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A White Wine For All Seasons

November 7, 2010

It has been far too long since I have last written about wine.  The plan for today had been a dry vermouth tasting.  But given the level of medication I am currently prescribed, drinking would be unwise.  And while I have engaged in the practice of tasting and spitting in the past, it’s not something I delight in doing.

For the curious, the tasting was slated to be an old opened bottle of Noilly Pratt versus a fresh one (to see how badly the old formulation fades) and contrasting those against a freshly opened bottle of Dolin dry.  The Dolin, mind you, was a gift from ADS that I drove back up from D.C.  I still have yet to find it in the Capital District.

So instead I’ll be tackling some other wine esoterica.

Many posturing wine snobs will have you believe that the only wine worth drinking is red.  White wine is all too often dismissed as the lesser of the two.  Sure, some will concede that on a hot hot day in July, a crisp white is more apropos than claret.  But white wine shines in all seasons, not just in the heat of summer.

And if you are looking for a versatile wine for your Thanksgiving celebration, you may want to consider this unpronounceable white.

But first I’m going to say that if you like drinking crisp white wines in the colder months, don’t let me stop you.  Sometimes a light pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, or kabinett riesling echoes the crispness in the air.  Or to others these wines may serve as a reminder of summer in the midst of a less sunny season.

For me, when the weather starts to get colder I look for heartier things to sustain me in the darkness.  Speaking of which, with today’s time change the darkness is going to come even earlier.

To battle the darkness I call on the noble gewürztraminer.

Yes, it’s hard to pronounce.  So say it with me slowly, and then be confident when asking about it in a wine store: guh – VURTS – trah – mee – ner.  Although some might also say it: geh – VEHRTZ – trah – mee – ner.

Either way, it’s a rich and spicy wine (think clove and nutmeg), that can range from bone dry to sticky sweet.  My favorite is the dry version made by the good folks at Navarro Vineyards in California’s Anderson Valley.  These grapes grow best in cooler conditions, and some of the world’s best gewürztraminers come from the Alsace region that straddles France and Germany.

This wine can also be intensely floral, which is interesting, but too many flowers in a glass makes me think of the department store perfume aisle.  It’s not a terribly positive association for me.

But if you have a good wine merchant whom you can trust, you can ask if they carry a dry guh-VURTS that isn’t too floral, and that’s less than $20.  You could spend a lot more for a bottle of the really good stuff, but you shouldn’t have to spend a lot to get something good.

Gewürztraminer would be nice just to sip in front of the fireplace, contemplating its depths, and enjoying the company of a loved one.  But it also goes great with full flavored foods.

Mrs. Fussy and I used to run off to our favorite bed and breakfast with a bottle of this wine in tow.  In the cozy antique-filled barn attic we would prepare a simple supper of a smoked fish, toasted hazelnuts and blue cheese salad, with some crusty bread and good butter.  The wine paired beautifully with it all.

Now is the time to try and experiment with wines and pairings as we prepare for the big turkey day.  After all, the only way to know if you’ll enjoy a pairing is to taste it yourself.  Everyone’s palates are different.  Some people love hot dogs with the vinegary bite of mustard, while others mistakenly (and in some states criminally) think they taste better with sweet tang of ketchup

I can rationally argue why mustard is the better condiment for a hot dog.  But if ketchup just tastes better to you, I’m never going to change you mind.  At most I may be able to get you to try it, just one more time.

Looks like I know what I’m writing about tomorrow.

Seriously though, this is a wine that’s worth a try.  Save your family from the overly oaky chardonnays that will invariably be served on turkey day.  They may be expensive, they may have prestigious names, but most of them aren’t intended to be enjoyed with food.  Most of them are intended to win wine awards.

And should gewürztraminer not be your thing, I’ll have some more thoughts as we get closer to the holiday.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. nancy permalink
    November 7, 2010 12:45 pm

    sooo are you bring some of that unpronounceable wine to thanksgiving????
    we actually tasted some at brix restaurant in pittsfield and like it

    by the way i have ketchup,mustard and relish on my hotdogs!

  2. November 7, 2010 12:54 pm

    Hoping my friend across the street has this in stock – I’d like to try it with this week’s recipes. The box is giving me things to make my favorite cold-weather meals but, as you know, I don’t know how to pick a white. Thanks, Daniel!

  3. November 7, 2010 2:03 pm

    The Finger Lakes are known for their rieslings, however the gewurtztraminers are also quite good. I recommend Lamoureaux Landings offerings, and Wagner also has an accesible, affordable one (it was our toasting wine at our wedding, actually).

  4. Doc permalink
    November 7, 2010 8:32 pm

    http://www.winemag.com/Wine-Enthusiast-Magazine/November-2008/Anderson-Valleys-Surprises/

    Handley is good too if you can find it. Thanks for the reminder, Profussor – we’ll be stocking some of this for the long nights with el nino, er, la nina.

  5. John H. permalink
    November 8, 2010 12:00 am

    I do like the Navarro Gewurz but the Lazy Creek one down 128 was on the I loved. Too bad they had to sell and move on a few years ago. I had a 2005 a few weeks ago and over the evening it kept opening up and showing me more. The Profussor is right, give a good Gewurz a try.

  6. Cindy permalink
    November 8, 2010 12:13 am

    I echo irisira: there are some absolutely wonderful rieslings and gewurtztraminers available in the Finger Lakes. I prefer my white wines to have some acidity – and I fully agree, as you noted, that these go much better with food than chardonnays (oaked or not) and pinot grigios (which I’ve tried repeatedly to like, and failed).

    My favorite rieslings and gewurtztraminers are from Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, on Keuka Lake. I’ve visited several times (I used to live in the Finger Lakes region) and have sampled just about all their varietals. Frank’s produces consistently good wines, most under $20 per bottle.

    Daniel, have you ever tried Dr. Frank’s Rkatsiteli varietal? It’s a nice, balanced, floral and spicy dry white from one of the oldest vinifera varieties on earth (supposedly grown on Mount Ararat in biblical times). They grow the grapes in their vineyards, in addition to producing the wine itself. I’ve never found the Rkatsiteli varietal sold anywhere else. It’s definitely worth a try!

  7. StanfordSteph permalink
    November 8, 2010 12:10 pm

    I think they have sold out of it, but Keuka Spring Vineyard’s 2008 Gewurztraminer was judged the Best White Wine at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. “4,913 American wines were judged by 63 wine experts . The Gewurztraminer was chosen from all of the white wines as the Sweepstakes winner.”

    Gewurz has become one of my top whites, although I am generally partial to German varietals anyway. We’ve served it for Thanksgiving before and it is well received.

  8. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    November 8, 2010 9:14 pm

    Beaujolais nouveau on Thanksgiving for me. The meal is not gourmet but rather epic, and BN works perfectly. And the timing of the (ridiculous) “release” of the beaujolais nouveau works too!

  9. mirdreams permalink
    November 11, 2010 8:50 pm

    We had a good one last night at For Love of Wine’s tasting class from Naked in Washington State. For Turkey day I think I will go with bubbles though, always a good choice.

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