A Vineyard Born of A Copper Mine
I enjoy sampling new wines and invariably this will happen at MacArthur Beverages. This week I happened to stop by while James Wright of Wine Monger was showing some wines to Phil. He started by pouring a pair of wines from Gut Hermannsberg a label I admittedly had not seen before. This might not be surprising as this name and label first appeared in 2010 after Dr. Christine Dinise and Jens Reidel purchased the historic Königlich-Preussische Weinbaudomäne Niederhausen-Schlossböckelheim. If the original estate name did not sound familiar then surely the iconic label with its black Prussian eagle would jolt ones memory For me this brought back memories of my University of Michigan days. A quick look through The Village Corner Catalog from 1994 finds 1988 Staatsdomane, Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube, Riesling Auslese on offer for $10.99 per bottle with the description, “Mittel Nahe’s top site, developed by the Prussian crown early this century and still the property of the state. Dazzles with racy, minerally porphyry-soil savor and spicy-floral riesling display. Tightly packed now though, needs a lot of cellar time.”
As James poured the Schlossböckelheimer, briefly noting he would explain why he would pour the estate riesling second, he told us of the quarried hillside whose existence preceded that of the vineyard. Indeed the original name Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube describes the copper mine which existed until 1901. In 1902 the Prussian state started transforming the location into a vineyard. The goal was to build a modern winery and vineyard to be used for teaching and research into phylloxera, rodents, and diseases.. This involved shifting some 300,000 cubic meters of soil and bringing in carbonate shale to transform the rugged volcanic-based terrain into a vineyard. The first vintage occurred in 1907 but it took until 1911 for the first excellent vintage. The domaine was one of the founding members of the VDP in 1910. In 1946 it was acquired by the state of the Rhineland-Palatinate who maintained its research focus.
The domaine was privatized in 1998 then ultimately acquired almost one decade later by Dr. Christine Dinise and Jens Reidel. The new name is a tribute to the fine vineyard of Hermmannsberg. With the all new staff having fully experienced the 2010 vintage, James felt the 2011 vintage began to show their understanding of the vineyards. All of the vineyards are classified as Erste Lage. The Schlossböckelheimer had been open in the morning. It was beautiful with precise, sweet flowers and fruit and an edge reflecting the volcanic and slate soils. The estate Riesling was good as well, perhaps a soft-focus version of the former being a blend of multiple vineyards. It was poured second because the residual sugar was higher and noticeable at that. The bottle had been purposefully opened the day before to show the longevity of the wine. You could drink this over several days. I recommend you try both. If you could only try one then the Schlossböckelheimer is certainly worth the price. The prices below reflect what is listed on the Wine Monger website.
2011 Gut Hermannsberg, Schlossböckelheimer Riesling, Nahe – $33
Imported by Wine Monger. This wine is 100% Riesling which was fermented with indigenous yeasts in a mixture of old oak casks and stainless steel. RS 3.2 g/l, Acidity 6.8 g/l, Alcohol 13%. I thought this a beautiful wine with a captivating notes of floral fruit, citrus, and mineral. It was precise and focused with integrated minerality and a structure that came through in the finish. This should develop nicely.
2011 Gut Hermannsberg, Riesling, Nahe – $18
Imported by Wine Monger. This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from all of the vineyard. It was vinified solely in stainless steel. RS 8.5 g/l, Acidity 7.4 g/l, Alcohol 12.5%. there was a light nose with gentle tropical and floral aromas which were a touch sweet. There was a crisp start in the mouth with the residual sugar coming through in the middle. There was texture on the tongue along with sweet spices, and vibrant acidity. Some structure comes through.
Lastly we tried a liter bottle from Weingut Schmitges. Andreas Schmitges took over the old family estate in 1990. James explained that Andreas is very much a food man. His desire to produce Mosel wine which works with food is reflected in the direction he turned the estate. Though there was less depth than the Gut Hermannsberg, Riesling this is a less expensive Riesling in a bigger format.
2011 Weingut Schmitges, Riesling Dry – $16.50 (1 Liter)
Imported by Wine Monger. This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from vines in Erdner Treppchen and Erdner Prälat on soils of sandy loam. It was fermented in stainless steel. RS 8.0 g/l. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose was lighter and more subdued with honey and white fruit aromas. There was some density to the flavors then a focused nature with fruit and acidity. There was a little citrus note in the middle, freshness, and overall a bit less depth.