Elena Walch Beyond the Clouds 2016
Rising steeply behind Castel Ringberg in Alto Adige is the Kastelaz Vineyard, one of the most precipitous climbs in the world. It is here, on these 60-degree slopes, that Elena Walch’s grapes thrive. Creating a wine of massive flavor and depth, this vineyard is nearly impossible to farm. Yet monks almost 1,000 years ago knew the value of these slopes and planted vines here.
Winemaker Elena Walch is a woman of dynamic energy and drive, but even more expressive in elegance and finesse. I like to think her wines, and in particular this wine, embodies all of these noble characteristics.
I’ve seen the vineyards and the winery and while they are both old, I can’t imagine them without this powerful woman inside. Promoting quality and innovation, Elena brought new modern winemaking practices to the region and intermeshed them perfectly with tradition. Today, she is acknlowedged by everyone I’ve met there (and from there) as a huge influence on the entire region – occasionally being cited as the “Queen of Gewurztraminer,” among other wine titles.
But despite her successes and fame, Elena’s aesthetic remains simple and down to earth. As she told me, “I don’t want to make a wine with ego – I want to make a wine to be drunk.” And this, her top bottling, is precisely that:
Beyond the Clouds is an effusion of baking spices, kafir lime leaf, lemongrass, lobster stock, lily of the valley, roses, cherries, lychee, caramelized apples and poached pears. It is a field blend, and while I’ve asked her as well as her tasting room manager what is in it, they won’t say. It’s about the vineyard, and all that grows beyond the cloud line in the Kastelatz Vineyard – their very best fruit. On the palate, nose and finish, the quality shows: It is rich and texturally dense, extremely long and elegant.
And I have to admit. More than once, I’ve simply drunk a bottle of this without engaging ego or intellectual parts of my brain – and I think all the better for it – this wine is so serene that it doesn’t need to be talked about, analyzed, or discussed. It only needs to be enjoyed.