Women in Wine Fridays: Catherine Faller, Domaine Weinbach in Alsace

In late May, I attended a conference in New Orleans held by the Society of Wine Educators. While there, I attended a seminar entitled “Female Finesse: Outstanding Women Winemakers.” Two of the participants on the panel have already been mentioned in this blog, the third is Catherine Faller of Domaine Weinbach. The tagline for the winery is  Colette e ses filles (Colette and her daughters). Catherine’s mother began running the firm when Theo’, her father passed away in 1979. Domaine Weinbach is an historic winery, started in 1612 by Capuchin monks. It has been in the Faller family since 1898.

Catherine works with her mother Colette on the sales and operational side of the business while her sister Laurence, the wine maker. During the seminar, Catherine stressed that in her view, wines are made in the vineyard. “The only way to make great wine is to grow great grapes,” she said. Domaine Weinbach is keyed into the biodynamic movement and has been so since 1998. One third of their 27 hectares have been biodynamic for the last 10 years. “It’s a philosophy more than a religion that lets the terroir express itself,” Faller noted.  The Fallers use old oak vats and have 40 to 100 year old vines. The Faller family are among the few female winery owners in Alsace.

We tasted a couple of her wines that I very much enjoyed including her Pinot Gris Cuvee’ Sainte Catherine 2006. It had a lot of backbone and structure with great acidity. I got smoky, toasty aromas on the nose and dense, rich concentrated flavors on the palate. I also found some spicy notes, good minerality and a long finish. I was really looking forward to eating after tasting this wine and had wished that I could take my glass to lunch in NOLA but alas alack…no dice.

The Faller family has 8 hectares in the famed 80 hectare Gran Cru Schlossberg vineyard. Schlossberg was the first vineyard in Alsace to be given a Gran Cru designation. The vineyard has granite soil (read good drainage) and a southern exposure as well as cooling breezes during the twilight hours. Riesling is king of the hill here and Domaine Weinbach makes a number of fabulous versions.

We tasted the Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvee Sainte Catherine 2005. This wine was made from 40 to 60 year old vines. The wine was subtle with stone fruits, good minerality and good acidity.  The last wine which we tasted was a Riesling Gran Cru Schlossberg Cuvee Sainte Catherine l”Inedit 2004. This wine was produced for the first time in 1998. It had rich, sultry exotic fruit notes I found this wine to be luxurious. A I skipped the meal at the point and drank my lunch down to the last sip, savoring every drop. It had that  wet wool character that I associate with  vouvray and chenin blanc  but it had much more acidity than I usually find in a vouvray.  At the end of my toasting note, I wrote that it was rich and elegant with good acidity and extract. In a word, perfect.

I was reminded of my chat with Catherine Faller by a post on the Brooklyn Guy’s Blog this week where he mentions her Sylvaner Clos des Capuchins Réserve 2005. Check out his tasting notes and pairing suggestions.

The wines are imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc.

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