine or winemaking.

Pictures: JJ Prüm Winemaker Dinner at BToo in Washington DC/ USA, with Wilhelm Steifensand ("Herr Prüm") and Chef Bart Vandaele

No. 7. At J.J., the times are NOT a changin’: “My role isn’t to change the Joh. Jos. Prüm wines,” Katharina told Wine-Searcher. She made it plain that so far she’s only made small adjustments and doesn’t expect to make many more. The only one you might have noticed is that there’s now a clearer difference in sweetness levels between the (drier) Kabinett and (sweeter) Spätlese wines.

Customers who drink the drier styles are quite different from those buying Prüm’s rieslings at the sweeter end of the spectrum. Jeff Zacharia sells J.J. Prüm through Zachy's Scarsdale retail store and at auction. He explained that in the retail area, interest is focused on recent vintages of the estate’s kabinett and spätlese, whereas “interest at auction is much more geared towards the limited production sweet wines – so auslese and TBA."

Zacharia added: "The buyer base tends to be a smaller percentage of our clients who seek a variety of the most renowned wines in the world, including the best of Germany. I see this as a niche market composed of highly knowledgeable connoisseurs with a well-rounded passion for the best producers and vintage.“

Pictures: Wilhelm Steifensand ("Herr Prüm") and Chef Bart Vandaele at BToo

No. 8. Other great vineyards: The precipitously steep, southwest-facing Wehlener Sonnenuhr, with its grey slate soil, is certainly the most important vineyard site for the estate, accounting for almost 20 of its 50 acres of vines. However, in some vintages the wines from the J.J. holdings in the Graacher Himmelreich site (almost southwest facing and very steep) are as good as those from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr – although they sell for somewhat lower prices.

Occasionally, there are also spectacular wines from other sites, such as the 2006 Riesling BA from the Bernkasteler Badstube. In that case, the grapes were so heavily botrytized that almost none of the labor-intensive and time-consuming selective picking usually necessary to produce such a wine was needed.

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Chef Bart Vandaele

No. 9. Not every Prüm estate is J.J.: The Prüm family has been in Wehlen since at least the late 18th century, so the family has many branches and there are a handful of other estates in the town with Prüm in their name. There are also a couple of producers outside Wehlen entitled to include the family in their estate names. Some have chosen to remove any mention of the Prüm connection from the label in order to avoid confusion, like Dr. Loosen in Bernkastel. Others keep the name, such as the Dr. F. Wein-Prüm estate run by Bert Selbach next door to J.J. on the Uferallee, the riverbank street of Wehlen.

In both of these cases the quality is high, but the wines have rather different styles from the Mosel rieslings made by Dr. Katharina Prüm.

Pictures: Chef Bart Vandaele atBToo

10. What does the Prüm family drink? Asked about her preference for current drinking is, Katharina said: "At the moment, mostly 2004, ’07 and ’08. Of course, I enjoy older vintages when they’re available. If our stocks from the 1990s and '80s were larger I’d drink those wines more often!”

Those three vintages of the last decade were all very good, although even 2007 doesn’t quite belong up there with 1949, '59, '71, '76, '90 or '05 (the greatest vintages for the estate). The main advantage of such years is that the wines are not quite so powerful or concentrated, and therefore have a harmony that makes them extremely appealing after only a few years of bottle-aging. The excellent 1988s, '89s and great '90s are now at their best, except at the BA and TBA level. However, these wines are now hard to find and command serious prices due to the reputations of those vintages.

Although all these wines are sweet, the Prüm family often drinks them at the dinner table with guests. Hard as it might be to imagine, an auslese with some bottle age is a great match with roast venison or wild boar! That’s a classic combination for the Prüms.

Pictures: Wilhelm Steifensand at BToo

Dr. Katharina Prüm and Wilhelm Steifensand

Dr. Katharina Prüm is the oldest of three daughters of Amei and Dr. Manfred Prüm. She joined her father in running the family estate in 2003. Katharina is the great-grand daughter of the estate’s founder Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm. After completing her doctorate in German civil law (Die Folgen der Verletzung des Umgangsrechts. Dissertation von Katharina Prüm. Verlag Dr. Kovač, Hamburg 2006), Katharina devoted her energy and time to the estate as ambassador and joint winemaker, together with her father, Dr. Manfred Prüm.

Not so long ago, she married Wilhelm Steifensand. Their first child, a daughter, was borne 5 months ago.

Wilhelm Steifensand is a seventh-generation descendant of P.J.Valckenberg, who founded the P.J.Valckenberg Wine Merchant House in 1786. Until Wilhelm Steifensand sold the company in 2015, Valckenberg was the oldest family owned wine merchant in Germany. Royal dynasties and many renowned personalities of the times are Valckenberg customers. The Valckenberg headquaters is in the city of Worms. The P.J.Valckenberg Merchant House is now owned and run by Peter Bohn and Tilman Queins.

Picture: Katharina Prüm and Wilhelm Steifensand at Weingut JJ Prüm (Photo: Facebook)

Weingut Liebfrauenstift, Madonna and Liebfraumilch

When Wilhelm Steifensand sold the P.J.Valckenberg Wine Merchant House, he kept its crwown jewel, Weingut Liebfraustift in Worms.

After the Dutch merchant Peter Joseph Valckenberg had founded the P.J.Valckenberg Wine Merchant House in 1786, 2 decades later in 1808, P. J. Valckenberg moved on to producing wine and established Weingut Liebfrauenstift, by buying the remaining part of the Capuchin Monastery Liebfrauenstift in Worms and most of the vineyards surrounding the Liebfrauenkirche in Worms, in the wake of secularization.

