“Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits,” The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes
A number of us food and wine lovers got together recently for lunch. One of the star courses was a Thai Salad, replete with dancingly spicy notes of cumin, cardamon and cilantro on top of shrimp and chicken. The natural question asked was, “What kind of wine would play ball on this field?”
A number of us posited a great fit – Gewurztraminer, although an impish side of me wanted to suggest Viognier. (Psst! Watch for this in a future column.) Pronounced “Gevurtztrameaner,” this unique grape carries a coterie of world-wide fans, and its versatile style, from spicy-dry to sweet, is magic for a wide array of upbeat foods. To me, it’s the ideal bedmate for fragrant or spicy Asian or Indian food, and is marvelous on the patio with light cheese and good conviviality.
The Gewurztraminer grape is thought to have originated in Alsace, France. Its distant cousin is the Viognier grape in the Rhone Valley and in California, and it thrives in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Luxembourg, Moravia in the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Southern Chile, as well as in sundry locations in Australia and America. Two of its key characteristics are its enormous, alluring body and its fairly low, clean acidity. It adores cool climates and richly rewards viticultural patience.
I recently headed over to Olsen’s Piggly Wiggly in Cedarburg, which boasts a fine wine selection, and picked up four bottles of domestic Gewurztraminer, since they tended to be more reasonable than their European counterparts (from memory, the only exception is a Hugel “Gentil” that sells for around $10). Here are my tasting notes on them:
1) Hogue, 2009, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9.99. Almost clear white with medium-heavy body. I could smell the beguilingly spicy flowers as I swirled the glass – nicely deep and heady, with pronounced notes of peach, honeydew, apricot and Lilly of the Valley. In the mouth, it smoothly transitioned with the above flavors into a clean finish with nice acidity. A-
2) Covey Run, 2009, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8.99. With its light straw color and heavy body, the nose was a tad shy but hinted of straw and honey. On the palate, it displayed lightly elegant acidity with suggestions of strawberry and melon. Nice and light, easy finish. A-
3) Chateau Ste. Michelle, 2009, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10.99. Clear, with medium body and lightly spicy notes of flowers. Light and teasingly interesting in the mouth with suggestions of butterscotch and kiwi. Clean, elegant finish. A-
4) Fetzer, 2009, California, $9.99. Note: Fetzer claims to use 100 percent green energy to operate the winery, which should make both Obama and Al Gore dance for joy. Very pale yellow with medium body. Lightly spicy nose with hints of apricot, flowers and wisps of clove. In the mouth, it lightly danced around with subtle notes of spicy fruit, easing into a user-friendly finish. A
Today’s winner was the Eco-friendly Fetzer, which should be a regular pour at the White House.
Today’s Price/Value flag was captured by the Covey Run, another fine wine from Washington State.
A spicy cheers to all of you!