Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dr. Frank Wines from Finger Lakes Featured at State Luncheon for Chancellor Merkel in Washington, D.C., USA

Picture: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vice-President Biden

When Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Washington DC a few weeks ago, she was there for 28 hours: She arrived in the late afternoon of Monday, June 6 and had a private dinner – alone - with the President at the Georgetown Restaurant 1789. Tuesday was filled with the official arrival ceremony, a bilateral meeting with the President, a press conference and a State Luncheon as well as a State Dinner.

At State Dinners, President Obama likes to serve American wines with some connection to the country where the guest comes from. When President Obama welcomed President Calderón of Mexico and Mrs. Margarita Zavala to the White House, the dinner had a Mexican soul, both the food and the wines. Two of the wines were made by Mexican-born American winemakers who worked their way up to become America’s best. But this time, the link to Germany was rather limited, when it comes to the wines the President served at the State Dinner for Chancellor Merkel.

I have compiled a list of wines I would call American-German wines. All these wines are made from grapes grown in the US, but the wines have in some way or another a link to Germany. These wines could have been served at the State Dinner in honor of Chancellor Merkel.Perhaps the White House should keep a copy of the list for next time.

One of the possible wines, President Obama could have served, were Dr. Frank wines from the Finger Lakes region. After Chancellor Merkel’s visit, I was contacted by the US State Department and informed that Dr. Frank wines had been served at the State Luncheon for Chancellor Merkel.

Finger Lakes AVA

The Finger Lakes AVA in upstate New York State encompasses seven glacial lakes, although the majority of plantings are around Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes. Most vineyards are planted on hillsides overlooking the lakes. These deep lakes help to moderate the climate, as stored heat is released from the lakes during the winter, keeping the weather mild (relative to surrounding areas) and preventing early frosts. The reflection of the sun off the lakes during summer extends the growing season. This cool-climate region is often compared to the wine-growing region of Germany, and like Germany, has had special success with Riesling.

Picture: New York State

The Finger Lakes include 4,452 hectares of vineyards, making it New York State's largest wine growing region. New York State is with Washington State the second largest wine producer in the US, with a bit more than 10.000 hectares. Of this, 400 hectares are accounted for by Riesling.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery and the Vitis Vinifera Revolution

Dr. Konstantin Frank (1897-1985) was a viticulturist and wine maker in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, USA. He was born in Europe, in Odessa, now Ukraine into a Russian-German family. Dr. Konstantin Frank ignited the so-called vitis vinifera revolution, which changed the course of wine growing in the Finger Lakes and the North-East of the US.

Well, was Dr. Konstantin Frank a German? He was born in the former Soviet Union into a family with German roots. The Germans came in waves from the West to Russia and settled there from the 16th century onwards. A big wave of German immigration occurred in the 18th century under Catherine the Great, who herself was a German from Anhalt. The Frank family belongs to the Black Sea Germans. They settled in the territories of the Black Sea in the 18th and 19th centuries in what is now Ukraine. At the time Konstantin Frank was born, Odessa belonged to the Russian Empire. When he left for the US, it was part of the Soviet Union. Now, after his death, it has become Ukraine. I met Dr. Konstantin Frank's grandson, Fred, who now owns and runs the estate this year; we communicated in German. Fred got his wine growing and wine making training at the wine college in Geisenheim in the Rheingau, Germany.

Dr. Konstantin Frank’s achievement is that he was the first to find a way to plant vitis vinifera varietals in the cool northern fringes of the north-eastern US. The struggle to do this goes back many centuries.

In the original charter of the 13 colonies was a royal commission to pursue three luxury items that England was unable to provide for itself: wine, silk, and olive oil. Every colony made attempts to satisfy the requirements of its charter, but made only limited progress. The problem was that on the one hand there were the native American grapes. All these native American grapes were cold tolerant and disease and pest resistant, but not that well suited for wine making, due to their coarseness, high tannins, and foxy flavors. On the other hand, the vitis vinifera which settlers brought from Europe, were well suited for wine making, but uniformly unable to survive long enough to produce a crop.

Despite many years of failure, the early Americans persisted in their efforts. And they had some success. A big step forward was made in 1740 when a natural cross pollination occurred between a native American grape and a European vitis vinifera. Other successful crossings followed.

So, only native American grapes and European American hybrids were grown in the Finger Lakes area, when Dr. Konstantin Frank arrived in the United States in 1951, finding work at a Cornell University experimental station in the Finger Lakes region. Having grown vitis vinifera back home in regions so cold that "spit would freeze before touching the ground" Dr. Frank believed that the lack of proper rootstock, not the cold climate, was the reason for the failure of vitis vinifera in the Finger Lakes region. He thought that European grapes could do well on the rolling, well-drained hills around the Finger Lakes provided they were grafted onto early maturing American rootstock.

