Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Feast with Jean Trimbach, Maison Trimbach in Alsace, and Chef Bart M. Vandaele at B Too in Washington DC, USA/France

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller, Chef Bart M. Vandaele and Jean Trimbach at B Too in Washington DC

Jean Trimbach from Maison Trimbach in Alsace, France, was in town (Washington DC area). Again, he organized a winemaker dinner with Bart M. Vandaele - as he had done 2 years ago. This time, however, the dinner did not take place at Chef Bart M. Vandaele’s Belga Café on the hill, behind the Capitol, but on 14th Street NW in his newly opened B Too. It is much larger and bit more casual than the Belga Café, but the food is also excellent and the set-up also very appealing.

Pictures: B Too

As expected, it turned out to be a fun evening. Jean Trimbach is a wonderful entertainer. The wines of Maison Trimbach are outstanding and paired very well with the delicious food prepared by Chef Bart M. Vandaele and Chef Thijs Clinckemaillie.

For more on Maison Trimbach, see:
Back in the Washington DC Area: Jean Trimbach Presented Maison Trimbach Wines at a Winemaker Dinner at Open Kitchen, USA (2013)
Visiting Jean Trimbach at Maison Trimbach in Ribeauville in Alsace (2011)
With Jean Trimbach from Domaine Trimbach, Alsace, at Bart M. Vandaele’s Belga Café in Washington DC (2011)
Jean Trimbach and the Wines of Maison Trimbach in Washington DC (2010)

Maison Trimbach in Alsace

Alsace is one of the several world class French wine regions, which produces many excellent still and sparkling, red and white wines, but above all it is highly appreciated for its unoaked, dry and crisp white wines. They tend to be different from those in the other parts of France: Higher in acidity, sometimes really sour, but always a pleasant experience to have them in the glass. And they go very well with the Alsatian food, which is also unique in France. The famous choucroute you find only there in France. But of course, you find it also in neighboring Germany, for example in Frankfurt am Main. Compared with Germany, which also is famous for its world class dry wines, Alsace wines tend to be drier, more full-bodied and higher in alcohol. Finally, sweeter white wines and red wines play only a minor role in Alsace, but they have a very good sparkling wine, the Cremant d’Alsace.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Jean Trimbach at B Too

Alsace sits in the northeast corner of France, sheltered by the Vosges mountains to the west and hard against the German border to the east. The vineyards reach from around Wissembourg in the north to Mulhouse, 70 miles south. Some 12 million cases are produced annually from 32,000 acres of vineyards.

Alsace is a fascinating amalgam of the German and French. The end of the 30 Years’ War in 1648 gave Alsace to France. In 1871, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, Alsace was taken by Germany. After World War I, it was once more part of France — until 1940, when Germany reclaimed it. With the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, Alsace became French yet again — and so it has remained. Wine production in Alsace traces its beginnings to the early centuries of the Roman Empire, when the Romans conquered Alsace and introduced wine.

Picture: Jean Trimbach and Chef Bart M. Vandaele at B Too

One of the most intriguing characteristics of Alsace wines is that they are bottled under their varietal names, unlike virtually all other French wines. Four grape varieties are considered to be the best:(i) Riesling – like in Germany, the most celebrated grape; (ii) Muscat – often used to produce sweet wines in France, the Alsace version is bone-dry; (iii) Pinot Gris and (iv) Gewurztraminer – Alsace's signature grape. Three other white grape varieties are also grown: (i) Sylvaner – A high-yielding grape, producing a refreshing wine, often used for blends, (ii) Pinot Blanc and (iii) Chardonnay – used only for sparkling wine. In addition, Alsace does have a little red wine made from the Burgundy grape, Pinot Noir. The Alsatian red wines tend to be quite lightweight, but can be delicious and interesting.

Maison Trimbach

“All French 3 star Michelin restaurants offer Trimbach wines, except for one” says Jean Trimbach. This is really impressive and clearly shows what the name Trimbach stands for today: Wines of the highest quality. Jean explained that the latest 3 star Michelin restaurant – in Saint Tropez – has not yet put Trimbach wines on its manual. “But it will happen” said Jean.

Picture: Jean Trimbach and Chef Bart M. Vandaele at B Too

Maison Trimbach’s wine-making history goes back to 1626, when Jean Trimbach was recognized as a citizen of Riquewihr in Alsace. From then on, the Maison Trimbach became renowned for its wines. However, it was not until the turn to the 20th century, when, under the leadership of Frédéric-Emile Trimbach, business really took off. Since then, Maison Trimbach has remained a family run business, based in Ribeauville, just a few miles north of Riquewihr, were it all began almost 400 years ago.

Picture: Jean Trimbach and Chef Bart M. Vandaele at B Too

Jean and Pierre Trimbach, the 12th generation, are now in charge, with Pierre looking after the wine-making side and Jean after the selling and marketing side of it. The next generation is already involved. Anne, Pierre’s daughter, is with Jean in the marketing branch; inter alia, she is in charge of the facebook and twitter activities.

