Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tasting at Weingut Balthasar Ress, Hattenheim, Rheingau, with Stefan Ress, Germany

Picture: Annette Schiller, Stefan Ress and Christian G.E. Schiller at Weingut Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim 

In the Rheingau, the 2013 Germany Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy included a dinner (Winzerplatte) and wine tasting at Weingut Zum Jungen Oetinger in Erbach, a tour and tasting at Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich, a tasting at Weingut Peter Jakob Kuehn in Oestrich-Winkel, an impromptu tasting with Alexander Jung, Weingut Jakob Jung, in Erbach and a tasting with Stefan Ress, Weingut Balthasar Ress, in Hattenheim.

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013

At Weingut Balthasar Ress, we were received by Stefan Ress with a glass of Balthasar Ress Sekt in the court of Weingut Balthasar Ress and then went to the wineBank for a tasting of Balthasar Ress wines.

Weingut Balthasar Ress

Founded in 1870 by Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim in the Rheingau, Weingut Balthasar Ress has developed into one of the leading wine estates of the Rheingau region and became a global player in the wine trade. It is a member of the VDP, the association of about 200 German elite winemakers.

Stefan Ress – now senior boss - owned and run Weingut Balthasar Ress for many years. In 2010, his son Christian Ress took over and Dirk Wuertz became Winemaker and then Managing Director.

Pictures: Arriving at Weingut Balthasar Ress, Hattenheim

With 46 hectares under vine it is also one of the larger estates in the Rheingau. Riesling accounts for 90 % of the grapes in the vineyards: Berg Roseneck, Berg Rottland and Berg Schlossberg (Rüdesheim), Engelmannsberg, Nussbrunnen and Schützenhaus (Hattenheim) as well as Höllenberg (Assmannshausen). Since June 2009, the winery owns by a 3,000 square meter vineyard ion the island of Sylt; it is the most northerly vineyard in Germany.


The Ress family is an old, established family in Hattenheim. For generations, they were butchers, and the butcher shop "Metzgerei Ress" exists to this day.

Balthasar Ress

In 1870, Balthasar Ress, who was a butcher himself, founded the inn "Gasthof Ress" on Hattenheim's main street, thereby laying the cornerstone of a long tradition in the hotel and restaurant business as well as the wine estate and wine business. In the 1880s, he purchased the property of a bankrupt estate on Rheinallee 1, the site of today's hotel and restaurant Kronenschlösschen and its predecessor, Hotel Ress, which Balthasar Ress opened in 1894. Under the management of the Ress family for nearly a century, it decisively helped shape the hospitality trade in the Rheingau. When Balthasar Ress began his career as a hotelier-restaurateur in 1870, the family also began to produce its own wines - literally, "Von Unserm" (our own) - a brand that is still used by Weingut Balthasar Ress to denote its most important house wines.

Carl Ress

By the 1920s, a thriving wine business had developed. In 1919, the cellar of the neighboring Wachendorff estate had been leased, and in 1923, one of Balthsar Ress' sons, Carl, purchased the Heimes estate situated between Hattenheim's main street and Rheinallee. Valentin Heimes (1741-1806) was the suffragan of Mainz, a staunch defender of the separation of church and state in Germany, and no great friend of the Curia Romana. He spent his final years at the Hattenheim estate. Ultimately, Carl Ress built the entire complex into an impressive winery and to this day, the site of the estate's manor.

Hotel Ress as well as the winery "Kellerei Carl Ress" had primarily always marketed the wines of well-known VDP estates. For many years, for example, Ress was exclusively responsible for bottling and marketing the entire crop of the Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern estate. Finally, in 1947, Carl Ress founded "Balthasar Ress KG - Wine Estate Proprietor, Winery, Hotel Ress." Because he had no children of his own, he made three of his nephews limited partners. At that time, Balthasar Ress' other sons - he had seven children - had long established businesses of their own. The restaurant at the monastery Kloster Eberbach, a bus line between Hattenheim and the monastery, and an agency of the Köln-Düsseldorf Rhine steamer line were all Ress family operations.

Pictures: Starting with a Glass of Balthasar Ress Sekt, Brut

Paul Ress

In 1947, the wine estate owned nearly three hectares (ca. 7.5 acres) of vines, including holdings in the Oestricher Doosberg site that are still cultivated today. At the end of the 1940s, Balthasar Ress KG acquired more and more vineyards, among others, those owned by Baron von Frentz, which contained the so-called "Stellwerk," a parcel in the Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg site that is also still owned by the Ress estate. During these years, Paul Ress, one of Carl's nephews, increasingly assumed responsibility in the business. He married Gertrud Breuer and moved into the former Hotel Schwan in Lorch. Until World War I, it had been a highly esteemed hotel with a distinguished clientele, including the last German emperor, who was a regular guest.

In 1950, Balthasar Ress KG procured the Wilhelm Hess wine estate in Rüdesheim and with it, parcels in today's Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland, Bischofsberg, and Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg, which expanded the scope of the Ress portfolio. In addition, the purchase included the tavern "Weinhaus Engel" on Rüdesheim's world-renowned Drosselgasse. In 1957, the company was able to take over a leading export winery "Hasensprung - Joachim Bäumer," thereby laying the foundation for a strong international presence for Balthasar Ress KG.

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Stefan Ress at Weingut Balthasar Ress

Stefan Ress

In 1963, Paul's oldest son, Stefan Ress, joined the company as a limited partner. Although he was still quite young, his father gave him considerable free rein. For example, he succeeded in acquiring 1.2 ha (ca. 3 acres) in the famous Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen site at what was nearly a spectacular auction in 1968. The lease price for this vineyard was ca. 18 DM per "Ruge" (25 square meters) - an extremely high price in those days. Yet, it was from grapes grown in this site that the wine estate produced its very first Trockenbeerenauslese, in 1971.

