2003 Schloss Schönborn, Riesling Kabinett, Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen, Rheingau, Germany.
The golden hued 2003 Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen from Graf von Schönborn – Schloss Schönborn is really showing wonderfully well right now and was an unexpected surprise in a recent Rieslings of the World tasting, far fresher and balanced than would believe from such an extreme vintage and hot year with lively fruit and vitality from a 20 year old wine! The palate is minerally and barely hints at tertiary earthiness with green apple, lemony citrus, dried apricots, a tough of papaya and quince fruits, along with clove and crystalized ginger spice, chamomile tea and a touch of brown butter. Fairly dry in style, mainly because of the wine’s age and loss of baby fat, but still generous for a Kabinett level wine, nicely rounded in texture too. Schloss Schönborn, with about 650 years of history, is ultra traditional producer in the Rheingau and employs careful cluster selections and fuder aging in the cellar, for most of their wines, as expected and desired, it is wines like this that make you appreciate these old school styles. Not always easy to find, Schloss Schönborn, in America, they are well deserved treats when you find them, in particular when they have 10 to 15 years of age on them! The vines for this wine sit up above Eltville in Hattenheim with gentle slopes and with warm south to south-east facings, they are situated about 90 meters above sea level, just aways from the widest part of the Rhein River on deep loess soils with sandy loam and marl. All of which makes for concentrated flavors and beautiful ripe Rieslings that retain good acidity, as this wine shows, even with close to two decades in bottle. I’ve reviewed about a half a dozen of these Schönborn Rieslings in the last decade, all being delicious with most having a significant amount of age, with a mid 1990s and 2006 being the latest I’ve enjoyed, and I highly recommend them to savvy old school Riesling lovers looking for bargain bottles, and they seems to do well even in off years.

The winery was a founding member of the Verband Deutscher Prädikats or VDP and since Paul Graf von Schöborn took over from his father in 1998, and with winemaker Florian Franke, things really took off here and he has led the estate into the future while maintaining its traditional roots, with prime vineyards at Erbach, Hattenheim, Hochheim, Johannisberg, Rauenthal and even Grand Cru parcels at the Rüdesheimer Berg. One of the old school and historic producers in the Rheingau, Schloss Schönborn based in the Eltville/Hattenheim area, has been around since 1349 and still run by the noble for which it is named, with Paul Graf von Schönborn leading this classic estate that tends to get overlooked a bit these days, but once fully aged their Rieslings really shine and are outstanding values, as this 2003 Nussbrunnen shows. Schloss Schönborn now encompasses 50 hectares of vineyards, throughout the Rheingau, of which 91% is planted with Riesling, plus 9% Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) with parcels in some of best vineyards, including blocks of vines at Erbach, Hattenheim, Hochheim, Johannisberg, Rauenthal and the Rüdesheimer Berg, as in this one. Even though Schloss Schönborn has joined the VDP and do GG’s, they are very much committed to their sweeter style wines and are more well known for the Spatlese and Auslese that really age well with their residual sugars, and it should be noted though densely packed with those sugars these wines are less cloying when aged and get lovely balanced and complex, adding secondary flavors, earthy tones and holding on to their natural acidity. The name, Nussbrunnen, a vineyard in Hattenheim has a south-southeast exposure, comes from a “Brunnen,” or spring, that was once surrounded by nut trees here, according to the Balthasar Ress estate, where my friend and winemaker Markus Roll (ex-Leitz) works, who also has vines here in the Hattenheim part of the Rheingau. I must say, as much as I love the cooler vintages and dynamic acidity, this 2003 was very impressive and I would say yes instantly if it was offered to me again anytime soon.
($25-40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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