Exploring the Diversity of the Rheinhessen Wine Region [Part 1 of 3]

I recently traveled with fourteen wine journalists and industry professionals to Rheinhessen Germany, one of my favorite wine regions in Germany.

We soaked up Weingut Wagner-Stempel (wine festival in Siefersheim), attended a master workshop on the “Top Terroirs of Rheinhessen”, indulged in pinot noir tasting with local producers, along with other pleasant vinous, gastronomic and cultural surprises. The five-day program also took us to wineries in and around the heart of the region.  We were in the accompaniment of Ulrike Lenhardt and Ernst Buscher of The German Wine Institute, and Romana Echensperger, MW.

Rheinhessen is Germany’s largest wine-producing region and also rich in history – the area was ruled by archbishops throughout the Middle Ages up to the French Revolution.

Mainz, the capital of Rheinhessen is also one of 16 states in the Federal Republic of Germany. Its unique location in Rheinhessen (also known as “The Land of the Thousand Hills”) makes it ideally suited for growing wines. There are over 3,500 winegrowers in the region producing some of Germany’s best white varieties such as Dornfelder, Riesling, Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Grigio. Rheinhessen (or Rhein District) is located north of the Rhine River going west from Wiesbaden and ending around Rüdesheim. The Rheinhessen wine region is 35 kilometers from east – west, and 3 kilometers from north – south. Almost 80% of wines from this area are Rieslings, other white wines account for 10% of production, and Pinot Noir accounts for 10% of all production.

The top vineyards are concentrated long the steep west bank of the Rhine, known as the Rheinterrasse (Rhine terrace), and towards the south towards the town of Worms, and around the village of Westhofen.

Our Rheinhessen experience began with a vineyard walk and tasting at Roter Hang – Brudersberg “Schönste Weinsicht”.

The view from the Niersteiner Brudersberg was absolutely stunning!  It was awarded by the German Wine Institute “The Most Beautiful Wine View” in 2012 across all 13 German wine-growing regions. From the vantage points, we saw spectacular views of the Rheinhessen wine landscape. From Brudersberg we had optimal views to Hessian Ried to Frankfurt (east), looking northeast the Taunus with the Great Feldberg, and looking southeast to the bend in the Rhine at Oppenheim to the Odenwald with the Melibokus. We were also in the middle of Oelberg, Kranzberg, Pettenthal, Hipping and Spiegelberg, Brudersberg which are also located on the Red Slope of Nierstein –  its Rieslings, are among the best in the world.  We had the privilege of tasting with a group of five energetic, young producers and winemakers, who are committed to breaking free of the region’s bulk-based past and exemplifies Rheinhessen’s wine revolution.

–  Weingut Guntrum – www.guntrum.de

–  Weingut Raddeck – www.raddeckwein.de

–  Weingut Schätzel – www.schaetzel.de

–  Weingut Huff – www.weingut-huff.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was quite a remarkable and memorable tasting due to the historical location and sipping local wines!  The Weingut Raddeck wines stood out. I found out by the producer that the wines are not only sustainable, they use geothermal heating, solar panels as well as recyclable rainwater. The Raddeck Family and their ancestors have been winegrowers for over 10 Generations.

The Guntrum vineyards are located on one of the most exciting terroirs for Riesling in Germany, the Roter Hang (or Red slope hillside). The Rotliegend was created over 280 million years ago in a very hot and dry period. By some geologic activity 45 million years ago, this red rock came up to the surface. The soil is high in iron and the wines from this area have a distinct minerality and elegance which certainly showed through at the tasting.

The next stop on our venture was Weingut Domhof and Grape Escape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This historic wine estate has not only been a family-owned business since 1874 it now serves as the birthplace of great wine for the fifth generation. Since 2004, Domhof has been owned and operated by Alexander Baumann, the great-great-grandson Schmitts, and his wife Chris. At least 35% of their 10 hectares is Reisling, along with other white varieties: Silvaner, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Kerner. The red varieties include: Schwarzriesling, Pinot Noir, Portugieser, Regent and Dornfelder. The philosophy of Alexander, the head winemaker, is reflected in his vineyard maintenance, and consistent yield reduction.  The historical house motto states “quality arises in the vineyard”.

Domhof produces nine Rieslings from their vineyards, which are located in Guntersblumer Himmelthal, Niersteiner Heiligenbaum, Niersteiner Paterberg and Niersteiner Pettenthal. Each Riesling I tasted impressed me with their individual character, and expressive bouquet.  Alexander Baumann explains to us that it’s due to the microclimate and the characteristics of the three soils in his vineyards: Löss limestone and the sandstone slopes of Roter Hang.

Also located on the premises is the three-star hotel “Schlafgut Domhof”, an event area for wedding and family celebrations, and Grape Escape. This award-winning concept is an escape room which is a wine-focus adventure game involving solving puzzles and riddles, using clues, hints and strategies.

