Randolf Kauer • Bacharach • Mittelrhein

I love the Mittelrhein. If it’s not the most beautiful wine area in Germany, I’m not sure what is. The river is grand and just filled with history. There are castles on almost every crag, some picturesque ruins, some nicely restored, some made into hotels or hostels or restaurants. There are little towns on the river, many with remnant medieval walls for protection, and some, such as Boppard, with Roman ruins. There’s the Lorelei, the famous rocky, narrow point of the river with its huge rock cliff, where those naughty girls, like the Greek Sirens of mythology, lured sailors to their doom. Also the Rheinmädchen, for those of you who know your medieval sagas (Nibelungenlied) or else your Wagner; there is enough romance to satisfy the most serious Romantic. Here also is where the young Brahms walked on his way to meet Schumann in 1853. I could go on and on.

For our purposes, there is also a wonderful wine region that extends from the end of the Rheingau down river from Rüdesheim all the way to Bonn, the once-upon-a-time capital of West Germany, and very far north. For years this region has been slowly dying, starving to death really, because of the amount of work it takes to make wine here and the poor recompense you get for doing it. Often, you live and have your winery on one side of the river, but the vineyards are on the other side. That makes life quite difficult. The vineyards are incredibly steep and difficult to work – all by hand, remember. But the results are pretty special. For years, I’ve watched as fine, but impossible to get to vineyards were abandoned and let go wild. Some of those vineyards go back to Roman times, and it was very sad. But this year, I heard that, for the first time in who knows how long, there were more vineyard plantings than abandonments, and thus, more wine. And that is encouraging.

As is rather well-known, I’ve always loved the wines of Jost and Weingart, and am very friendly with the Josts, wonderfully dear people. While having dinner with them this Spring of 2008, they recommended I visit a neighbor of whom they were quite fond, and whose wines they respected. So the next day, I found myself knocking on the door of Randolf Kauer. Actually, not knocking; he came out to greet me, because Peter Jost had called, and we (Dennis and Vicky Roberts and I) must have looked typically American enough that he figured out who we were. It was a good day to visit, as it was Open House for the winery, and all their friends and local customers were invited to come, sample, and buy, hopefully, the new vintage. Randolf showed us around; the cellar is simply built into the slate cliff behind the house. He is very charming and quite articulate. He is, after all, a professor at the oenological school at Geisenheim, and is one of the most respected wine people in Germany. His winery is also organic, and has been for about 25 years.

And the wines? They tend to be on the dry side, and have a strong mineral backbone. It’s a small estate, only 3½ hectares, but with a number of wonderful, tongue-twisting vineyards. You will need to get to know the Bacharacher Kloster Fürstenberg, as well as the Oberweseler Oelsberg, and, as a special treat, the Oberdiebacher Fürstenberg. The first wines will arrive in October of 2008, and I’m hopeful it will be the beginning of a long relationship. If you care for wines of vivid minerality, and filigree texture, these will be for you. They are more brilliant than most Mosels, and as fiery as a fine Nahe. I can hardly wait.