Monday, February 19, 2007

Gewurztraminer's Turn? the 2004 Snoqualmie "Naked" Gewurztraminer

With riesling moving steadily from the unfashionable to the fashionable side of the wine spectrum, and costs bound to follow from affordable to sky-high, perhaps it will soon be gewurztraminer's turn to take a spot in the bright lights. There are many similarities between Geuwrztraminer and Riesling--both can be off-dry, both pair well with ethnic foods--yet it can be difficult to find good gewurztraminer at affordable prices, not least because relatively little of the grape is cultivated here in the US.

But there are good gewurztraminers coming out of California and Washington, including this one from the Columbia Valley. Winemaker Joy Andersen of Snoqualmie Vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA of Washington state, faced a difficult vintage in 2004: hot and dry conditions led to early ripening and the beginning of grape harvesting, followed by a cold snap and a "second harvest" in October. From these challenging conditions sprang this good QPR Gewurztraminer, made from certified organic grapes. It's the organic status of the grapes--bare of pesticides and chemicals--that gives this wine its pure, "naked" character.

The 2004 Snoqualmie Naked Gewurztraminer ($12.99, Malibu Wines) was golden straw in color. There were subtle aromas of pear and honeysuckle, but nothing like the perfumed spiciness that often accompanies a wine made with this varietal. I was struck by its slightly syrupy texture, which I enjoyed very much. It accompanied tastes of sweet apple and white peach, which finished with a honeyed note. Though it had many of the varietal calling-cards of gewurztraminer, I felt that it lacked the spiciness and the fresh acidity to bring everything into focus and produce a really memorable wine. We had it with a spicy stir-fry, but I think it would have been even better with very spicy Indian food or even Thai cuisine. The next day, I had a glass before dinner while I was just unwinding and it was an excellent aperitif, so it's worth thinking of this wine if you are having a drinks party. The 2004 may not be easy to find (although there were quite a few bottles up at Malibu Wines when I was last there), but there is a 2005 version of this wine out now.

Feel free to leave a comment if you like gewurztraminer and would like to give us all a heads up on your favorite finds.


Joe said...

I love Gewurtz with Sushi, and for inexpensive G'wurtz I go for the Hugel (or Pierre Sparr, Leon Beyer). We get a lot of Alsace here in Montreal, so easy to find wines in this price range. Thanks for the first post on this grape that I have seen in some time - Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I love gewurztraminer, but it's been hard for me to find good gewurz for less than $19 or so. At that point, you can get your hands on great wines from Zind Humbrecht (the regular 2004 bottling was one of my favorite wines from last year), Albert Mann, Kuentz Bas, and others. Glad to hear that there is gewurz available for less!

Dr. Debs said...

Hi Joe and Seb. Gewurz goes great with sushi--here in LA we have a sushi restaurant called Sushi Roku that does half-price bottles on Monday nights and they almost always have bottles of Hugel (for about $10). And I agree with Seb that for just under $20 you can have some amazing Gewurz--Bucklin and Sineann are two of my domestic favorites. For simple quaffability, though, I've had good luck with the amazingly heap 2005 Columbia Crest 2 Vines Gewurz and the 2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Gewurz. Both are WELL under $10 in most areas.