Becker-Landgraf • Gau Odernheim • Rheinhessen


A simple phone call from Stefan Winter, after he had inquired if we had any further appointments that day (we did not), led us to his friend, Johannes Landgraf, in the town of Gau Odernheim, about a 15 minute drive from Dittelsheim over green fields and striking hills planted with vines on the southern slopes (note photograph at the beginning of this German section). The winery is just outside of the town, and part of a larger structure that looks a little like a mini Industrial Park (not very Romantic, that) but which is really a place that manufactures stainless steel tanks for wine. In the middle of this is a nifty modern home with a beautiful garden. And cats (always a good sign for this hopeless cat lover). It reminded me vaguely of the setting of Magic Gardens in Berkeley (now, alas, moved); not the most beautiful setting, but made beautiful anyway. Johannes Landgraf and his wife Julia Becker have made themselves a wonderful little winery. Johannes’ brother, Andre, has the family estate, which goes back to the mid 18th Century, and Johannes has teamed up with his wife’s winery, begun in 1783. Are you still with me? 8 Hectares and about 5000 cases of wine are the result. But then, didn’t I tell you, this is where the most interesting action is in Germany. The soil here is loess, limestone and loam, which is similar to that at Winter. They don’t fine the wines; everything is hand harvested, and the two of them do all the work themselves. 2007 (when I first visited) was only their second vintage together. Every wine I tasted here was good, and if anything, I am every bit as excited about this estate as I am for Winter.

As at Winter, there are three levels of wines. The first is represented by the Gutsriesling (the basic Estate wine). The second level is the village wine, the Riesling Gau Odernheim. The third level then, is the Riesling Herrgottspfad, a simply sensational Riesling, left on the yeast for a year and with a touch of old wood, giving the wine a spiciness and lushness that is quite unique. This is serious Riesling, 1st growth style, but entirely different from Winter’s. All three of these wines are dry, but, once again, I’ll ask you not to fear; rather proceed forthrightly and with a song in your heart to these wines. You will love them. Surprisingly, there are red wines here as well, and they are really good. The ‘Luca 1′ was an absolute knockout. Here is spicy St. Laurent, with great color and real stuffing, dazzling, forceful, like a cross between Zinfandel and Bordeaux, at a very modest price. The label is wild too. This would be a great party wine – guess the country of origin, guess the grape – good luck. It was the most exciting red wine I had in Germany in 2007, and I think also in 2008. There is also an excellent Blauburgunder Pinot Noir) which I think will surprise many of you. I’d compare it to Lingenfelder’s finest. And then, finally, the “normal” German wines. He won’t make them every year because they don’t sell as quickly as the dry wines. On the other hand, the wine is so good and so modestly priced that it may be we will sell enough of it so that he will be forced to make it every year. This Ölberg is not the same vineyard that Walter Strub makes his best wine from in Nierstein; it’s a different vineyard, the best, I am told, in Gau Odernheim. The Spätlese Ölberg is simply a lovely Spätlese, not as sweet as some, but spicy and with a mineral edge. Quite classic, and comes as a bit of a surprise after all those dry wines. Very impressive and positively cheap, given its quality. One of the best values in the entire mailer. There is also an Ölberg Auslese, again quite astonishing.. This is a winery you’re going to love, and, I think, for a long time.

 

Germany, Austria, 2011 040