Monday, March 22, 2010

Wine Caravan from Germany Visiting the US East Coast: Dr. Fischer, Fitz Ritter, Bollig-Lehnert, Schneider, Dr. Thanisch

Picture: Alice Fitz Ritter with German Wine Society Washington DC Board Members Hanna Caraher, David Roehm and Christian G.E.Schiller

Wine Caravan from Germany Visiting the East Coast: Dr. Fischer, Fitz Ritter, Bollig-Lehnert, Schneider, Dr. Thanisch

German wine lovers in the Washington DC area had a feast when a caravan of about a dozen German winemakers was on its annual US East Coast Tour and stopped in the Nation’s Capital in early February 2010.

Derek Vinnicombe Heading the Caravan of Winemakers

The caravan was a group of German winemakers, from the Mosel, Pfalz and Rheinhessen regions, lead by Derek Vinnicombe, a wine broker and US importer, based in Germany.

Derek Vinnicombe was, as he puts it, raised “on the bottle”, and thus followed the family tradition. William Frederick Vinnicombe, his great-great-grandfather, established a wine merchants company in Torquay (England) back in 1857. After completing college, studying German, Chemistry and French, Derek joined the Landes Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Weinbau und Kellerwirtschaft in Veitshöchheim near the city of Würzburg in Germany. The appreciation of fine German wines began. Following practical experience in Germany and Switzerland, he became a wine-broker and later established his own company in 1985, concentrating on the finer wines from Germany.

The winemakers spend about 10 days at the East Coast annually and visit the large cities to promote their wine. Tastings at wine stores, wine dinners, shows with sales representatives and so on takes this group from Washington DC to New York, Chicago and to other centers.

Washington DC Tastings

In the Washington DC area there were 3 store tastings this time: Rick’s in Alexandria, Arrowine in Arlington and in Gaithersburg. These store tastings gave the wine enthusiasts an opportunity to taste the wines of several German fine wine producers side by side and to talk with the personalities behind the wine, all of them were either owner and/or winemaker.

This are all winemakers who have a strong orientation in their wine production towards what is demanded in the German export markets. Ms. Fischer told me that she is exporting 80% percent of her production to the US. No wonder that she is not listed in the Gault Millau wine Guide, although she produces very fine wines. Among the other winemakers and owners I met, Fitz Ritter is a 2 Grapes Gault Millau wine estate and Dr. Thanisch a 3 Grapes Gault and Millau wine estate.

German Wine Society

At such events, of course, the members of the German Wine Society show up in full force. The German Wine Society is a group of dedicated lovers of German wine with chapters in several US centers, including in Washington DC that meets regularly to taste and enjoy German wine together, but also more generally to promote the understanding, appreciation and knowledge of German wines in the US. If you are interested please drop me an e-mail at

The German Wine Society Chapter Washington DC recently hosted a tasting with Phil Bernstein from Addy Bassin's MacArthur Beverages. So, you had a combination of two, American consumers who are really into German Wine and one of the best retailers in the American market. What did we taste? I did a posting on the tasting, which sheds some light on the American Taste for German wine. See here.

The Tasting

This is how announced the event: These wines are high-quality and really good. German winemakers do not make wine for quaffing; there is plenty of beer for that. These wines are for savoring and enjoying. This is a unique opportunity to taste with the winemakers and understand more about the wines, the labeling, and what to serve with them. Discover how these wines are made and the great family stories behind them. These winemakers battle steep slopes, cold weather, and low crop yields to carefully produce a distinctive, individual, and refined wine. This are great wines and this is the German Wine Event of the Year!

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Owner Cecile Giannangeli and Derek Vinnicombe

Here are the winemakers and/or owners that we met and the wines they poured.The prices are in US$. At the time of the tasting, the exchange rates were:

BP 0.90 = Euro 1 = US$ 1.36 = YPI 124

The Wineries

Winemaker and Owner Karin Fischer, Dr. Fischer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Family documents show that the Fischers' ancestors were involved in viticulture as far back as 1758. In 1950, Dr H.H.Fischer, a surgeon, inherited the estate from his father, an appointed public notary in Ockfen. Due to his medical duties in Frankfurt, Dr Fischer´s wife, Gunhild, managed the estate. The estate is well-known for its Ockfener Bockstein wines, and in 1964 the former Lintz estate in the nearby village of Wawern was purchased; property dating back to 1043, which was formally owned by the cathedral seminary of Trier before secularization in 1796. Today, the next generation, Karin Fischer, manages the entire estate, following the death of her husband Hans-Henning in 1999.

