Category Archives: Riesling

Eat and Drink Well in Alsace      …Without Breaking The Bank.

Eat and Drink Well in Alsace …Without Breaking The Bank.


M
ention Alsace in France and invariably you’ll hear: “One eats and drinks well in Alsace.”

It’s true. Notable, modestly priced coups de cœur—instant personal favorite restaurants—abound. They reflect an unique mix of French, German and Swiss cultures while relying on the glorious bounty of regional products coming Alsace’s diverse soils and remarkably dry, sunny climate.

In city of Colmar, the beating heart of Alsace’s winegrowing region, locals and visitors flock to Brasserie l’Auberge in the Grand Hôtel Bistrol.  With a backdrop of high ceilings, twinkling chandeliers and colorful murals depicting the nearby Vosges Mountains, the engaging, prompt servers create a bustling, warm ambiance. A glass of delicious, dry Alsace sparkling wine sets a relaxed, festive tone while whetting the appetite. Try the Cave de Rbibeauvillé, Giersberger Brut, Crémant d’Alsace, a frothy, beautifully balanced wine made by Alsace’s oldest quality-oriented cooperative from hand-picked Pinot Blanc grapes.

235000840_5A classic main dish, Poulet à l’alsacienne  (succulent local chicken with shallots and mushrooms in white wine and cream sauce) matches well with the dry, mineral laden Domaine Schoffit, Tradition Riesling, Lieu-Dit Harth. Jarret du porc (ham hocks slowly cooked in a broth of herbs and spices) served with sauteed potatoes and sinus-clearing horseradish pairs beautifully with the floral, fruity and refreshing Famille Hugel “Gentil,” a six grape white blend. The list also features outstanding Alsace reds including the fruity, fresh and superbly balanced Domaine Valentin-Zusslin, Pinot Noir, Bollenberg from biodynamic grapes.

taverne-alsacienne

Just outside of Colmar in Ingershem, Charles and Monique Guggenbuhl opened La Taverne Alsacienne in 1964, the year of current chef Jean-Philippe Guggenbuhl’s birth.

“I spent a lot of time growing up with my great aunt in the mountains,” Guggenbuhl says. “I learned about living with and respecting nature’s changing seasons. Now, we use local, seasonal products as much as possible in our menus.”

He maintains traditional favorites, such as La Cassolette d’escargots à la crème de Riesling (snails in riesling cream sauce) and Choucroute traditionnelle à l’Alsacienne (sauerkraut made with goose fat and diverse pork cuts). In the photo, Robert and Pat Thompson enjoy the Choucroute with the ripe, exotic, yet refreshing flavors of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Clos Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer. The masterful Olivier Humbrecht, M.W. makes the wine from grapes grown biodynamically on Muschelkalk limestone.

Guggenbuhl procures fresh fish “right off the trawler” from Rungis market in Paris. The Lotte à l’Armoricainemonkfish slowly cooked with tomatoes, shallots, cognac and saffron, a spice produced by Alsace artisans since medieval times—has tender, juicy texture and exotic flavors. It pairs marvelously with the Domaine Rolly Gassmann Pflaenzerreben Riesling de Rohrschwih, a biodynamic, exhilarating wine with racy minerality and transparent fruit.

North of Colmar in the village of Bergheim, Chef Patrick and Antje Schneider meld culinary and wine passions at Wistub du Sommelier.  As pictured at beginning of this post, the dining room’s wood paneling and charming, comfortable ambiance recalls a traditional winegrower’s home, but with modern touches.

Chef Schneider’s tempting terroir-driven menus inventively incorporate regional favorites such as foie gras, tête de veau and boudin noir sausages. The wine list — selected by Antje — features accomplished terroir-focused Alsace producers. They include Bergheim’s own Domaine Gustave Lorentz and local organic/biodynamic growers Domaine Sylvie Spielmann and Domaine Marcel Deiss.

