Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's In A Name? Grape Confusion

There is a grape---and a wine made from it--- called Lemburger (or Limburger); the name is derived from the same town that is renowned for its highly odorous Limburger cheese.

No, the wine doesn't smell like the cheese. Actually, it's a nice, very drinkable, light to medium bodied red with a characteristic pepper-spice character. It is also made in the U.S., and I think the best is in Washington state. Kiona Vineyards, located in the Red Mountain, a sub-AVA of the greater Columbia Valley, makes an excellent version.



The same grape in Austria is called Blaufränkisch. “Fränkisch” refers to the “Franks”, or the Carolingian Holy Roman Empire, as opposed to “Heunisch” wines, supposedly derived from the more easterly Hun tribes, according to Julia Sevenich, who generally knows what she is talking about when it comes to things vinous and Austrian. (Julia is an amazingly talented and fiercely intelligent wine expert; an American who has been living in Austria for quite a few years, is a graduate of the Austrian Wine Academy, is currently engaged in the WSET Master of Wine Program, and has written a book---in German---on sensory analysis that is considered highly authoritative.)

This same grape is called Franconia down in northern Italy’s Friuli region (which was Austrian controlled until the end of World War I, and is still multicultural, to the extent that both Italian and German are authorized on wine labels). But don't confuse the grape Franconia from Friuli with the German region of Franconia (or Franken), where the dominant grape is Müller-Thurgau, a grape crossing made by a Professor Müller from the Thurgau Valley in Switzerland.
But this same Müller-Thurgau from the Franken in Germany is also called Rivaner in Austria, because for years everybody thought it was a cross between Riesling and Silvaner (Ri-vaner; get it???), two other grapes also grown in Franconia/Franken. Turns out, it wasn't.



There is, however, a grape that is a crossing between Riesling and Silvaner---but it's a diiferent grape, it's in Germany, and it's named Rieslaner!

Now all the experts are sure that the Muller-Thurgau is actually a cross between Riesling and a grape called Madeleine Royal. It's okay if you don't know that, because few people do outside of ampelographers and geeky lovers of obscure grape varieties.

But don't get any of these confused with the Austrian Rulander...because that's neither Riesling, nor Silvaner, nor Rieslaner. It is, in fact, Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio, it turns out, has lots and lots of names in different places, but that's a different grape for a different story.

Are we confused yet? Most people are at this point.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What's In A Name? Schoolhouses, Horses, and Languid Ladies

The wine and spirits biz is nothing if not creative---and never more so than in the names they come up with. Whether made up out of whole cloth or based on a salient feature that distinguishes the site or a conceived as a statement of philosophy by the winemaker, some are colorful and memorable. Herein are a few wineries to illustrate that creativity.


L’Ecole 41 is a small but prized winery in the Walla Walla AVA of eastern Washington. The headquarters is a refurbished old country schoolhouse—Schoolhouse 41. “L’Ecole” is French for school. And the engaging and attractive label features a crayon drawing of said schoolhouse done by the proud founder’s granddaughter, who was quite the accomplished crayon artist.


Nowadays, the old schoolhouse is a bit fancier, and you're welcome to visit it. Just go way out to the south eastern corner of Washington state, to the town of Lowden (don't blink), which is just past Touchey (and don't get all French on us there, it's pronounced "Tooshee") and stop at the place that looks like the artist's rendition above. I can't promise the purple balloon will still be there, but everything else looks the same. And the wine is good.

Chateau Trottevielle, a Premier Grand-Cru Classe' estate in St. Emilion in the famed region of Bordeaux, is named after the ancient pathway that winds through the property. Supposedly, the owners used it to exercise the estate horses. “Trotte” = pathway or walkway. “Vielle” = old. And eventually, that became the name of the estate.


Wondering which wine would be most apropos for your next tailgate party at the racetrack? If the above-mentioned Trottevielle isn’t to your taste, then may I suggest the Didier-Dagueneau “Pur Sang”, which may be translated as “pure blood”……. or, if you wish, “thoroughbred”.


The Napa winery Far Niente is derived from the Italian phrase “Dolce far niente”.

Loosely translated, that means “How sweet it is to be without a care.” There is a famous painting with that title, showing a beautiful and languid woman who was quite obviously "dolce far niente". The founder, Gil Nickel, was fond of the painting and the phrase, so it became the name of his new winery.


And their dessert wine is the aptly named “Dolce”—Italian for sweet.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What's In A Name? Bloody Bulls & Partridge Eyes


Blood seems to be a running theme for red wines--- not surprising, since it connotes a rustic style of bold red wine. And of course blood and wine are often intertwined in human culture and religion. We see that connection with blood reflected in several different cultures and countries.

But there are other names---of animals like bulls and hares and partridges, and even of the ancient gods---in wine.

Egri Bikaver of Hungary is made near the town of Eger. The wine, a robust and deeply-colored red, is named “Bikaver”(Bull’s Blood), and it is the traditional wine of the region. Sadly, most of the Egri Bikaver that gets imported to the U.S. is fairly mediocre wine; nowadays, we're seeing much more selection and much better wine coming out of Hungary. The most famous, of course, is the luscious and intensely sweet dessert wine, Tokaji (or Tokay, but that's another name puzzle of a different sort we'll tackle later).



A variation on the theme is the Spanish/Catalonian Sangre de Toro from Torres. Again “Blood of the Bull”. This is a popular wine, and pretty good quality at a decent price. It's been imported into the U.S. since the 1970s.

For a long while, as a marketing gimmick, the bottles used to carry tiny little black bulls made of plastic and hung on strings around the neck of the bottle. Alas, those little black bulls are no more.


And now the Torres family are a global wine empire, reaching out to South America and, through Marimar Torres, a winery in the Russian River Valley of California.



On the theme of blood, we can't fail to mention that great variety, Sangiovese, the “Blood of Jove”. Sangiovese is most certainly the vinous blood of Italy: it's the most wide spread of red wine grapes, and is cultivated throughout the twenty designated wine regions of Italy. And although newer "international" varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have made their way into Chianti, Sangiovese is still the key grape for that famous Tuscan wine.










And from the French we get the wine term saigneé, a process of “bleeding off” a percentage of red wine juice from the fermenting must to intensify fruit flavors. And since there's no sense in letting good wine go to waste, the 'bleed off' is used to make the rose' for that year.






As well as blood, eyes feature in wine names. Another name for the Tempranillo of Spain is Ull de Lebre, “eye of the hare”. It's one of the more colorful names for Tempranillo (which name refers to the early ripening of the variety)---but Tempranillo has many, many more. And we'll cover them later.




Then there’s a style of rose' called Oeil de Perdrix—“eye of the partridge”. The name is used for delicate pink sparkling wine---in this case champagne---but has been used for still wines as well over the years. It refers, of course, to the delicate pink cast in the eye of the partridge.


Wine names are endlessly fascinating. And if you know how to interpret them, they often tell you a great deal about the wine behind the name.




















































Saturday, January 16, 2010

Part III: New World Eaux-de-Vie--Aqua Perfecta/St. George Spirits, Clear Creek Distillery, & Okanagan Spirits

The revered Old World eau-de-vie producers are carrying on a fine artisanal tradition. But there are new traditions being created in the New World as well---and they hold their own against the old standard bearers. Let’s focus on three producers of eau-de-vie on the west coast of North America that are determined to create home-grown versions of the water of life.

In California the St. George Spirits distillery, created by the same visionary folks that brought us the truly outstanding Hangar One Vodka series, has labored for some years on various eaux-de-vie, and keeping with their spirit of producing the best spirits, their fruit brandies are exceptional.

But the best person to speak for St. George Spirits is probably the guy that started St. George Spirits, Jörg Rupf. So let’s quote him from the website (which if you want to go to is www.stgeorgespirits.com ):

“Standing in a California orchard more than 20 years ago, I was inspired by the perfect fruit around me to preserve its extraordinary quality in a brandy, or “eau de vie”. That was the beginning of St. George Spirits, America’s first distiller of true “water of life”. I set out to use the Old World methods I knew from my childhood in the Black Forest, and have constantly worked to refine them and to search out sources of delicious fruit.

According to Jörg (I call him Jörg, affectionately, although he doesn’t have the slightest idea who the hell I am) the single most important thing to make good eau-de-vie is (not surprisingly) the fruit. So he remains closely involved with fruit selection. Makes sense, since St. George requires up to 30 pounds of fruit for a single bottle!

Recently, St. George Spirits introduced a new brand of eau-de-vie, Aqua Perfecta, and it ranks as among the best in the New World---and the Old World too, for that matter! Aqua Perfecta produces pear, raspberry and cherry eau-de-vie, as well as a Grappa of Zinfandel (slightly different category, as this is a clear brandy made from pomace---essentially the fresh skins of recently pressed grapes gently steamed to release their juices and sugars).



There is remarkable purity and clarity in the Aqua Perfecta Kirsch, an absolute driving intensity of cherry essence in the aroma, leading directly into the taste, and lingering throughout the delicate finish. Not to wax too poetic, but experiencing this kirsch is akin to hearing the perfect tone of a single note by a powerful singer, then listening as it fades ever so slowly away in your mind. (Hey, you try writing this stuff when you’re savoring such delightful brandy! This is inspiring.) Rupf prefers the Montmorency cherry for his kirsch----the others, he says, have too much sweetness and not enough tart kick. He also gets a smooth almond note in his kirsch by fermenting the pits and fruit together (hearkening back to his Old World traditions), and it is an intriguing marriage of two distinct flavors. Aqua Perfecta is a stunning New World version of kirsch.



Moving up to Oregon, the pioneering Clear Creek Distillery (www.clearcreekdistillery.com) in Portland, has created a standard that’s hard to beat. And it literally started with an orchard…because Stephen McCarthy, founder, was born into the family orchard business.

Over 25 years ago, Stephen was travelling in Europe and enjoying some of the charms of the countryside…among them the startling clear eaux-de-vie he discovered. Natural connection, I suppose, for him to sip at the intense brandy and think, “Hmmm. We grow great fruit in Oregon. Why wouldn’t our fruit make a brandy just as good?”

Stephen might now say it was a bit naïve to think it would be easy to do that---it wasn’t, but he is a persistent man and he had a passion to pursue. Now Clear Creek Distillery is well-known around the world, Stephen has remained true to the original passion, and those Oregon fruit orchards are producing some of the finest fruit brandies in the world, including the unique spirit, Douglas Fir! The distillery has even expanded its scope to embrace another of Stephen’s passions, and has a tasty Islay-style Single Malt Scotch that is turning heads.

Clear Creek Kirschwasser is made only from locally-grown, personally selected cherries, and made in the old tradition in small pot stills. The initial nose is a mingled burst of vanilla, almond (those cherry pits again) and intense cherry. No chemicals, no additives, only pure water to balance the proof. As pristine as a dram can be, and ---considering you’re drinking an alcoholic beverage---as delicate and light as a lover’s whisper on the finish.


In the Okanagan Valley of Canada, home to the western branch of Canada’s burgeoning wine industry and a surpassingly beautiful place, there is one stubborn voice speaking out for quality artisanal spirits. Frank Dieter is a very determined man. He’s the dynamic force of nature behind Okanagan Spirits, and he is fierce and uncompromising when it comes to the quality of what he makes.

Not nearly as well known as the other distilleries cited here---Okanagan Spirits aren’t even as well-distributed in the home province of B.C. as they deserve to be, and are not available in the U.S. at this time---each and every spirit produced there is singularly focused (just like Frank) on displaying the pure, natural, concentrated intensity of the fruit.

Okanagan Spirits has two Kirsch. One is Kirsch Danube, made from sweet cherries; it’s ideal, I’m told, for Black Forest Cakes and for the obligatory fondue pot. The other is the Gold Medal winning Kirsch Virginiana, made from local small wild cherries. The Virginiana is a potent cherry/almond (Frank says marzipan) that reveals delicate complexities from moment to moment. It’s a kirsch to savor over a long period of time.

For eaux-de-vie, Okanagan Spirits also produces mirabelle, raspberry, poire, and saskatoon berry (!), as well as two barrel-aged brandies. There’s a range of fruit-drenched liqueurs (raspberry, black currant, cranberry, blackberry and blueberry); five distinctive grappi (sieggerebe, anyone?); a new aquavit; and a fiery high-proof and intensely flavored true absinthe called Taboo.

And all the herbs, spices, and fruits come from the Okanagan Valley. I wonder how welcome Frank is in all the herb gardens around the valley, hmmm?

Okanagan Spirits website is www.okanaganspirits.com. They’re located in Vernon, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, and both the distillery and the greater valley are well worth a road trip.

The Okanagan Spirits Saskatoon Eau-de-Vie.
Saskatoon Berries (aka serviceberries)
grow in Canada and the Northern U.S.
Never tasted one, but they are purported
to have an almond/blueberry flavor.

Thus endeth the overlong saga of eau-de-vie. I hope it inspires you to try at least one of these delicious spirits. They are, each and every one, carefully and lovingly made by devoted artisans. And I think they are the very epitome of the ancient art and science of alchemy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eau-de-Vie, Part II: Old World Kirschwässer --- Germany, Switzerland and the French Alsace

Ah, you have to admire the Germans for their literal and specific nature, and especially in how that transmits into their language.