In 1976, in the aftermath of Carl's death, the then Balthasar Ress KG was strategically reorganized in the course of estate distribution. The Stefan B. Ress KG Weinkellerei (winery) was founded to handle all export and winery business; Balthasar Ress KG was expanded in its role purely as a wine estate. Two years later, the bankruptcy of the Jakob Horz estate enabled Ress to procure parcels in the Geisenheimer Kläuserweg and the vineyards of Schloss Reichartshausen. This did not simply mean an additional seven ha (ca. 17 acres) of new vineyards for the estate, but also sole ownership in the appellation Schloss Reichartshausen.

After Paul Ress died in the early 1980s, the family's entire properties were once again redistributed.

Stefan Ress' siblings received the properties in Rüdesheim; he remained the proprietor of the wine estate and winery. The wine estate continued to grow. In 1989, it became a member of the VDP. In 1993, Stefan Ress was elected president of the regional organization, VDP-Rheingau, and in 2010, the president of the Rheingau Wine-growers' Association.

Pictures: Moving to the wineBank

Christian Ress

Since 1999, after several professional apprenticeships in Germany and abroad, Stefan's son, Christian Ress, entered the business as the fifth generation of the founding family. In 2004, he became a co-proprietor of the estate with his parents, and in 2010, assumed responsibility as director of business operations. Since then, he has continued to expand the wine estate, which today comprises 46 ha (ca. 114 acres). Christian Ress has achieved considerable attention in the wine trade for innovative projects, such as planting Germany's most northerly vineyard on the island of Sylt, near the border with Denmark, in 2009; opening the wineBANK in Hattenheim in 2009; "sinking" bottles of RESSpekt in 2010; and last but not least, through his tireless, quality-oriented efforts within the realm of sustainable viticulture.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Christian Ress and Desiree Eser, Weingut August Eser, at Weingut Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim, at a Previous Occasion

Christian Ress has consistently pursued opportunities to steadily develop the brand Balthasar Ress in numerous, principal export markets by founding, in conjunction with strategically important partners, his own import and distribution company in Oslo, B&R Wine AS, and the sales agencies/brokers Veritable Wines & Estates KG and Veritable Vins & Domaines KG.

Pictures: Tasting Balthasar Ress Wines in the wineBank

Dirk Wuertz - Managing Director (Betriebsleiter)

Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim has always had a strong reputation in the premium segment of German wine, but was not very present in the ultra-premium dry segment – the Grosses Gewaechs wines. This changed, when Dirk Wuertz – wine maker, wine blogger and wine TV journalist – joined Weingut Balthasar Ress in 2009, first as winemaker and then as General Manager. Together with owner Christian Ress and senior boss Stefan Ress, he is pushing Ress wines to new hights.

Dirk Wuertz is a winemaker from the Rheinhessen region Germany. He is not only a successful winemaker, but also a leader in terms of social media in the German wine industry. Dirk is the most popular wine blogger in Germany. He has his own internet TV show “100 Grad Oechsle”. This is a very professionally made one- hour talk show with prominent guests from the wine industry. And he is the front man of a video series on wine produced by the Stern, a leading German weekly.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Dirk Wuertzin Wiesbaden

The Wines we Tasted

Picture: The Line-up

2011 Sekt, Rheingau Riesling Brut

A nice sparkler, with notes of brioche, lemon and apricot and a good finish.

2012 Von Unserem, Trocken

Dry, crisp, fresh entry-level wine with citrus, lemon zest and mineral notes. My house wine in the US. Available at Total Beverages.

2010 Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen

The Nussbrunnen vineyard in Hattenheim has a south-southeast exposure. The name derives from a "Brunnen," or spring, that was once surrounded by nut trees. The source of the spring is still visible today. It lies well protected from cold northerly winds on the lower reaches of the slope, adjacent to the site Wisselbrunnen.

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Stefan Ress in the wineBankk, Weingut Balthasar Ress

2011 Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen, Spaetlese

Notes of Mango and Papaya on the nose, good balance of fruit and acidity on the palate, with some custard apple notes, ending with a long finish.

2009 Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen, Auslese

Attack of honey, pineapple and lemon on the nose, a luscious wine with an electrifying finish that keeps going.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, Christian G.E. Schiller and Stefan Ress in the wineBank, Weingut Balthasar Ress

1989 Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen, Auslese

Good integration of fruit and acidity with all the added complexity of an older Riesling, showing grapefruit, lemon zest and stone fruit flavors on the palate.

2012 Balthasar Ress Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling GG

We did not have this wine with Stefan Ress, but Annette Schiller and I had it with Dirk Wuertz a few weeks later.

Dirk Wuertz: “My Prince Charming. Stopped during fermentation at 7 grams remaining sugar. An opulent wine. Needs many years to fully develop.”

Pale lemon yellow in the glass, notes of pears on the nose, creamy on the palate, long finish.


Thank you ver much for a most interesting tasting, Stefan Ress.

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Tasting at Weingut Balthasar Ress, Hattenheim, Rheingau, with Stefan Ress, Germany

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Tasting at Weingut Balthasar Ress, Hattenheim, Rheingau, with Stefan Ress, Germany

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Dirk Wuertz and His Bag-in-a-box Rieslings

Hanging out with Rheingau Winemakers: Dirk Wuertz, Desiree Eser, Alexander Jakob Jung, Hansi Bausch and Christian Ress in Hattenheim, Rheingau, Germany

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