With the help of the French champagne maker Charles Fournier, Dr. Frank put his ideas into practice. He developed the right root stock and grafted European vitis vinifera on them. He planted these vitis vinifera in the slate soil around Lake Keuka and he opened a winery, Vinifera Wine Cellars, in 1962. Despite his success, other winemakers still doubted him for many years and he had trouble getting New York distributors to handle his wine.

Today, Dr. Frank is recognized as having led the revolution in wine quality in New York State and the East Coast. With the help of his cousin Eric Volz as vineyard manager, Fred Frank, Konstantin's grandson took over the winery in 1993. Fred’s business degree from Cornell University and his study of viticulture and enology in Germany helped prepare him to take over the family business.

When I conducted a wine tasting about American wines from the East and the West Coast recently in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Fred was so kind to provide me with his Rieslings. All the communications were in German!

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller presenting Dr. Frank wines in Hochheim, Germany

The Dr. Frank Wines Served at the State Luncheon

The State Luncheon hosted by The Vice President and Dr. Biden and The Secretary of State in honor of Her Excellency Dr. Angela Merkel Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany took place in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the U.S. Department of State on June 7, 2011. It featured the Chateau Frank Célèbre Rosé and 2010 Grüner Veltliner for the reception portion of the event. For the luncheon portion of the event, the Dr. Frank 2010 Semi-Dry Riesling and 2008 Lemberger were featured.

schiller Wine: Related Postings

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Wine Event: Wines served at the 2009 Nobel Prize Banquet in Stockholm

Wine Event: President Obama and the First Lady eat at the "Green" Restaurant Nora and have a "Green" Spottswoode Wine

Benzinger Wines Served at the "Green" 2010 White House Correspondents Dinner

The Wines Served at President Obama's State Dinner for Mexican President Calderon

The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC

California Pinot Noir Pioneer Walter Schug: From the Rheingau in Germany to Carneros in California

German Wine Makers in the World: The Korbel Brothers from Bohemia Introduced "Champagne" to the US

President Obama Serves a “German” Riesling at State Dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao

German Wine Makers in the World: Dr. Konstantin Frank (USA)

Celebrating the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes Region, New York State, US East Coast

State Dinner at the White House: Chancellor Merkel Dined and Wined with President Obama - The Wines they Drank and the Wines they did not Drink

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Visiting Ken and Becky Miller and their Sugar Creek Winery in Missouri, USA

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Ken and Becky Miller and Becky Miller's son, Christopher Lorch

Sugar Creek Winery is a boutique winery about an hour away (by car) from St. Louis in Missouri.

I visited Sugar Creek Winery recently with fellow participants of the Drink Local Wine Conference 2011 in Missouri. – which is about is about spotlighting wine made in the 47 States of the US that are not one of the big three: California, Washington State, and Oregon - held its third annual conference on April 1-3, 2011, in St. Louis, Missouri. I have provided an overview about the Drink Local Wine Conference 2011 in Missouri here. One of the highlights of the conference was the DLW 2011 Missouri Twitter Taste-off; 20 wineries participated with 2 wines each. I have provided a general overview about the wine producing State of Missouri here. Missouri is relying heavily on French American hybrid grapes; I have written about it here. Interestingly, the first American AVA was the Augusta AVA in Missouri; see here. This is the first of the final three postings about 3 Missouri winemakers: Montelle Winery, Mount Pleasant Winery and Sugar Creek Vineyards and Winery.

Wine Producer Missouri

Missouri produces top-flight wine, although it does so with few European (vitis vinifera) grapes – such as Chardonnay or Merlot - in sight. Missouri’s more than 100 wineries specialize in French-American hybrid grapes and native American grapes like Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, and Norton - the latter one being the most prominent Missouri-grown variety. The State’s climate is harsh and humid and vinifera grapes have a hard time to thrive under these conditions, although recently there has been more interest in planting vinifera grape varieties.

Picture: Map of Missouri

Missouri’s wine history dates to the 1830s, when German immigrants established Hermann and the Missouri River as one of the main viticulture areas in the US, growing the American grapes that they found there when they arrived, including Norton. 50 years later, more wine was produced in Missouri than in any other State in the US. But then came Prohibition and brought Missouri’s wine industry to a halt. However, Missouri’s wine industry came back, starting in the 1960, in particular after French American hybrid grapes became available. Indeed, the Augusta AVA in Missouri is the first AVA (gaining the status on June 20, 1980, eight months before the Napa Valley AVA).

Today, Missouri has more than 1,400 acres planted in grapes and more than 100 wineries. Missouri is again a serious wine producer, relying heavily on French American Hybrids when it comes to quality wines. However, overall, Missouri has become a small player, accounting for less than 0.5% of total production in the US.

