I just had a truly amazing day visiting these two producers. Very different from each other, as Weinbach was a more intimate welcoming and a smaller family operation, while Zind was a bigger, more business-like and official atmosphere: cement and glass building with less personality. Still very welcoming of course. I will focus on Weinbach for now.
This visit was an absolutely moving experience. Just getting there was an epic feat, as again, I drove around in circles around Ammerschwihr and Kaysersberg. None of these places are well marked, and I have no GPS. They even admitted sometimes GPS is sometimes wrong. It’s off the beaten path as well, tucked into a little village in a valley heading into the mountains. I almost gave up, calculating my losses if I could not find this place. Though I’m glad I did not.
The Faller family estate is surrounded by the flat Clos de Capucins parcel. A rustic, old farmhouse with a long drive greets visitors. There was nobody there, no cars, no signs, no indication I was in the right place except the faded paint saying “Domaine Faller” on a wall surrounding the Clos.
Though late, I was warmly greeted by their assistant who was expecting me. She guided me into an ornately decorated room with old stained wood paneling, richly carved furniture, stacks of books and family portraits on the walls. Looking through a doorway there was a TV, I could hear dishes clanking, and I felt I was in somebody’s home.
We tasted through at least twenty wines. Again – elegant, refined, sophisticated, crystal clear expressions of the region’s finest grapes. Rieslings from the prestigious Schlossberg Grand Cru, just outside the window. A variety of Pinot Gris, late harvest Gewurtztraminers, Selection de Grain Nobles. I can add detail later on the wine specifically, though what was most meaningful for me was the overall experience.
When I was 18, my mother took us on a trip to France. We rented a car and toured the Loire Valley. In Chinon we randomly stopped at a winery, I knocked on the door, and in truly rudimentary French I introduced myself and asked if we could buy a bottle of their wine. I still have the photo to this day of myself with the elderly Frenchman, with me in a Pink Floyd t-shirt.
This experience was a similar coming of age, or closing the circle if you will. All grown up, I’m back to visit another producer, in a slightly more mature way I hope. I connect these experiences as simultaneously an evolution and also revisiting the past, twenty four years apart.
At conclusion of the tasting, Catherine Faller, the matriarch/Grande Dame, came in to say hello. About a month ago, Laurence Faller, the leading winemaker of the family, suddenly passed away. I only discovered this recently, and I offered to cancel or postpone our appointment given the sense of grief that must have taken over. But they graciously accepted me without hesitation anyway. Catherine’s mood was heavy, and she very personally thanked me for coming to their domaine. She probably greets everyone who comes, though perhaps they are delighted when someone makes a journey to visit them specifically for their wines, to learn about them directly.
I offered my condolences, she thanked me, and we made small talk about my trip. No need to talk about the wine, they already know how special it is. She asked which wine I liked, I mentioned the Gewurtztraminer Furstentum 2011. She instructed her assistant to go get one for me. I mentioned that I would truly love to take home a Riesling, and I would be happy to pay for it, of course. She said not at all, and boxed up the Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2011 as well. These wines will go down in the history of my life, and they will not be opened for many years. Maybe the day should Ethan ever decide to move to Boulder. Thank you Catherine Faller for making my trip to Alsace so memorable.