The Capuchin Monastery Liebfrauenstift and the gothic Liebfrauenkirche, which Capucin monks had build in the 1400s, had always been an important stopping point along the pilgrim route to Santiago di Compostela in north-west Spain. Pilgrims are said to have very much liked the wine produced by the monks and compared it to the “milk of Our Dear Lady” - thus Liebfraumilch was born!

Thanks to his excellent business connections, the House of Valckenberg was soon exporting its Liebfrauenmilch to all continents, including China - in those days part of the British Empire. In 1840, when Britain’s Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, they had Liebfrauenmilch for lunch. Other early customers included the Swedish royal family, the Duke of Norfolk and the writer Charles Dickens. By 1900, the British trading company Berry Brothers & Rudd sold Liebfrauenmilch in the same price range as Château Margaux and Château d'Yquem in Bordeaux.

But in the 1800s, there were no production regulations in Germany, so that production of wine under the name Liebfraumilch could spread along the Rhine, losing any link with the original vineyard in Worms. As a result, by the time of Germany’s wine law of 1908, Liebfraumilch was designated a regional wine, rather than a vineyard-specific wine, while the original Liebfrauenmilch vineyard in Worms was renamed Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstück.

As a consequence, from 1908 onwards, Valckenberg sold the wines from the original Liebfraumilch site around the Liebfrauenkirche as single-vineyard wines Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstueck and Liebfrauenmilch wines from vineyards in the vicinity of Worms (in Rheinhessen) with the byname Madonna - to distinguish them from other Liebfrauenmilch wines. Madonna is Germany’s oldest brand name for wine. In the 1920s, Valckenberg extend the Madonna brand to wines with higher sugar content at harvest, i.e. Kabinett, Spaetlese and Auslese.

The 1971 wine law made Liebfraumilch an even larger regional wine, able to be produced not only in Rheinhessen, but also in the Pfalz, Rheingau and the Nahe. At the same time, the 1971 wine law stipulated that a Liebfraumilch had to be a QbA wine.

Today, Liebfraumilch bears no relationship to the original vineyard in Worms and has become over the years a fruity-sweet style, uncomplicated and easy to drink, from Rheinhessen, Pfalz, Rheingau or Nahe, always at the QbA level. It is a wine that is mainly produced for export, with the UK and Russia being strong markets.

P.J. Valckenberg continues to produce and export their Madonna line, starting from Madonna Liebfraumilch QbA to Madonna Kabinett, Madonna Spätlese, Madonna Auslese up to Madonna Eiswein, with the grapes coming from Rheinhessen.

Picture: Weingut Liebfrauenstift in Worms, Germany. See: Meeting Valckenberg Owner Wilhelm Steifensand and Tasting his Wines

The Dinner

The Dinner was outstanding. It took place in a separate room in the basement that is perfect for special events like winemaker dinners. There were 60 guests. Chef Bart Vandaele guided us through the evening, Wilhelm Steifensand provided most entertaining and informative comments about the wines.  


First Course

Smoked eel, pickled mussels on a toast, black radish

Weingut Liebfrauenstift, Rheinhessen, Dry Riesling 2015

Second Course

Grilled Hiramasa kingfish, dulse, citrus, cilantro oil

Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2015

Third Course

Roasted diver scallops, roasted salsify,  crème fraîche

Joh. Jos. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2016

Fourth Course

Guinea hen, roasted parsnip, pear, black trumpets

Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2016

Fifth Course

Banana pie, almond-cocoa crust, sunchoke ice cream, orange oil

Joh. Johs. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Auslese 2015

Chef Bart Vandaele's BToo

Chef Bart Vandaele's BToo on 14th Street in Washington DC, NW, is a leading restaurant in the Nation's Capital. Annette Schiller and I love to go to winemaker dinners at BToo and organize ouerselves winemaker dinners there. The food of BToo Chef Dieter Samyn and Belga Cafe/ BToo Executive Chef Bart Vandaele is always most creative and delicious. Chef Bart is a fun guy to hang around with and guide us through the evening. And BToo has a separate room in the basement that is perfect for special events like winemaker dinners.

Picture: Fuad Issa, Annette Schiller, Bart M. Vandaele, Christian Schiller, Laurant Lala, Elite Wines, Etienne Verdier, Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard and Greet De Keyser, Bart M. Vandaele's Partner. See: Chef Bart M. Vandaele Celebrated the 2 Year Anniversary of his B Too Restaurant with the Wines of Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard from Chablis, USA/France

Chef Dieter Samyn

Dieter Samyn was born and raised in Belgium. As a graduate of the Hotelschool Ter duinen, after several internships at Michelin starred restaurants in France, Spain and Belgium, he started working for Alain Ducasse, a 3 star Michelin chef, where he worked at Le Louis XV, Le Plaza Athenee and Spoon. From there he went to Peter Goossens, another 3 star Michelin chef located in Belgium, where he worked with for 4 years. In 2013, he joint Chef Bart at B Too.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, Christian Schiller and Chef Dieter Samyn


Thanks Chef Bart Vandaele and Chef Dieter Samyn as well as Rinata Gafarova for this outstanding event.

Pictures: The End - Chef Bart Vandaele, Chef Dieter Samyn and Rinata Gafarova

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Ombiasy Wine Tours 2018: 3 x France and 3 x Germany - Ombiasy Newsletter December 2017

Tasting at the Legendary Weingut J.J. Prüm with Amei Prüm – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016

JJ Pruem Goes Supermarket: Meeting Katharina Pruem and Tasting the Incredible JJ Pruem Wines at Wegmans

Meeting Valckenberg Owner Wilhelm Steifensand and Tasting his Wines

Chef Bart M. Vandaele Celebrated the 2 Year Anniversary of his B Too Restaurant with the Wines of Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard from Chablis, USA/France

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