Schloss Vollrads in the Rheingau is the first stop on the tour, and a great way to get started.
This was my first time here, and I have to say I was impressed. Check out the castle:
Look in the back of this picture for some of the vines. They grow one thing here: Riesling.
This winery has been selling wine for 801 years! and they have been growing grapes since the year 850. That makes it one of the oldest wineries worldwide; how many things do you know that were founded in the first century??
It's an amazing property, and the winery arranges cultural events around their wine tastings--or vice versa. Selling the wines actually ensures that they maintain the castle well.
Here are a couple shots of the inside:
Wine waiting for us at the entrance. The "summer wine", Sommer Riesling Trocken, was described as a crisp easy lunch style at 11.5% alcohol--as in, "you can go back to work after 2 or 3 glasses." I like this place!
Above is a picture of their "Manor House Hall," where they frequently conduct events. The fireplace was built in 1684 for you history buffs. Below is a room in the Manor House where the pre-1700s leather wallpaper is painted in gold. Note the pattern is grapes and Griffins (family crest) on the bottom border. There is only 1 other room in the world with wallpaper like this, and it''s a palace in Cordoba not open to the public, owned by the royal family.
This is the salon. I just liked it because it was fancy. Oh--and they were pouring us Riesling.
Our gracious host, Rowald Hepp. He's currently explaining that "only people in their 70s want to hear the 'pop' of the cork." When they switched to the vinolock system that they only lost 1 customer out of 2700 - once people took the wines home and saw how much fresher they were. Another great fact he pointed out: with supply and demand, vinolock is the opposite of cork; the more people use it, the more the price goes DOWN.
The entrance to the Manor Restaurant for a lovely dinner. Charming, no??
Don't worry about reading the menu; I'll describe. What I loved about our setup for this was we had refreshing dry wines in between courses to cleanse our palate before the next food was served. It was refreshing--both literally and figuratively.
Only time I think i've ever had tuna in Germany! Tartare with snow peas, wasabi cucumber, and soba reduction, with a Kabinett Feinherb
Veal ramp with ginger carrots, potatoes and thyme jus--with "Jubilaumswein" Riesling, a technique from 1765 with spontaneous mesh fermentation, like carbonic maceration. Called "Jubilee". It was smoky and meaty--perfect with the veal.
Appletarte with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Wonderful with their Auslese.
Then we visited a castle tower that housed their sweet wines; in the years they make the wines that need noble rot, they make 1 12 liter, 3 6 liters, 6 3 liters, 12 1.5s, and 24 750s. If you purchase a 6 liter, you have an exclusive on it for 10 years before they release another one! (and they are GOOD)
Our host was warm and enthusiastic, with a few closing comments I want to include here:
-The designation of Kabinett came from this Estate in 1716. Compare that to the year Bordeaux was defined, which was 1855.
-Spatlese was first defined in 1775, FYI
-He says the heartbeat of a winery is passion. And sustainability for the vineyards is imperative if you want to establish and maintain traditions.