We are struggling mightily with this entry. That Josi Leitz is a once-in-a-generation winemaker with a positively heroic narrative is by now indisputable; the unembellished tale of his long battle to restore the family’s vineyards after the tragic death of his young father is one of patience and perseverance so superhuman that visitors are often surprised upon meeting him that he isn’t ten feet tall with six arms and pruning shears for hands. We’ve known the guy for almost ten years now; in that time there have of course been countless tastings, dinners, and other “professional” events (our profession necessitates the occasional overserved incident), but nowadays we locate Josi’s heroism elsewhere in his life. We’ve taken his daughter shopping on Market St. and his son to the batting cages in San Rafael (the kid’s a natural); we’re right now seeing them become extraordinary young adults. We’ve been welcomed into his home by his charming wife, and we saw him dance to “Disco Inferno” as part of a flash mob she organized for his 50th birthday party in Rüdesheim (which was hysterical). We can’t possibly separate the wines from the man, his family or his vineyards and furthermore we shouldn’t have to, so just because we say they are beyond outstanding doesn’t mean you should believe us. But we still think you should taste one or three and see for yourself.
2013 Weingut Leitz “Kaisersteinfels” Riesling, Rheingau, Germany
When we first visited Johannes Leitz in January 2010, the very first vineyard site he took us to see was the Kaisersteinfels. We were unprepared, and preoccupied by the combination of our jet lag and the vicious cold, but when we finally exited the car and looked out over the village from the frozen summit of the Kaiser, we knew instantly why he had brought us here first. Or rather, we felt it. Even in the depths of its winter dormancy, its slate and quartzite soils covered with snow and its gnarly vines devoid of green, the vineyard rumbles with energy, as do the wines made from it. Nothing is ever out of place in these wines, and while they identify as dry, they will usually measure 10+ grams of residual sugar, too much for trocken classification. We’ve never tasted a vintage of Kaisersteinfels that wasn’t a wine for the ages.