A Tale of Two Schlösser

zinfandel trees

In Germany, the word “schloss” means castle or “manor house.” These are historic structures, many first built during the Roman times near the very best vineyards in the land. The idea was to create a grand estate to showcase the quality of the vineyards and the wine.

With wineries in San Ynez, California considered old at twenty, a 650-year-old winery seems very ancient indeed. Yet this is the age of Schloss Schonborn in Germany’s Rheingau region, which goes back to 1349. Owned by Paul Graf von Schonborn-Wiesentheid, it is the largest family owned estate in the Rheingau comprising some 125 acres (50 hectares) of top vineyard sites. The winery has recently been modernized with stainless steel tanks. Many of the wines produced here make their way to Asia and North America so look for the brand on your wine store shelf.

What makes the Riesling of Schloss Schonborn special are the south facing vineyards which face the Rheingau river, reflecting the sun and warming the vines. The family had been active in the Catholic church for centuries, hence their ability to get the best vineyard sites.

Visit the ancient, dust- and spider web-covered cellars and you realize that some of the very old bottles inside have survived the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian War, WWI, and WWII. Many of the bottles date from 1735, and our host, Peter Barth, technical director, describes that they have held up well over the last three centuries.

Weingut Schloss Schönborn
Contact: Herr von den Benken
Hauptstr. 53, 65347 Hattenheim
Phone: +49 (0)6723-91810, Fax: +49 (0)6723-918191

Schloss Vollrads is another ancient castle, dating from the 14th century. Wine is produced and sold here, with the added benefit of the castle estate open to the public as a venue to eat in its stellar restaurant, hold a business conference, or stage a wedding.

The restaurant, I might add, is fabulous. You can find both German and continental cuisine, prepared with as much attention to detail as a five-star restaurant in Manhattan. Service is quite formal, with our servers seeming to pride themselves on getting everything just right. And, of course, the view is magical. A couple dining at another table, who looked to be first-time daters, seemed visibly carried away by the cuisine, view, and ambiance.

At the heart of the palace complex is a majestic tower surrounded by a rectangular moat that is only accessible by bridge. The greater part of Schloss Vollrads as its stands today is the work of architect Johann Erwein, and the many armorial designs decorating the farm buildings, the cavalier’s house, and the gateway to the garden bear witness to his remarkable building activity. The most recent alterations to the palace were initiated in 1907-1908 by Countess Clara Matuschka-Greiffenclau, whose family tree can be traced back to 1097. Many of the Greiffenclau family were prominent personalities who served as patrons of the arts, as well as archbishops and electors of Mainz and Trier, and prince bishops of Würzburg. Today the estate is owned by the Nassauische Sparkasse (Nassau Savings Bank) dedicated to carrying on the estate’s great viticultural tradition.

Schloss Vollrads
Contact: Hans-Joachim Binz, Rowald Hepp
65375 Oestrich-Winkel
Phone: +49 (0)6723-660, Fax: +49 (0)6723-6666

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