Domaine de l'Oriel
This Domaine has vineyards in three of the more prominent Alsatian Grand Cru sites (Sommerberg, Brand, and Florimont) that are in a valley to the west of Colmar. Their very minerally and crisp Grand Cru Rieslings are heavenly and the Domaine also produces very good Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Silvaner, and the local specialty Edelzwicker each year.
Domaine de l"Oriel also provides an interesting example of both how wine is produced in various parts of France and how "marketing" can influence customers in the "wine business." In areas of France where premier vineyard sites are limited such as Burgundy, Chablis, and Alsace, most of the "Grand Cru" and "Premier Cru" vineyards are effectively shared. One "vigneron" may have eight rows of vines, another vigneron will have the next 12 rows of vines, and then another vigneron may only have the next six rows of vines, and so on.
For those with a keen sense of detail, when looking at the rows of vines in such vineyards, you can notice differences between sections of vines in terms of how leaf canopies are managed, cover crops are grown and maintained, and how vines have been trained. Concerning the location of Domaine de l'Oriel's vineyard holdings in the three Grand Cru vineyards near Niedermorschwihr, many of the them are right next to the rows of vines of "Vigneron X" whose heavily promoted and marketed Grand Cru wines are priced 50 percent to 80 percent higher.
Of course, there is some subset of wine consumers that actually feel good about such things as paying more for wines validates their own sense of self-worth. I prefer to focus on the terroir itself, however, and very skilled farmers such as Claude Weinzorn to produce superior wines instead of the marketing of wines. As such, I believe I have found some great values in Alsatian wine by importing Claude's wines.
Claude Weinzorn in his "office" (next to a terrace!)
Sloping vineyards of the Sommerberg Grand Cru site
Looking down at Niedermorschwihr from Sommerberg and across to the Brand Grand Cru vineyard
Riesling clusters forming (and with Niedermorschwihr through the leaves)
The far end of the Sommerberg Grand Cru vineyard
Edelzwicker "1619" (OF, NF)
This is a delightful fresh, balanced, and refreshing Edelzwicker. For those not familiar with Edelzwicker, it is a blend that usually includes the four principal white Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer along with possibly some other varietals of the region such as Muscat, Silvaner, Chasselas, and Auxerrois. Depending on the producer it can be pretty weird and funky (although some people like that!) or crisp, balanced, and refreshing.
This example is probably mainly Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, along with some small amounts of Silvaner and Gewurztraminer (winemakers don't like disclosing their Edelzwicker blend percentages!). There are nice aromas of white flowers, honeysuckle, and citrus blossoms along with flavors of grapefruit, apples, and honeydew melon. This is medium bodied with good balance and crisp, refreshing acidity. By the way, "1619" is not the vintage! It is the year that Claude Weinzorn's ancestors established the Domaine.
Although delightful to just sip on (and maybe a bit dangerous!) this is also great with food. Food pairings would include crab, shrimp, sea bass, halibut, grilled tuna, fried anchovies, seafood chowders, seafood with pasta, paella, veal, pork, baked chicken, Mexican food such as creamy chicken dishes and pork verde, Asian Pork and Chicken dishes, vegetable stir fry, mild curries, green salads, and medium cheeses.
Pinot Gris "Tradition" 2016 (OF, NF)
There are delightful sweet citrusy aromas of lemon, lime, and grapefruit along with hints of honeysuckle and jasmine. For a white wine this has some interesting flavors of candied cherries, quince, and lemon compote. There is a perfectly balanced medium mouthfeel but with an extra perception of "weight" to the wine which results in a very refreshing and full saturated finish.
Food pairings are quite interesting and would include shrimp, sea bass, halibut, braised tuna, grilled pork chops, pork marsala, baked and grilled chicken, pasta salads, green salads, crudité, and mild to medium cheeses.
Pinot Blanc "Barrique" 2013 (OF, NF)
This is a really beautiful, elegant, and balanced wine but which also shows how wine can vary in different serving conditions. Since most whites are "chilled" in a refrigerator (which is usually 38 degrees), that is usually too cold to fully experience the aromas flavors of most wines and that is especially true with this Pinot Blanc. Interestingly enough, "cellar temperature" of around 55 degrees is probably about perfect. At that temperature there are elegant aromas of camellias, white flowers, and hints of caramel from the barriques. Flavors include lemon compote, mild apples, and hints of grapefruit and lychee. This is medium bodied with perfect balance and acidity along with a long lingering finish.
