Annegret Reh-Gartner, owner and manager of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in Germany’s Mosel Valley, died Oct. 2, of pancreatic cancer. She was 61.
Reh-Gartner was born into a family of winemakers. Her grandfather founded the wine company Carl Reh in 1920, and in 1978 her father acquired Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt. Annegret assumed responsibility for the vineyards and winemaking there in 1983. Under her management, she reduced the size of the vineyard holdings from 185 acres to 100 acres, allowing her and her team to focus on quality and make the proper selections in each parcel for the estate’s range of wines.
She was a firm believer in a vineyard classification based on terroir, and was also a proponent of using ambient yeast rather than adding cultured strains for the fermentations of her wines. Reh-Gartner’s Rieslings possessed refinement and purity, reflecting both their individual sites and the vintage character.
The von Kesselstatt holdings are magnificent, boasting parcels in some of the top sites in the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer valleys, including Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Bernkasteler Doctor, Josephshöfer, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Scharzhofberger and Kaseler Nies’chen. The wide array of terroirs is a treasure, but also a logistical challenge that Reh-Gartner learned to manage well.
Honest and forthright, Reh-Gartner held her own in a business dominated by men, and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. On a German Riesling panel at the New York Wine Experience in 2003, she said, “When people want to compliment my wines, they sometimes say they’re pretty, and I want to say, ‘Bullshit.’” Her point was that the wines were serious, with the structure for aging.
In 1988, she married Gerhard Gartner, one of Germany’s most acclaimed chefs and the owner of Gala, for 10 years a two-star Michelin restaurant in Aachen.
Reh-Gartner is survived by her husband and her siblings Katharina Reh-Tessmann, Carl Reh, Nick Reh and Eva Reh-Siddle.