The Domhof winery was awarded the second “Best of Wine Tourism Award 2019” by the Great Wine Capitals in the category “Architecture, Parks and Gardens”

https://weingut-domhof.de/

In the afternoon we headed to Gut Leben am Moorstein to attend a specially designed workshop led by Romana Echensperger, MW on the Top Terroirs of Rheinhessen. Romana guided us in 5 Flights with 5 wines in each flight and discussed the soils and varieties of the area.

From the diverse soils to the above-average sunny days and varying microclimates, Rheinhessen produces many varieties. Silvaner is common here as well as the Pinot varietals: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir.

The terroir ranges from red soil, sandstone, to gravel, chalky, soils with pebbles, which produce wines with earthy qualities. Whereas, the vineyards around Westhofen largely consist of marl and calcareous soil, which can have some tinted red due to the high concentration of iron. The wines of this area are well -balanced and tend to be soft, and medium-bodied.  Ingelheim is well-known for its Pinot Noirs.

Wineries presented that reflect the region’s unique taste of place, include:

– Weingut Klaus-Peter Keller – www.keller-wein.de

– Weingut Seehof – Florian Fauth- www.weingut-seehof.de

– Weingut Rettig – Katja Rettig – www.weingut-rettig.de

– Weingut Katharina Wechsler – www.weingut-wechsler.de

– Weingut Gutzler – www.gutzler.de

 

PART 2 TO FOLLOW …Exploring the Diversity of the Rheinhessen Wine Region [Part 2 of 3]

British Columbia’s Okanagan Fall Wine Festival – Virginia Hutton

 I attended the Okanagan Fall Festival this year, along with five other notable Canadian journalists to experience Canada’s premier Fall Wine Festival. This year’s fall wine Okanagan Fall Wine Festival connected wine lovers to winemakers from the region with events designed to celebrate their unique and award-winning wines.

Located in southern British Columbia, the Okanagan Valley is one of the warmest regions in Canada, with an average winter temperature of -8 C and 28 C in the summer – it’s slightly cooler than eastern France. The Valley and its wine industry have matured tremendously over the last 30 years, boasting 280 wineries and offering visitors the opportunity to experience one of the world’s premier wine and culinary destinations.

This year’s Okanagan Fall Wine Festival included the province’s most prestigious and oldest wine competition, The British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards (BCLGWA) held at the historic Laurel Heritage Packinghouse in Kelowna. There were more than 700 entries in this year’s competition. The Wine of the Year Award went to Deep Roots Winery’s for their 2017 Syrah, representing consistency in a varietal and a combination of superb grapes and winemaking.

Also part of the Festival was the Fall WestJet Wine Tasting at YLW in the Carson Air Hangar. It is Kelowna’s largest indoor wine-tasting event, with over 40 wineries serving up their most popular varieties. Guests were entertained by a live DJ and sampled cuisine from around the world from food trucks parked outside the hanger.  Joined by Canadian wine experts and journalists Gurvinder Bhatia, Darren Oleksyn and Tim Pawsey, we sipped our way from Lake Country in the north to Osoyoos – Canada’s only desert, in the south. Our tour included meeting the talented winemakers behind O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars, 50th Parallel Estate, Indigenous World Winery, Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, Moon Curser Vineyards, Nk’Mip Cellars, Nobel Ridge Vineyard & Winery, Wild Goose Vineyards and Time Winery.

Over 90% of the Okanagan wineries have earned the British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance, or BC VQA designation – similar to the AOC and DOC systems utilized in France and Italy respectively, which guarantees the origin and ensures qualifying wines meet certain minimum quality requirements. BC VQA wines are made from 100% BC grapes, and are free from certain potential faults, and the labels include where the grapes are grown and the wine is produced. And, many Okanagan winemakers have embraced environmentally friendly, lower-energy wine-making methods and built sustainability and philanthropy into their business models, with many using solar energy, gravity flow to move the juice and composting to replenish nutrients in the soil. 

According to Wines of British Columbia, there are over 80 grape varieties being grown in BC, with 51% being red varietals and 49% white varietals. The most notable reds include: merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, syrah / shiraz and gamay noir, with top notable white being: pinot gris, chardonnay, gewürztraminer, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc and viognier. Several winemakers are taking advantage of the recent growth in sparkling wines and are now producing white and rose varieties. The Region is also is well-known for producing high-quality, award winning icewines, with Inniskillen, Okanagan Estates and Whistler receiving Gold Medals, and Nk’Mip and Jackson Triggs Okanagan being awarded Silver Medals at the 2019 Wine Align Awards.

 

 

With Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter Wine Festivals, it’s always a great time to visit and enjoy world-class award-winning wine and dining experiences. It’s worth the trip to Okanagan Wine Festivals.

