Saturday, August 31, 2013

I love wine glasses.....of course!

Here we have some Alsacian wine glasses. The one on the right is the traditional style with the green stem. The one on the left is the Sommelier glass.....I had to pick one of these up, just hope it doesn't break on the way home!

More Biodynamic wineries in Alsace

I visited an additional two family operated biodynamic wineries other than Domaine Weinbach: Albert Mann and Barmes Beucher both located in Wettolsheim. I had wonderful and and welcoming hosts. Often I would think that my visits would last 90 minutes and I would try 6 or 8 wines.....not the case! Time flies by when your having fun and my gracious hosts encourage me to try any and all of the wines in their large portfolios.

Wineries in Alsace, including these two own vineyards all over the region. For example, Barmes Beucher owns 56 hectares in 9 villages are broken into 56 different parcels. This is why you will see names like 'Rosenberg' or 'Hengst' or 'Pfersigberg' on labels. Its a lot to stay up on, but it give the wine a place of identity and personality and will reflect the eclectic soils of the region. (eg. marl with sandstone and limestone, or sand and clay)

Barmes Beucher is going through a label change, so be prepared to see something new in the future. They surround their winery and themselves with positive people, therefore giving positive energy to the wines. When I left, my spirits were high after experiencing that energy.

Here are some bottle shots and photos of the wineries.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Domaine Weinbach, Kaysersberg, Alsace

Domaine Weinbach was the first winery I visited on my tour of Alsace. It is just outside the center of the village Kaysersberg which is worth a visit but bring a 2 euro coin for the parking. (I had to go run and buy a 30cent postcard and paid with a 5euro bill....the lady was not happy with me).

The Domaine is run by a mother and two sisters, Colette, Catherine and Laurence Faller. Established in 1612 by Capuchin monks who worked the land cultivating grapes and making wine. In 1898 the Domaine was acquired by the Faller brothers, has stayed in the family ever since and make a number of cuvees with the names of family members, including the father Theo.

If you read my post about the the Alsace wine region you may remember that a number of producers practice biodynamic farming and winemaking. I would like to take a shot at describing the basics of Biodynamics.

Biodynamics is possible in Alsace because of their warm and dry climate. The primary principle in the vineyard is to work the soil to it best potential so the vine can get as close to its natural environment and produce aromatically complex grapes and wines. Pesticides are forbidden so how do you get the best possible soil and fruit? Through the use of products made from vegetal, animal and mineral origins (eg. nettle, willow, camomile, manure, silica). These products are applied according to the sun and moon cycles. This is labour intensive work and the grapes must be picked by hand. In the winery grapes go through a gentle pressing, long fermentation's with natural yeasts therefore creating pure and natural wines. What is really cool is after you open a bottle, it will keep for 8 days!

Now for some winery and bottle shots, with a photo of my dinner that night: Alsacian classic, Chocroute Garnie:)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Well a girls gotta eat right????

When one visits Alsace the have to be ready to take in not only the wine, but the food! I enjoyed two Michelin ranked restaurants while I was there, Le Crocodile in Strasbourg and Rendez-vous de Chasse in Colmar. Wine and food pairing is one of the most important skills a Sommelier possesses. I owe it to myself to see what creative offerings these reputable establishments have to offer.

Here is a photo album of some of the dishes and the wines. Some pretty cool ones like the Vendage Tardive from 1983 and the Pauillac from 1976!

The Le Crocodile menu was a Summer Truffle Theme. So if there wasn't shaved truffles in the dish the sauce had a truffle component...even the dessert!

 Le Menu - Le Crocodile

Ceviche bar, Summer vegetable tartare and socca, candied lime vinaigrette, truffle caviar   
Saumur Brut Rose, Cuvee 'Taille Princesse' Bouvet Ladubay, NV

Filet of turbot, zucchini flower riviera, fennel and truffle emulsion
Riesling Reserve, Kuentz Bas a Husseren les Chateaux, 1981

Saddle of lamb in a dress, quilted fields truffles, creamy artichoke 
Chateau Batailley, Pauillac, 1976

Panna cotta with apricot and white tea, creamy truffle yogurt and goat cheese ice  
Gewurztraminer Vendage Tardive, Dopff Irion a Riquewihr, 1983 

Le Menu -  Rendez-vous de Chasse (note: no wine producers mentioned....just too tired as it as my last day....). I remember my aperitif was a Cremant d'Alsace from Paul Beucher

Sardine with tomato, spices, avocado, and balsamic sauce 
Paired with a dry Riesling

Sea Bream with chorizo and zucchini
Two pairings, both from Alsace: Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris with a touch of residual sugar. I preferred the Pinot Gris. It had the weight and body to match the dish and the acidity and sugar freshened the palate


Chocolate Mousse with raspberry milk foam flavoured with anise 
Cremant d'Alsace Rose....brilliant!

The Alsace Wine Region

What a fascinating place with never ending beauty. Located nearly 500km east of Paris, sharing the boarders with Germany, Switzerland and in close proximity to Luxembourg and Belgium.
Here are some wine region facts of Alsace:
- one of the most important rain shadows in the world with the Vosges mountains to the West. Vineyards are planted at relatively high elevations, on the mountains slopes and valley floor taking in abundant sunshine, less than 400 mm of rain a year.
- Alsace is home to the most diverse collection of soils located in France. The narrow valley was formed by two major faults: the Vosges Fault in the west and the Rhine Fault in the east, resulting in a mixture of marl, limestone, calcareous sand, schist, granite and volcanic
- Semi continental climate at 47 - 49*N, spanning 170km from north to south
- 51 designated Grand Cru sites
- an area of innovation when it comes to biodynamic viticulture and winemaking
- the only region in France that labels their wines with the varietal name
- Major grapes grown: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Pinot Noir
- Styles of wine: Cremant d'Alsace (traditional method sparkling), dry and off-dry still wines, late harvest called Vendage Tardive (VT) and botrytisized wines called Selection des Grains Nobles (SGN) 

I visited Strasbourg for a couple of nights then spent most of my time south, around Colmar. Colmar is very charming and is a good jumping point to the more prominent villages. You will need to rent a car so brush up on your manual transmission skills!!