“We like to use local, seasonal products such as freshwater fish, sauerkraut, potatoes, onions, asparagus and strawberries for the quality and flavors,” says Alsace-born Chef Schneider. His wife comes from Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

For Wistub du Sommelier’s delicious, trademark Presskopf made in the fashion of grand-mère, Chef Schneider seasons and slowly cooks pork head meat in stock to create a pressed aspic. Slices of this tender delicacy pair perfectly with the Domaine Emile Beyer, Grand Cru Eichberg Riesling, a delicious dry white crafted by 14th generation winegrower Christian Beyer with marvelous acidity balancing ripe, transparent citrus fruit.

nouvelle-auberge

La Nouvelle Auberge in Wihr-au-Val, occupies a former postal hotel along the old route between Colmer and Munster. On the top floor, Chef Bernard Leray’s main restaurant maintains a well-earned Michelin Guide star. On the ground floor, the snug and convivial “Le Bistrot” offers a casual lunch just around the corner from the chef’s kitchen.

Leray makes everything fresh from ingredients from the surrounding valley including the famous Munster cheese. Try the Terrine Maison with shallot chutney with the Domaine Barmès-Buecher, Pinot Noir Réserve and the Quenelles de foie with sauteed potatoes with the Domaine Josmeyer Pinot Gris “1854 Fondation.”. Both wines are beautiful, biodynamic gems.

North of Colmar about halfway to Strasbourg, Restaurant Château d’Andlau near the medieval village of Andlau offers a serene, sylvan setting along with delicious food and an expansive wine list. Wine highlights include Domaine Rémy Gresser’s scintillating, steely selections from nearby vineyards such as Grand Cru Kastelberg with distinct slate soils and Kritt Lieu-Dit with gravelly soils. Restaurant Château d’Andlau’s sommeliers provide expert advice in navigating the intriguing, well-priced wine list.

gresser

th_066

Alsace’s 51 grand crus offer wines meriting a closer look

Alsace’s 51 grand crus offer wines meriting a closer look

Vigneron Antoine Krydenweiss harvesting Riesling grapes in Grand Cru Kastelberg in Andlau, Alsace
Vigneron Antoine Krydenweiss harvesting Riesling grapes in Grand Cru Kastelberg in Andlau, Alsace

By most measures, the F.E. Trimbach’s riesling Clos Sainte Hune remains the flagship of Alsace’s dry white wines. Made from grapes grown in Rosacker vineyard’s distinctive Dolomitic limestone, the wine’s consistent elegance, complexity and fidelity to terroir certainly merit accolades.

But Alsace’s glorious dry rieslings do not stop there. The sheltering Vosges Mountain to the west create a marvelously sunny, dry climate over a stunningly diverse mosaic of soils in 51 grand cru vineyards. This provides scores of outstanding Alsace winegrowers with singular opportunities at every turn to make world-class dry rieslings worthy of serious consideration and enjoyment.

Just southwest of Strasbourg in northern Alsace, for instance, the village of Andlau nestles in a snug valley surrounded on slopes by three distinct grand cru vineyards: Wiebelsberg with sandy soils over sandstone, Moenchberg with marl soils and limestone and the magnificent Kastelberg with brittle blue slate soils. With laborious pruning, manual harvesting and organic treatments of the vines, the well-drained slopes yield outstanding quality grapes and thrilling riesling wines.

A visit with winegrower Rémy Gresser, a wily veteran of 40 vintages, proves the point. In the town center, Gresser points out a statue of a bear eating grapes, a symbol of Andlau’s winegrowing dating to ancient Gallo-Roman “pagan” times. More systematic cultivation began in the ninth century with the founding of the Abbey of Andlau.

Gresser, a former president of the growers’ Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace, focuses on his keen appreciation of history, Alsace’s larger purposes and terroir in his 2013 Domaine Rémy Gresser Riesling Grand Cru Kastelberg, Alsace, France. Its lovely, complex, floral and citrus aromas mingle with smoky hints. Ripe citrus flavors balance exquisitely with fresh acidity and smoky mineral touches. The wine finishes completely dry with a clean, lingering finish.

At 33 years old, the 1983 Domaine Rémy Gresser Riesling Grand Cru Kastelberg, Alsace, also reveals vibrant, persistent freshness, delicious ripeness and remarkable flair and personality. Its longevity comes from Kastelberg’s distinct slate terroir which, with dedicated hard work and savoir-faire, accords an abiding backbone of acidity and fruity purity.

