Exploring Signuradi Part 3.2: The Voyage - Hermann and Gantenbein

So far we visited Cicero Weinbau and Weingut Donatsch. Today I'd like to start with a little peek into a real poster-garage-winery just like a lot of people might imagine a place like this to be. The name of the winery? Well, for sure one of the most famous names in the valley: Weinbau Christian Hermann in Fläsch! Following my humble impressions of Hermann's impressive and dense crus I'd like perform my customarily insufficient tasting notes to the wines of a winery which doesn't need any extensive introduction. If there is one internationally and nationally downright famous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producer in Grisons - then it had to be the winery of the Gantenbeins from Fläsch. But first things …Hermann it is!

Weinbau Christian Hermann, Fläsch

Christian Hermann established his boutique-garage-winery (actual garage including an underneath located cuverie) in the very early 1990s. Since then he gained quite some reputation for his highly complex, powerful – but not overwhelming – and characterful Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. From his 4,3 hectares (just a bit more than 10 acres) Hermann produces a line-up of three Pinot Noirs, one Chardonnay and one close to off-dryness Riesling. Let's give them wines a try, right!?

During our visit we had the opportunity to taste the wines from the currant vintage and a few barrel samples. You may ask yourself: What's better to start with than a fresh and intense Chardonnay? Nothing - so it be! The Chardonnay 2011 from Hermann was a rather rich and dense wine with intense lemon and lemon peel flavours, clear candied fruit flavours, traces of smoke, present and in this very case rather suitable alcohol and present oak flavours which provided quite a lot of “curvatures”. For me an unusual Chardonnay with a lot of strength, concentration and distinct character. Right now the finish seemed a bit too sweet for me. Still, for sure a decent **** Chardonnay which will require some time to open up! For the moment it is just a baby! The Chardonnay 2012 barrel sample seemed more balanced, not that powerful and showed a very attractive texture. The fruit flavours appeared more fresh and charming - less intense and sweet'ish. I guess this one will become a very decent ***** wine indeed.

The next wine was the village Pinot Noir Fläsch from 2011. This entry level Pinot Noir was a very classical, cool and smoky Pinot with a light and fine texture, very serious bright berry fruit and a few traces of green veggies. The invigorating and light structure of this Pinot seemed pretty convincing to me. The concentration and stronger acid maybe not so much. All in all still a decent **** and really solid entry-level Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 from in average 30 year old vines showed far more convincing qualities. The nose was nicely perfumed, showed a bit of barn yard fragrances, plenty of smoke and very appealing scents of dark cherries. The taste was concentrated, powerful, even a bit salty (?), boasted with quite a lot of mineral attributes and above all very serious and tart dark cherry flavours. There might have been a bit too much alcohol and toast at the moment. Anyway a very decent ***** Pinot Noir with a pretty proper life expectancy. The flagship Pinot Noir Reserve H from 2011 showed even more density, concentration and demand. This in 100% new oak barrels (actually, half barrique barrels!) aged Pinot Noir had an extremely intense and slightly sweet nose. Same for the taste. My palatal was unnervingly indulged by very powerful and various fruitful and earthy aromas. The oak influence seemed a bit too much. The concentration was vast - not bold! Normally, such deeply powerful Pinot Noirs are not so dear to my heart, but in this case I detected so much seriousness which made me certain about its bright future – not so near future though! Most definitely a very decent ***** Pinot Noir with plenty of defined muscles and echo. Luckily there were no resemblances of overheating, plump richness or other obvious “Power-Pinot” deficits.

The last wine was a total contrast! The off-dry Riesling 2012 from steep schist slopes was filigree, full of life (very fine acid), beautiful lemon flavours and showed a very gentle non-sticky sweetness. Well, I haven't had too many Rieslings from the Alpine Rhine Valley, but this one was by far the best for me so far. Absolutely decent **** quality. 

In conclusion: remarkable winery, vintner with characterful as well as powerful wines!

Daniel & Martha Gantenbein, Fläsch

Where to start? I suppose there has been written a lot about this obviously perfectionist and quite spotlessly well organized winery. It is probably or for sure the most renowned and influential wine producer in all of Grisons. For more than two decades Daniel and Martha Gantenbein are dedicating themselves to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (well, and a bit of Riesling as well). I guess, I can't write anything new or more enlightening than other and far more qualified wine writes. There is much to find and read in the literature and on the web. That is why I better switch all the way to the object which represents this winery at its best: Their wines!

