Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Peter Winter and Alf Ewald of Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung
Modern Art and Wines with a Long Tradition: The Georg Mueller Stiftung Estate in the Rheingau in Germany
Peter Winter: The German Donald Hess?
Peter Winter, owner of Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung in Hattenheim in the Rheingau, had invited to a Gutsweinprobe at the Weingut. I was very much impressed by the Weingut, the cellar, the food, the wines and the art, and I was reminded of Donald Hess. Is Peter Winter the German Donald Hess?
Donald Hess from Bern, Switzerland, started his astonishing journey of buying and establishing wineries and art galleries around the globe in 1978, when he was in his early forties already. Over the past decades, he has bought or established several wineries all over the globe, in the US, in Argentina, in South Africa, in Australia and the US. Today, Hess Family Estates own six New World cellars and vineyards:
(1) Hess Collection winery on Mount Veeder, 2,000 feet above the Napa Valley
(2) Artezin Wines in Napa, which specializes in wine from the heritage grapes Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignan.
(3) Sequana Wines in Russian River, a venture into Pinot Noir.
(4) Glen Carlou Vineyards in South Africa. Located in South Africa's Paarl region, the Glen Carlou Winery is known for its Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals.
(5) Bodega Colomé in Argentina, with presumably the highest vineyard in the world at 10,200 feet/3,111 meters above sea level in the northern part of the Calchaqui Valley.
(6) A major share (85 percent) in Peter Lehmann Wines, Australia. Founded in 1980 by the legendary Peter Lehmann and now managed by his son, Doug Lehmann, Peter Lehmann Wines is one of Australia's most respected wineries, located near Tanunda, in the heart of the Barossa Valley.
Picture: Donald Hess
Donald Hess is also into art. His Napa Valley collection opened in 1989 in the original winery built in 1903. The Museum at the Glen Carlou Winery outside Paarl South Africa opened in 2006, and his latest passion in Bodega Colomé, not only has an art gallery but also has a stunning hotel.
When you spent an afternoon at Peter Winter’s Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung in Hattenheim in the Rheingau, you are a bit reminded of Donald Hess. Of course, it is a long, long way to go to get there were Donald Hess is now and most likely Peter Winter will never get there. But the two men appear to be on the same journey, that of wine and art.
Peter Winter’s journey started in 2003, when he purchased the Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung, at 60 – 20 years later in the lifecycle than Donald Hess.
Before that turning point in life, Peter Winter was for over 40 years in various key positions in the German wine industry. Importantly, for 18 years he was the Chairman of the Board of one of the ten largest wine companies worldwide. He is also President of the German Wine Exporter Association and teaches at the University of Geisenheim.
Like Donald Hess, he not only loves wine but also art and since 1987, he co-owns with his wife an art gallery in near-by Wiesbaden.
Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung
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.
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.
Pictures: Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung
The Wine and Art Cellar
The cellar has become in part a museum. In addition to fulfilling its traditional role as the place to stock and age wines, the cellar is also a show room for modern art.
Most of the modern art exhibited in the cellar was produced specifically for the wine cellar. The climatic conditions in the cellar needed to be taken into account in creating the art. Consequently, the sculptors and painters typically worked with stone, metal, silicon or plastic and painted behind glass, Plexiglas or on MDF panels.
It is a fascinating setting down there in the cellar: a large space of about 1000 m2 and 250 years old. It can be used for various purposes, including receptions and wine tastings.
Pictures: The Wine and Art Cellar of Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung with artist Uta Belina Waeger
The Estate covers an area of approximately 12 hectares with excellent locations in the Schützenhaus, Engelmannsberg, Hassel, Wisselbrunnen and Heiligenberg vineyards. Approximately 80% is Riesling and 15% Spätburgunder.
In terms of winegrowing and winemaking philosophy, Alf Ewald points out that as much as possible is done by hand. Grapevine pruning, the early removal of eyes, targeted defoliation and thinning significantly reduce quantities, which greatly increases the intensity of the aroma and the natural sweetness through a much improved leaf to fruit ratio. Soil management is based exclusively on an ecological approach. Fertilizers are avoided through the targeted use of special herbs. In the cellar, Riesling is produced in individually temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The red wines are matured in barrique barrels. It is important to protect the product by ensuring cool fermenting temperatures, avoiding unnecessary pumping and, first and foremost, by using the force of gravity.
The Wine Portfolio
25 Wines were presented at the tasting in early June 2010. These included 3 Sekts, all brut or extra brut, in the Euro 9 to 15 range. I did not see any “Literweine”, i.e. entry-level wines bottled by the liter. The George Mueller Stiftung entry-level white wine was a 2009 Riesling QbA trocken for Euro 5.95. I was very impressed by the minerality and elegance of the 2 Erstes Gewaechs wines, from the Wisselbrunnen and Schuetzenhaus Erste Lage vineyards, from 2008 and 2007, both for Euro 19.50.
The Georg Mueller Stiftung wine portfolio also included 6 sweeter style white wines and 5 red wines. I liked in particular the 2007 Edition PW Spaetburgunder, with an attack of strawberries and smoked toast on the nose, a good structure and a lingering finish; a very feminine wine.
Alf Ewald is the architect behind the excellent George Mueller Stiftung wines. He was awarded the “young vintner of the year” prize in 2003.
Pictures: Alf Ewald
Peter Winter Weinkellerei and Winter’s Wein Direkt
In 2004, Peter Winter founded also the Peter Winter Weinkellerei, which produces wines from the Rheingau and the Rheinhessen regions. Winter’s Wein Direkt markets the wines of a handful of winemakers from France, Spain and South Africa.
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