Sugar Creek Winery

Sugar Creek Winery is owned and run by Ken and Becky Miller, who founded it in 1994. "Great wines come from great grapes" says Ken, and it has been Sugar Creek's goal to achieve this from the beginning. Old vineyards have been replaced with popular varietals such as Vidal Blanc, Cynthiana (Norton), Chambourcin, Chardonel and Seyval Blanc.

Pictures: Sugar Creek Winery in Missouri

The property is beautiful. This lovely winery is situated atop a large hill, overlooking the Missouri River Valley. They have a large outdoor seating area where kids can play, while adults sip on their winery bought wine, or eat their food brought from home. The old turn of the century farmhouse serves as the wine tasting accommodations.

Owner Ken Miller says grapes for wine always had a place at his family table since he was a youngster growing up in Melrose Park in the Chicago area. His grandfather immigrated to America from Italy early in the century and carried with him a fondness for wine-making

Early on Becky Miller's son, Christopher, joined the family operation at Sugar Creek Winery. He spent two years educating himself about wine in the Napa Valley area of California, where he has worked in the Plump Jack Vineyard. He is now the winemaker. Christopher is a soft-spoken, straightforward guy. It was fun to listen to him.

Sugar Creek Winery produces about 5.000 cases annually and sells them mostly at the winery.

The Wine Portfolio

Picture: The Sugar Creek Winery Wines we Tasted

Dry Wines

Vidal Blanc

Crisp dry white wine fermented in stainless steel with French Oak chips added during cellaring/aging. Estate grown and bottled. Fruit forward with underlying tone of oak.


Hybrid of Chardonnay and Seyval grapes. Fermented and aged in French Oak barrels. Full bodied oak, butter and citrus tones. Chardonnay parentage dominates its flavor profile. Estate grown and bottled.


Dry red aged in American Oak. Soft red with bright forward fruit flavors of Cherry Lifesaver. Finishes with a smooth taste of cherry pie baked in an oak oven. Estate grown and bottled.

Cynthiana (Norton)

Native American dry red wine aged in American Oak. AKA Norton. Well rounded with hints of plum, raisin, and black cherry flavors. Finishes well with its own tannins. Estate grown and bottled.

Michael’s Signature Red

Michael’s Signature Red is a medium-bodied dry red wine with a taste of ripe fruit, berry tones and a touch of smoke. This is a Sugar Creek wine. From new vine to late harvest, fermentation to the final product, every bottle begins and ends in the hands of the family who owns the land, works the land and lives there. Every vintage is crafted by Sugar Creek’s winemaker, Chris Lorch, who spent years honing his winemaking style in Napa Valley. Today he and his family work to turn the challenge of an ill-tempered climate and the tough grapes born and raised to survive it, into great wine that is uniquely Missouri.

Semi-dry Wines

"Missouri drinks semi-dry. About 55% percent of the wines we sell are in the semi-dry style." said Ken.

La Rustica White

Friendly blend of Vidal/Seyval grapes, fermented in stainless steel. Slightly sweet and fruity start with a dry finish.

Birdlegs Blush

Chambourcin grape fermented in stainless steel. Skins of grapes are removed when it becomes a pretty ruby color. Light citrus tones with a lively finish.

Sunset Red

Chambourcin, Cynthiana and Noiret blend, fermented in stainless steel, sometimes oak chips. Smooth blend, plum in color with spicy berry or cherry lifesaver flavors.

Semi-sweet Wines

Boone County White

A blend of Delaware and Chardonel grapes, fermented in stainless steel. Refreshing, crisp start with floral aroma and melon tones on the pallet.

La Rustica Red

A medley of grapes make this sweet wine full of cherry and berry flavors.

Sweet Wines

Peach Hollow

Sweet white, concentrated peach juice, fermented in stainless steel. Light in texture, like biting into a fresh peach.

Blackberry Thicket

This Blackberry thicket fruit wine is brought to you by the Sugar Creek Family in Defiance, Missouri. Whether you’ll be drinking it at home or joining us at the winery, rest assured you’ve made the correct choice. Here at Sugar Creek, we use our special state –of-the-art technology and a little gazebo magic.

Raspberry Patch

Sweet red, Chambourcin and Noiret grapes with raspberry concentrate. Great chilled or heated with a cinnamon stick.

Dessert Wines

Signature Port

Cynthiana grape with a select brandy added during fermentation. Perfect after dinner or serve with chocolate, salty nuts, or Stilton cheese.

