Encounters at the Playhouse Wine Festival
by John Schreiner
Photo: Günther Thies
Günther Thies was the last person I expected to find among the New Zealand wineries at last week’s Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival.
I had my nose in a delightful Elephant Hill 2008 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc when I noticed that name on the identification of the individual behind the table.
The last time I saw Günther was a decade ago at Schloss Schönborn, a 650-year-old German estate winery on the Rhine. He was the general manager of that distinguished producer and had been busily modernizing the cellars and the equipment. I was there to interview him about the estate’s legendary Eiswein.
One of his equipment decisions was to buy modern presses. He sold his older Willmes presses to the Gehringer Brothers winery in the Okanagan, who use those sturdy presses to make Icewine. Günther admitted to a touch of regret at parting with those presses. While his gentle new press was ideal to make clean, fresh Rieslings, the comparative brute force of the old Willmes presses was more efficient at squeezing frozen grapes.
Today, that is not a consideration in New Zealand where no natural Icewine is made. Günther is now the managing director at Elephant Hill, a sparkling new winery in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay region.
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