Francois Barmes, who in recent years has harvested late for maximum ripeness, picked early in 2000, beginning in mid-September and finishing in early October. "Now that we are biodynamique we have riper fruit earlier, with more stable acidity-more tartaric and less malic," he told me, adding that the estate-wide yield in 2000 was just 42 hectoliters per hectare (and a very reasonable 48 in '99). I found the wines from these two vintages more consistent than the '97s and '98s. Barmes had a ready explanation, beyond the switch to biodynamie "Formerly, when we picked early we often had too much malic acidity, which produced wines with a rather severe structure. And if we picked late, we made wimpy wines that lacked backbone. But now we're making smarter choices of picking dates, and we're in the position of being able to keep our pickers early and late, if that when we need them." (North Berkeley Wines, Berkeley, CA; Sussex Wine Merchants, Moorestown, NJ; )
Deep red. Aromas of raspberry, cherry and spicy oak. Sweet, supple and oaky, with lovely texture and harmonious, ripe acids. Finishes with finer, sweeter tannins than the 1999 Pinot Noir Reserve. These vines, in Hengst, were planted in 1954.
Good full red. Ripe, complex red fruit aromas. Fat and sweet, with good ripe red fruit flavors and a smoky richness. Distinctly longer and riper than the '99 Reserve.
Deep, saturated red. Black cherry and a wild note of game on the nose. Fat, creamy and rather large-scaled; really caresses the palate. Finishes with big, ripe, dusty tannins and sweet, chewy fruit. A big boy for a pinot noir from Alsace.
Game, spice and hints of exotic fruits on the nose. Supple, fat and slightly sweet, but with good backbone and persistence. A wine of modest complexity but fruit-driven and perfect for early consumption. Not a minerally style, says Barmes, as the soil is "too light and too hot."
Bright but reserved nose combines minerals and hazelnut. More lacy and detailed than the auxerrois bottling, with fruit and mineral flavors complicated by smoke and toast. Less fat but more juicy, thanks to firmer acidity. This has solid structure and minerality, not to mention very good persistence.
Reticent aromas of grapefruit, white flowers and minerals. Cool and reserved in the mouth, with fresh acid backbone and hints of spice and pepper. Finishes with good grip. Should make a flexible food wine after another year in the bottle. From a slow-ripening site facing east/northeast.
Highly aromatic nose of citrus skin, herbs and mint. Denser and more intensely flavored; also higher in alcohol. But this, too, benefits from firm acidity. Good floral/citric riesling.
Musky, nicely detailed aromas of lime, lemon cream, white flowers, mint and stones. Concentrated, dense and fairly full, but not yet as exuberant in the mouth as it is on the nose. Finishes with noteworthy persistence. The crop level here was just 18 hectoliters per hectare, says Barmes, who added that these vines always suffer from coulure
Superripe aromas of key lime pie, nuts, white flowers and powdered stone, plus hints of exotic fruits. Very rich, chewy and deep; full, suave and solidly structured. The longest and most powerful wine yet of this range. There relatively little riesling planted in Hengst.
Smoky, flinty, chenin blanc-like aromas. Rich, full and just off-dry, with solid structure owing to its strong stone and flint components. More a vin du terroir than a simple fruit wine. Finishes with good length.
Lemon cream, lichee and rose petal on the perfumed, expressive nose. Fat and spicy, with a note of citrus skin but only modest cut. Finishes slightly warm, with a hint of bitterness.
Highly nuanced, rather delicate nose combines rose, lichee, cinnamon and a hint of iodine. Medium-sweet, fat and full but quite suave and harmonious. Sound acidity and firm underlying minerality enable this wine to maintain its shape. Not hugely fruity but quite persistent and soil-inflected.
Dried apricot, mango, pineapple, honey and earth on the nose. Very concentrated and already delicious, with lovely ripe acids framing and extending the compellingly pure fruit flavors. Impressively long on the aftertaste.
Lively lime and white flower aromas. Supple and juicy in the mouth; riper and more intensely flavored than the '99 bottling. Finishes with good persistence.
Enticing aromas of dried fruits, lime blossom and nuts. Rather reserved and delicate, with modest ripeness. Tastes like it was picked on the early side. But fresh for auxerrois.
Aromatic nose of flowers, mint and lime. Quite dry but a bit more intensely flavored than the '99. Note of rhubarb. Finishes with slight heat but has the material to support the alcohol.
Pure, delicate aromas of flowers and mint. Penetrating but suave, with firm acids contributing to the impression of spine. Intriguing flavors of ripe grapefruit and passion fruit. Finishes with subtle length. Still rather youthfully unevolved and a bit dominated by its structure. But offers very good potential.
Lemon, grapefruit, powdered stone and a gruner veltliner-like peppery nuance on the nose. Intensely flavored, spicy and quite firm, almost austere. Strong acids and substantial alcohol nicely buffer the wine sweetness. This has solid backbone for aging.
Aromas of candied lemon peel, grapefruit and exotic fruits. Rather reserved but crystalline flavors of grapefruit and poire Quite pungent and rather powerful, with a hint of austerity, and also a slight warmth, on the back end. Very good length.
High-toned, stony aromas of lime, mint and menthol. Dense but uncompromisingly dry; the stony minerality gives this rather tough wine, from soil rich in granite and chalk, a faint metallic quality. Then impressively long and pure on the back end. This classically dry riesling will need a solid five years or so of bottle aging.
High-pitched aromas of lime blossom and spring flowers, along with a smoky nuance. Dense and pure, with complex flavors of grapefruit, pineapple and minerals. Seems far more harmonious today than the Steingrubler. Very long, tactile finish stains the palate with a flavor of liquid stone.
Nose dominated by smoke and lees, as well as a whiff of antiseptic. Then ripe in the mouth, with tangerine, orange and more exotic fruit flavors. Fat and sweet, with lowish acids and a bit of alcohol showing on the finish. Slightly blurry tasted after the top 2000 rieslings from this estate. Finishes with a distinct dry edge. I'm not wild for this. "The pinot gris was certainly the variety most susceptible to rot in 2000," admitted Barmes.
Musky, highly aromatic nose combines rose petal, smoked meat and suggestions of exotic fruits. Very rich, spicy and deep, but currently a bit reserved; the wine components have not yet harmonized. But this is a big boy, ripe and long on the aftertaste. Should work very well with Chinese food.
Nose shows an almost roasted ripeness, with notes of lichee, rose, mace and nutmeg. Chewy but smooth in the mouth, with superb spicy richness. The 16% alcohol is buffered by sheer creamy fruit. Extravagantly aromatic in the mouth, and rather shapely for a wine of this size. Very long and powerful on the back end; stains the palate with fruits and spices.
Highly nuanced aromas of candied grapefruit peel, subtle spices and more exotic fruits. Very rich and powerful but not overly sweet; firm minerality and bright, lemony acidity keep the flavors fresh. Shows subtle spice and soil notes, as well as a leesy aspect. A big, classic, off-dry gewurztraminer that still quite unevolved.
High-toned nose features dried apricot, honey and spices. Penetrating, sappy and vibrant, with flavors of fresh fruit salad, apricot jam, dates and smoke. This is really amazingly fresh in the middle palate and on the aftertaste; comes across as less earthy and even purer than the '99. Finishes with terrific cut and grip, and a distinctly firm edge.