Nestled along France’s easternmost flank, near the country’s borders with Germany and Switzerland, lies the region of Alsace, home to some of the country’s most idyllic villages brimming with vividly colored, half-timbered houses. Standing in the middle of such towns as Ribeauvillé, Katzenthal, or Turckheim—on the outskirts of Colmar—you behold rows and rows of vines that cascade down steep, dazzling hillsides toward you. Kermit once wrote, “Hermitage is that one majestic hillside tilted south like a solar receptor. If there is any single vineyard that the Creator obviously designed expressly for wine production, it is Hermitage.” Gazing up at Alsace’s magnificent hillside vines—reserved for the region’s grand cru sites—you realize you could make a case for their divine creation, too. Then you taste the wines that come from them and the case is closed. Take, for instance, the Geisberg parcel outside Ribeauvillé, whose south-facing Riesling vines benefit from ideal sun exposure and the regular, local Tahlwendala winds that refresh the vineyard and allow for slower, more even ripening. One of just a few domaines to make wine from Geisberg, Kuentz-Bas is blessed with two hectares of seventy-year-old Riesling vines that produce a zesty, mouthwatering, impeccably balanced grand cru with notes of peach, Meyer lemon, and chalk. Wineck-Schlossberg, by contrast, sits along the rim of a more enclosed valley and just beneath the ruins of a thirteenth-century castle, and its vines are divided among many different grape varieties. Meyer-Fonné cultivates both Gewurztraminer and Riesling here, but the featured cuvée is made exclusively from one hectare of Riesling planted as early as 1958. Powerful and age-worthy, Meyer-Fonné’s Wineck-Schlossberg yields a rotating cast of aromas and flavors including ginger, bergamot, honey, and stones, among so much more. Finally, while Riesling may be Alsace’s star grape, Pinot Gris is also among the region’s four “noble” varieties. Rarely does it show a nobler side than in the hands of Jean Boxler, who crafts this off-dry cuvée from the Brand parcel along the steep slopes outside of Turckheim. It delivers in spades the layered, regal, and exquisite profile we expect of the grand cru label, with its long and kaleidoscopic notes of plum, baked pear, spring flowers, and orange zest.
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