In the German category of clear fruit brandies---eau-de-vie--- there are actually two separate types or designations, wässer (as in Kirschwässer, cherry water) or geist (as in Himbeergeist, raspberry spirit).

What’s the difference? In wässer, the clear fruit brandy is made by fermenting and distilling the entire fruit; whereas, in geist the fruit is macerated in spirits first, then distilled. It’s an important distinction, and the process selected is primarily because of the type of fruit---cherries are stone fruit and benefit from the direct wässer method; raspberries are softer seed fruits and benefit more from maceration of flavor into the liquid.

So when we call our eau-de-vie Kirschwässer, we’re speaking of the whole-fruit method---skin, pulp, and stone.

For a superb example of a classic Kirsch, let’s focus on Schladerer Kirschwässer. It’s one of the better known German brands, and it’s widely available in the U.S. (imported by Niche Wine & Spirits, www.ourniche.com). Schladerer uses the time-honored method—no additives, no flavorings, simply the essence of distilled ripe Black Forest Morello cherries, which are sweet-tart. Pricy but prized, the Schladerer is an icon of quality and taste, with luscious, intense Black cherry untainted by any chemical or cheap bulk-alcohol ethanol smells. Aromatically exploding out of the glass, this is the purity of cherry---as it should be, since there are roughly 22 pounds of cherries condensed in this bottle. There are amazing layers of complexity that emerge, both in nose and mouth, as the alcohol volatizes, and the flavor is so intense you realize the need for small servings.




A side note on distillation: Distillation, especially the distillation involved in making relatively low-temperature copper pot still specialty products that depend on absolute purity of expression, involves fractions. That means during the distillation process the master distiller can select the fraction he wishes to keep, and select out the fraction he wishes to eliminate---that fraction normally being the one with the unwanted phenols and esters that carry the undesired aromas and flavors.


Dipping a little south into Switzerland---actually in that part of Switzerland that is Switzer-Deutsch and thus with many of the same traditions of the Black Forest, we come across another exemplar of kirsch, the famous Etter Zug (Etter is the distillery; Zug is the place). They make several different types of Kirsch---blended, aged vintage, Jahrgang-Kirsch from special sour mountain cherries, Weichsel-Kirsch (from the St. Lucie cherry), and even a Zuger Nusskirsch, with local nuts thrown into the blend for a unique flavor! The only one imported---by Preiss Imports (www.preissimports.com), check them out because they have some great stuff in their portfolio---is the 3 Year Old, aged in demi-john, Etter Zug Kirsch.

The Etter family distillery, begun in 1840 by Johan Baptist Etter, is still producing their kirsch and other fruit brandies in exactly the same process from the locally grown fruits. Four generations of tradition---the distillery is still family-owned and operated---produces an intense, focused, ethereally aromatic cherry brandy pungent with pure, unadulterated fruit. It is astounding that this much aromatic concentration can be packed into one small container. It is also crystal clean and precise and as pure as….well, the purest water, actually.


Circling north again, we move back to the Alsace, that curiously charming culturally rich amalgamation of Germany and France. The Vosges Mountains looms on its western edge and the Rhine River and Black Forest lie on its eastern border, and many of the wine families, though declaratively French, have German names and live in German-sounding villages. They also put an interesting French twist on the Kirsch here.

Same process. Many of the same traditions. Nothing extraneous added. But the local water, and the local fruits make a difference that is apparent. There is a slight thickness, almost an oily or viscous texture to some of the Alsace eaux-de-vie. There’s also a range of styles, from the ‘rustic’ to the refined. For the refined, I can recommend three producers: Trimbach, justifiably praised for their wines, makes very small batches of exquisite eau-de-vie from different fruits, kirsch among them. Massenez is also well known for its variety of clear and aged fruit brandies. Another small concern, G. Miclo, is worth seeking out if you can find it---which isn’t easy. Finally, a good Alsatian style that is easier to find (another one from the aforementioned Preiss Imports) is F. Meyer Kirsch. Packed with the obligate cherry, it also has a nutty note to it, and a distinctive fruit skin character, with a long, lingering delicate finish. And the F. Meyer is available in 375ml half-bottles, which I have always thought was the way to go for these powerful eaux-de-vie!


Keep in mind that Kirsch is only the beginning, and not to my mind the most interesting, of the eaux-de-vie. There is yellow plum (Mirabelle), blue plum (Quetsch/Zwetsch), Raspberry (Framboise), and the delicious and tantalizing pear (Poire or Poire-William), just to name a few. All the excellent producers I've cited produce a variety of these delightful waters of life. To find the really exotic ones, you’ll just have to schedule your travel plans to take you through most of the European countries---as if you needed another reason to do that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Alchemical Allure of Eau-de-Vie, Part I

I still believe in magic.

No, not the magic of fusty robes and peaked hats and arcane phrases conjuring demons; I believe in the magic of alchemy, of the original desire by the scientists of their day to pierce the veil of mystery and divine the essences of life.

Nowadays the only remnants of alchemy---that attempt to understand and control the basic elements so they can be transmuted into other forms---lie in the ancient art of distilling eau-de-vie.


The Simple Art and Science of Alchemy: Basic Distillation

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If there is any beverage that adheres to the art and science of alchemy, it’s eau-de-vie, for the single intent of eau-de-vie is to discover, isolate and produce the concentrated essence---the pure heart, the soul---of one particular thing.




The magic comes when you realize that the singular bottle of clear liquid you have before you---let’s say a bottle of Kirschwasser-- was once 25 pounds of bright, red, juicy-sweet cherries.

That is magic!

The alchemist---aka the distiller--- has transformed the cherries from a solid to a semi-liquid to a liquid with different elements that were not there before (fermentation), then from the new liquid to a gas, and from the gas to an entirely different liquid (distillation).

Distillation: the word itself means “finely divided” and sums the process for us. The art and science---it is both---allows the alchemist to select the elements that remain and reject the elements that don’t reflect the desired purity. The alchemist takes the subject matter (those cherries), transforms them, finely divides the results, and then reduces these down to only its essential and pure form.

Through the scientific process we now know on the molecular level how these changes take place. But to me, the mysteries are still there and I remain as impressed and amazed as the ancient peasant marveling at the feet of the alchemical wizards.

And, yes, it’s true that all distilled spirits are products of this same process…but with eau-de-vie the purpose is to stop there, at the point of transmutation, when the heart and soul of the new beverage is freshly revealed. Whiskey, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Tequila, even other Brandies? More a result of an aging process or of external flavorings and additions to an industrial process than a focus on essential nature, I’d say.

Mind you, this applies only to the relative handful of distillers out there who continue to make the archaic style of eau-de-vie in the traditional manner, without allowing any additives or dilutions. Most of these purists reside in the arc of land from the Black Forest of Germany, through the Vosges Mountains in France, and to the Swiss /Austrian/Italian Alps—although there is now a ‘new breed’ of alchemists in the New World, most evident in North America (California, Oregon, and Western Canada).

Since this musing began with Kirschwasser, let’s continue with that theme by focusing on some liquid representatives that exemplify the art and craft of alchemy.

In Part II we’ll select exemplars of eaux-de-vie from Germany, Alsace, and Switzerland. In Part III we’ll move over to the new world to highlight the newest practitioners of the ancient art with examples from California, Oregon, and Western Canada.

From the Black Forest of Germany we have Schladerer Kirschwässer

From Alsace, on the other side of the Rhine and with a French twist to the German cherry, you have a devoted tradition of eaux-de-vie, perhaps best represented by Trimbach, Massenez, G. Miclo, or F. Meyer, all of which are spectacular.

Switzerland? Etter Zug is my favorite.

In North America there are three producers I can cite from the West Coast: Ste. George Spirits in California, Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon, and Okanagan Spirits in Vancouve, B.C.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

What's In A Name? Good Old American Names!


The founder of Clos du Bois had a healthy and active sense of humor when it came time to name his winery. Clos is French for a small enclosed place; Bois is French for woods or forest.

The owner’s name was Frank Woods, so the delightful play on words can either be translated as “The Small Enclosure in the Forest”, or “Frank Woods’ Little Vineyard”. Which eventually turned into a very big vineyard and made Frank very wealthy, especially when he sold it to a very big corporation.


What’s the difference between a Sauvignon Blanc and a Fumé Blanc? Nothing official in this country, just the winemaker's style. Robert Mondavi found himself with a lot of Sauvignon Blanc on his hands that wasn't selling very rapidly. In the time-honored tradition of wine marketing, he decided to give it a French sounding name, Foo-May Blawn. And of course the wine started selling very well---so he raised the price, naturally. Other winemakers decided they would do the same thing, so suddenly there was a rash of the alternate name on the market. Wine remained the same though.

