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.
2014 Weingut Leitz “Klosterlay” Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany
Germans don’t name their vineyards after themselves or their kids or anything otherwise whimsical; all of them seem to take their names from some nearby landmark or an activity that maybe once happened there, like snipe-hunting or copper-mining. The “kloster” in Klosterlay refers to the Benedictine abbey of St. Hildegard above the eastern edge of Rüdesheim, and “lay” is an old German word for slate, so there you have it. The slate in question is ancient, gray, and crumbly, which Leitz believes more appropriate for off-dry riesling, so his Klosterlay is always a fruitier wine. The 2014 is a marvel, powerful but not as overtly sweet as some of the recent iterations, especially the 2011. We’ve heard the acidity described as “bone-smacking” but Kickshaw doesn’t approve. A perfectly balanced wine that disproves the notion that off-dry riesling can’t be refreshing.