Picture: Sugar Creek Signature Port

schiller-wine: Related Posting

Drink Local Wine Conference 2011 in St. Louis: The World of Missouri Wine

The 2010 DrinkLocalWine Conference in Virginia, US

Drink Local Wine 2011 Missouri Twitter Taste-off

Wine Producer Missouri – Once a Major Force in the US Wine Market, Then Non-existant and Now on a Rebound with French American Hybrid Grapes

In the Oldest AVA - American Viticultural Area - Augusta in Missouri

French American Hybrid Grapes - Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Others

Visiting Tony Kooyumjian at Montelle Winery in Missouri

Visiting Charles Dressel and his Mount Pleasant Winery in Missouri

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Role of Government - Government Owned Wineries in Germany

Picture: With a Glass of the Hessische Staatsweingueter Kloster Eberbach in the Steinberg Winecellar

Wine produced and sold by the Government? No, we are not talking about socialist co-operatives of Eastern Europe in the 1970s; we are talking about Germany of today.

Germany of today is a federal state with 3 levels of government: federal, state and local. At the federal level, there is no government ownership in the wine industry, but there is extensive involvement at the state level. In addition, there is government ownership at the local level.

There is no federal government ownership in the wine industry in Germany. At the state level, there are 2 kinds of involvements. First, there are wine estates that are government owned, but operate like private wineries. There are five such wine estates in Germany and all of them are large. I discuss them below under the heading "The Big Five". Second, there are government wine estates that produce and sell wine, but also fulfill other functions, notably research and education. The second group I understand is treated like government departments and is accounted for in the national accounts in the government sector. Four of these government departments are even member of the VDP; I review these below.

At the local level, I just started my research. But I noticed that there is a Weingut der Stadt Mainz in Mainz and a Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt in Frankfurt. Both are operated on long-term leases. Also, I have come to realize that Weingut Schloss Vollradts in the Rheingau is fully government-owned, but indirectly.

Finally, some wine estates have been privatized recently. I review two of them.

The Big Five

There are five important wine estates owned by a State of Germany.

Hessische Staatsweingueter Kloster Eberbach (Rheingau and Hessische Bergstrasse)

The Hessische Staatsweingueter Kloster Eberbach, owned by the State Hessen, is Germany’s 3rd largest wine estate. It serves as an umbrella organization for seven individual wine estates, including 3 wine producing facilities and cellars.

The Bensheim Estate is the only one located in the Hessische Bergstraße wine-growing region. Grand Duke of Hessen-Darmstadt founded this Estate in 1904, the vineyard holdings total 38 hectares. The main grape variety planted is Riesling (25 ha), as well as Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

The red wine Estate Assmannshausen at the western edge of the Rheingau has a vineyard area of 27 hectares in the Höllenberg site, of which 25 hectares are planted with Pinot Noir. These two Estates do their own bottling, and market the wines under their own names.

The five remaining estates are, all in the Rheingau:
Hattenheim (50 ha vineyard area in the Engelmannsberg, Siegelsberg and Marcobrunn sites),
Hochheim (Domdechaney site),
Rauenthal (48 ha in the Baiken and Wülfen sites),
Rüdesheim (23 ha in the Berg Roseneck, Berg Rottland and Berg Schlossberg sites) and
Steinberg (32 ha, a monopole holding).

The total vineyard area of the 7 estates comes to more than 200 hectares, of which 85% are planted with Riesling, 10% with Pinot Noir and 5% with other varieties.

Pictures from top to bottom: A 1979 Riesling Steinberger, the Steinberg, Christian G.E.Schiller in the Steinberg, Eberbach Abbey and the Steinbergkeller

Most of the vineyard holdings of the Hessische Staatsweingueter date back to the 12th centuries, when Cistercian monks founded the famous Eberbach Abbey. Its Romanesque and Gothic buildings are impressive. It was founded in 1136 by Bernard of Clairvaux as the first Cistercian monastery on the east bank of the Rhine. The vineyards of Eberbach Abbey were, at 300 hectares, the largest in medieval Europe.

The Abbey, including its vineyards, was secularised under Napoleon in 1803. The new owner was the Duke of Nassau. Then, from 1866, the Prussia became the owner of the Abbey and its vineyards. Finally, in 1945 after World War II, the Federal State of Hessen took it over.

A few years ago, the Hessische Staatsweingueter built a new winemaking facility and celler just outside the wall of Steinberg, the Steinbergkeller. The Steinbergkeller – a state of the art winery - was a very controversial project. It was constructed for several 100 million Euro.

Landesweingut Kloster Pforta (Saale Unstrut)

The Landesweingut Kloster Pforta is located in Saalhäuser in the Saale-Unstrut wine-growing region and owned by the State of Sachsen-Anhalt. It is Germany’s 30th largest wine estate.

Its origins date back to the Pforta Abbey, founded in 1137 also by Cistercian monks. Pforta Abbey soon had a reputation as the richest abbey in medieval Thüringen, with vineyard holdings in 192 communes, totaling at least 250 hectares. The vineyards were located on slopes above the Saale river.

