The Schloss Mühlenhof property is a large estate (nearly 20ha) spread across the slopes above Kettenheim, 3km south of Alzey. This size would seem reasonable, if not expected, considering the estate was started in 1846 and is now hosting the 6th generation. It began as a rye and wheat mill until the 1920s , when the small vineyard attached became the focus for the family income. The vines of that era have been replaced over time but some on the property are still as old as 45yrs. Now in the hands of Gabriele, Nicolas and Walter Michel, the farm operates ‘organically’ but not by any legal standard. They follow what they call, ‘ecologically healthy’ farming practices, with the intent on capturing the fruity expression of the Rheinhessen style. The vineyards are worked heavily in August to reduced yields (green harvesting), cutting nearly 1/2 of their fruit. Grapes are vinified to preserve freshness while revealing depth and concentration. Considering the size of the harvest, they are experts at doing just that. The cellar does not abide by natural law. Selected yeasts, electronically monitored steel tanks, pumps and SO2 are used judiciously to hone the wine to purity and freshness. Knowing their soils for so long (mostly limestone combinations), the family does capture a clear minerality and a distinct spirit from each varietal, from parcels as small as .4ha. The Michel’s final act (perhaps their expertise) in the cellar, brings multiple tanks together, each with their strongest asset to form deliciously drinking, full flavored wines with a direct link to the Rhienhessen region. Provided the Michel’s continue in this way, there will be no shortage of this kind of wine along the Rhine, for the generations to come.
For the Müller-Thurgau, the grapes are picked in September and gently pressed before the must is allowed to settle for one day. Fermentation, with added yeasts, is held in stainless steel tanks for 6-10 weeks. No malo-lactic is allowed and the wine is aged on its lees in stainless steel tanks for 5-7 months before being bottled 2 weeks later. Some SO2 added.