This is the third of a three-part series chronicling Contributing Editor Anne Krebiehl’s experiences working harvest on the Mosel slopes. Read part one and part two.
As I began my third day in the Mosel—my second day among the vines—I was amazed that I could walk with relative ease after yesterday’s exertion. I grabbed my secateurs and headed to meet the crew.
It was another sunny day, another ride on a monorail in the adjoining vineyard. Today, we picked in the Zeppwingert vineyard and its premium zone, Batterieberg, named for the batteries of explosives detonated here by a previous owner between 1841–45 to remove rocky outcrops to create more vineyard. One of the entry-level wines of Immich-Batterieberg is called “Detonation.”
Despite being rather close to Ellergrub, the slate was grey and the vegetation was much sparser than yesterday. I certainly did more climbing, if my ungainly scrambling on all fours is worthy of that term. Somehow, I became exhausted and energized at the same time.
The grapes at the site were pristine and just as much fun to seek out on the staked vines. Some of them had just two tiny bunches, others a bit more, but, again, the yield was tiny. Since we didn’t finish picking the entire vineyard that day, we returned the following morning. This time, moody fog and damp air turned every spiderweb into a crystal lacework of a thousand tiny drops.
We hit the uppermost terraces first. The wild boar had their merry way here, again making the ground slippery. But I felt like a pro by now. I worked at a good pace and spotted every golden berry in the foliage.
It wasn’t nonstop work, of course. Gernot Kollmann was not only a lovely host, but also an excellent cook.
On the first night, there were four of us dining. Among the attendees was Christel, the 80-year-old mother of one of the estate’s co-owners, who loves to come and stay in the Mosel for a few days every year. From a large leftover roasted boar (sweet revenge for all the vineyard damage), Gernot fashioned a soup aromatic with clove and orange peel, followed by a meat ragout.
With dinner, we drank his 2013 Escheburg Riesling, a wine made from a mix of classified single sites. Dry Riesling, especially mature and evolving, is a classic pairing for game in Germany.
Then the guessing game started. It began with a delicious, clearly mature but very unusual bottle of red. Nobody could have divined that this impeccable wine was a 1984 bottling from Luis Pato in Portugal.
The following night was party time. Along with Gernot, João, Christel, I was joined by two German journalists, Gabriele and Miguel; Janine, a promising young sommelier from Melbourne who just finished working vintage down the road; and Xiao, a Chinese-American emergency room doctor from Baltimore who’s a Riesling nut and a dear friend of Gernot. We gathered around the dining room table at the estate’s Art Nouveau villa.
Gernot turned the last of the roast boar into a pasta dish in addition to preparing a seabream baked in lovage, followed by a pineapple sabayon. Throughout the meal there were delicious cheeses: Tomme, Stilton, Parmesan, Roquefort and Époisses. The meal only tasted lovelier thanks to the day’s efforts working the slope.
The wild boar had their merry way here, again making the ground slippery. But I felt like a pro by now. I worked at a good pace and spotted every golden berry in the foliage.
The wines were sumptuous as well. We enjoyed Champagne from Agrapart & Fils to start, followed by Ellergrub Riesling and a 1998 Clos de Bèze by Domaine Pierre Damoy. To pair with the cheeses, we were offered a 1989 Brauneberger Kammer Riesling Auslese by Paulinshof.
I enjoyed being at a table that spanned ages, backgrounds, passports and professions. We shared not just a love of good wine, food and company, but an obsession with what makes wine so special.
Gernot’s last meal for me was resolutely German, but equally delicious: Sauerbraten mit Kartoffelknödel, which is beef brisket marinated in Riesling, spices and vinegar, then braised and served with potato dumplings. With this, we had a deliciously rounded 2009 Escheburg Riesling.
We continued to chat over a smoky, mature bottle of Jakob Sebastian 2006 Spätburgunder from the Ahr. We made it an early night, as my taxi was scheduled to arrive at 5 a.m.
Hours later, as the car crept slowly through deepest morning fog, I realized how lucky I am. Not only did I harvest Riesling on some of the steepest Mosel slopes, I also made new friends and precious memories. I will never look at a bottle of Mosel Riesling the same way again.