“Tasted from the casks, the 2015 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Schlossberg opens with a very clear and herbal/flinty bouquet of ripe seed fruits. On the palate this is a full-bodied, round and slightly sweet, yet very elegant Pinot Schlossberg; it has good mineral tension, grip and salinity. However, the sweetness is a bit too prominent for my personal taste here, but the wine is remarkably elegant and finessed. Drink: 2017-2030. 90-91 points
Since 2014 Marc Rinaldi, who made his money with structural silicone glazing for building facades, luxury cars and a race course, is the new owner of the well renowned Domaine Martin Schaetzel in Kientzheim and, since February 2016, of the Domaine Armand Hurst in Turckheim, too. Driven by his goal to bring Alsace in the altitudes of Burgundy in terms of wine quality and international reputation, Rinaldi already founded the biannual wine fair Millésime d’Alsace in 2012 (together with Humbrecht, Trimbach, Faller/Weinbach and the Barthelmés from Albert Mann) and, in 2016, the producer association Alsace Crus et Terroirs (ACT). Like the VDP in Germany, ACT is communicating Alsatian terroirs and presenting its finest wines in France and in the most important export markets. Currently the group counts 19 of the region’s top wine producers and will show up in Paris in April and in New York in May this year.
“Alsace is a land brimming with underrated talent. The region isn’t where it needs to be with all its great and diverse terroirs,” Rinaldi said when he welcomed me in the stylish, sharp gabled, wood-revetted winery. There was a mirrored double K at the glass front—K like Kaysersberg/Kientzheim and like Kirrenbourg, the name of the Rinaldi company that runs the Domaine, but also of the lieu-dit in the east-facing part of the Schlossberg, which is Alsace’s very first vineyard classified Grand Cru in 1975.
So Marc Rinaldi, always a doer, took his gloves off and has tried to push things forward himself now, with his own Domaines and a clear business plan: Producing exceptional wines, mainly Rieslings but also Pinot Noir from some of Alsace’s most prestigious vineyards. Before I introduce the team, here are some facts.
Currently Kirrenbourg’s Domaine Martin Schaetzel processes the grapes from eleven hectares of vines, of which eight hectares are located in Grand Cru sites. All the vineyards have been converted to organic and biodynamic viticulture since 2015. Kirrenbourg/Schaetzel itself cultivates six hectares of vines, of which four are located in both parts of the Grand Cru Schlossberg, the south- and east-facing slope. Another 3.5 hectares, which are cultivated by Armand Hurst, are situated in the Grand Cru Brand and another .4 hectare are in the Grand Cru Hengst. Since 2016, a Riesling Vendange Tardive in the Grand Cru Rangen de Thann has been produced from purchased grapes, but this project won’t be continued. So eight of almost 11 hectares of vineyards are located in Grand Cru sites, of which currently 50% are planted with Riesling. However, according to Rinaldi, this number will grow in the next years.
Even though not every handpicked grape will end up in a Grand Cru, these figures are still impressive. I don’t know any other Domaine in Alsace that produces as many Grands Crus as Alsace AOC/AOP wines. About 27,000 of a total of 51,000 wines of the 2016 vintage will be sold as either Alsace Grand Cru or as Alsace “Terroir” wine, which is Rinaldi’s private category for the “second wines” from the Grands Crus vineyards. These are sourced from younger vines or lesser parcels and are sold as Alsace AC Terroir S (like Schlossberg), Terroir B (Brand) or Terroir H (Hengst).
To achieve his goals, Marc Rinaldi hired two top guns: Christophe Ehrhart, well-reputed consultant for biodynamic viticulture for more than 20 years and who, for many years, worked for Domaine Josmeyer. Ehrhart is from Wettolsheim and his own vineyards (among others in the Grand Cru Hengst which has beem farmed biodynamic since 1998), also source the new project. Besides this, Ehrhart is the other shareholder of the Domaine Armand Hurst.
The winemaking of the Martin Schaetzel by Kirrenbourg wines lies in the hands of Ludovico Merieau. He was cellar master at the Domaine Albert Mann until 2014 and this experience produced not only with great white wines, but also some of the finest Pinot Noir in Alsace so far. Keep in mind that the Hengst will probably become a Grand Cru vineyard also for Pinot Noir and that the Schaetzel Pinot Noir Premier is from the Les Clarisses plot in Kientzheim; like Albert Mann’s famous red, you can imagine where the Kirrenbourg road is leading.
Jean Schaetzel, who sold the brand name and vineyards of the family to Rinaldi, is also part of the enterprise that gathers pace in a top modern boutique winery with 30 small and temperature-controlled stainless steel vats, which enable the team to vinify each plot separately in order to end up with the top cuvée (Grand Cru) and its second wine (Terroir). The Pinot Noirs are aged in small barrels and in traditional oak foudres.
Both parts of the cellar, as well as the terraced Schlossberg, can be seen from the stylish tasting room, whose center is a long tasting table made from staves of a former foudre. I have tasted an excellent series of 2015 wines here—complex and mineral wines with an attractive, clearly articulated fruit and a charming roundness. I also got a promising preview of the 2016s.”
Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (229)