 

 

Wineries visited:

O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars 

50th Parallel Estate

Indigenous World Winery

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery

Moon Curser Vineyards

Nk’Mip Cellars

Nobel Ridge Vineyard & Winery

Wild Goose Vineyards

Time Winery

British Columbia’s Okanagan Wine Festivals
http://www.thewinefestivals.com

British Columbia’s Two (Award-Winning) Indigenous Wineries – Virginia Hutton

During my visit to Okanagan in October, I attended the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, and also had the opportunity to visit British Columbia’s two Indigenous wineries.

50 Years ago, the first aboriginal winery in Canada, Nk’Mip Cellars was launched by former Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Sam Baptiste. Osoyoos, in British Columbia’s, (BC) Okanagan region is Canada’s only desert and its sandy soils are used for growing 40% Okanagan wines.

The Okanagan region is located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and has a dry and mild climate with no month having a below 0°C average temperature. The summers are hot and dry with temperatures occasionally topping 40 °C.

Nk’Mip Cellars, (pronounced ‘inkameep’), located on the Osoyoos Indian Reserve,is part of the development including the Hyatt’s Spirit Ridge Hotel, and the Sonora Dunes Golf Course. Owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band, Nk’Mip was the first Indigenous-owned winery in North America and is ideally located, having been rated a class 1 site according to 1984 Atlas of Suitable Grape Growing Atlas in the Okanagan, and Similkameen Valleys. Justin Hall, a member of the Osoyoos Indian band and current Winemaker arrived in 2004. Nk’Mip Cellars was awarded the 2016 Intervin Winery of the Year and #2 Winery in BC in 2018 from Wine Align. Nk’Mip varieties include: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Rose, and Ice Wine.

The Osoyoos Indian Band leases the majority of their 380 acres in the Okanagan, with 60 acres producing Nk’Mip’s 18,000 cases annually. Distribution extends to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

The second Indigenous winery, Indigenous World Winery, is owned by Robert Louie, former Chief of the Westbank First Nation and his wife Bernice. They are descendants of the original Sylix people of Okanagan. Located in West Kelowna, Indigenous World Winery has produced a number of award-winning wines, most recent, winning one silver and 2 bronze awards at the 2019 Wine Align National Wine Awards of Canada. Varieties include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Pinot Auxerrois, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Merlot, Marechal Foch, Chardonnay, Muscat.

With 5 leased properties and 2.5 acres of estate land, Indigenous World Winery produces just over 10,000 cases annually, primarily for the BC and Alberta markets.

Indigenous tourism is booming in British Columbia, allowing visitors the opportunity to explore indigenous culture and engage with communities they might not otherwise connect with. The Okanagan Region’s beautiful landscapes, rich history, wonderful hospitality, and award-winning wines deliver an outstanding experience for all wine lovers!

For further information:

Nk’Mip Cellars
http://www.nkmipcellars.com/

Indigenous World Winery
https://www.indigenousworldwinery.com/

Okanagan Wine Festivals Society
http://www.TheWineFestivals.com

 

Michelin Guide Acquires Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Michelin bought a 40% stake in the Wine Advocate back in 2017 and their full commitment to expanding into wine was realized this year. Nicolas Achard, CEO of Wine Advocate and as Managing Director of Michelin Experience Asia, announced last Friday in New York, with respect to full ownership, “We got to know each other for the past two years before we decided to complete the acquisition and we realized that Michelin and the Wine Advocate had the same culture in regards to the importance of their independence [from the restaurants/hotels and wineries they are reviewing].”

Achard further states that both companies also follow a rigorous methodology when it came to giving Michelin stars or Robert Parker Wine Advocate scores.  He goes on to say “Leading RPWA’s passionate teams is not only thrilling, but also an incredible opportunity to combine the strengths of the Michelin Guide and The Wine Advocate.”

The full integration would ensure, “long-term synergies between oenology and gastronomy through the pursuit of experiences based on food and wine pairing, as well as the creation of new digital content and services”.

California Wine Institute announces Danielle Giroux as new Director for California Wines Canada

The California Wine Institute announced yesterday the appointment of Danielle Giroux as its new Director of California Wines Canada, responsible for marketing and promotion in the largest single-country market for California wines. Giroux brings 15 years of wine industry sales and marketing experience to the role, including marketing and communications strategy, brand development and event management. She recently served as Vice President, Marketing at Colio Estate.

“This is an exciting time for California wines. We are well-positioned to grow and prosper to the benefit of our member wineries, our trade partners and wine lovers around the world who are fans of California wines,” said Honore Comfort, Vice President of International Marketing for Wine Institute. “Danielle’s experience and knowledge of the Canadian market will bring momentum to plans to grow sales and market share over the next several years.”

“I am honoured to have the opportunity to lead the California wines team in Canada,” said Giroux. “Wine Institute has built a solid foundation for California wines in Canada over the past few decades and I’m excited to be part of the next chapter.”

Giroux replaces Rick Slomka who will be retiring in June after more than 26 years representing the wines of the Golden State. Giroux will be starting her new role at the beginning of January 2020.

According to the wine association, Canadian sales of US wine, 95% of which hail from California, totalled around 6m cases last year, amounting to a retail value of more than US$1bn.