2020 Weingut Willems-Willems, Riesling Kabinett, Oberemmel Altenberg, Saar, Germany.
The Willens-Willens estate in the Saar region, not far from the Mosel, is a small family affair, making just about 4,500 cases a year, with some serious wines, like this beautifully expressive and crystalline Oberemmel Altenberg Kabinett, a slightly off dry Riesling that is driven by the slate underpinnings of this unique terroir. Willems-Willems does about 60% off-dry or sweet wines and 40% dry with mainly Riesling sites, all being eco-friendly sustainable vineyards, but they also have 20% of Pinot Blanc, which has seen a dramatic increase in quality and popularity in the greater Mosel-Saar-Ruwer area, along with about 10% Pinot Noir. This 2020 vintage in Germany is looking to be one of the classics with some truly Epic wines having been produced here and the quality across the board is excellent and these Kabinett offerings, especially from cru single vineyard sites are incredible values that not only please now, as this Willems-Willems does, but will age spectacularly well, it is a year to stock up on. The Saar has many historic and famous names like Carl von Schubert Maximin Grunhauser and one of the more recent stars, Peter Lauer, and somehow stays under the radar, and I had never had or even heard of Willems-Willems before, which now I am glad to say I have and loved this lightly golden Kabinett with its zesty citrus, white peach, quince, green apple and earthy mango fruits, saline infused and flinty spice, wet stone, jasmine and green tea notes. The residual sugar here doesn’t feel overtly sweet, mainly providing a subtle creaminess, juiciness, making it medium bodied, more like a Feinherb and balancing the brisk acidity, giving this wine a broad appeal and flexibility of cuisine options, though it will be great with spicier Asian meals. While not a household name, Willems-Willems is a winery I am planning to follow and I am excited to sample the rest of their lineup, this was a cool new discovery.
Five generations of women have managed and run this Saar estate with Carolin (Willems-Willems) Hofmann now firmly in charge here and taking care of all the business aspects of the winery with General Manager Peter Thelen looking after the grapes and the cellar. Today the property is a dedicated wine growing estate, but similar to other family wineries in the region it was until 1971 it operated as a mixed or multi-purpose farm. That was also the year the matriarch of the Willems estate, Maria Willems married Karl, who in a strange twist of fate shared a distant ancestor and thus the same last name. Then the winery, that was known as Willems became Willems-Willems, a name that they proudly use today. Maria’s daughter Carolin and her husband Jürgen are now responsible for the wines here as mentioned above with Carolin calling the shots as tradition here dictates. The couple, Jurgen and Carolin commute from their family home, that is in Appenhem, interestingly in Rheinhessen wine growing region to their estate on the Saar. Even the grandparents lend a hand still with Karl and Maria Willems regularly handling the small apartments located on site, in the historical section of the estate’s residence that they rent out. The Oberemmel parcel is the best section of vines here, in the rather large “Altenberg” vineyard, which Willems-Willems has, is located just below its small vineyard chapel, shown on the label, think La Chapelle in the Rhone’s famous Hermitage vineyard, it is where the perfect combination of conditions meld together. These mature vines growing on very steep slopes are more than 70 years old and dug in deep into the weathered slate, perfect for concentration, smoky complexity and purity of flavors, again, that is displayed in Willems-Willems brilliant and aromatic Kabinett. This excellent Saar Kabinett is, as the winery notes, the result of a special combination of extremely small yields and slow spontaneous wild ferment along with the extended lees aging, as Thelen gave it the plenty of time to fully develop its personality and grace before bottling.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive