Trimbach 2000 Pinot Gris “Hommage à Jeanne” (Alsace) – Crystal and pear, lightly sweet with an icy glacier of structure. Steel and quartz shards. Terrific acidity. This has the aromatics of pinot gris but all the structure of a great riesling. Fantastic. (2/08)
Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Leaky cork, and in fact the wine tastes a few years more advanced than it should. Even given that, it’s still pretty special, with intense, golden minerality (mostly iron) in columnar form, plus hints of mirabelle on the finish. Striking. (2/08)
31 March 2006 – Ribeauvillé, France
Trimbach – “France, but efficient,” is a commonly-heard phrase on the subject of Alsace. I’ve never been criticized for a few minutes’ lateness in any other part of France, but here…well, it’s a mistake I made once, and won’t make again. In Alsace, punctuality is actually considered a virtue. Imagine that.
And so, we’re in the Trimbach courtyard at the exact time specified. But we’re alone. Because our winemaker is late.
Granted, he has an excuse. He’s sick. Very sick. Were marketing guru Jean Trimbach, (who usually receives us on our semi-regular visits) not traipsing across Scotland with Olivier Humbrecht…and there is a buddy film to explosively depressurize the heads of Alsatian wine fans…winemaker Pierre Trimbach would probably be benefiting from a much-needed convalescence. Instead, he has to take a pair of overeager Americans through a tasting for which it is not consistently clear he has the energy. Or, it must be noted, the nose, given the frequency with which he sniffles and snorts. As the tasting proceeds, his energy flags, but then…as we head into the heart of the better rieslings…rebounds with passionate intensity. Certainly, winemakers often seem to live (and die) for their work, and Pierre is no exception. We only hope he’ll stay vertical to the end of the tasting. Because to be honest, second wind or not, he doesn’t look that great.
Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Sélection des Grains Nobles” “Hors Choix” (Alsace) – Made from the first botrytis-seeking pass through the vineyard. The resulting grapes were picked 23.5% potential alcohol, but the finished wine is 13%, leaving 170 grams/liter of residual sugar. The wine is dark, dark bronze, and absolutely lush with botrytis, showing a huge brown-sugar-encrusted, baked lychee palate with iron flakes and as endless a finish as I’ve ever experienced. Truly unbelievable. (5/06)
Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – 55 grams/liter residual sugar. Still firm and tight in its youth…Trimbach’s gewürztraminer VTs rarely have the easy, early charm of other producers’ bottlings…but it is thick with roses and lychee syrup with dark, smoky streaks and fogs. The acidity is terrific, the finish is long, and the wine is excellent; stylistically, it’s more akin to the brilliant 1998 than the powerful 1997. (5/06)
Trimbach 2000 Pinot Gris “Hommage à Jeanne” (Alsace) – From plots around Hunawihr, Riquewihr, and Mittelwihr, with 19 grams/liter residual sugar. Not as smoky as the previous Hommage bottling from 1996, but there are still highly-appealing charred crystals in the mix, with sweet red cherry and candied strawberry that cohere into a long, juicy palate. Still tight, with plenty of minerality at the core, and the finish firms and binds the wine with more structure than is initially apparent. This is definitely less immediately appealing than the ‘96 Hommage, but I think it will eventually surpass that wine. (5/06)
Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – 10 grams/liter residual sugar. Rock- and mineral-driven, with smoky pork jerky spiced with cloves, plus lychee, pear, and rose petals. The finish adds bitter cashew oil, but is primarily sharp, structured edges holding themselves distant from the intense core. This is a really good SdR, with much aging potential. (5/06)
Trimbach 2000 Pinot Gris “Réserve Personnelle” (Alsace) – 10 grams/liter of residual sugar. Sulfur and quartz, with a profoundly drying minerality and strong acidity that takes care of any lingering sweetness, all of which is experienced in the initial moments of the wine. Full-bodied pear marks the palate, which is long, crisp, and flecked with little bits of something that feels like either paper or linen. I can’t quite decide which. Maybe both. (5/06)
Trimbach 2000 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Only 4000 bottles were produced. This wine carries 25 grams/liter residual sugar, but like many of Trimbach’s VT rieslings, it shows less as obvious sweetness and more as a rich fullness. It’s very tight, and even slightly muddy at first opening. The minerality is ultra-concentrated, with the creamy texture one normally finds in mature riesling. There’s a hesitant expansion throughout the midpalate, but the wine really blows open on the finish, which is generous and passionate. Very, very good, but it will take time to reach its potential. (5/06)
Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Picked in three passes. Piercing minerality viewed through gauze, with rich peach and apple rendered in crystal, raw iron, and steel plates. The complexity comes in layers, each more exciting than the last. This wine is incredible. Absolutely incredible. I could drink this forever, and in fact the wine will probably last that long, getting better all the while. I express my enthusiasm to Pierre, who nods. “It’s probably my best vendange tardive.” I can only agree. (5/06)
Trimbach 2001 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – Harvested on October 4th. Sea salt and profoundly aromatic white mountain flowers. Incredibly dry, massively fully-bodied (for a riesling), and seesawing between tart, apple-dominated fruit and a lush texture. The acidity is terrific, the balance is flawless, and the finish is stunning. Virtually perfect wine. (5/06)
Trimbach 2000 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – Harvested on September 3rd. Lusher than the 2001, primarily in terms of its floral aspect, with a neon-tinged minerality in the guise of a fluorescent granite table. Dry, big, and even a little bit fat (though obviously this is a contextual assessment), with a slightly shorter finish than I’d like. Very good, and while it should stay that way for a decade – at least – I don’t think it will be one of the greats. (5/06)
Trimbach 1999 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – Pierre calls this a “solar eclipse” vintage, though it’s not completely clear what he intends to suggest with that datum. The ’99 was also the victim of unfortunate timing, with a green harvest immediately followed by a damaging hailstorm…nature’s own, non-selective, version of crop-thinning. There’s salt from a shaker, plus smoke and dried apple seeds, and then the wine seems to accelerate as it picks up a crystalline wind, broadening on the midpalate and showing the barest hints of an early, minor, and pleasant oxidation. The finish is a little shorter than it should be, and comes across as a little leafy. Quite good, but probably one of the weaker efforts in recent years, though when the subject is Ste-Hune that’s praising with faint damn. (5/06)
Trimbach 1997 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – Dried flowers bathed in humidity, which somewhat mutes the nose. The palate is bigger, showing juicy and ripe apple over stones, with good acidity. The finish is flat; this and other signs suggest that the wine is somewhat closed, though not as thoroughly as is the norm for CSH. (5/06)