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And a riesling by his trade

Boxler 1996 Riesling Sommerberg “L31E” (Alsace) – Bracing. Gorgeously semi-mature, its metals golden and its acids rounder but still crystal-clear as they pierce the wine’s heart. What residual sugar there once might have been (I no longer recall the wine in its youth) is now no more than a slightly clouded polish on the shiny core, though it would be difficult to say that the wine presents as “dry”…its aspect is too lavish for that. (11/11)

A Baur countenance

François Baur 2005 Gewurztraminer Herrenweg (Alsace) – Very sweet. Classic lychee and spice aromas dappled with fresh rose petals, but this would be a lot more interesting with less residual sugar. (1/12)

Schoech to the system

Schoech 2009 Pinot Auxerrois “Vieille Vigne” (Alsace) – I’m surprised that the “pinot auxerrois” designation is still allowed…it’s just auxerrois…but that’s not the biggest surprise here. In Alsace, auxerrois is usually one of two things: a fattening agent “hidden” as a major blending partner in wines labeled as pinot blanc, and a spicy, ripe stepping stone between those pinot blancs and an even fatter, spicier pinot gris.

But these grapes have been picked before they turn to candy, and the result is not only a refreshing absence of residual sugar, but the ripe-fleshed spices being dialed back to something much more herbal. Think dried herbs, probably, but herbs nonetheless. A little fir, perhaps. There’s not a whole lot of crispness, but there’s enough. (1/12)

Rock, sir?

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – From a recently-purchased lot that is, alas, a little bit heat-traumatized. There’s still plenty to like in its arid porcine minerality and light apricot glaze, but there’s also a slightly sticky and stale note that gives away the damage. (1/12)


Boxler 2009 Riesling Sommerberg “L31V” (Alsace) – Tasted next to a Trimbach CFE, this tastes lavish. Of course, it’s the more restrained of Boxler’s two crus, though there’s plenty of difference between the different coded bottlings from each site, and this is a full-throated, powerful expression from a year that emphasizes both, everything ripe and very nearly explosive. It’s frankly huge for a Boxler Sommerberg of any sub-designation, with a fair bit of residual sugar, and though the trademark house balance is here, it’s just barely here. I think everything will turn out rather better than alright in the distant day of this wine’s full maturity, but it’s going to be someone needed an occasional check-in. (1/12)

Acute problem

Trimbach 2002 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – The 2000, 2001, and 2002 vintages at Trimbach are quite the epic trilogy, and like 1988-1990 before them each has its own character. It’s still very early days for the 2002 (there are few houses about which one can say that for a riesling at age nine), and the differences between it and the 2001 are clearer than they were just a few years ago. Headier than its slightly older brother, driven as much by body as by pointed intensity, yet no less forceful, the 2002 is going to drink a lot better, sooner, than the 2001 ever has. But I think it will reward just as much aging, ending up as a somewhat rounder form of the molten iron that is all great CFEs’ destiny. (1/12)

Night, Romney

Mittnacht Frères 2008 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Soft spice, fleshy but restrained peach, a generalized sunny shininess. Pretty, basic. (1/12)

And the Windsbuhl “Mary”

Zind Humbrecht 1994 Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl “Vendange Tardive” (Alsace) – My expectation of this wine is that it will be very, very sweet. It is not. Oh, there’s sugar to spare, but the non-sugar dry extract – well, as geeks would name it; regular drinkers might just want to call it “stuffing” – is immense, and in fact it is the latter that dominates the wine. Long, big, muscular, a little more monotonal than I think a VT should be (then again, I’m not convinced that the Clos Windsbuhl is more than a good to midlevel site within the Alsatian pantheon), with a very long finish that brings ever-more of the same. It’s a pretty striking wine that doesn’t really go anywhere. I would say, from the metallic edge to the bronzed pear fruit, that it’s probably about as mature as one would wish. (12/11)

Seigneurs moment

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – A very recent purchase, allegedly due to the winery’s recently-abandoned importer dumping their stocks on large-volume buyers (in this case, the dreaded Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board), and from one of apparently 19 or so cases stacked in a suburban outpost of Pennsylvania’s ridiculous liquor monopoly and priced at far less than 50% of what I’d consider current retail. Now, I’m quite a fan of these sorts of inventory clearance sales, but this particular release has me either doubting the story or concerned on a wider scale, because there are signs of heat damage here. Not major, and not yet all that apparent in the wine (which is different from invisible), but there’s seepage enough to have escaped about a quarter of the corks and cause the capsules to become adhesive little nightmares of glutinous packaging. My expanded universe of worry results from a concern that the wine was delivered in this condition, which means that the damage occurred at the importer level, which would be – let me emphasize my personal concern on this point as person with more Trimbach in his cellar than any other wine – horrifying to contemplate. The other possibility, of course, is that the wine was fine at delivery and was very quickly baked by the fine folks at the PLCB, who is not legendary for their nurturing storage conditions. (Is that vague enough to keep the lawyers at bay?)

So what’s left? The sort of high-minded, mineral, wet gewurztraminer this cuvée is known for, resting more on its structure than almost any other Alsatian gewurztraminer of note. But a bit more dilute than I’d expect at this stage (I do expect closure from these wines, and this would be the time for it, but I think there’s more than a closed period at work here), and the bacony stage that this wine usually finds in its maturity has a little more smoke than usual, with just the faintest touch of caramelization. Based on which, of course, I see the heat damage that I expect from the condition of the bottles, though I wonder if I’d note it had I not seen the physical evidence. Based on this performance, I’m probably going to plow through most of these over the fairly term, leaving the smaller quantity of at-release purchases for a later date. (10/11)

Pfersigberg, we take Manhattan

Barmès Buecher 2004 Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg (Alsace) – Mildly corked, probably (it’s below my threshold, at least). What’s certain is that it’s not right. Pfersigberg can show as brittle, but this is just absent. (10/11)