Also in Andlau, bio-dynamic winegrower Antoine Kreydenweiss offers the terrific 2014 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss Riesling Grand Cru Kastelberg, Alsace. Marvelous, pure citrus flavors unwind with fresh acidity and flinty minerality on a long, dry finish.

South of Andlau in Nothalten, hardworking winegrower André Ostertag, a biodynamic pioneer in Alsace, cultivates riesling in grand cru Muenchberg. Stony volcanic soils and pink sandstone prevail for a richer dry riesling as shown in the 2010 Domaine Ostertag Riesling Grand Cru Muenchberg, Alsace (PLCB Luxury Code: 48250; $57.99).

The golden color and ripe nose of apple and peach open to delicious ripe fruit with firm acidity. Fresh, pure fruit and resounding minerality frame the long, dry finish. It expresses eloquently distinctive Alsace terroir and the winegrower’s style and vibrant personality. Recommended.

Further south in Katzenthal, Felix and Aura Meyer tend riesling on the superb southeastern exposure of Wineck-Schlossberg grand cru’s sunny slopes. Ancient granite geology covered by thin topsoil yields full flavored, yet dry, wines with crystalline purity.

wineck-schlossberg
Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg.

The 2011 Domaine Meyer-Fonné Riesling Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg, Alsace, France (PLCB Luxury Code: 46979; $41.99; Waterworks store only) delivers marvelous floral and citrus aromas along with taut citrus flavors of notable depth. Chiseled acidity creates beautiful, elegant tension balanced with delicious saline minerality carrying through the lingering, bone-dry finish. Highly recommended.

In Alsace’s southern tip, Grand Cru Rangen de Thann’s spectacularly steep slopes feature hard, purely volcanic grauwacke — metamorphic rocks with little or no top soil. Vine roots plunge deep into the mineral-laden subsurface to render wines with distinctive personality and exquisite beauty.

grand-cru-rangen de thann
Domaine Schofitt’s Grand Cru Rangen de Thann

Father and son winegrowers Bernard and Alexandre Schofitt offer the captivating 2013 Domaine Schoffit Clos Saint-Théobald, Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann, Alsace. Tasted in the vineyard on a brilliantly sunny autumn morning, the wine’s intense peach, citrus and smoky aromas lead to round, ripe-fruit flavors. Fresh acidity, smoky mineral flavors and a touch of creaminess frame a precise dry finish of marvelous length.

As Bernard Schoffit noted, “When you taste a wine like this, you’re happy you worked so hard to make it.” Enough said.

Visit to Domaine Bott-Geyl in Beblenheim, Alsace.

Visit to Domaine Bott-Geyl in Beblenheim, Alsace.

Beblenheim, Alsace, France

Domaine Bott-Geyl’s talented winegrower Jean-Christophe Bott clearly enjoys putting boots in vineyard soils. For our 9:30 AM appointment he arrives on a small tractor direct from early morning vineyard work.

“Everything in the vineyard is done in the light,” he says leading the way out of Beblenheim’s picture post card streets. We head to the warm and dry and Sonnenglanz Grand Cru, a name that translates to “sunshine.” It provides an ideal site for Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.

The vineyard sits on a windy hilltop. The brilliantly sunny Spring day with chirping birds and softly tolling church bells provides an enchanting moment to soak in panoramic views of Alsace’s surrounding vineyards. To the East across the Rhine River, the hills of Germany’s Black Forest appear in the distance.

Bott and his team tend the vines with labor intensive organic and biodynamic methods that provide ample opportunity to enjoy his vineyards’ bright sunny exposures and breezes. Regular plowing between rows forces vines to compete vigorously, while systemic application of biodynamic composts and teas create vitality and natural resistance to molds and diseases. Bott applies the “500” cow manure spray to revive soils in early Spring and the “501” silica spray on early Summer to energize the flowering vines.”

“Vine roots must go deep to reflect the personality of the place,” he says.

Winegrower Jean-Christophe Bott explains the organic and biodynamic methods used in the chalky Sonnenglanz Grand Cru vineyard in Beblenheim, Alsace, France. The domaine is certified by “Biodyvin,” a leading biodynamic organization.

Bott plants about at 7,800 vines per hectare, a high density that reduce yields naturally. The vines deliver grapes with fruity concentration balanced by mineral complexity resulting from Sonnenglanz’s marl soils of limestone mixed with clay and mud. To ensure diversity when replacing vines, he grafts sélection massale clippings from best existing vines within the vineyard itself.

