Before visiting Alsace, I had not heard of Domaine Dopff au Moulin. I have now… As much as I was excited to taste the wines at Hugel et Fils, German tourists were as excited (if not moreso) to visit Dopff au Moulin and walk off with a case of wine. The town of Riquewihr is nestled on a hill that reaches 300 meters in altitude in the shadow of the Vosges mountains, with most of the town being inaccessible by car during the day (since the streets are filled with people). This means that the foot traffic is greatest at the bottom of the hill, which is accessible by motor vehicles, and decreases as you go up the hill. Coincidence or not, Dopff au Moulin is located right next to the traffic circle at the bottom of the hill and sees a lot of foot traffic. It also sees a lot of people exiting their doors carrying boxes of wine…
If you are visiting Riquewihr, your first stop should be Hugel et Fils (pronounced UGE-el). There is no argument to be made here. Yes, Riquewihr was the first town in my Alsatian travels that had enough foreigners where I would consider it a tourist destination. Yes, the restaurants were top notch and among the best I visited in Alsace. Yes, there were many other shops and wineries to visit. But it’s Hugel. There is no name that I consider more synonymous with Alsace than Hugel. A large part of that is due to its vast distribution network in the USA and its solid presence on restaurants’ wine lists. But like the best producers, it’s the solid quality year-after-year that have them ranked highly in my book.
The thing I love about Alsace is that most of the production comes from small, family-owned wineries. This can be seen as a double-edged sword because while the styles and varieties on the market can be very different, the quality of production can be very different too. Luckily, that isn’t really an issue in Alsace as the quality is consistently pretty high across the board. Though you do find some wineries that just seem to be on another level. Bott Freres may be my favorite winery in all of Alsace when you factor in the that none of the wines I tasted were above 20 Euros. The Quality-Price Ratio (QPR) here is just astounding. I know that is a strong statement and I truly hope that gets you to visit the winery if you ever find yourself in the Alsace region.
Most people come to Ribeauville to visit Maison Trimbach, which is famous, has a large production each year, and has a good amount of distribution in the USA. I did too, but unfortunately Maison Trimbach was closed when I arrived in August. In fact, many wineries in France are closed for vacations between late July and mid-August before the harvest. Fortunately Cave de Ribeauville, the second largest place in town, was still open and I quickly diverted there out of the drizzling rain.
Andlau may be a small town, but its vineyards and views are second to none in the Alsace region. In addition, it is home to some of the most interesting Grand Crus of Alsace, which make it a must visit when traveling through Alsace. There are a few wineries to possibly visit for a tasting in Andlau, but none have as comprehensive of a wine tasting menu as Domaine des Marronniers. Their social media presence and website are also more up-to-date and accessible than many of its peers. As luck would have it, I was staying in a hotel next door to the winery, so it only made sense for me to arrange a tasting and talk through their portfolio.
Without a doubt, there are many wineries along the northern Alsacian trail that serve great wine. But Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss is near the top of my list for places that you should stop at. Midway between Mittelbergheim and the center of the Andlau region, this small organic/biodynamic producer churns out great wine, year after year. Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss has been managing their 14 hectares this way since 1989 - they’ve been doing it for so long that they had input into the actual definition of both organic and biodynamic farming for wine since there were only a few vineyards that were attempting / executing this vision back then. Organic and Biodynamic wines have been all over the map for me (some great, some bad), but these were definitely some of the better ones.
The first stop on my Alsace + Rhone wine vacation. Straight off the train from Strasbourg, I walked half a mile with all of my luggage to get here. The backwoods path was beautiful but carrying three bags will put a damper on enjoying that. Even though I was traveling in the fall and the temperature was relatively cool, the intensity of the sun was fairly strong as the vineyards of Alsace are generally planted on southern facing slopes next to the Vosges Mountain range to absorb as much of the light as possible, leading to ripe fruit development but keeping their acid.
I know many of you have never heard of Paradigm before, nor seen any of their bottles or signage in Napa. But what if I said that Paradigm was the first winery that Heidi Barrett ever worked at and even after her long and illustrious career, she is still their winemaker? If you follow winemakers like me, I hope that grabbed your attention. If you need more background, read my article on La Sirena (Heidi’s personal label). To sum up Paradigm, it is a small Oakville-based operation that owns 55 acres of vines and makes very compelling wines by allowing the varietals to express their quality and terroir influences with minimal winemaker intervention, which is only possible when you have great land, vines, and someone who is confident in what they are doing.
I’ve had (the very affordable) Francis Coppola wines before and was skeptical of Inglenook even before reading the reviews by the major wine publications. But I think you can officially change my status from skeptic to believer, because everything about this winery is impressive. For example, when you make your way to the winery, Google Maps bring you to a small building that turns out to be the check-in desk where they confirm your reservation, give you a ticket to scan at the estate gate, and send you on your way.
One of the very first female winemakers and at 5’1”, Cathy was laughed off by her female professors when she said she wanted to make wine. But thanks to fortunate circumstances, she got her start at Freemark Abbey, transitioned to working at Chappellet after a while and eventually worked with the vines that became Lokoya on Spring Mountain. After she accumulated enough experience and capital, she found some great land that spoke to her in St. Helena and the rest is history. She produces a Gewurztraminer and three different Cabernets at Corison, whose fruit comes from the valley floor and are all dry farmed.