"A beautiful, easy vintage with more noble rot than 2004" was how Andre Ostertag described 2005. "We had classic Indian summer conditions that gave ripe fruit with good varietal character. We picked SGN fruit at the end of October in our T-shirts." Ostertag emphasized that he seeks "purity of terroir" except when he's making wines at VT or SGN richness. He continues to use barriques for his pinot gris and pinot noir ("but no more foudres"), and stainless steel for riesling, which he says requires a reductive environment. (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA)
($19) Sappy aromas of citrus peel, white flowers and mint, plus a whiff of chlorophyll. Juicy and intensely flavored, with no lack of density. Subtle flavors of lime, fresh herbs and mint. Quite dry at 2 g/l r.s.; finishes with good cut. "There are very few good sylvaners left," noted Ostertag, who believes that the variety will make a comeback in Alsace after production bottoms out in the next few years.
Pale color. Musky aromas of peach, honey, butter and spices. Fairly round in the mouth, with good spicy lift and an apparent oaky quality. Offers good texture and a suggestion of tropical fruits but showing limited personality today. Just the faintest touch of sweetness here.
($44) Pale, bright yellow. Floral aromas of vanilla and spice; purer than the '04. Sweeter and suppler than the "Barriques"; this is stuffed with peachy fruit. In a softer style but kept firm by ripe balancing acidity. Conveys a soil-driven spicy character and finishes fresh and long. The balance of 14.1% alcohol and 8.5 g/l r.s. works nicely.
($47) Green-tinged yellow. Reticent but pure aromas of lime, white peach and spring flowers. Fat, dense and off-dry, with good energy from the limestone soil. A round, smooth wine that shows less barrique influence today than the Fronholz and Barriques bottlings. Ostertag says this was more opulent before the bottling, but it's showing plenty of concentration today. This is 14.6% alcohol, with 12 g/l r.s.
(indicates the grand cru Muenchberg on the back label) Medium yellow. Very ripe, fruit-driven aromas of nectarine and peach. Fat, sweet and densely packed; this is concentrated and rich without much botrytis influence. Still, this big boy comes across as more exotic than the '04. Ostertag says there's still a bit of sugar to be fermented: it's 17 r.s. today (with 14.5% alcohol) but he hoped to bottle it with 12.
($38) Good full medium red. Aromas of redcurrant, cherry, cinnamon, meat and smoky oak. Silky on entry, then quite dry but dense in the middle, with good inner-mouth lift and definition. I'd give this a couple of years for the spicy oak element to integrate with the sweet red fruits. Riper and purer than the 2004 version. "And the 2003 was too big and obvious, too syrah in style," said Ostertag, who added that since Sideways he's been exporting a higher percentage of his pinot noir.
($32) Pale straw color. Lovely oily, perfumed aroma of lime blossom. Supple and expressive, with ripe acidity nicely balanced by 5 grams of residual sugar. Much more fruity than the 2004. This boasts good density of material and a lively, smoky back end.
($32) Pale, green-tinged straw. Minerals, lime blossom, mint and spices on the nose. Brisk, leanish and quite dry, with 8 g/l r.s. hidden by lively acidity. The lemon and quince flavors are on the austere side, but this persistent wine should be very flexible at the dinner table. And the alcohol is just 12.2%.
(Mathis is the name of Ostertag's vineyard manager) Medium yellow. Aromas of minerals, lichee, flowers and spices. Densely packed but folded in on itself today, conveying a very dry impression despite its 3 g/l r.s. Persistent finishing flavor of peach skin. In a rather austere style, and in need of patience.
($37) Green-yellow color. Fascinating, high-pitched nose combines lime oil, underripe pineapple, fresh herbs and caraway seed. Very dry, scented and subtle in the mouth, with lovely perfumed intensity to its citrus skin flavors. At once tactile and quite fine, and not at all hard. From fruit harvested on October 19, according to Ostertag, and the lowest in acidity of his 2005 rieslings.
($38) Pale yellow. Sappy aromas of chlorophyll and spice. Fatter on entry than the Heissenberg, then citrussy and penetrating in the middle, with an impression of strong lemony acidity. Almost aggressive today. This will need more time to display its inherent minerality. Ostertag harvested these vines three weeks earlier than the Heissenberg, with considerably higher acidity, to avoid having rot.
($50) Full yellow with green highlights. Subtly complex nose hints at musky nectarine and brown spices. Dense, silky and fat but extremely unevolved. Despite a nearly glyceral texture, this remains light on its feet thanks to its ripe, harmonious acidity. Very long and powerful wine with a late flavor of pineapple. Ostertag loves this but marginally prefers the 2004 today. But both need seven or eight years of bottle aging to display their underlying terroir The fruit in this relatively cool, high-altitude vineyard was harvested on October 18, with "a touch" of botrytis.
($26) Pale color. Pure but reticent aromas of yellow fruits, clove and mace. Sweet and easygoing, a bit simple following the Rieslings. But the fruit is kept fresh by ripe acids.
Pale yellow-gold color. Pungent, tangy aromas of orange peel, lime blossom, apricot and stone. Juicy, intense and penetrating but not at all hard. The combination of orange peel flavor and ripe acidity gives this near-perfect balance. Ostertag told me he picked this on the morning of October 24, just hours before a substantial rainstorm. This is just 9.7% alcohol, with about 100 g/l r.s.
($63) Medium gold. Pure, spicy, slightly high-toned aromas of ripe citrus, honey, caraway seed and flowers. Very rich, fat and sweet, with a deep spiciness accentuating the purity of fruit; glyceral without being heavy. Not at all a meaty style of gewurztraminer. Wonderfully tactful, sweet back end. Mostly from fruit harvested on October 27. There was more botrytis in gewurztraminer than in riesling, said Ostertag, but in 2004 it was the other way around.
Medium, bright gold. Rot-ennobled aromas of honeycomb lifted by lime. Honeyed, thick and extremely sweet (205 g/l r.s.), with the powerful botrytis character trumping the variety. Wonderfully glyceral wine lifted by some volatile acidity.