Monday, May 14, 2012

Steinberger Riesling 1893 from Hattenheim in the Rheingau, Germany to San Francisco in California, USA

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller at the Eberbach Abbey in the Rheingau in Germany and with Dee Vine Wines founder and co-owner Dade Thieriot and a Steinberger 1893 in San Francisco

Those of us in the world of wine who are interested in rare and old German Wines certainly know Dee Vine Wines in San Francisco. Dee Vine Wines is a purveyor of fine and rare German wines. It is one of the best sources in the world for older German wines. As such, the portfolio of Dee Vine Wines differs significantly from those of say Terry Theise and Rudi Wiest, two well known US importers of German wine.

One bottle that caught my special attention when I recently was in San Francisco and  dropped by Dee Vine Wines was a Steigenberger 1893 from Hattenheim in the Rheingau. I go there regularly when I am in Germany. I found the long voyage of the wine from the soils of the Eberbach Abbey in the Old World to in the New World fascinating.


The Steinberg is a 32.4 hectares (80 acres) wall-enclosed vineyard in walking distance of the Eberbach Abbey in the Rheingau. It is one of the most famous German vineyards.

The favorite site of the monks, they built a 4 meter (13ft) wall around the vineyard to keep out thieves. This and its Cistercian heritage give Steinberg a distinct similarity to the famed Clos De Vougeot in Bourgogne in neigbouring France. The name Steinberg is German for "stony hill" after Stein = stone and Berg = mountain or hill.

Pictures: Steinberg in 2010

The Steinberg is one of handful single vineyard sites in Germany which for reasons of historical significance have dispensation from having to include a village name together with the vineyard's name, so the wines from the Steinberg are simply labelled Steinberger. Steinberg is classified as an Erste Lage and thus can produce Erstes Gewächs wines.

Eberbach Abbey

The Eberbach Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery. Its Romanesque and Gothic buildings are impressive. It was founded in 1136 by Bernard of Clairvaux as the first Cistercian monastery on the east bank of the Rhine. The vineyards of Eberbach Abbey were, at 300 hectares, the largest in medieval Europe.

Pictures: Kloster Eberbach

Hessische Staatsweingueter

The Steinberg is owned by the State of Hessen today. The State of Hessen owns a large number of vineyards, which all come under the umbrella of the Hessische Staatsweingueter Kloster Eberbach. It is Germany’s largest Wine Estate.

Most of the vineyard holdings of the Hessische Staatsweingueter date back to the 12th centuries, when Cistercian monks founded the famous Kloster Eberbach abbey here. The Abbey, including its vineyards, was secularised under Napoleon in 1803. The new owner was the Duke of Nassau, then the Prussian Kingdom from 1866, and finally the Federal State of Hessen since 1945.

Pictures: Eberbach Abbey and Steinbergkeller

The Hessische Staatsweingueter is made up of seven Estates, including three wine producing facilities and cellars.

The Bensheim Estate is the only one located in the Hessische Bergstraße wine-growing region. Grand Duke of Hessen-Darmstadt founded this Estate in 1904, the vineyard holdings total 38 hectares. The main grape variety planted is Riesling (25 ha), as well as Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

The red wine Estate Assmannshausen at the western edge of the Rheingau has a vineyard area of 27 hectares in the Höllenberg site, of which 25 hectares are planted with Pinot Noir.

These two Estates do their own bottling, and market the wines under their own names.

The five remaining Estates are

- Hattenheim (50 ha vineyard area in the Engelmannsberg, Siegelsberg and Marcobrunn sites),
- Hochheim (Domdechaney site),
- Rauenthal (48 ha in the Baiken and Wülfen sites),
- Rüdesheim (23 ha in the Berg Roseneck, Berg Rottland and Berg Schlossberg sites) and
- Steinberg (32 ha, a monopole holding).

The total vineyard area of the 7 Estates comes to more than 200 hectares, of which 85% are planted with Riesling, 10% with Pinot Noir and 5% with other varieties.


A few years ago, the Hessische Staatsweingueter built a new winemaking facility and celler just outside the wall of Steinberg, the Steinbergkeller. The Steinbergkeller – a state of the art winery - was a very controversial project. It was constructed for several 100 million Euro.

For more see: In the Steinberg, Eberbach Abbey, Rheingau, Germany

Dee Vine Wines

When I recently was in San Francisco, I dropped by Dee Vine Wines and had a short chat with the founder and co-owner Dade Thieriot. Unfortunately, his young, charming wife, co-owner Petra Thieriot was not around when I was there. I had met Petra and Dade a year earlier at the 1. International Riesling Symposium in Germany, where Dade had led - with Jancis Robinson - a tasting on the Aging Potential of Riesling. See also: 1st International Riesling Symposium, Rheingau, Germany

At the time of my visit, they were still at Pier 19, but have been forced by the City of San Francisco to relocate to make room for the upcoming America Cup. To find Pier 19 was easy, but to find Dee Dee Vine required some detective work. When we were standing at the large gate of Pier 19, my wife wanted to turn around and move on. Because all she initially saw was a garage with parking cars. But then I detected a sign with Dee Vine Wines and I knew we were right. Unfortunately, Dee Vine Wines is moving to a new location.

