Friday, March 21, 2014

Johannes Selbach, Weingut Selbach-Oster, teams up with Paul Hobbs to make Riesling in the Finger Lakes Region in New York State, USA/Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Johannes Selbach in New York City

Johannes Selbach, a German top winemaker and owner of Weingut Selbach-Oster in Zeltingen in the Mosel Valley, has teamed up with Paul Hobbs, a California-based renowned wine maker, with the view of making world-class Riesling in the Finger Lakes region in New York State. Recently, the two winemakers have started to establish a winery on a 27 hectare-estate in New York State, on the southern tip of Seneca Lake. In 2015, Johannes Selbach and Paul Hobbs want to produce their first Riesling vintage, but it will be out of grapes from leased vineyards on Seneca Lake.

This is not the first time that Johannes Selbach will make an American-German wine. In the early days of the Randall Grahm’s Pacific Rim Riesling project, the Pacific Rim Riesling Dry was a wine made out of 80% grapes from California and 20% grapes from the Mosel Valley in Germany, provided by Johannes Selbach. After a few vintages, this practice was discontinued and the wine became a 100% American wine.

German American Wines: (1) Pacific Rim Dry Riesling, (2) Eroica, (3) Woelffer and his Schiller Wine
Pacific Rim Riesling #1 of Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Best Buy List 2011 - Meeting Founder Randall Grahm and Winemakers Nicolas Quille and Steven Sealock

Riesling in the World

Worldwide, there are about 34.000 hectares planted with Riesling. Germany – with 22.400 hectares – accounts for 2/3 of the total. The second largest Riesling producer is Australia, with 4500 hectares. But this is only about 1/10 of the total. Alsace follows with 3500 hectares. Austria, the US with Washington State and New York State as well as New Zealand make up the remainder. But overall Riesling is really a niche wine, accounting for only less than 1 percent of total wine production in the world - but a very special niche wine.

Finger Lakes AVA

The Finger Lakes AVA in upstate New York State encompasses seven glacial lakes, although the majority of plantings are around Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes. Most vineyards are planted on hillsides overlooking the lakes. These deep lakes help to moderate the climate, as stored heat is released from the lakes during the winter, keeping the weather mild (relative to surrounding areas) and preventing early frosts. The reflection of the sun off the lakes during summer extends the growing season. This cool-climate region is often compared to the wine-growing region of Germany, and like Germany, has had special success with Riesling.

Pictures: The Finger Lakes Region in New York State

The Finger Lakes include 4,452 hectares of vineyards, making it New York State's largest wine growing region. New York State is with Washington State the second largest wine producer in the US, with a bit more than 10.000 hectares. Of this, 400 hectares are accounted for by Riesling.

Celebrating the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes Region, New York State, US East Coast
Celebrating the Arrival of the Finger Lakes 2010 Riesling in Washington DC, USA
Celebrating the Release of the Finger Lakes 2011 Riesling in Washington DC, USA
Ranking 12 Rieslings: Finger Lakes (USA) versus Germany

Johannes Selbach

The ancestors of the Selbach family have been cultivating Riesling since 1600. The Selbach family originated from the village "Ürzig" and the Oster family comes from the small village of "Zeltingen" on the opposite side of the river. Today, Johannes Selbach and his wife Barbara are running the winery with passion for the wines and in respect of the long tradition.

Pictures: Johannes Selbach and Paul Grieco

The great-grandfather of Johannes owned a Mosel steamship and shipped his wines in oak barrels down the Mosel and the Rhine to the North Sea ports. These barrels again were made by Matthias Oster, a cooper and the great-grandfather on the paternal side of the family. Therefore, the winery developed in three fields, on one side as a top estate in the region and simultaneously on the other side as a négociant and brokerage firm, making wines from grapes and juice bought from other producers and consolidating the production of smaller producers, offering a broad and comprehensive range of fine German wines.

Hence, there are three companies under one roof:

1. Weingut Selbach-Oster

The Selbach-Oster estate continues the long family tradition producing top quality Riesling. The 20 hectares (49 acres) of the estate are all on the steep slopes of the Mosel in top vineyard sites like Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Graacher Domprobst. The production is 12,000 cases per year.