Maison Trimbach is very export-oriented with more than 85 percent of the production being exported. It is both a domaine and negociant, thus it produces wine sourced from own vineyards (40 hectares) and from lease contracts (60 hectares).

Winemaking Philosophy

Maison Trimbach's vineyards are all situated around Ribeauvillé, where the soils are mainly limestone. The best sites include the Grands Crus Rosacker, Osterberg and Geisberg, but as indicated above, Maison Trimbach is one of the winemakers in Alsace that are staying away from the Grand Cru AOC system, while Maison Trimbach’s Clos Ste Hune, a Grand Cru, is arguably the finest wine of Alsace. In terms of grape varieties, the emphasis is on Riesling, but Maison Trimbach also grows all other classic Alsatian grape varieties, such as Gewuerztraminer.

Jean explains Trimbach’s wine making philosophy: “In the vineyard, the vines are cared for with a restricted approach to the use of chemicals, including insecticides and fertilizers. We ferment at 20 to 21 degrees Celsius in stainless steel tanks and large, wooden barrels. It does not really matter, if a wine is fermented in a tank or a barrel. It is more a question of fitting our needs with what is available. The barrels are smaller than the tanks and therefore the wines we produce in smaller quantities tend to end up in the wooden barrels. We never use new oak. We never do malolactic fermentation. As a rule, we bottle very early to preserve the freshness and the fruitiness. This is what Alsace is all about. The wine then matures in the bottle. The same principle as vintage port. We release wine often only 5 years later. Sometimes we wait up to 10 years.”

Picture: Jean Trimbach and Chef Bart M. Vandaele at B Too

The Trimbachs let their wines age in the bottles in the cellar during several years before they release them on the market, especially the grand cru wines, such as the Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile. Wines are tasted frequently and released when deemed appropriate.

The Maison Trimbach Wine Portfolio

When I visited Domaine Trimbach, Jean took us through the whole Maison Trimbach wine portfolio. The Trimbach wines come in 4 quality groups: (i) the Classic range, (ii) the Reserve range, (iii) the Reserve Personelle range and (iv) the Prestige and Collection wines.

Trimbach Classic: This is the Trimbach entry level range. These wines represent the traditional, dry, crisp Alsace white wine style and come as Trimbach Pinot Blanc, Silvaner, Gewuerztraminer and Riesling.

Trimbach Reserve: The Reserve wines are made from sections with mostly old vines. These are more complex wines than the Classic wines and can age longer. The Reserve wines come as Muscat, Riesling, Gewuerztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Maison Trimbach is not particularly known for red wines, but they do produce a Pinot Noir Reserve as well as a Pinot Noir Reserve Personelle.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Jean Trimbach in Ribeauville at Domaine Trimbach

Trimbach Reserve Personelle: The wines of the Reserve Personelle range are from the best terroirs of the estate and not produced every year. These wines will keep for years. There are 3 Reserve Personelle wines: (1) the Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile, (2) the Gewurztraminer Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre and (3) the Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle. They are clearly recognizable because of their golden labels. The Cuvée Frédéric Emile is probably the best known Trimbach wine. It is one of the finest wines of Alsace, if not one of the world's greatest white wines.

Trimbach Prestige and Collection Wines: This group comprises (1) the Riesling "Clos Sainte Hune", (2) the Vendanges Tardives wines and (3) the Sélection de Grains Nobles wines, made from Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewuerztraminer. The Clos Sainte Hune is an exceptional terroir, exclusively planted with Riesling, located in the heart of the Grand Cru Rosacker, in Hunawihr. This Clos totals 1.67 hectares and has been in the propriety of the Trimbach family for more than 200 years.

Chef Bart M. Vandaele, Belga Café and B Too

With his European flare, Belgium native Bart M. Vandaele has taken Washington DC by storm since opening his Belga Café in the historical Barracks Row area near the Capitol a few years ago. Now he has opened a second restaurant, B Too on 14th Street NW.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Chef Bart M. Vandaele at B Too

B Too: Vandaele’s vision for the restaurant as a vanguard for Belgian cuisine and culture is evident in the design and décor. Beautiful and comfortable, B Too brings together a mixture of elements to evoke Vandaele’s love of contemporary Belgian design, and to make the space feel like home. The approachable and moderately priced B Too is a playful, comfortable space encompassing nearly 5,000 square feet across two floors with seating for 160 guests. An open kitchen is the focal point, complete with a Spanish-designed Josper oven used for charcoal grilling—the only such oven currently being used in the city.

Raised in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, Bart developed a passion for the kitchen at a very young age. Surrounded by family members active in the industry, he began his training early in life. In addition to years of formal training, Bart gained much of his knowledge, drive and creativity through his experiences in some of Europe’s top fine dining locales, such as Piet Huysentruyt and Restaurant Scholteshof, which received the second Michelin star while Bart served as Sous Chef under respected Chef Roger Souvereyns. Bart M. Vandaele was recognized as a Rising Star of 2006 by

Chef de Cuisine Thijs Clinckemaille is a Belgian chef who worked in renowned 3 star Michelin restaurants such as Hof van Cleve (Belgium) and Maison Pic (France). He graduated in 2004 from Spermalie Culinary School in Bruges and has more than 8 years experience with modern cuisine. Being the sole chef in a restaurant in France for two summer seasons, he learned to deal with all the different aspects of running a kitchen.

