Monday, March 28, 2011

Showing the wines of Schloss Schonborn

The first time I tasted the wines of the Schloss Schonborn estate, it was on January 18 of this year - I had literally just gotten off the plane that Tuesday morning in Frankfurt, was driven to the Franz Kunstler estate in the Rheingau, where we walked the vineyard for a bit then had some delicious homemade chili for lunch, then had my first taste of the very exciting 2010 vintage Rieslings, along with Gunter Kunstler's vivid descriptions of how the volcanic eruptions of the spring of 2010 may have caused weather disruptions that disturbed the normal flowering of the grapevines. Right after that, we were whisked to the Schloss Schonborn Estate, a new Rheingau estate in our portfolio. My mind was muddled, but I remember whipping out my camera when our car pulled up as the winter sun was shining on the river and the grass between the naked vines were a vibrant light green, glistening from a recent rain. We were high up on a hillside and the vines went all the way down to the street below, where cars wizzed by, threatening to decimate anyone who might lose their step on the precariously steep vineyard. Established in 1349, this estate was making wine before glass bottles were popularized, before the Americas were discovered, before a lot of things, in other words. Their first wines were stored and served from wood barrels, until 1725 when they bottled their own wines. The estate has been owned by a line of counts, known as the the Grafs of Schonborn. The current Graf owns the estate here in the Rheingau, as well as an estate in the Franken region known as Schloss Hallburg. I would have no recollection on how I found the wines that day back in January when I had just gone 24 hours without sleep, having finished an entire novel on my new Kindle on my flight over to Germany, but fortunately, I took notes on the wines I tasted that day and put stars next to the wines I particularly found delicious. Fast forward three months to last week, when I had the opportunity to work with Schloss Schonborn's winery rep Marc Ramershoven, who flew in to the west coast to work with us in California before he was headed up to Vancouver, B.C. to pour at the International Wine Festival that takes place there every spring (I have never been). Marc brought with him 8 samples of wine from both the Rheingau and Franken estates of Schonborn, and I had a chance not only to revisit these wines again, but to show them to a select group of my customers. I have to say that of the wines he showed, the most impressive for me were his three dry Rieslings from the Rheingau. He showed a 2010 Schloss Schonborn Estate Riesling trocken, 2009 Schloss Schonborn Winkeler Hasensprung Riesling Spatlese trocken, and 2009 Schloss Schonborn Erbacher Marcobrunn Erstes Gewachs Riesling trocken. All three of them were so uniquely different. The 2010 Estate trocken was so crisp and refreshing and light and fresh on the palate. Great nose, perfect for that plate of oysters or just sipping by itself to get your appetite going. What a great little dry Riesling, terrific fruit, while staying dry, but not austere or excessively lean. Love this wine, will sell lots of it, I am certain. The second one, the 2009 Hasensprung Riesling Spatlese trocken - superb - infinitely different from the 2010 Estate dry - this Spatlese trocken is noble, rich, lengthy on the palate, with stone fruits, delicate mineral, a serious dry Riesling with terrific fruit yet again, but richer without being overly alcoholic. Finally, the 2009 Erstes Gewachs from the famous Marcobrunn vineyard - this is a terrific and delicious wine and shows the beauty of the first growth Rheingau wines. Peaches, limestone, powerful yet crystalline in its purity, mouthfilling, yet not overpoweringly so. This is a wine that can hold up to meat dishes or just drink it by itself and enjoy. Interestingly enough, I looked back in my notebook to that day back in January at the estate and it looks like among the 24 wines we tasted there, I put stars next to 09 Hasensprung Spatlese trocken and 09 Marcobrunn EG. I guess I liked them then and there and I like them here and now. The rest of the collection we showed were also terrific and top-notch - an interesting Pinot Gris "3 Star" from Franken which is a Pinot Gris harvested at Spatlese to Auslese level and fermented dry and put into a Burgundy bottle to likely communicate that this is a wine more like a white Burgundy in style than any Pinot Gris we tend to think of. This is not a crisp light white, more of a rich, full-bodied white, minus the oakiness one might find with Chardonnay. There were two Roses we showed, one from the Rheingau estate made exclusively of Pinot Noir, called 2010 Schloss Schonborn "PINK", and one from the Franken estate made from a blend of red local varieties, mostly hybrids of Dornfelder... there was also a Silvaner from Franken and a 2003 Schloss Schonborn Pfaffenberg Riesling Kabinett in a fruity style from a single vineyard, a monopole vineyard called Pfaffenberg, in the Rheingau. The 03 showed pretty well, not showing its 8 years at all, and maintaining a very decent acid profile, good balance overall. A wine that would be a terrific fruity Riesling by the glass. In all, I'm very happy we have this new to us estate Schloss Schonborn to work with. Everywhere we went during this work-with, wine folks seemed to have a very good impression of the estate, and loved the quality of the wines. I'm looking forward to having these wines in stock; they arrive to our warehouses in May.

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