Excerpt from our Fall Newsletter: Revisiting Sparkling Riesling

Photo of 1985 HJW Champagne Naturel and HJW 2015 Extra Brut

In the fall of 2014, we opened a very special bottle of wine. It was during a late night dinner after a long day of harvesting and sorting grapes on the press pad. Grabbed on a whim from the back of the cellar in a perhaps slightly forgotten box- a Hermann J. Wiemer sparkling wine from 1985- labeled “Champagne Naturel” stole all of our attention. It was 100% Riesling and it was in remarkably good shape, with all of the dried fruit and nuttiness characteristic of an aged sparkling wine with still a lovely dose of freshness- and even bubbles! To say the least, this wine and the way that it had stayed together over all of these years inspired us and got the wheels turning. We were well into harvest at that point and had missed the window to pick Riesling for a sparkling but the idea was securely planted for next year’s vintage.

When we opened a second similarly impressive bottle of the 1985 “Champagne Naturel” to toast to Hermann’s 75th birthday, the stories began flowing. True to his roots in German practicality he let on that making sparkling wine out of Riesling was almost a necessity at the time due to the market’s skepticism of Dry Riesling. In the mid-1980s, after years of putting in the legwork, Hermann established his Dry Riesling and no longer needed to sell the varietal under the guise of “Champagne.” Instead, he focused on the traditional Champagne varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for our sparkling production and the “Naturel” was stashed away.

Fast forward some 30 odd years and let us introduce you to the Extra Brut 2015. Made from 100% Riesling and picked on September 17th, 2015 from a parcel of young vines (planted in 2009) from our HJW site, this sparkling wine is fresh and very dry. Aged for a shorter amount of time on the lees than our other sparkling wines it retains more fruit character and is accompanied with great texture and zippy bubbles. This wine marks a return to a previous style but under very different circumstances. We are excited about its release and will have more in the pipeline from consecutive vintages. As it just so happens, we are picking Riesling for our Extra Brut 2018 today!

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