Tales from: The Mosel and St. Urban’s-Hof

Here is another installment chronicling my month-long trip to Europe last fall. I had hoped to get these posts up long ago, but clearly, I have had to alter my goal in that regard (now, my goal is to get them up before an entire calendar year has passed—and that might be ambitious).

Setting up appointments in Europe is not easy to do. First, there is the language barrier–I am fine in French, but when I tried to set up a couple tastings in Germany, it becomes an issue. Sure, many people in Germany speak English (and speak it well) but I never really feel confident that I am getting my point across (I realize that this might be my issue since I studied German for a while, but let it slide and can now only say “I have a flat tire” and “three beers please” which I usually say in that order in the same breath).

The other issue, at least for me, is that it is difficult to let the winery know how many people will be joining me for the tasting. I understand the winery wanting to prepare for the visit, and I also understand the clients on the bike trip not wanting to make too many plans–after all, they are on vacation. On this particular trip of eight Australians, I first brought up the idea of visiting wineries in the Mosel during our first dinner together back in Bruges, four days prior. I brought it up again as we sat around the table at das Weinhaus in Trier. All eight Australians said they would join me.

Even though nine people is a lot, the kind folks at St. Urban’s-Hof said it would not be a problem so I set the appointment for 2:00, letting them know I would only have about an hour total for the tasting.IMG_4604

My time was short since I still needed to take all the luggage up to the next hotel, take the van to a random train station about thirty minutes from Bernkastel, meet the other guide (who was taking the Aussies on to Denmark), and then hop on a train. That would be the first leg of a seven hour odyssey that would involve three trains, three countries, a three-minute connection in Strasbourg, 30 minute bike ride across Paris at 9:00 p.m. (carrying all my crap), and another three-hour train ride to the south of France. I was due to arrive at midnight at which point I would have about thirty minutes to find a non-descript “white van” in the train station’s immense parking lot before it closed.

Yeah. I had plenty of time for a quick wine tasting.

Or maybe three.

IMG_2974Another blogger, Oliver the Winegetter–perhaps the blogosphere’s preeminent authority on German Riesling–suggested that I visit St. Urban’s-Hof for a couple of reasons: First, the wine–there is no doubt that St. Urban’s-Hof is one of the leading producers in the Mosel (and it is readily available in the U.S.). Second, the owner/winemaker Nik Weis is a bit of a legend and an all around great guy. Unfortunately, when I called to make the appointment, I discovered that Nik would be out-of-town on the day of my visit.

Oh, well. The first point was reason enough to visit.

I pulled up to the winery, parked the behemoth of a van (luckily, the winery is on the top of a hill in the tiny town of Leiwen, so it was easy to park–even though I completely blocked the narrow lane adjacent to the entrance), and as I approached the door, I was greeted by a lovely woman who immediately asked:

“Where’s your bike?”

I figured I would be just fine without meeting Nik.

I parked the van here....

I parked the van here….

That woman turned out to be Britta Janssen, Nik’s assistant. We headed inside and I was surprised to find that none of my Aussie friends were there. Nor, as it would turn out, would any of them ever show up–I was able to smooth it over with Britta, but I was more than a little irked.

Britta Janssen

Britta Janssen

The fabulous wines helped me get over it.

St. Urban’s-Hof is a bit of an oddity in the Mosel (and perhaps Europe in general) in that the winery was founded only in 1947 (by Nik’s grandfather). While by American standards that would certainly be ancient, in Europe, wineries under 300 years old are considered “new.”

Saint Urban’s-Hof is by no means huge (at least when compared to some American wineries), the winery produces 240,000 bottles (20,000 cases), half of which are exported. But they do produce a variety of wines, particularly considering that they are all Rieslings.

The coolest spitoon I have ever used--it came up to past my waist, and there was water running continuously...

The coolest spittoon I have ever used–it came up to past my waist, and there was water running continuously…

Over the next hour or so, Britta guided me through at least a dozen bottles, but thanks to the very cool spittoon, I left in fine shape to continue on my rather epic journey to the South of France….

2013 Nik Weis St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Trocken: New label (2012) for dry and off-dry wines. Round with nice fruit a bit soft but for 8 Euros? A steal. Very Good. 86-88 Points.

2012 Nik Weis St. Urban’s-Hof Laurentiuslay GG: A bit deeper with more minerality and acidity. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

2013 St. Urban’s-Hof Estate Riesling: Largest part of production from around winery (so right by the van). Nicely balanced acidity and sweetness. Very Good. 87-89 Points.IMG_4608

2013 Nik Weis St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Wiltinger (Saar): A bit of funkiness on the nose that does not come thru on the palate. Solid. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.

2013 Nik Weis St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Mehringer (Mosel): More minerality but less fruit here and a bit flat on midpalate but flinty finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

2012 Nik Weis St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Laurentiuslay (Mosel): Best nose thus far: fruity, flinty, and frolicky. Nice fruit upfront and then the acidity kicks in. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.

IMG_46062012 St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Kabinett: The funk is back. Long live the funk. Apple and pear and wow. All three. This is but a baby but Outstanding. 91-93 Points. Notably long finish.

2013 St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Bockstein Kabinett Saar: Flinty nose. Mouth puckering acidity. With green apple. Very well done. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.

2013 St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Bockstein Spatlëse Saar: Now were talking! Flinty and fruity. Bright honeydew and apple. Incredible finish. This is why I love German Riesling. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

IMG_29752007 St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Auslese: A bit golden in color. Petrol and pineapple nose. Whoa. Could smell this all day. Rich. Richie Rich kind of rich. Full yet still bright. Whoa. And maybe a third Whoa. Outstanding Plus. 93-95 Points. Finish lasting minutes.

2010 St. Urban’s-Hof Riesling Bockstein Auslese: Aged for 6-8 weeks in German oak barrels. A flinty caramel nose with almost the same color as the ’07. Full and fantastic with a punch of acidity at the end. This is crazy good. Outstanding Plus. 94-96 Points.


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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3 Responses to Tales from: The Mosel and St. Urban’s-Hof

  1. Well shoot, I bet that was disappointing none of the Aussies.


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