Dr Fischer Steinbock Riesling QBA Classic 2007 $14.99

Dr Fischer Ockfener Bockstein Riesling QBA Estate 2007 $14.99

Picture: Annette Schiller, Karin Fischer and Hanna Caraher

Owner Alice Fitz, Fitz-Ritter, Pfalz

The Spa (English for Bad) town of Dürkheim, embedded into the foothills of the Palatinate forest, marks the heart of the fertile Middle Haardt region of the Pfalz. The area is especially favored by a warm micro-climate in the broad Rhine valley, protected from cold winds by the bordering Pfalz hillside forests. Countless almond trees can thus flourish between the vineyards, their delicate pink blossom heralding the end of the winter. The Fitz-Ritter family estate dates back to 1785 and is today owned and managed by the 8th generation in succession, Konrad Fitz and his wife Alice, who has American roots.

Fitz-Ritter Riesling Extra Trocken Sekt NV $19.99

Fitz-Ritter was one of the earliest producers of Sekt in Germany. This quality Sekt, produced from 100% old-vine Riesling, was grown in the sunny microclimate of the Middle-Haardt region. See more about German Sekt here.

Fitz-Ritter Riesling QBA 2007 $15.99

Fitz-Ritter Gewurztraminer Spatlese 2007 $23.99

This is a sweeter Gewürztraminer which has become one of Fitz-Ritter’s best selling wines in the US.

Winemaker and Owner Ulrike Schneider, Weingut Schneider, Nierstein, Rheinhessen

Ulrike Schneider's maxim has always been absolute devotion to her vineyards and wines, whilst marketing was considered less important. The estate has been owned by the Schneider family for 7 generations, and at vintage time, three generations are at work. 15 hectares in Nierstein belong to the estate, over 40% of which are Riesling.

Schneider Hipping Riesling Spatlese 2007 $17.99, Wine Spectator 88 Pts

Winemaker Stefan Bollig, Bollig-Lehnert, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Bollig-Lehnert is located in Trittenheim along the Mosel River. Bolling is a fine example of the new generation of Mosel vintners. The family has been producing wine since the 17th Century, but new cellars and house have been built on the outskirts of Trittenheim.

Bollig-Lehnert Riesling Trittenheimer Apotheke Kabinett 2007 $19.99

The Apotheke vineyard near Trittenheim is a highly regarded vineyard site and the steep slopes and preponderance of blue slate make for great growing conditions for Riesling. Wine Spectator 90 Pts

Picture: Stefan Bollig

Winemaker and Owner Barbara Rundquist, Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch - Erben Mueller-Burggraef, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

The wine-growing tradition of the Thanisch family can be traced back more than 350 years. In 1636, the name was mentioned for the first time in the registers of Bernkastel-Kues. The quality of the family’s wines soon extended their excellent reputation far beyond the Mosel valley. At the end of the 18th Century, the Thanischs acquired the Berncasteler Doctor vineyard, a very steep site with deep devon slate structure, situated behind and overlooking the rooftops of the quaint old town of Bernkastel. The Doctor name originates in a legend about Prince Boemond II of Trier who fell sick and then was cured by a wine from this vineyard. Medicinal powers of fine wines are today being re-discovered! The Doctor Vineyard is one of the most famous German sites.

In 1988, the Weingut Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch was split up into two parts: Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch - Erben Thanisch and Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch - Erben Mueller-Burggraef.

Dr. Thanish Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2008 $23.99

Dr. Thanisch Riesling QBA Classic 2008 $18.99

Introduced with the 2000 vintage, a Classic wine is a dry or more likely slightly off-dry Qualitaetswein. It is supposed to be a decent table wine, not a premium wine, that can accompany a meal. In terms of sweetness of the wine, the residual sugar content of a classic wine can be twice as high as the acidity level, up to a maximum of 15 grams per liter.

Picture: Stefan Bollig, Weingut Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch - Erben Mueller-Burggraef Owner Barbara Rundquist-Mueller and Annette Schiller

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose

German Wines - The 2009 Vintage

Germany's 15 Top Winemakers - the Feinschmecker 2010 Wine Guide

German Wine Basics: Schillerwein - A German Speciality

Wine Ratings: Riesling Cup 2009 - Germany's Top Dry Rieslings

German Wine Basics: Erstes Gewaechs, Grosses Gewaechs, Erste Lage

Germany's Best Red Wines: The 2009 VINUM AWARDS

Wine Ratings: Top 100 of the Wine Spectator 2009 includes Wittmann and Loosen

Wine Ratings: The Top 100 Wines in Germany - Weinwirtschaft 2009

In the Glass: 2007 Rheinhessen with Oysters at the Ten Bells in the Lower East Side in Manhattan

German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine

German Wine: The Wines of the Gault Millau Wine Guide Shooting Star - the Baron von Gleichenstein

Tasting Notes: German Wines imported into the US by Valckenberg

The 13 Top Dry German Rieslings - Feinschmecker Cup 2009 (Vintage 2008)


  1. Riesling greetings from Germany! Yes, that was a fine tasting, and Cecile's customers were highly interested in learning more about the wines. We look forward to our next traditional annual tasting in Gaithersburg.
    Zum Wohl - to your health
    Derek Vinnicombe

  2. Good to hear from you Derek. All the best. Christian

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