When you visit Alsace, plan to drink AND eat! This is a region of culinary importance. There are more Michelin rated restaurants per capita then anywhere in the world.

The photos that I am posting are from the Grand Cru site Rangen. Why this one? I find this one interesting as it is the furthest south Grand Cru site, the only one with volcanic soils and the vines sit on a 60* slope. The varietals here are Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. I made a special drive from Colmar, just to find this vineyard located between the towns of Vieux-Thann and Thann.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Future Postings

Things to come!
I have had an incredible learning experience in Alsace the past 5 days. Alsace is known as a gastronomic capital (the most Michelin restaurants per capita in the world), the most diverse geological history and soils, a hot bed of biodynamic vineyard practices, and it's just so darn pretty!
Tomorrow I travel back to Zurich to stay with my friends and Godchildren again. They have been looking after my computer which I'm anxious to blog on....and I'm even more anxious for laundry detergent!!!
The things I will be posting are my visits to Michelin star restaurant, Le Crocodile in Strasbourg, and the following wineries:
Domaine Weinbach
Albert Mann
Pierre Sparr
Barmes Buecher

Sunday, August 25, 2013

more photos of the Rheingau

For some reason blogger crashed on my and will not allow me to post more photos than what I have already included. This is an extension from the last post.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Things to do in the Rheingau

I wanted to share some travel tips when traveling in the Rheingau. It can prove to be tricky by car, bus and train as you have to negotiate the Rhine river with no bridge access for 70km! How is this possible to have no bridge over a river for 70k!!!??
I was coming from Koblenz traveling south. Fortunately I got a tip before I left on how to get to my hotel in Bingen. You have to drive down the west side of the Rhine. If you go on the east you have to take a ferry across the river. It all worked out so I could see the Loreley Rock in St Goar.
Bingen was a good home base but it's on the south side of the river and you have to take the ferry to the north side everyday to see anything on foot. It worked out very well, it's a cheap fare, but just be sure to ask about the ferry times.
Here is a snapshot of what I did in the Rheingau:
- visit Deinhard in Koblenz, see their wine museum and make some purchases to stock up for the road
- Wine festival in a nearby town if your timing is lucky. The prices for wine are reasonable and there's cultural entertainment to go along with it.
- tour Rudesheim (their winefestival is in August), take the cable car to the top of the mountain. You can hike in the forest and take a chair lift down to Assmannshausen.
- have lunch then do the 5km hike through the vineyards and end up back in Rudesheim
- winery in Assmannshausen option is August Kessler
- winery option in Rudesheim is Georg Breuer it's time to rent a car and visit other villages. I was very fortunate that my friend Jiska was with me and had her car so we could visit Winery Montigny in the Nahe, which is south of Bingen and produces stellar red wines. I wanted to see a winery specifically making reds since reds make up a very small percentage of German viticulture.
- then visit Schloss Johannisberg which is home to the oldest Riesling vineyards in the world and located exactly on the 50* latitude. Almost impossible to grow grapes at and above 50* but they have the benefit of south facing vineyards, the river retains and reflects heat from the Rhine and the elevation and slope of the land gives the benefit of light intensity to the grapes.
- drive to Weisbaden and go to Henkell for a tour! Palatial interiors that reminded me of the grand entry hall of Captain von Trapp in the Sound of Music:) Germans love their sparkling wine (known as sekt) and the largest produer in Germany.
- when you are ready to get away from the villages and the highways, make a trip towards the Taunus mountains in Eberbach and spend the afternoon or the night at Kloster Eberbach. A nice Weinstube and an amazing tasting bar with a large portfolio as they are the largest still wine producer in the country!
- from there head to Hochheim and visit many of the Weingut's. But check out the opening times. It's a small town and most places are closed for part of the day. Also, bring your Nordic walking sticks and you can spend and eternity walking through the vineyard paths. Wineries to visit are Künstler and Joachim Flick.

Posted below are photos of these highlights.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Rheingau - what will I see and wine region facts

I have been looking forward to touring the Rheingau region. Some would say that it is the 2nd most reputable region in all of Germany. I will visit Deinhard, Henkell, Schloss Johannisberg, Montigny (in the Nahe), the Rudesheim wine festival,  Kloster Eberbach, Künstler and Joachim Flick.
-  Vineyard area of 3,100 ha
-  Located at 50* latitude and protected by the Taunus Hills
- soils are composed of a bit of 'this and a bit of that': slate, quartz, gravel, sand and loess
- The river Rhine takes an unusual turn from South to North and runs East to West. The vineyards are located on gradual slopes on the north side of the Rhine and therefore the vineyards receive Southern exposure.
- 80% of vineyards is Rielsing! 13% is Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
-  to compare the Mosel and the Rheingau? Both areas have their uniqueness. Some Rheingau Riesling can show like a Mosel but in general I would say that the Rheingau has a little more body and fruit compared to the Mosel.
- and the BEST thing I found out, there is no more Erstes Gewachs! The Rheingau is now in line with the rest of Grosses Gewachs as of 2012....that one is for my Sommelier friends;)