Domaine Weinbach is one of the world’s great white wine estates. Located in Alsace, France, it dates to 1612 when the order of Capuchin monks built the estate and created the vineyards. In 1898, Theodore Faller and his brother, Jean-Baptiste, purchased the domain and 12 acres of vineyards. Theo, the son of Theodore, inherited it and, through a lifetime of work, garnered for it a reputation as one of Alsace’s top estates. After his death in 1979, his wife, Colette, and two daughters, Laurence and Catherine, raised the level of Domaine Weinbach’s wines to world-class status.
In 1975, French wine authorities decreed the Schlossberg vineyard one of 51 Grand Cru Alsatian vineyards. Unlike some that seemed to have gained their status from political considerations, Schlossberg’s historical record of producing great riesling grapes earned it the right to be the first Alsatian vineyard given the Grand Cru classification.
Colette Faller and her two daughters preserve and replenish Schlossberg vineyard with their total dedication to organic viticulture. And for the last decade, they have made the Domaine Weinbach wines biodynamically; this farming philosophy goes beyond organic farming to incorporate working the soil, harvesting the grapes, and making the wine according to the cycles of the sun and moon. Whether one accepts this philosophy or not, the results of the laser focus of the Fallers on producing the greatest wines possible from their legendary domain cannot be underestimated.
Winemaker Laurence Faller has created three bottlings, or cuvees, from the Schlossberg vineyard. All bear the name Cuvee St. Catherine, which was a sisterly act of love, mischief, or both by the winemaker to her older sibling.
The Schlossberg Grand Cru Riesling Cuvee St. Catherine comes from very old vines halfway up the slope. The 2005 rendition has pronounced floral and fruit aromas, medium body and a delicious mix of ripe pear, apple and citrus flavors. It has the backbone of acidity that gives this bottling near-perfect balance and great aging ability.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to again taste and enjoy the 2004 Cuvee St. Catherine with Indian cuisine at Saffron restaurant in East Hanover. Since I had last tasted it in March 2007, the wine added a honey scent and taste to its initial complexity.
The 2005 Cuvee St. Catherine will surely follow that path. I enjoyed it with a dish of lobster medallions, sweetbreads and green asparagus at the Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center. New Jersey Shore summer dinners are quickly approaching, and a glass of this riesling will be a gift from the sun god with lobster, crab cakes, and clam bakes. It is also a pleasure with spicy Indian and Thai cuisines.
The 2005 Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Vineyard Cuvee St. Catherine Riesling retails for approximately $79.