After two full days in the Mosel it was time to go vineyard/region-hopping as we drove South through German wine country. To save time on the way to our first appointment in the Rheingau, about two hours from the Mosel, we took a car ferry (so cool!) across the Rhine River. It deposited us on the other bank just down the slope from Josef Leitz's winery. (Perhaps starting with the ferry experience itself, the visit at Leitz offered not just great wine tasting, but also a terrific lesson in German history - e.g. ferries keep transport efficient and fluid, as many key bridges were destroyed in World War II). We found Johannes Leitz (said "Lights" - the winery is named for his father Joseph, who died when Lietz was only 2 years old) with his gardening gear on, wheelbarrow in hand. He quickly terminated his home gardening duties, ushered us into his immaculate tasting room and jumped right into a detailed discussion about the Rheingau; terrific photos told the story of its unique terroir, including the microclimates and varied soil types that 'co-exist' just meters from each other. (I HIGHLY encourage you to visit his website to get a feel for this yourself! It's one of the best sites I've seen.)
This initial 'classroom' work gave us an important overview and worked wonders as we jumped in Johannes' SUV and traveled into the vineyards themselves. Narrow and winding dirt "roads" took us upward and inward; jumping out of the car at strategic points, we could feel the climate change (literally just around the bend!) and could investigate the soil closely. We learned more about the history of the Rheingau, the variation between Upper and Lower portions, and got a verbal preview of which wines we would taste in relation to the vineyard site from which they came. Fascinating stuff.
Back at the tasting room Leitz offered two glasses - and initiated my favorite kind of tasting: a 'taste off' between wines so we could literally taste terroir variation. While tasting (interrupting the banter with reactions to the wines about their various depth and power, floral and herbal nuance and sleek compelling texture, plus a few nose-blowings as my 'quality control' kicked in to the mineral explosion offered) we continued to learn more about his operation, how much he has expanded over the years without sacrificing quality and staying true to his terroir-driven focus. We also learned more about his experience exporting, and in particular to the USA. Yes, he too faces some importer pushback when getting his truly dry wines to market. The Dragonstone which we carry here is a slightly different version than the one he sells elsewhere in the world. That said, he launched a new project last year called Eins (1) - Zwei (2) - Dry (3), which is available in MA now.
After spending three memorable hours with Johannes, it was time to get back in the car, head back down to the ferry and drive an hour+ to get a taste of the Rheinhessen!