Some German wine makers offer you a tutored tasting of their latest vintage, explaining the wines as you both taste in unison. Dr. Franz Werner Michel welcomes guests to his Hochheim estate with a lineup of his premiere Riesling wines and invites them to taste and make notes on their own time. When guests are finished, the discussion begins.
"Riesling pure" is the philosophy of the estate, particularly since Hochheim is credited for the worldwide first documentation of Riesling in history some 550 years ago. The Riesling wines are rich in high mineral content due to the soil, and two types of Riesling are made. The first is a classic fruity style with overwhelming richness of elegant fruit and spiciness, and the second is a dry style with good substance and a moderate, harmonious acidity.
Dr. Michel, a handsome man in a tweed jacket, looks and conducts himself like a college professor, not particularly surprising for he had been the director at Geisenheim University. He has a natural elegance and charming manner that Americans might best associate with the classy, well-mannered, European aristocrats sometimes seen in black and white classic films.
The winery got its start in 1780, when the renowned "Domdechant" (dean) of the Cathedral of Mainz acquired the Hochheim wine estate from the Count York. Domdechant Michel is credited with having saved the cathedral from being demolished during the French Revolution and was responsible for its reconstruction.
Visits typically begin with an introduction to the area on Dr. Michel’s pretty flower-covered porch, as he explains the soils and latitude of his grand cru vineyards which are known in German as "erstes gewächs" or “first growth.” The vineyards are planted to Riesling (98%) and Spätburgunder or Pinot Noir (2%) and all are located on gentle slopes facing south with chalky soils rich in minerals. According to the estate's chronicle, its wines were sold at auction as early as 1795.