During the period of reformation, Duke Moritz von Sachsen transformed the abbey into a college. Some of the vineyards were transferred to private growers, who had to share the yield with the Duke von Sachsen.

As a result of the Vienna Congress in 1814, the Kingdom of Sachsen lost Pforta to the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia converted Pforta into a wine estate and wine research institute. After World War II, it became the socialist co-operative VEG Weinbau Naumburg in East-Germany, with 120 hectares of land. After the breakdown of the socialist system in East Germany in 1989, Pforta was in the hands of the privatization organization Treuhand for a couple of years, but not privatized and became the Landesweingut Kloster Pforta of the Federal State of Sachsen-Anhalt.

The vineyard area totals 51 hectares, with holdings in the following sites: Goseck (Dechantenberg), Großjena (Blütengrund), Naumburg (Paradies), Pforta (Köppelberg) and Saalhäuser (with eponymous monopole sites). The main grape varities are Müller-Thurgau (10 ha), Silvaner (6 ha), Riesling (6 ha) and Pinot Blanc (5 ha) as well as Portugieser (5 ha), and Zweigelt.

Saechsisches Staatsweingut Schloss Wackerbarth (Sachsen)

The Saechsisches Staatsweingut Schloss Wackerbarth is located in Radebeul in Sachsen and owned by the Federal State of Sachsen. It is Germany’s 11th largest wine estate.

This beautiful style palace was one of the many pleasure palaces and country residences build near Dresden under Augustus the Strong. Schloss Wackerbarth was constructed by Christoph August von Wackerbarth, who was a Minister in the government of August the Strong, between 1727 and 1730. After his death, the castle was inherited by Joseph Anton Gabaleon von Wackerbarth-Salmour and had in the following 200 years various owners, including Dresdner Bank.

In 1952, after World War II, it became the socialist wine co-operative VEG Weinbau Radebeu. Efforts to privatize the wine co-operative after the fall of the Berlin Wall by the Treuhand privatization organization in 1989 were not successful and the estate finally was taken over in 1992 by the Federal State of Sachsen. In 2002 the State of Sachsen decided to renovate the castle and transform it into a “Erlebnisweingut” with an educational mission.

The vineyard area totals 94 hectares. Some of the vineyards are terraced and on steep slopes, along the Elbe river. The main grape varities are Riesling (25 ha), Elbling (12 ha), Müller-Thurgau (10 ha), Kerner (9 ha) and Pinot Blanc (7,5 ha) as well as Pinot Noir, Dornfelder and Regent.

Staatliche Hofkellerei Wuerzburg (Franken)

The Staatliche Hofkellerei Wuerzburg is located in Würzburg in the Franken wine-growing region and owned by the State of Bavaria. It is Germany’s 6th largest wine estate.

The Staatliche Hofkellerei Wuerzburg can look back to a long tradition. Founded in 1128, it is Germany’s oldest wine estate. Initially, it was owned by the Prince-Bishops of Wuerzburg, who were simultaneously bishops of Wuerzburg and dukes of Franken.

From 1814 onwards, after the Vienna Congress, the Kingdom of Bavaria was the owner under the name Königlich Bayerischer Hofkeller (royal Bavarian state cellar), with an interlude from 1806 to 1814, when it was owned by Grand Duke Ferdinand of Tuscany.

After the revolution of 1918, the Kingdom of Bavaria became part of the Weimar Republic as the State of Bavaria and the State of Bavaria took over the Staatliche Hofkellerei Wuerzburg as the successor of the Kingdom of Bavaria.

The residence building, built from 1720 to 1744 in baroque style, is very impressive and is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. The extensive and labyrinthine wine cellars stretch out deep below the building.

The vineyard area totals 120 hectares. These holdings are spread over many communes. The area is planted with the white varieties Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, Kerner, Rieslaner, Scheurebe, Ortega and Gewürztraminer, as well as with the red varieties Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Domina, Portugieser and St. Laurent.

Staatsweingut Meersburg (Baden)

The Staatsweingut Meersburg is located in Meersburg at Lake Constance and owned by the State Baden-Württemberg.

It was owned by the church for a short period of time. From its construction in the 1750s until the bishopric was dissolved in 1803 it was the seat of the Prince-Bishop of Constance. In 1802, it passed – along with the Salem Abbey - into the hands of the Margrave von Baden during Napoleon’s secularization.

Baden came into existence in the 12th century as the Margraviate of Baden. It became the much-enlarged Grand Duchy of Baden through the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. The Grand Duchy of Baden remained a sovereign country until it joined the German Empire in 1871. After the revolution of 1918, Baden became part of the Weimar Republic as the Republic of Baden.

