After leaving Burgundy last Thursday, we drove to Colmar and spent Friday touring wineries in Alsace. For those who have not been to Alsace, it is one of the most visually beautiful areas I have ever visited. Even if you don’t like wine (which does not include anyone on this board), the place is worth visiting just for the beauty. The small villages like Colmar (which is not so small), Ribeauville, Kaysersberg, Kientzheim, Wettolsheim and Bergheim are unbelievably beautiful.
But, for those of us who like wine, there is another attraction. The wines here can be outstanding, esp. if one visits top producers like we did Friday. We first stopped at Trimbach, which has long been my favorite producers of wines from Alsace. We were met by Anne Trimbach there, who was kind enough to give us a tour of their winery and open a lot (a very lot) of wines for us to taste. I feel somewhat like on this trip we began to see some of the new generation of wineries in Burgundy and Alsace - Ray Walker, Cecile Tremblay and Anne Trimbach. These wine regions are in very good hands.
The wines from Trimbach are unbelievably good. We had too many wines to list them all, but highlights included a 2005 Riesling Cuvee Frederick Emile, a 2005 Clos St. Hune, a 1985 Cuvee Frederick Emile, a 2002 riesling VT, a 2001 SGN cuvee Frederick Emile and a 1989 SGN Gewurztraminer. WOW. What wines. the Clos St. Hune seem more accessable than most I have had before at this age. Interesting. Doesn’t matter. Seems really good and I am sure it will age superbly.
The 1985 Cuvee Frederick Emile was different from any other Trimbach wine I have had before. It tasted a good bit older than a 1990 VT I had a few weeks back. It was full of secondary flavors and aromas and not as much fruit. It had a slightly truffley, “oxidized” nose that reminded me a bit of mature Vouvray, and then as the wine opened up had a bit of chocoalte powder, a bit of petrol and lots of other flavors I cannot name. Really fascinating stuff. I have never had a riesling that tasted quite like this - fascinating.
Just a great visit.
At Paul Blanck, our second visit, we were met by Frederick Blanck. I had not had any of their wines before and so was looking at the wines fresh. I was tremendously impressed. These are very precise wines. M. Blanck would not like me saying this but these are very much Alsace wines for German wine lovers. Not that they were sweet - they were not, at least not until the late-harvest wines - but they were very precise. We tasted about a dozen wines, but a few really stood out to me for comment. First, the combination of three grand cru rieslings, a rich a honeyed Sommerberg 2007, a minerally elegant Schlossberg 2008 and a richer more majestic (dare I say Rheingau-like) Furstentum 2005. I just love it when wines show their terroir like this and these clearly did.
Another wine I really liked there was a 2009 basic Gewurztraminer. We had more intense Gewurz’s during our time in Alsace, but this one may well have been the prettiest. While drinking it, I kept hearing M. Blanck saying in my head, buy wines to drink, not to put away forever.
Our last visit of the day was at Albert Mann where we were warmly shown the wines by Maurice Barthelme. I don’t have my notes of the wines we had at the office with me today (I left them at home and will supplement later). I have long been a fan of these wines and Friday was no exception. These wines are richer than the more precise Blanck wines, but were no less good. One of the fascinating things there was that we tasted the same pair of rieslings, a Schlossberg and a Furstentum as we did at Paul Blanck. The wines seemed made differently and tasted a bit different, but the differences between the two terroirs remained. There were a common thread among the two Schlossbergs and among the two Furstentums. Great wines also. Another riesling to look for here is the Rosenberg. Really good stuff.
Then, M. Barthelme joined Panos, Michael Lux and his wife Valerie and my friends and travel companions for the week David and Carmen for a wonderful dinner in Bergheim. On the way there, he took us for a tour of the nearby towns in Alsace and gave us some of their history. WW II hit this region hard and it is wonderful to see how beautiful it has become again.
Dinner was just magnificent. We started with a very nice bottle of Champagne, then had a Trimbach 2001 Cuvee Frederick Emile 375th Anniversay Riesling. Great wine, simply wonderful, but I am not sure that it is enough better than the outstanding 2001 CFE regular Riesling to justify the higher price. Then we had three Burgundies. A simply magificent 2002 NSG Chaignots from Georges Mugneret. This wine started out a bit closed but really opened up over the course of the evening and just had so much to it. A 2007 Rossignol-Trapet Latricieres Chambertin was a beautiful wine in a very different way. It is full of rich, ripe fruit, but did not have the complexity of the NSG. I think the difference is the vintage and the style of winemaking. Two very different wines, both very nice. We also had a 2002 MSD Bussieres from Roumier. This is also a beautiful wine but is very closed at the moment. Maybe we should have stuck around a couple of hours more, but it was already after 11:00 when we left. It was a treat to have this wine, but I would hold any bottles for a few more years.
The punctuation mark to this evening and really to our week was a Albert Mann 2005 Gewurztraminer SGN that M. Barthelme gratiously provided. What a truly rich, great and majestic wine. Spectacular.
Friday night, great friends, great restaurant, great food, great wines, great friends, sitting outside in great weather. Life does not get any better.