What We Ate and What We Drank


Flammekuche with Tete de Veau

2011 Trimbach Muscat Reserve

Jean Trimbach: A dry wine, with pronounced fruitiness and a characteristic bouquet of fresh grapes.


Fish Bouillabaisse-style
Razor clams/ scallop/ lobster/ mussels/ rockfisch

2010 Trimbach Riesling

Jean Trimbach: Riesling is the most emblematic of Alsace grape varieties. Its delicate bouquet, the fine balance between its dry personality, its distinguished fruitiness and its natural vitality contribute to its exceptional richness. As the house style dictates, it is vinified dry. Pierre Trimbach says 2010 is the more “vibrant, precise and pure vintage in the last years”.

2006 Trimbach Riesling, Cuvee Frederic Emile

The Cuvée Frédéric Emile is probably the best known Trimbach wine. It is always made from Grand Cru fruit from the Geisberg and Osterberg vineyards although, as mentioned above, the label neither declares the vineyard of origin, nor its grand cru status. An Alsatian Riesling at its best, with a fresh, crisp and fruity character, a rich and fat wine with lots of minerality.

Jean Trimbach: The Frederic Emile is made from very old vines, the oldest were planted 70 years ago, on average a good fifty, these vines have very deep roots, this means: minerality.


Wild Mushroom Waffle
Enoki/ beech mushrooms/ pesto

2007 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve

Bright, pale gold with aromas of peaches and pears. Full-bodied with ripe, smoky tropical fruit flavors and a long, nutty finish. 88 Points, Wine Spectator


Stuffed Guinea Hen
Black truffle/ Belgian endive/ spaetzle/ Pinot Gris sauce/ Juniper barriers

2011 Trimbach Gewuertztraminer

Jean Trimbach: The fruitiest and the spiciest of the varietals – a unique wine. It is in Alsace that this grape variety reaches the height of perfection. Its dry personality makes it ideal as an aperitif and it pairs extremely well with specialty cuisine with pronounced flavors.

2005 Trimbach Gewuertztraminer Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre

Jean Trimbach: The predominately “Keuper” marl-limestone soils on which it is produced lend this rare wine a full and powerful style. Produced from old vines from the former wine estate of the Lords of Ribeaupierre, the grapes are selected and harvested at the peak of their ripeness. It is a wine with flowery and spicy aromas and a dry personality, and yet so rich and so fruity that it almost hints at sweetness … a mere illusion. In youth, the roundness and viscosity can mask its typical dryness as well as the underlying finesse which is the Trimbach trademark. This Gewurztraminer is only produced in the very best vintages and it can be cellared for ageing for up to 20 years.


Blue Cheese Cream with Yukon Pears
Apple/ walnuts/ raisin bread/ sirop de Liege/ quince/ dried fruit

2003 Trimbach Pinot Gris Vendages Tardives

Jean Trimbach: Only produced in the best vintages like 1990, 1997, 1999 and 2000, Late Harvest Pinot Gris is quite difficult to get as the grape’s skin is very thin and fragile and can rot easily if it starts raining or so. The strict legislation about VTs and SGNs says that Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer grapes have to reach a minimum potential of 15,3°. The best matches would be goose foie gras, goose pâté, white meats on creamy sauces, Asiatic cuisine, lobster, etc. Ageing potential : 10 – 15 years +


At the end of the meal, Jean invited us to sing a song. It was a wonderful evening!

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Dinner at Restaurant Winstub Gilg in Mittelbergheim in Alsace, France

Stopping at Domaine Armand Gilg in Mittelbergheim after Dinner at Winstub Gilg, Alsace, France

Visiting Colette Faller at Domaine Weinbach in Kaysersberg in Alsace

The World Class Wines of Alsace

In the Glass: Hugel et Fils wines at the cuisine des emotions de Jean Luc Brendel at Riquewihr in Alsace

In the world class white wine region Alsace

Hugel et Fils Wines and the Cuisine des Emotions de Jean Luc Brendel at Riquewihr in Alsace, France

Visiting Yann-Leon Beyer at Maison Leon Beyer in Eguisheim in Alsace

The Wines of Domaine Lucien Albrecht and the Food of La Chaumiere in Washington DC, USA/France

Hotel and Restaurant L’Ami Fritz and Domaine Fritz-Schmitt, both in Ottrot, Alsace, France

schiller-wine: Related Postings (Maison Trimbach)

Back in the Washington DC Area: Jean Trimbach Presented Maison Trimbach Wines at a Winemaker Dinner at Open Kitchen, USA (2013)

Visiting Jean Trimbach at Maison Trimbach in Ribeauville in Alsace (2011)

With Jean Trimbach from Domaine Trimbach, Alsace, at Bart M. Vandaele’s Belga Café in Washington DC (2011)

Jean Trimbach and the Wines of Maison Trimbach in Washington DC (2010)

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