The Eagle has landed. The code name for Apollo 11’s lunar module in 1969. Also the national bird of Germany. And the central image in the logo of the VDP – the German wine producer group behind various “quality” definitions. Rather a stretch, I admit, but perhaps appropriate in the context of Zeitlos, a new California wine brand that translates as “timeless.” Zeitlos was poised for launch two years ago – see a previous post on this site dated 11 January 2020. But the intended debut vintage and its successor – 2018 and 2019 — were lost to catastrophic wildfires and smoke taint in the late summer and early autumn of 2020. For many California makers, the 2020 vintage was best forgotten or declassified.
For the Zeitlos team, it was possible to reset the clock. Working carefully to be sure that the grapes they harvested and processed in 2020 would be untouched by fire or smoke, 2020 was made their new debut vintage, replacing 2018 and 2019. There are now three people behind Zeitlos, but the original mind-behind is Fabian Krause, a Hochschule Geisenheim graduate who worked first at Weingut Fritz Allendorf in the Rheingau, and then at Chateau Lassègue in St. Emilion, before moving on to Jackson Family Wines in Sonoma County. Krause caught my attention in 2019 with some exciting, bright, taut Rieslings that he had made quietly beginning in 2016. These came from the Cougar Ridge part of the Jackson family’s 900-acre Alexander Mountain Estate Vineyard. First planted in 1997, a few acres of this property had been re-grafted to white scions including Riesling ca. 2010. By taking advantage of the high elevation and sun exposure limited to southeast and northwest angles, and by picking several times over two or more weeks, Krause had been able to limit alcohol in the finished wine, keep pH values low, and maintain ample natural acidity, while the wines showcased dried herbs, citrus peel, and white-fleshed fruits.
For the new debut vintage — 2020 — Krause and his partners decided the unveil three wines. The first, of course, is the aforementioned Alexander Valley Estate Vineyard Riesling. Made in a combination of stainless steel and 600L neutral German Halbstücke, this wine is very much like its lost predecessors. There is also a Sauvignon Blanc from a bit lower on the same Cougar Ridge site as the Riesling, made with more oak and less stainless than the Riesling, plus some French barriques. This wine is slightly creamier than the Riesling, and a bigger wine overall at 13.5%. It is also pungent like most instances of cool climate Sauvignon Blanc (think Sancerre) but shows an attractively crisp profile. Finally there is a red wine in the 2020 mix: what else but Pinot Noir, the backbone of Sonoma’s reds, especially in those parts of the county where vines are grown within sniffing distance of the Pacific. Krause knows Pinot well: in the Rheingau, Pinot occupies most of the vineyard that is not planted to Riesling, especially at the region’s west end around Assmanshausen. In the Zeitlos portfolio, the Pinot comes from the Sealift Vineyard near Annapolis in the newly approved West Sonoma Coast AVA. It is fruity and strongly herbal at mid-palate with highlights of fruit peel. Ample texture on the back palate too, and the wine is aromatically exciting.
The trio — but perhaps especially the German inflected and resolutely dry Riesling — is well worth the two-year delay — and time for the eagle to land!
At least in California markets, Zeitlos is distributed by Santa Rosa-based Regal Wine Company. More information at www.zeitloswines.com.