Pictures: Staatsweingut Meersburg

The Republic of Baden, as the successor of the Grand Duchy of Baden, took over the Staatsweingut Meersburg in 1918. (But it did not take over Schloss Salem, which became the private property of the Margrave of Baden.) In the Federal Republic of Germany of 1945, Baden and Wuerttemberg were merged to the Republic of Baden Wuerttemberg, which is the current owner of the Staatsweingut Meersburg.

The vineyard area totals 62 hectares, planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Traminer and Regent.

Wine Estates as Government Departments

There are a handful or so wine estates that operate as a government department. These are wine estates that produce and sell wine, but also fulfill government functions, notably research and education. The following 4 of them are even members of the VDP association, Germany’s association of elite winemakers.

Staatsweingut Weinsberg

Staatsweingut Weinsberg is in Wuerttemberg and a department of the Government of Baden-Wuerttemberg. It is part of a college and research institute, which opened in 1868 as the Königliche Weinbauschule (royal viticultural school) under King Karl I. of Württemberg, the oldest viticultural school of Germany. It has 40 hectares of vines, some of which are planted in the estate’s solely owned Weinsberger Schemelsberg and Abstatter Burg Wildeck. Riesling, Lemberg and Pinots predominate.

Staatliche Weinbaudomaene Oppenheim

The Staatliche Weinbaudomaene Oppenheim is in Rheinhessen and a department of the Government of the State of Rheinland-Pfalz. It is mainly a college and research institute. The Domain was founded in 1900 by Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig von Hessen. Today, the vineyard area totals 23 hectares.

Forschungsanstalt Geisenheim

The Forschungsanstalt Geisenheim is in the Rheingau and a department of the Government of Hessen. It was founded as a royal Prussian college in 1872.Today, it operates a wine estate that has 30 hectares in outstanding sites of the Rheingau. It was here that Prof. Dr. Hermann Mueller from the Swiss Canton Thurgau bred the varietal that bers the name Mueller Thurgau.

Staatsweingut Freiburg und Blankenhornsberg

The Staatsweingut Freiburg and Blankenhornsberg comprises two domains, in Freiburg and near Ihringen in the Kaiserstul. Both are integral parts of the State of Baden Wuerttemberg viticultural institute in Freiburg and as such part of a government department. The combined vineyard area totals 37 hectares and 180.000 bottles are produced annually. The Staatsweingut Freiburg and Blankenhorsnberg has been a member of the VDP since 1926.

Other: Indirectly and Partly Government Owned Wineries

These are wineries that are indirectly or partly owned by the government.I assume there are many more of them. I came across a few of them and decided to include the following in this posting.

Indirectly Government Owned: Weingut Vollrads

Schloss Vollrads is a historical monument and one of the art-historical highlights of the Rheingau region in Germany. It is also one of the oldest wine estates in the world; wine sales have been documented as early as 1211 and ever since. Schloss Vollrads is a rather large estate by German standards, with 60 hectares of vineyard land, and produces exclusively Riesling wines. It is currently Germany’s 23th largest wine estate. Owned since 983 by the Archbishop of Mainz and since the 1218 until 1997 by the family of Greiffenclau, the heirs of the Lords of Winkel; it is now owned by a local government owned bank (Nassauische Sparkasse). The owners of the Nassauische Sparkasse comprise the cities of Wiesbaden (25%) and Frankfurt as well as 6 districts (Landkreise) of the State of Hessen.

Long-term Leased: Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt

That the city of Frankfurt is in the winemaking business goes back to the secularization (the expropriation of the church and transfer of the assets to the state) that took place under Napoleon at the beginning of the 1800s. In the course of the secularization, the city of Frankfurt became the owner of the Carmelite Monastery. With the monastery came its winery and vineyards.

Pictures: Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt in Hochheim and Frankfurt City Town Hall with Sales Offices of Weingut der Stadt Frankurt

For almost 200 years then, the Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt was a government owned and run winery. In 1994, the city of Frankfurt decided to privatize the operational side of the Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt and signed a 30 years lease with Armin Rupp, a winemaker from the Pfalz. The Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt is based in Hochheim in the Rheingau.

Long-term Leased: Weingut der Stadt Mainz

In 1906 the citizen of Mainz Joseph Schick donated his winery in the Mainz to the city of Mainz. Since then, the city of Mainz has been the owner of the property. In 1994, the wine estate was leased to Weingut Hans W. Fleischer. The history of winemaking in the Fleischer family dates back to a deed from 1742. Hans W. Fleischer has been joined by son Michael and daughter Sabine to grow vines on 20 hectares of vineyard land around Mainz.