Besides a very detailed tour of the estate and a lot of technical insights in the actual wine making process we had the opportunity to taste the Chardonnays from 2008 and 2010 plus a whole line-up of Pinot Noirs rangeing from 2007 to 2011. Let's start with the Chardonnay from 2008! This voluminous Chardonnay showed plenty of density, intense and slightly exotic fruit flavours, was decently equipped with oak – however an already well integrated one, powerful and not all too filigree creaminess, a long lasting and slightly fruit-sweet'ish finish and for sure a lot of succulence. The obvious intense mineral character seemed lingering in the background – in hope to break through after a sufficient amount of time. For me very decent *****, very young seeming and pretty powerful Chardonnay with much to offer over the next 5 years. The Chardonnay 2010 seemed less lush and more balanced. The flavours were more precise, elegant, fresh and not as succulent as the 2008's. Besides that it seemed more evolved, a bit less oaky and more ready for pleasurable consumption than the 2008. Personally I enjoyed this Chardonnay a bit more. Absolutely most definitely a very decent *****  - or even a bit more - Chardonnay.

The first Pinot Noir was from 2007. Oh, did I mention that Gantenbein produces only one wine from Pinot Noir (same for Chardonnay)? Well, now I did! Where was I anyway? Right, Pinot Noir from 2007. As far as I can remember correctly this Pinot Noir looked rather tinted but not discoloured at all. The nose seemed a little bit reserved. On my palate I got flavours of very expressive dark cherries and mineral-earthiness. The overall balance seemed very well evolved. The oak was well integrated. There was a certain dignity to this Pinot Noir which I find hard to describe. Something like captivating elegant Powerhouse-Pinot. I tend to see in it fantastic ****** qualities. The Pinot Noir 2008 showed far more spicy oak fragrances in the nose. Overall it seemed far more reserved and less "communicative" than the 2007. The oaky'ness wasn't nearly as present on the palate as it was in the nose. Overall there was even a bit more power + richness in this wine and indications of a very attractive structure. Right now a bit tough to score. I think a very decent ***** seems appropriate. The 2009 Pinot Noir was equally reserved, however by far not as heat influenced as the other 2009 Pinots I taste during my stay in Grisons. There were only a few ripened flavours, some minimally sweet richness and more characteristics of dried fruit, hints of coffee and earth. Luckily there were not real alcohol, over-extraction or sweetness issues. A still well balanceing acid did its favourable job. Another very decent ***** Pinot Noir from a complicated (to me a complicated) vintage with complicated wines.

Well, and now to the mysterious 2010 Pinot Noir. As you can remember I have tasted this 2010 vintage in the Mature Middle-Ager tasting. Then, I wasn't all too intrigued by it. Now it appeared totally different. There was far more freshness, more precise and lively fruit of dark cherries, an overall more light structure (probably a 2010 thing) and nowhere near as much oak as I detected during the previous tasting. Strange! The only significant difference was the bottle size. At the winery I got my sample from a 0,375 l bottle. And of course the cold weather outside was totally different compared to the first tasting. Whatever, I can't explain the difference in an sufficient way – now it was an absolutely very decent ***** Pinot Noir. Finally the 2011 Pinot Noir took the stage. And what a performance it offered! Naturally it was a bit reserved and shy due to its juvenile age. The nose showed plenty of dark and profound fragrances which weren't that precise right now, however very convincing anyway! The taste was dominated by deep dark and highly sophisticated flavours of dark cherries and hints of dark berry "material". The mineral depth was huge and totally impressive! Oak flavours were present, of course, but already better integrated than the ones from the 2008. Tannins, acid plus the structural rest convinced me of its very bright prospects. Just a delightful (already, at least a bit) fantastic ****** Pinot Noir with a lot of strength and class! To me the best of the tasted Gantenbein wines.

In conclusion: A very memorable tasting of downright very good wines with distinct vintage variations! Grazia Fich (I hope that is correct)!

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