Friday, September 22, 2017

Vineyard Tour and Tasting at Weingut Ratzenberger, Mittelrhein, with Jochen Ratzenberger - Germany-North Tour 2017 by ombiasy WineTours

Picture: Annette Schiller with Jochen Ratzenberger in Bacharach, Mittelrhein,

Following lunch at Restaurant Altes Haus in Bacharach, we visited Weingut Ratzenberger. Winemaker/ owner Jochen Ratzenberger was our host. He took us on a breathtaking trips through his vineyards, followed by a winetasting at Weingut Ratzenberger.

Lunch in Bacharach

Bacharach is an incredible beautiful, romantic 1000 year old wine village. Its castles, church spires, medieval city wall, and half-timbered houses on the shore of the Rhine rive is pure “Rheinromantik”. Bacharach is also the birthplace of the world-famous designer Michael Thonet and there is a museum commemorating the famous son.

Pictures: Lunch in Bacharach at Restaurant Altes Haus

Weingut Ratzenberger

Weingut Ratzenberger is located in  Bacharach in the Mittelrhein wine-growing region in Germany. It is owned and run by Jochen Ratzenberger, the third generation to do so. The vineyard area totals 12 hectares, with holdings in such top-rated sites as Kloster Fürstenthal, Posten and Wolfshöhle (Bacharach), as well as in the St. Jost site in Steeg. More than three-quarters of the area is planted with Riesling (8,5 ha), as well as with Pinot Noir (1,5 ha), Pinot Gris and Rivaner. Sustainable, integrated vineyard practices are followed. The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association.

Picture: Annette Schiller, Jochen Ratzenberger and Christian Schiller

The grandfather of the current owner, Jochen Ratzenberger, purchased this 300 year old wine estate in 1956. It lies in a beautiful narrow valley bordered by extremely steep vineyard sites. The winery is also very nice with vast, historic vaulted cellars. A significant portion of the vineyards are planted with vines more than 50 years old, which give the wines substance and at the same time elegance. Jochen Ratzenberger also produces some very delicious Sekt, which is kept on the lees for at least 30 months.

Pictures: Jochen Ratzenberger, Weingut Ratzenberger

Vineyard Tour

Upon arrival at the winery, Jochen Ratzenberger took us on a breathtaking tour of his vineyards Kloster Fürstenthal, Posten and Wolfshöhle in Bacharach and St. Jost in Steeg.

Pictures: Arriving at Weingut Ratzenberger

McDuff wine (Ratzenberger Producer Profile): ...Standing on a precipitous, narrow footpath between two sections of the St. Jost vineyard, we were able  to take in the view of nearly the entire estate. We were also exposed to the full force of the damp, cold, February wind blowing up the valley off the river, gaining a clear sense of just how peripheral this area is to viticulture. On the steep slopes above Bacharach and Steeg, Jochen’s vines are perfectly poised to receive every last ray of the sun, without which they would fail to ripen sufficiently for the production of quality wine. In cool climates, southern exposure can make the difference between a good site and a great one. In the Mittelrhein, southern exposure is an absolute must. And site is everything.

Pictures: Vineyard Tour with Jochen Ratzenberger

The tiny village of Steeg, home to the Ratzenberger family and winery, sits in the crook of a valley, due west from Bacharach at a point where the Rhein flows almost perfectly north to south. The Ratzenbergers’ property is based primarily on three einzellagen (single vineyards) perched on the northern face of the valley slopes:

Bacharacher Posten, nearest to the river at an average elevation of 150 meters, Bacharacher Wolfshöhle, a Großes Gewächs site, next up the valley at an elevation of 300 meters, and Steeger St. Jost, also Großes Gewächs, the westernmost site perched between 400-500 meters directly above the tiny hamlet of Steeg.

Pictures: Vineyard Tour with Jochen Ratzenberger

A fourth vineyard site, Kloster Fürstental, lays one valley to the south of Steeg. Due to the special climate and exposure of Fürstental, which is kept dry by breezes from the river and by wider than average row spacing, its Riesling now goes to the production of just two styles: Sekt and Eiswein.

... His vineyards are dominated by blue and black slate from the Devonian era. On the upper slopes, little if any topsoil is in evidence. Labor is almost entirely manual and in many spots necessitates a system of guide wires which he utilizes while working to prevent tumbles down the perilous inclines. Jochen makes the most of his land by farming to low yields and working the soil and plants as naturally as possible. Fertilization is completely organic. Pheromones are used, both to attract beneficial insects and put-off malevolent ones, in place of insecticides. Fungicides are used in small quantities to prevent vine diseases which can thrive in this cool, damp arena.

