France has any number of spectacularly beautiful and fascinating regions — one of the most distinctive is Alsace. Only the Rhine separates this area, known as the Grand Est, from Germany. On first encounter, it’s not so easy to tell which side of the river you’re on. Alsace, with its adorable Hansel & Gretel cottages, ornate wood carvings and love of sauerkraut has obvious Germanic roots.
But appearances can be deceiving. After all, the Marseillaise national anthem was composed in Strasbourg (largest city in the area). Nearby, in Moselle, exquisite Baccarat crystal is produced and Art Nouveau was born.
In Colmar, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi sculpted the Statue of Liberty, the extraordinary gift from France to the U.S. in commemoration of the enduring relationship between the two countries. And, Alsace also claims one of the most legendary of all French heroines — Joan of Arc, born in Domrémy-la-Pucelle.
More to the point, Alsatians are quite comfortable with their dual-heritage and have created an identity uniquely their own — along with a cuisine, architecture and very distinctive Alsatian wines.
Travel down the Route du Vin and you’ll find abundant vineyards of Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Best of all, in an era when “overtourism” is becoming increasingly problematic, you’ll find that you have the road to yourself. Alsace is blissfully uncrowded.
Vignoble des Deux Lunes (Vineyard of the Two Moons) is our favorite winery in the region. Owned by the Buecher family for more than seven generations, the estate is located in the picturesque village of Wettolsheim, very near Colmar. Deux Lunes sits against a hillside located just below the Grand Cru vineyard of Hengst, blessed with some of the best exposure in the region. Here, the primary grape varietals are Gewürztraminer, a soft and spicy Alsatian version, as well as Riesling, the Grande Dame of white wines. Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are also grown with beautiful results and finally, Sylvaner, used for blending.
The vineyard is named for the two daughters, Amélie and Cécile, who oversee the property with their father Yves. The two women have been immersed in winemaking their entire lives and have also formally studied in France and abroad. We first met Amélie when she served an internship under Michel.
The Buechers are fully invested in biodynamic farming — as references to the moon indicate. The family began to implement organic techniques when, tragically, Yves’ father was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Medical experts agreed that the chemicals he used for many years could have caused the disease. As a result, the family immediately stopped using synthetic products in their vineyards.
After several years of intense organic cultivation, Deux Lunes obtained the Demeter Certification — the most recognized international organization for biodynamic agriculture. Demeter Certification must be renewed annually and, in addition to “prohibition of genetically engineered organisms” requires “soil husbandry, livestock integration, and viewing the farm as a living “holistic organism.” (Demeter International Biodynamic Certification)
“We make our own compost, till the soil with horses and vinify according to the lunar cycle,” explains Amélie. “Our strength is the plowing. It is due to this hard work that we are able to emphasize the flavors and finesse of our terroir.”
“Each harvest represents a new birth. We give special attention to our vines, pick all our grapes by hand followed by careful selection of grapes from each cluster. In the cellar we allow the wines to evolve in barrels for 12 months.”
When we first visited the Deux Lunes vineyards, we were struck by the intensity of life and color in the vines. Everything is lush and healthy. The winery itself is impressively clean and orderly. The Buechers’ family home sits within the vineyard, one integrated whole. Their lives absolutely revolve around their vines and each new season.
Adjacent to the Buecher property is a vineyard using standard cultivation with the usual chemicals. This property was drab and almost lifeless. An incredible contrast to the Deux Lunes vines and an open-and-shut case for organic farming.
Later, Amélie and Cécile served us a traditional treat: Gewürztraminer, the specialty grape of Alsace, accompanied by locally produced Munster cheese, topped with honey and toasted almonds — a delectable experience!
As we continued to taste the other varietals, we found faultless production in combination with pure and hauntingly delicate flavors. The Crémants were fresh and focused with a long finish. The Pinot Blanc displayed a beautiful, velvety mouthfeel with a candied-orange finish that is…well..the only appropriate words are “celestial and heavenly.”
Of course, we had to buy these wines to share with you!
2011 Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Noir “Clair de Lune.” $21.99
2013 Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Blanc Brut “Comète.” $18.99
2011 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Hengst. $24.99
2015 Gewürztraminer “Amélie.” $18.99
2015 Riesling “Cécile.” $19.99
2016 Riesling “Genèse.” $17.99
2016 Pinot Blanc “Apogée.” $15.99
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