Privatized Wine Estates

Formerly Government Owned: Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung

Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung is a winery in Hattenheim, Rheingau that is now fully privately owned , but used to be owned by the local government over a whole century. Georg Müller, the co-owner of the famous Eltville sparkling wine cellar, Matheus Müller, established the Estate towards the end of the 19th century. In 1913, he donated the Estate to his home community of Hattenheim: with the stipulation to use the profits for the benefit of the needy in the community. Thus, the Wine Estate became the Georg Müller Stiftung, owned and run by the local government.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Peter Winter and Alf Ewald

Things changed dramatically in 2003, when the local government decided to privatize the Estate, which had produced good wines until the 1970s, but since then had deteriorated. Peter Winter purchased the Estate and – after many decades of a “Dornroeschenschlaf” - revived it, obviously with sizable financial investments and his enthusiasm and dynamism. Part of the credit also needs to go to Alf Ewald, the energetic young winemaker, he hired. Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung is a member of the VDP.

Formerly Government Owned: Weingut Herrmannsberg

The estate is located in the town of Niedernhausen in the Nahe region. It was founded in 1904 by the Prussian State as a model operation to help revive the wine industry after the phylloxera disaster. In 1946 the estate became the property of the State of Rheinland Pfalz. It was privatized in 1998. In 2010 it changed hands again and was renamed Weingut Herrmannsberg. The vineyards cover 30 hectares. Weingut Herrmannsberg is a member of the VDP.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium at Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, USA

Picture: Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times (right) and Greg Lint, President of Oak Knoll Winery (left) at the 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium

The 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium took place at Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, near Portland, on June 9, 2011. It consisted of two parts: Lectures and round table discussion in the morning and an Oregon Pinot Gris tasting in the afternoon.

The Wines of Oregon

About two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries and vineyards are in the Willamette Valley. Buffered from Pacific storms on the west by the Coast Range, the valley follows the Willamette River north to south for more than a hundred miles from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. But Oregon is not only about Willamette Valley. Oregon’s vineyards span the whole State, rising up and falling over the rolling hills and gentle valleys of more than 12,000 acres (4,858 hectares) of wine grapes. Other major wine regions are the Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. Some regions straddle the border between Oregon and the States of Washington and Idaho.

Wine has been produced in Oregon since the Oregon Territory was settled in the 1840s, when Italian and Swiss immigrants planted wine grapes and started bottling wine. Oregon's wine industry was suppressed during Prohibition. It was not until 1961, when Richard Sommer set up shop in southern Oregon, that the modern Oregon wine industry was borne. Other pioneers include David Lett, David Adelsheim, Dick Ponzi and Bill Sokol-Blosser. Then the French also came with Domaine Drouhin bringing European sophistication to Oregon.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Oregon

In the past 40 years, Oregon has become one of the country’s top three wine States, with 450 wineries producing an average of 3,500 cases. Most of it is Pinot Noir (8000 acres), Oregon’s signature grape variety, followed by Pinot Gris (1300), Chardonnay (800), Merlot (500) and Riesling (500). Oregon produces wine on a much smaller scale than its southern neighbor California. The majority of wineries in Oregon operate their own vineyards, although some purchase grapes on the market.

Pinot Gris in the World

There are about 25,000 hectares of Pinot Gris in the world, accounting for less than 0.5 percent of total wine production. With about 12,000 hectares, Italy is the front-runner, with Germany (4,000 h), California (3,000 h), Alsace (2,000 h) and Hungary (1.500 h) following. Oregon, with about 500 hectares, belongs to the group of smaller producers, along with New Zealand (700 h) and Australia (300 h).

Pinot Gris comes from the Bourgogne in France. The Pinot Gris has grayish-blue fruit. This explains the name: Pinot Gris (in France), or Pinot Grigio (in Italy) or Grauburgunder (in Germany) - Gris, Grigio and Gris mean “grey”.

Pinot Gris is a heat-sensitive grape that does not fare well in hotter climates as it needs colder temperatures to ripen fully and produce distinct flavors. It prefers a cooler climate with long, temperate summer days.

Pictures: During the Morning Sessions

In Italy, plantings can be found in the Lombardy region and in Alto Adige, Italy's northern most wine region, as well as in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Some 9 million cases are produced in Italy today, of which 90% is exported. Italian Pinot Grigio tends to be light-bodied, often lean; light in color; neutral, sometimes spritzy flavors, crisp and acidic. Almost all Italian Pinot Grigio wines are dry.

A German merchant by the named Johann Seger Ruland (re)discovered grapes growing wild in the fields of the Pfalz region in Germany in the 1700s. The wine he produced with these grapes became known as Rulaender; the Rulaender was later discovered to be Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris). Many wine producers in Germany sell their Grauburgunder still as Rulaender. German Grauburgunder/Rulaender tends to be medium- to full-bodied; typically dry but sometimes with noticeable residual sugar, but always well balanced with good acidity.

French Pinot Gris from Alsace can be rich and almost oily in texture. Like the German Grauburgunder, Alsatian Pinot Gris can be made in a dry or sweet-style.