Tasting with Jochen Ratzenberger

Pictures: Tasting at Weingut Ratzenberger

2015 Weingut Ratzenberger Bacharacher Riesling trocken

Moore Brothers (2015): This is ripe, stony, and dry wine. An assemblage of all the estate fruit grown on the hill that towers over the town of Bacharach, this is wine so accurately crafted and balanced that fruit, acidity, minerals and spice are all impeccably integrated even at this early stage. Excellent with trout and bass, clams and oysters on the half-shell, and citrus-infused vegetables. (US$19)

2015 Weingut Ratzenberger Steeger St. Jost Riesling trocken

Moore Brothers (2014): This is ripe, stony, and dry wine, from the steeply sloped St. Jost vineyard directly behind the small Ratnzeberger winery in the village of Steeg. This is wine so accurately crafted and balanced that fruit, acidity, minerals and spice are all impeccably integrated even at this early stage. Riesling such as this pairs with a tremendously wide variety of foods, from simple seafood preparations (sushi!), to rich roasts of pork and veal. (US$29)

2012 Weingut Ratzenberger Bacharacher Wolfhöhle GG trocken

2016 Weingut Ratzenberger Bacharacher Riesling Kabinett

Princeton Corkscrew Wine Shop (2015): Weingut Ratzenberger, located in the beautiful Renaissance town of Bacharach, is in the heart of the Mittlerhein. The vineyards are steeped and terraced, blessed with excellent sunshine even for its northern latitude. The Rhine River protects these vineyards from strong winds and helps to regulate temperatures. The Rieslings of the Mittlerhein typically have great extract and structure, yet are always marked by outstanding acidity, making them excellent candidates for dry or sparkling wines. In the towns of Bacharach and Steeg, where Ratzenberger owns vines, the soils are pure devon black slate and lie on a single hillside, about a kilometer wide. The vineyards St. Jost, Wolfshöhle, and Posten are so steep that they can only be tended by hand. Jochen Ratzenberger produces wine with fine aromatic elegance, length, and structure.

The Bacharacher Riesling Kabinett Feinherb is loaded with flavors of tangerine, peach, and ruby red grapefruit held together by bright acidity. The classic mineral and savory flavors imparted by the steep slopes of the Bacharach vineyards keep all the fruit in balance while each quaffable glass is enjoyed. Pair with lobster, crab, monkfish, salmon, and sausage.

2016 Weingut Ratzenberger Bacharacher Posten Riesling Spätlese halbtrocken

Moore Brothers (2010): Powerfully structured and rigorously bright, this Spätlese redefines our perception of German wine (did anybody say sweet?). The Posten vineyard contributes not only the intense acid that will allow this wine to evolve for several years to come, but also a lush, truffle-infused fruit that compliments pork, poultry, earthy cheeses and mushrooms.

2010 Weingut Ratzenberger Bacharacher Wolfshöhle Riesling Spätlese

Moore Brothers (2010): This spätlese fructig wine from the Wolfshöhle offers compelling, developed aromas of dried fruit, stone and spice harmoniously integrated in a plush palate supported by bright acidity and a creamy texture. (US$32)

2004 Weingut Ratzenberger  Bacharacher Wolfshöhle Riesling Auslese

Moore Brothers Imports Weingut Ratzenberger Wines in the USA

Moore Brothers: It was dumb luck that brought us to Weingut Ratzenberger on a rainy afternoon in July of 2000, and in fifteen passing years since that first meeting, I’ve stayed with the Ratzenberger’s so many times that Blücherstraße 167 in Bacharach feels just like home. “It’s a music,” Jochen’s father tells me every time we taste their beautiful Rieslings together. “A melody.” Which is as much as I ever understand of his spontaneous, invented “English.” But once, a few years ago, while Kate and I were loading up our little rented Skoda, preparing to leave “home” in Bacharach one more time, I had no trouble understanding what he meant when he put a hand on my shoulder and said: “We are old brothers now.”

See also: Riesling Crawl in New York City – Or, Where to Buy German Wine in Manhattan: Schiller's Favorite Wine Stores, USA

Postings: Germany-North Tour 2017 by ombiasy WineTours: Quintessential German Riesling and the Northernmost Pinot Noir (Posted and Forthcoming)

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