Oh, and now...it's a Reserve! (Which also means absolutely nothing!)



My personal favorite story—sadly, probably apocryphal--- is of a retailer who bought several thousand cases of cheap California wine, then named it Chateau Câche-Phlöe. The symbol on the label was a grape cluster—except the grapes were pennies and the leaves were crumpled up dollar bills. Phonetically, the name would be rendered “Cash Flow”. Sold pretty respectably, I was told. As I said, I'd really like to believe this story is true...but when I see people talking about that and Jean Deaux Wine, I get suspicious.


Going back a few years, the standard Mogen-David 20-20 "wine" was better known as Mad Dog. If you ever tasted the stuff, you can figure out why. It belongs to that sad category called "low end fortified wines" that basically consisted of 15--20% alcohol, had atrocious artificial flavors to hide the even more atrocious taste, and sold for a couple of bucks a bottle. Friend to winos and bums everywhere, it belonged in the company of such other famous icon brands as Night Train Express, Thunderbird (What's the word? Thunderbird!), Richard's Wild Irish Rose, and the even more infamous Cisco.

And although it irritates the wine cognoscenti no end (and maybe that’s why it’s done?), some illustrious wines are tagged with affectionate nicknames, like Moose (for Musigny, a great Burgundy) or Bolly (Bollinger Champagne).

And it is common parlance for Brits and Aussies, who dearly love their various and sundry dessert and after dinner wines, to joyously call for them as, collectively, The Stickies!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Muscat Ramble


Muscat d'Alsace: what a remarkable and distinctive aromatic character this wine has.

Muscat, that most ancient of grapes, has many names, many faces, many guises, and since it has developed countless numbers of clones and variations over the years, you often don't know quite what you'll get with Muscat. It can be evanescent, light and crisp and dry and floral or dark and brown and treacly sweet---and pretty much every variation in between, depending on the version of grape, where it's grown and how it's treated.
Muscat, derived from the Latin musca, for flies, was so named because when the ancients did their harvests, the Muscat grapes always attracted the greatest number of flies and bees because of their strong, pungent aromas and their high sugars. These high sugars also served to preserve the wines for longer life and the aromas made them distinctive in style.

Over the years, different clones prospered, and different styles developed. But in Alsace, it is traditional to make the Muscat (which is Muscat a' Petit Grains, or Muscat of the small grapes) from the regular harvest in a crisp, bone dry style, as opposed to the late harvest versions, which can be unctuously sweet.

For a dinner with friends, we served the Domaine Gerard Metz Muscat 2006, a dry, crisp style that is moderately aromatic, light, and floral/herbal. As Muscats go, this was assertive without being weighty or heavy, with a little sage and dried thyme taking it into the herbal zone.

The wine went nicely with the assorted olives, hummus and red peppers, and endive stuffed with goat cheese. It even managed to step up to the baked brie en croute our guests brought!

In retrospect, I wish I had thought to serve asparagus with dinner; the Metz Muscat would have been an ideal companion---and asparagus is not always easy to match with wines. Some crisp blanched green beans would have been suitable companions on the plate as well, with the legumes playing off the herbal nuances of the wine.
The view of the Route du Vin in the Alsace, from Strasbourg south to Colmar.

The great majority of the Vineyards in Alsace are on the eastward facing slopes of the Vosges Mountains, looking down on the Rhine River and the Black Forest of Germany.


Domaine Gerard Metz is situated in the village of Itterswiller on the Route du Vin, the 'tourist friendly' stretch of picturesque little towns and villages studded with countless wineries, ranging from tiny, single-family producers with small and carefully tended ancestral plots to the large volume producers---although Alsace is not, in its nature, prone to the same volume as other regions in France.

The architecture and style of the Alsace is unique, a curious reflection of the constant interchange of the region between the German peoples on one side and the French peoples on the other. And it's still common in the Alsace for the inhabitants to speak three languages as a matter of course: German, French, and a unique patois of both that is considered its own Alsatian dialect.

Just as the wine reflects the duality of culture and heritage here, so does the food, with frequent use of pork and other preserved meats on one hand, and the luscious foie gras on the other. The traditional dish of the Alsace is basically a French version of sauerkraut---Choucroute d'Alsacienne, juniper-berried cabbage covered with various sausages and meats and boiled yellow potatoes, and customarily served with a dry Riesling (or Muscat!).