Food pairings include sole, crab, shrimp, sea bass, halibut, braised tuna, seafood pasta, seafood salads, veal, wienerschitzel, pork cutlets or tenderloin, baked chicken, creamy pasta dishes, Asian pork, chicken, or noodle dishes, vegetable casseroles, quiche, and medium to hard cheeses.
Riesling "Tradition" 2016 (OF, NF)
Maybe the refreshing minerality in this wine seems to hide the aromas but there are pleasant although somewhat reticent aromas of fresh baked bread, camellias, and hints of honeysuckle and pineapple. The flavors are definitely not reticent, however, as there are bright fresh flavors of Meyer lemon, grapefruit, honeydew melon, and a hint of pineapple. The medium to full mouthfeel and perfect balance then adds to the overall "depth" of this wine along with its memorable and refreshing finish.
Food pairings would include sole, sea bass, shrimp, creamy seafood dishes, seafood salads, lobster bisque, veal and pork cutlets, baked chicken, Asian pork and chicken stir fry, creamy pasta dishes, Middle Eastern food such as Baba Ghanoush, Hummus, and Tabbouleh, mild curries, green salads, and medium to hard cheeses.
Brand Grand Cru Riesling 2015 (OF, NF)
This wine is a sensual delight with an incredible variety of aromatics and an initial entry with a luscious and refreshing saturated mouthfeel. Aromas include white flowers, camellia, honeysuckle, clover honey, pineapple, sweet white grapefruit, candied lemon, and hints of lime and sweet cherries. Flavors include honeydew melon, white peaches, pears, green apples, and poached quince. After the really fun initial impression, the wine does seem to “calm down” a bit as there is then a very pleasant medium body, good balance and acidity, and its minerality makes it very versatile with food.
Food pairings would include shrimp, crab, halibut, sea bass, red snapper, lobster bisque, seafood pasta, veal and pork cutlets, pork tenderloin, chicken, Asian chicken, vegetable, and pork dishes, creamy curries, creamy pasta dishes, cream soups, root vegetables, fennel, Asian vegetable salads, green salads, and fondue.
Sommerberg Grand Cru Riesling 2013 (OF, NF)
There are subtle aromas of white flowers, camellias, grapefruit, and other mild citrus hints. Flavors include green apples, pears, and ripe honeydew melon along with hints of grapefruit, lychee, and strawberries. There is a crisp light to medium body from the granite minerality of the Sommerberg vineyard, good balance and acidity, and hints of citrus on the finish. This is an interesting wine as the overall experience is that of a lot more “weight” to the wine than its light to medium body as its fully saturated minerals refresh your palate.
Food pairings would include sole, scallops, grilled and braised tuna, grilled swordfish, oysters, seafood salads, seafood pasta dishes, veal chops, wienerschnitzel, pork chops, roasted pork, pork tenderloin, grilled chicken, Asian pork, chicken, vegetable, and noodle dishes, mild curries, tabbouleh, and medium cheeses.
“Oriel” 2017 (Demi-sec White Blend) (OF, NF)
This is an interesting slightly sweet white blend that is probably 40% Gewurztraminer, 30% Pinot Blanc, 15% Pinot Gris, 10% Riesling, and 5% Sylvaner. When I say probably, the tradition in Alsace is that vignerons consider the actual percentages of their blends as being proprietary and an expression of their artisanal creativity and don’t want to be locked into specific blends in subsequent vintages.
The aromas capture the fun blend of the varietals and include roses, Meyer Lemon, pineapple, apricots, tangerine, white flowers, narcissus, and jasmine. Flavors include pineapple, cantaloupe, cherries, nectarines, and apricots along with interesting hints of lemon grass and sesame. There is a medium to full body which is very refreshing across the palate, perfect balance and acidity, and a full minerally finish with a touch of sweetness.
Food pairings are very broad and versatile and include crab, shrimp, sole, grouper, swordfish, clams, seafood soups, pasta, and salads, smoked trout, veal, pork, chicken, creamy pasta dishes, pork and chicken sausages, Asian Pork and Chicken stir frys, Asian noodle dishes and vegetable salads, creamy curries, creamy Mexican food, pork and chicken enchiladas and tamales, chile verde, green salads, and rich and creamy cheeses.