ombiasyPR and WineTours at Schiller’s Annual Riesling Party in Washington DC
Last year at Schiller’s Annual Riesling Party in Washington DC, we were honored by the visit of the 2013/14 German Wine Princes Sabine Wagner. The year before, Austrian Wine Importer Klaus Wittauer presented his portfolio to the guests. This year, Managing Partner Denman Zirkle showed us the wines of Weingut Richard Böcking.
ombiasyPR and WineTours, and Christian Schiller Ready for the Guests at their 2015 Annual Riesling Party in Washington DC (McLean, Virginia)
Annual Riesling Party at the Schiller Residence in Washington DC, USA (2015)
Weingut Richard Böcking
Weingut Richard Böcking is a Mosel producer with a long history that was virtually unknown a few years ago, but is now being revived by the Böcking family. Interestingly, 2 of the main protagonists in the revival process – Deman Zirkle and his daughter Sigrid Caroll - are based in Virginia, about 2 hours away from Washington DC.
Denman Zirkle is an American, who married into the Richard Böckling family while he was on an external assignment for IBM in Frankfurt. Since then, he has been a regular in the Mosel valley at Weingut Richard Böcking, with his late wife and their daughter Sigrid Carroll, who also grew up in the US.
In 2010, a decision faced the descendants of the Böckings, including Denman Zirkle and Sigrid Caroll: sell the traditional but marginally profitable winery and the accompanying vineyards, or pursue a new vision and awaken the winery to a new beginning?
The Böcking descendant Baroness Leweke von Marschall, along with her uncle William Denman Zirkle and her cousin Sigrid Carroll opted for the latter and are now in the process of reestablishing the glory of Weingut Richard Böcking, with the help of winemaker Simon Trös.
Prowein 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany – Schiller’s Impressions
German Star Winemaker Clemens Busch, Weingut Clemens Busch in the Mosel Valley, in Washington DC, USA
A Look Back
In 1623, the Böcking family, regional treasurers for the Prince of Palatinate-Zweibrücken, laid the foundation for their once immense influence in Protestant Traben-Trarbach with the establishment of a trade and exchange company (Handlungs-und Wechselcomptoir). Trading of fine princely goods, such as coffee, tea, silk, the finest spices, tobacco, and wine, along with their skills as bankers, shaped the family’s preeminence amongst a growing population of businessmen and merchants, as well as Traben-Trarbach’s future. The residence of the Böckings, an impressive Baroque villa, which today houses the Mittel-Mosel Museum, still bears witness to the splendor that once adorned the family name.
During Napoleon’s reign, trade on the Mosel was liberalized, and the predominant feudal system was lifted. At the same time, his Code civil, or Napoleonic Code (Code Napoléon), decreed that property belonging to the nobility would pass to the bourgeoisie. This decree facilitated the passing of precious vineyards – like Ungsberg, Schlossberg, and Geierslay – to the Böcking family. Traben-Trarbach soon became a wine trade center of world renown. Recent research reveals that at least half of the Trarbacher Ungsberg vineyard was already planted with Riesling – an unbelievable 120 years before the decree to uproot all inferior vines and replace them with Riesling by Prince Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony, Archbishop-Elector of Trier (1768–1803). This event transformed the Mosel Valley into becoming the largest Riesling region in the world at that time and led to the ensuing triumphant success of Mosel Riesling.
The flourishing wine trade brought fame to Traben-Trarbach, equal to that of Bordeaux.
With the town’s new designation in the Prussian Rhine Province, the wine producers and merchants fought successfully for the retention of the Napoleonic Code. The Böckings decided to focus on the cultivation and production of the highest-quality Riesling wines.
Wine Chronicles and Decanter
Although, by nature, the Riesling vine does not yield great quantities, it was foremost the quality of this variety that secured the economic prosperity of the wine estate. This entrepreneurial foresight led the Böckings to produce wines that achieved the highest prices on the market until the end of the 19th century.
Thus, the vineyards Ungsberg, Schlossberg, and Burgberg are found on the earliest Mosel vineyard maps, alongside those of the world-famous Brauneberger (today’s Juffer and Juffer Sonnenuhr) and Scharzhofberger.
Even the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lauded the extraordinary Mosel wine when he took shelter and enjoyed the hospitality at the Böcking villa during a stormy night on the Mosel in 1792.
About 100 years after this memorable event, at the beginning of the 20th century, fortunes changed for the Böcking family. After ten generations of successful mercantilism, the entrepreneurial spirit of the family died in 1903 with Adolph Böcking. With the marriage of his daughter, not only did most of the family’s fortune pass into the ownership of the wine-trading dynasty of the Huesgen family, also the prized vineyard of Geierslay as well. Though the Trarbacher sites remained with the Böckings, they did not prosper in the historic and economic hardships that followed.
Denman Zirkle is an American from Virginia. He married into the Böcking family while he was working for IBM in Frankfurt. His wife was the late Dagmar von Maltzahn, a granddaughter of Kurt Böcking.
Denman Zirkle’s first visit to Traben-Trarbach was in October 1971, just after the birth of his daughter Sigrid in Frankfurt. He returned with his family to the United States in 1974 to continue a professional career with IBM. Later on, his work took him to Franklin Templeton Investments, where he was an executive in finance and marketing. With his family, he often returned to Traben-Trarbach, usually to hike along the ridges overlooking the Mosel River.
In early 2014 he left his position as executive director of a Virginia foundation to begin working directly with the winery in Traben–Trarbach. Bringing his management and financial skills, he is now working with the team on the renovation of existing and newly-acquired vineyards and production facilities.
He was educated at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and received his M.B.A. degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Vineyards and Winemaking Philosophy
Denman Zirkle: The character of the wines is shaped by the distinctive steep slope vineyards of which Richard Böcking has 15 acres under cultivation. The plantings are 95% Riesling and 5% Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). Of the five vineyards: Ungsberg, Burgberg, Schlossberg, Huenerberg and Taubenhaus, four are classified as Grand Cru with vintage vines up to 80 years old. Richard Böcking develops their wines by hand, from the vineyard to the bottle. Unadulterated; with an originality that can be produced only in a natural vineyard environment. From this tenet springs Böcking's fundamental philosophy—a philosophy of allowing a wine to develop naturally. In the steep-slope vineyards, this philosophy means the small vineyard parcels are cultivated individually and by hand. All wines are developed as bio-dynamically as possible, using naturally occurring yeast and introducing only the sparest amount of sulfur. This meticulous attention to natural agriculture and production create beautifully finished wines while sustaining the vineyards for the future.
Weingut Böcking in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
A few months ago, Weingut Richard Böcking got a nice write up in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (February 2015): Since 2011, Leweke Freifrau von Marschall, Denman Zirkle and Sigrid Carroll with winemaker Simon Trös, are trying to link to the great tradition of the Richard Böcking estate in Traben-Trarbach that was established in 1623, and made the Trarbacher Ungsberg (which was 50% planted with Riesling already in 1669) to one of the most prestigious vineyard sites in the Mosel until the late 18th century. For this report I tasted two vintages of the three Trarbach grands crus from ungrafted vines: Ungsberg, Schlossberg and Burgberg. Traditionally made in fuders or old barriques and kept on the lees until late July after the harvest, this is an estate to watch. - Stephan Reinhardt" - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate (Issue #217, February 2015).
Thanks Denman Zirkle for being our special guest at our 2015 Riesling Party.
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