Quality is the focus in the vineyards, where appropriate pruning and, if necessary, green harvest in early September are used to keep yields low. Picking is done by hand and very selectively. Great care is taken to treat grapes, juice and wine as gentle as possible. In the cellar, traditional winemaking is preferred. The wines undergo a cold, slow fermentation and stay on their own yeast (the lees) for an extended period of time. The traditional 1000 Liter oak barrels called "Fuder" are still used.

2. Weinkellerei J. & H. Selbach (Négociant Firm)

J. & H. Selbach Weinkellerei, a négociant firm, incorporated in 1920, has always been devoted to supplying a broader range of fine, high quality Riesling wines and excellent service. Longterm partnerships are the basis for J. & H. Selbach's grapes, juice and wine purchases, ensuring consistency and quality for these wines.

3. Weinkommission J. & H. Selbach (Brokerage Agency Firm)

As brokers on all major German auctions, J. & H. Selbach provides a full service from wine evaluation to buying, consolidating and shipping top wines from Germany's leading estates.

Paul Hobbs

Katie Kelly Bell (Forbes): The Steve Jobs of Wine is an apt metaphor to describe the ardent exactitude of winemaker and consultant Paul Hobbs. He’s a quality fanatic. Twice named Wine Personality of the Year by Robert Parker, Hobbs was first hired by Robert Mondavi for his expertise in oak aging, he then moved on to Opus One and later Simi Winery. Hobbs is also credited with recognizing, despite the skeptics, the winemaking potential in Argentina, (while we were all distracted and busy swooning over California). His efforts helped bring that region into global focus. Now he’s busy running Paul Hobbs Winery and Vina Cobos in Argentina. He’s also consulting, sharing his knack for finding good dirt with winemakers across the globe.

The Joint Venture

Paul’s brother, David Hobbs, a long-time resident of Rochester, NY, will oversee daily operations of the new venture. The wine brand name has not yet been determined.

The venture combines Hobbs’s talent for working with new and historical sites and regions (Argentina, Armenia, California, Canada, Chile, France, Hungary and Uruguay) with the extensive Riesling expertise of Selbach.

“After an extensive two-year search, I am pleased to have found the right property, and Johannes is the right partner to launch this new brand,” says Hobbs. “Fine German Riesling, more than any other wine, influenced my own interest and love of wine. Selbach is one of the most highly regarded producers of the Mosel, and I believe our synergies will result in a very focused and successful project.”

Hobbs and Selbach first met when Hobbs visited the Selbach-Oster Estate in the Mosel valley in November of 1998. They kept in touch over the years, and discovered they shared a mutual desire to explore the Finger Lakes. “I was immediately interested when Paul approached me with the idea of producing first-rate Rieslings in the Finger Lakes AVA,” Selbach says. “I first visited the area in the 1980s, and have been back a few times since. I see many similarities in Seneca Lake to the Mosel valley, including steep slopes, low-pH soils comprised of shale and slate, and a cool growing season which is moderated by the lake. I believe the combination of California and Mosel knowledge allows tremendous potential for super-premium Rieslings.”

Hobbs grew up in upstate New York on a farm, and prior to moving to California in 1975 to study winemaking, he had planned to return home to build a winery with his father. “After almost 40 years,” states Hobbs, “this feels like a homecoming, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

schiller-Wine: Related Postings

1st International Riesling Symposium, Rheingau, Germany

German Spaetlese Wines Can Come in Different Versions - I have Counted Five

How does a Sweet German Riesling Become Sweet?

When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose

German Winemakers in the World: Hermann J. Wiemer

German Wine Makers in the World: Dr. Konstantin Frank (USA)

Dr. Frank Wines from Finger Lakes Featured at State Luncheon for Chancellor Merkel in Washington, D.C., USA

Kruger-Rumpf (Germany) and Dr. Frank (USA) Rieslings – The Wines I Brought to the 2011 European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) Opening BYOB Party

Celebrating the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes Region, New York State, US East Coast

Celebrating the Arrival of the Finger Lakes 2010 Riesling in Washington DC, USA

Celebrating the Release of the Finger Lakes 2011 Riesling in Washington DC, USA

Ranking 12 Rieslings: Finger Lakes (USA) versus Germany

No comments:

Post a Comment