Dee Dee Vines: “For those of you who have not yet heard about the America's Cup race and the fate of Pier 19, we are being asked by the Port of San Francisco to relocate by July 1, 2012.

Pictures: Pier 19 in San Francisco

Along with this move come some changes to our company profile. Namely, we will no longer have a retail warehouse/wine shop open to the public as of Tuesday, November 1st, 2011. Our team is currently working on a new retail/wholesale website open to everyone.”

Dee Vine Wines – Purveyors of Fine and Rare German Wines

I was taken by the collection of old and rare German wines that Dade stores at Dee Vine Wines. You can buy these through the internet at up to 5 digit prices, as, for example the Schloss Vollrads Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 1911. Dee Vine Wines buys wine cellars. A spectacular purchase was the acquisition of the Ludwig Balz Trockenbeerenauslese Collection of nearly 2000 bottles in 2004/05.

Pictures: Dade Thieriot

At least twice a year, in the future probably more often, Dade flies over to Germany to taste the new vintages and also inquire about and taste older vintages from the libraries of well-known wineries. He then makes group buying decisions, imports directly and offers the wines to the Dee Vine Wines customers, mainly via internet and special programs. "Since my marriage to Petra it is really more like three and sometimes four trips. Believe it or not, last year I went six times!" Dade said.

See also: Visiting Dade and Petra Thieriot and their Dee Vine Wines - Purveyors of Fine and Rare German Wines - in San Francisco, USA

Dade and Petra Thieriot

Dade began his career in the wine business back in April, 1974 in San Francisco at a company called Connoisseur Wine Imports, which specialized in rare Bordeaux, Sauternes, vintage ports, old Burgundies, and German wines. His early interests were Bordeaux, but then one day someone tasted with him a bottle of 1971 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt and he was totally floored! ”I could not believe how beautiful were the wine's aromas of fresh apple blossoms, mineral flavors, and refreshing acidity with hints of honey and a gentle kiss of botrytis--in a word, magical. I was immediately transformed from someone who thought he only could only be passionate about red wines to a Riesling freak!” he said. Dade was also astounded by the modest cost of such magnificent wines as compared to what he was shelling out for the average French wine.

Pictures: Dade Thieriot

Many years later in 1996, he founded Dee Vine Wines after having heard from many friends that there was no longer anywhere in the Bay Area that offered a decent selection of German wines, and even then they seemed over-priced by comparison to what they had been accustomed to when Connoisseur closed its doors in 1992. So when he decided to set this company up his primary focus and goal was to reinstate a fine selection of German wines in the local market.

The inaugural catalog, which appeared in October of 1998, featured stories about six different German estates from the Rheingau, Nahe and Mosel. One of those producers, Josef Rosch, in Leiwen is still one of our stalwarts to this day. Dade also offered some rarities from other countries as well as a handful of Burgundies.

“10 years later, on May 1, 2009, a wonderful thing happened. I met Petra Grünewald at a friend's home on the eve of my 59th birthday. She was studying international wine marketing and finance at the Lehr-und-Forschungsanstalt in Geisenheim (Rheingau), which is the equivalent of the oenology and viticulture school at the University of California (Davis). She had been invited to my importer friend's for dinner to give her the opportunity to ask about doing an internship at DVW, and although I must admit she was not only beautiful and from the Mosel, internships are an opportunity we have offered many other foreign students since we began. To make a long story short, two months later she arrived for her three month visit, and we fell in love--way in love! So much so that we got engaged in Vienna over this past New Year and ten days later we were married in a private ceremony at the Redwood City courthouse on January 10th.”

Since then, Dee Vine Wines is in a major restructuring of the entire company. Six months later, by mid June, everyone who had begun the year at DVW had either resigned or been laid off--a brand new leaf! As of the start of the year Petra and Dade had offered German, French and Spanish wines in addition to rare older wines from Europe, but they have decided to move into the direction of their greatest passion--German wines and Mosel Riesling! In the coming months, as Petra and Dade move the inventory to a new location, and the office to another place due to the Americas Cup in 2013, they will commence the process of gradually eliminating and phasing out the French and Spanish portfolios.

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

In the Steinberg, Eberbach Abbey, Rheingau, Germany

1st International Riesling Symposium, Rheingau, Germany

Visiting Dade and Petra Thieriot and their Dee Vine Wines - Purveyors of Fine and Rare German Wines - in San Francisco, USA

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