I’m often asked ‘what is your favorite wine in the store?’ The truth is I never have a favorite, maybe a favorite at the time but not one overwhelming wine I’m in love with. Now, it may be different for some but I am not a creature of habit. I like to travel, to explore and that spills over to my wine selections. Sure I love a good Napa Cab and even more a Oregon Pinot Noir, but once in a while I crave a Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Teroldego, or some other unique varietal. In preparation for our Century Club Tasting (coming up on the 21st) I’m going to explore some of my favorite unique grapes….today’s topic Gewürztraminer.
Grape Name: Gewürztraminer
Pronunciation: guh-VOORTS-truh-MEE-nur, audio link here . Also can be called “Gewurz” for short
Color: Pinkish skin graped, produces white wine
From: Probably most famous is the Gewurz grown in Germany & Austria, but it is also produced in Australia, Canada, France, Italy and the USA as well as some lesser known wine growing regions (Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Czech Republic).
History: The grape was originally found in the Alsace region of France (which is known for more German style varietals and wines than French) along the Rhine River. The name translates to “Spice Traminer” for its spicy character and family history in the Traminer variety, an ancient green grape. Through a number of different (and confusing) mutations, the grape variety came to be what it is today just after the phylloxera epidemic in Europe when a single variety/mutation was selected and then grafted on phylloxera immune vines.
Climate: Gewurz is rather a moody vine. It hates chalky soil and is very prone to disease. It also buds early increasing the chance of frost affecting its growth and in a warm and dry summer climate ripens late. If over ripened (in a warm climate) the sweetness of the grape gets out of control, whereas under ripening inhibits aromas and sugar.
Characteristics: Gewurz is a highly aromatic varietal often with strong floral notes (roses) and sweet fruits (lychee, passion fruit). It can be made either in an off-dry (slightly sweet) or dry style.
Pairing: One of the few perfect wines to pair with Asian cuisine, it balances anything spicy as well and does well with smoked salmon.
Recommendation: (my favorite Gewurz) Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer, Germany, $15
If you are like many people, you have your Easter menu planned well in advance, or in most cases, you have a traditional family meal that’s always prepared. But with all the advanced preparations, have you thought to chose the right wine to accompany your meal? Now, the “right wine” is subjective. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Some of you may only prefer a sweeter style white wine, and some only drink red. We have some suggestions to satisfy those differentiating palettes at your dinner table.
If you are serving ham this Easter, there are numerous wines you could serve. Many people choose a sweet topping or glaze to counter the saltiness of the meat. In that case, a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer are going to be your best option. Both wines have a dry fruitiness that is both refreshing and palette cleansing. The sweet, round mouth-feel compliments any sweetness in the topping and the acidity will balance the salt of the meat. If you prefer a dryer style Riesling, try a Washington State Barnard Griffin Riesling $13 or Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl $17. For a more fruit forward, sweeter style Riesling, try an Alsatian or German Riesling such as Fritz’s Riesling $14. For a lighter, aromatic and elegant Gewürztraminer, try Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer $15. If you are a Chardonnay drinker, try a lightly oaked style like White Rock Chardonnay $32.50.
For the red wine drinkers, depending on how you present your ham, you could pair either a Zinfandel or a Pinot Noir. With the sweet glazed ham, a red fruit forward, low tannin Zinfandel would handle well, such as Axis Zinfandel $15. For a spicily prepared ham with cloves and herbs, an Oregon Pinot Noir would be fantastic. Try Archery Summit Premier Cuvee $48.
Lamb and sheep are often associated with spring. Maybe it’s the fact they give birth in the spring to wobbly little babies and springtime in itself is associated with new life. In any case, lamb is another popular choice for Easter dinner. Lamb is a fairly robust meat and should be paired accordingly with a red wine that can handle its full flavors. This wine should have decent tannins, a fair amount of fruit and a lengthy finish that won’t be overpowered by the meat. There are a number of red wines that can accomplish all of those qualifications, from a Cabernet to a Malbec, Merlot and Tempranillo. Try
Jax Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $40
Volver Tempranillo, La Mancha, Spain $16
Stags’ Leap Winery Merlot, Napa Valley $22
Argento Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $12
If you are feeling that you really want to get in the spirit of Easter and embrace the roots of Easter’s Israeli heritage, try a kosher wine from Israel - Recanati Chardonnay and Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon $17 each from Galilee. The Chardonnay is a California style oaked style with a smooth buttery finish. Their Cabernet is fruit forward with soft tannins, easily paired with the traditional lighter dishes of Easter.