After harvesting by hand, Bott’s lets patience and minimal intervention guide his work in the cool cellar’s shadows. Whole grape bunches go into gentle pneumatic presses that feed juice by gravity to vats for slow fermentation. In May of 2016, wines from 2015 still slowly bubbled away in large oval foudre barrels. Aging the wines on the lees, i.e., spent yeast, adds creamy notes. Bottling occurs with minimal sulfites. Distinct personality and terroir shine through.

“Each wine should not be something that everybody likes,” Bott notes. Vive la différence!

Jean-Christophe Bott in the domaine’s tasting room in Beblenheim, Alsace, France.

The following notes come from a tasting in May 2016 at Domaine Bott-Geyl which is a member of the “Alsace Crus et Terroir” association:

2012 Domaine Bott-Geyl Riesling “Les Éléments,” Alsace: Made from a blend of grapes grown in the leading village of Riquewihr, Zellenberg and Ribeauvillé, the wine delivers a classis, delicious Alsace Riesling ready for immediate enjoyment. Delicate citrus and floral aromas unfold before ripe, refreshing citrus and quince flavors. The wine finishes dry with delicate fruitiness.

2011 Domaine Bott-Geyl, Riesling “Grafenreben,” Alsace: Clay and limestone soils create classic aromas of grapefruit and quince followed by ripe, spicy citrus flavors. Fresh acidity balances the dry, fruity finish.
2011 Domaine Bott-Geyl, Riesling, Schlossberg Grand Cru, Alsace: This site rests on a layers of ancient granite topped with sandstone and shale from early periods. The resulting wine delivers pure citrus fruit aromas and complex, layered floral notes. The rich, ripe fruity flavors balance with austere, yet pure acidity that will mellow and round out with cellar aging. An enthralling dry Riesling.
2012 Domaine Bott-Geyl, Riesling, Schonenbourg Grand Cru, Alsace: This large vineyard in the neighboring village of Riquewihr offers complex soils combining marl with gypsum rocks and Vosges sandstone laced with plenty of Muschelkalk limestone. The resulting wine delivers a light golden color with subtle, austere citrus and apple aromas with earthy notes. The fleshy, fruity flavors deliver plenty of concentration balanced by racy acidity and mineral notes. The wine finished dry, yet fruity. This is one to cellar for at least five years to allow the wine to pull together completely.
2012 Domaine Bott-Geyl, Riesling, Mandelberg Grand Cru, Alsace: The site’s chalky, stony soils and tendency to ripen early results in a wine with golden color and plenty of classic aromas of citrus and white flowers. Ripe, fruity flavors balance beautifully with elegant acidity and pleasant creamy notes.

 

2012 Domaine Bott-Geyl, Riesling, Sporen Grand Cru, Alsace: Bott’s site features venerable 80-year old vines on a slope above chalky marl and clay. The resulting wine offers intense fruity aromas with ripe fruit balanced by zesty acidity. The dry, fruity finish lingers pleasantly.

 

2009 Domaine Bott-Geyl, Pinot Gris, Sonnenglanz Grand Cru, Alsace: The grand cru terroir of chalk and marl delivers a golden wine with fresh grapefruit and pineapple aromas with hints of floral honey. Similar ripe flavors in the glass balance with crisp acidity through a ripe, round finish with plenty of lingering freshness.

 

2013 Domaine Bott-Geyl, “Clos des Trois Chemins,” Gewurztraminer, Alsace: The site features marl and chalk soils over mother rocks of sandstone and quartz. Combined with the southeastern sun exposure, the site creates terrific terroir for producing remarkable well balanced Gewurztraminer. Subtle grapefruit and spice aromas precede fruity, delicious citrus and spice flavors. Layers of fresh acidity balance the fruity, dry finish with a light, refined touch.

 

2010 Domaine Bott-Geyl, Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardive, Sonnenglanz Grand Cru,

Alsace: Made from hand picked bunches of very ripe grapes partially dried by the Botrytis cinerea “noble rot,” this golden, super sweet wine balances richness with refreshing acidity and mineral notes. The fruity finish lingers deliciously.