Mainz is on the Rhein river and is surrounded by Rheingau, on the other side the river, and Rhenhessen to the south. Lucky you!
Rheingau has a better reputation than Rheinhessen for great wine, and Rheingau has a more splendid history.
Much of Rheinhessen produces low-quality, mass-produced wine, but there are some great (and underrated) Rheinhessen producers along the Rheinfront at Bingen, Nackenheim (such as the Rothemberg site and the good producer Gunderloch), Nierstein (with the good sites at Oelberg, Hipping, Brudersberg, and Pettental, and the good producers Balbach, Heyl zu Herrnsheim, Schneider, and Schmitt), and Oppenheim. You will find great Riesling producers along the Rheinfront in Rheinhesse, but Rheingau is your better choice.
The Rheingau once was the premier wine area of all of Germany, with the old British word "Hock" coming from the city Hochheim. This region has a rich history.
The star attraction of Rheingau is the spendid Kloster Eberbach to the northwest of Mainz, with beautiful and stunning cellars, historic displays, monestaries, auctions, and festivals.
One of the largest and most historic estates is the Schloss Johannisberg, in Johannisberg, with cellars beneth the castle and vines growing in neat rows from the castle to the river. The wines at Schloss Johannisberg are inconsistent, though. The steely wines at the nearby Johannishof, in Johannisberg, are better and outstanding.
The estate of Schloss Vollrads, in Oestrich-Winkel, is charming, too.
Top wine growing areas along the Rhine include Erbach, Hattenheim, Johannisberg, Kiedrich, Rudesheim, and Winkel.
You have picked a great time to visit German wine country. 2001 was considered maybe the best vintage since maybe 1971 for German Riesling. 2002 was good. The early word for 2003 is that it is going to blow away 1971.
The Middle Mosel was the star in 2001, but the RHEINGAU is shaping up to be the star this time, with an amazing amount of TBA produced. If you can afford it, don't miss the opportunity to taste the great TBA harvest of 2003.
You can read my comments on the 2003 harvest, including a vintage report I found on the Internet, here: 2003 German Vintage: A Dream Comes True
Please report back what you learn from the RHEINGAU!
TOP RIESLING PRODUCERS IN RHEINGAU
Robert Weil at Kiedrich (Outstanding, expensive)
Johannishof at Johannisberg
Franz Kunstler at Hochhein
Balthaser Ress at Hattenheim
Georg Breuer at Rudesheim
J. Wegeler Erben
Prinz von Hessen
Graf von Kanitz
Peter Jakob Kuhn
Domdechant Werner'sches Weingut