Pinot Gris in Oregon

Pinot Gris has been grown in Oregon as long as Pinot Noir. David Lett, founder of Oregon's first winery, The Eyrie in McMinnville, planted a tiny amount alongside his first plantings of Pinot Noir more than 40 years ago. Other pioneers were Dick Ponzi and David Adelsheim. But it was not until the King Estate was founded in the 1990s that the Oregon Pinot Gris got national attention. The Estate, which grows only organically, is in the southernmost end of the Willamette Valley near Eugene.

Almost all Oregon Pinot Gris vines are found on slopes, southeast to southwest facing at elevations from 250 to 700 feet. Mid-slope positioning generally keeps vines above frost levels, and below less fertile soils near the ridge. Southern exposure rewards grapes with extra hours of sunlight.

The 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium at Oak Knoll Winery

This was a very well organized ¾ day event at the Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro. It was sponsored by Oak Knoll Winery and organized by PR veteran Jo Diaz. The event was very inspiring and entertaining. The star was Paul Gregutt, from the Seattle Times.

Evidently, there are different styles of Pinot Gris in the world. Living in Germany and on the US East Coast, I am not as familiar with Oregon Pinot Gris as most other participants were. So, I was curious how the wines would taste. Alsatian or Italian style? Dry or with a bit of remaining sugar? Aged in oak to add flavors and tannins?

Pictures: Afternoon Tasting of the Pinot Gris Wines; Paul Gregutt and Christian G.E.Schiller (top)

What I found at the tasting were very few, if any, Italian style Pinot Grigio wines. In terms of residual sugar, the wines I tasted were overwhelmingly dry. Finally, I found very little oak in the wines. Overall, the wines were medium-bodied, crisp, with lively flavors, often with aromas of pear, apple, and melon.

Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium Program

7:30 - 8:30 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast

8:30 - 8:35 a.m. WELCOME ~ Greg Lint and Jeff Herinckx



8:45 - 9:30 a.m. "The Potential for Pinot Gris From Oregon, Regarding Its Terroir"

BREAK ~ 9:30 - 9:45 a.m.

SESSION II VITICULTURE ~ Al MacDonald, Chemeketa Community College Vineyard Management Programs

9:45 - 10:30 a.m "Understanding the Terroir of Oregon Pinot Gris"

• Robert Brittan, Robert Brittan Vineyards
• Jason Bull, Zimri Cellars, winemaker at David Hill Vineyards
• Jeff Herinckx, Oak Knoll Winery
10:30 - 11:15 a.m. "Crafting Signature Pinot Gris"

BREAK ~ 11:15 - 11:30 a.m.


11:30 - 12:30 p.m.
Ryan Lumaco, Odom-Southern Distributors of Oregon "Having Your Pinot Gris Stand Out From The Oregon Crowd"
Eugenia Keegan, Vineyard Consultant "Having Your Pinot Gris Stand Out From The National Crowd"

12:30 ~ 1:30 p.m. LUNCHEON w/MEDIA


Pictures: Luncheon; Christian G.E.Schiller, Nicolas Quille, head winemaker of Pacific Rim, Jennifer Henry from Henry Estate Winery in Umpqua in Oregon


Winery and Grape Growers:

Airlie Winery
Abiqua Wind Vineyard
Ankeny Vineyard Winery
Apolloni Vineyards
Brittan Vineyards
Cardwell Hill Cellars
Christoper Bridge Cellars
David Hill
Dion Vineyard
Henry Estate
King Estate Winery
Lange Estate Winery
Left Coast Cellars
Maysara Winery
Methven Family Vineyards
Montinore Estates Winery
NW Wine Company, L.L.C.
Oak Knoll Winery
Pacific Rim Winemakers
Phelps Creek Vineyards
Plum Hill Vineyards
Provincial Vineyards
Pudding River Wine Cellars
Ribera Vineyards
Ron Johnson
Sokol Blosser Winery
Spindrift Cellars
Terrapin Cellars
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Wy’East Vineyards
Yamhill Valley Vineyards
Zimri Cellars

Wine Trade:

Chemeketa Community College
Diaz Communications
Eugenia Keegan Consulting
Ombiasy Public Relations
Odom-Southern Distributors of OR

Wine Media:

Paul Gregutt ~, Wine Enthusiast
Barbara Trigg ~ Appellation America
Ryan Reichert ~ Northwest Whites
Dr. Christian G.E.Schiller ~ Schiller Wine
Jim Gullo ~ Oregon Wine, b/t/w
Mark Hinton ~ Enobytes, Oregon Live
Pamela Heiligenthal ~ Enobytes
Jo Diaz ~ Wine-Blog ~ Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz
Gary Werner ~ Vineyard and Winery Management

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