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Gewurztraminer: Alsace and Warm Weather Pairings

21 Sep

Through summer and fall, Gewurztraminer wines from d’Alsace can be the perfect companion for transitioning seasons, perhaps even more with late summer’s outdoor events of festivals, fairs, and concerts.

What’s not to love, with a wine that can rock the heat of summer, or the insane depths of winter?

I mixed and matched these wines for a series of weeks to pair with a bevy of spicy, warm-weather dishes.

 

Beck-Hartweg Dambach-La-Ville Gewuztraminer 2016, Alsace, France. 13%ABV, SRP$20/bottle

Pale straw in color. The nose has a pear and dried apricot with distinctive notes of clove and gunpowder. Superbly dry with a floral mouthfeel followed by fresh ginger note on the finish. On my initial tasting, this wine paired easily with a summer salad of mixed greens with chicken breast, sliced almonds, grape tomatoes, red onion, fresh sweet peas and slices of tangerine. Several subsequent pairings worked nicely with turkey and a chutney sauce, Indian curry, and Asian stir-fry.

 

Gustav Lorentz Gewuztraminer Réserve 2016. Alsace, France.  13.5% ABV, SRP $24/bottle.

Color is an off-clear translucent with a nose of fresh rose petals. On the palate, lychee, fresh pear and citrus are subdued by delightful floral characteristics, showing notes of lilac, african violet, and green cuttings. This is a glamorous wine with a sense of prestige when it hits the mouth. This reserve gewurztraminer goes down so easily you’ll be eager for the second bottle! But beyond drinking delightfully by itself, it pairs SO easily with any kind of summer fare, from American BBQ to spicy Mexican, from Spanish Tapas to grilled seafood.

 

 

 

 

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Calcaire 2016, Alsace, France. 13.5% ABV, $43/bottle SRP

Color is medium straw.  Lychee, tangerine zest and mango on the nose. Very dry on the palate, heat surges across the back palate, sweet nose wafts up while pear drives the fruit home. Lovely mineral finish with sodium and calcium notes. 

18 months in aged French oak, 30 year old vines. This is a gorgeous wine that punches far beyond its price and weight class. One of my favorite pairing meals was grilled flounder served with a spicy habanero chutney.Total perfection: Italian bruschetta: toasted baguette rubbed with raw garlic, coated with diced plum tomatoes that have been tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, topped with a fresh basil leaf. By the same token, NY’s “grandma” pizza which has a zestier sauce, a thinner and crisper dough on the square crust, sometimes a touch more sauce ladled on to of the fresh mozzarella.

 

 

 

 

Each of these wines stayed true with a post-meal cheese course, cleansing the palate beautifully for delicate goat cheese, gouda, and a soft blue.

Shocking surprise pairing #1: barbecued pineapple with grilled meat. Whether you grill beef, chicken, pork, lamb, or a combination- the citrus of the gewurztraminer will enhance the sweetness of the grilled fruit (peach and pineapple are my personal favorite) along with the smoke and char on the meat. Simple citrus marinades are your friend here!

Shocking surprise pairing #2: spicy chicken wings and hot chicken strips. Do you like teriyaki or buffalo wings? Anything with Frank’s Hot Sauce deserves a splash of Alsace Gewurztraminer to pair!

But just don’t take my word for it- get your hands on some Vins d’Alsace and share your thoughts with us!

Gewürztraminer: Alto Adige!

2 Sep

In 2008 I traveled to Italy and spent a week in Tyrol, a region of the former Hapsburg empire that is home to the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy and a southern portion of Austria that includes Innsbruck.

Tirol Region Map, Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

The largest city in the Alto Adige region is Bolzano, but we stayed in the smaller town of Merano, at the luxury Park Mignon Hotel, enjoying the accommodations and tremendous food from the five-star resort. During my time here, I drank the local wines suggested by the somm, which including brilliant Lagrein, stunning Schiava, and gorgeous, high-quality Gewürztraminer. The region grows MANY grapes and I’d be remiss to not mention the local Chardonnay, their first-class Pinot Grigio, the Pinot Bianco, their focused Pinot Noir and Pinot Nero, as well as the flowery, delicate Müller-Thurgau, among others! But let’s get back to Gewürztraminer!

Today’s REASON to talk about my 2008 trip to Italy was the revelations I had with Italy’s white wines. I had tasted  Gewürztraminer before, knowing it as a floral, aromatic, off-dry, and spicy wine. But early in my youth, I’d had a bad first impression. My first Gewürztraminer had been a less expensive wine and I recalled it being sweet, fruity, and flowery- and not impressive. My experience in Alto Adige could not have been more different, and what was considered “just daily table wines” were Gewürztraminers that were beautifully balanced with dry fruit, sweet aromas, laser-focused acidity and a plethora of spice notes that enchanted my palate with a melange of flavors and nuance.

 

St. Michael-Eppan Gewürztraminer 2017, Südtirol, Alto Adige, Italy. 13.5% ABV, Found locally for $16-18/bottle.

 

 

Color is medium straw with a greenish tinge. On the honeyed nose are apricot, passionfruit, rose bush, citrus, violet and white pepper. The palate is laden with spicy fruit -pear, lychee, lime zest, and young pineapple- followed by notes of ginger root, pepper, spice box and a medium-long finish with Meyer Lemon rind, limestone and a hint of clay. 

This wine has flexibility. It could be enjoyed in the afternoon sunshine as an apéritif, but is ideal when elevating delicate flavors of veal, lobster, corn chowder or freshly summer vegetables.  Also ideal for the summer heat and foods with serious spice from Indian curry to African tagines, from Chinese sauces to Latin foods- this wine is capable of taking the spice and heat from the food and cleaning your palate with a fabulously spicy, sweet wash with a splash of acidity- like the lemon on your fish or the lime squeezed over fajitas as they hit your plate. Few white wines have enough strength to cleanse the palate after hot pepper sauce, but this bottle proved up to the task when I made extra-spicy fajitas and a side of Frank’s hot wings!

For that reason alone, I decided I should keep a few bottles of Gewürztraminer in the cellar to beat the late summer/early autumn heat while being able to pair with any range of spice profile that might appear, from the delicate to the powerful,  all in a package that wine drinkers easily enjoy, and in the under-$20 range that everyone can afford. Any why not? These wines can age from 5-20 years in the cellar, though mine never get a chance before I pop the cork to share with friends.

If you have the opportunity to travel to Bolzano or Merano, you can’t help but appreciate the beautiful vineyards that cover the countryside- but if you just want to dream about it today, all you need is a bottle of this St. MIchael-Eppan Süditirol/Alto Adige Gewürztraminer. Your mouth will think you’re arrived!


A view from one of my afternoon hikes in Merano, Italy.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Passover Wines, 2018: Yarden, Golan Heights & Galil Mountain Winery

29 Mar


It never fails: within one 24 hour period,  both a local neighbor and a long-distance blog fan hit me with the same question: “Will you suggest some more wines I can buy for Passover this year?”

Why yes, I think I will!

Mount Hermon White Wine Blend, 2016, Golan Height’s Winery, Galilee, Israel. 13.5%ABV, SRP $12/bottle.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers honeydew melon and fresh wildflowers. On the palate, this blend is a delight to the tongue: ripe white peach, Bosc pear, sweet apple, and tangy citrus for a lovely fruit blend moving from the front to side palates. The tropical fruit hits on the finish, crossing up through the top palate and into the nasal cavities. This is so easy to drink, I’d suggest you open it while cooking, but it’s really the wine you want to ply your guests with as they enjoy reading the Haggadah, paring with roast chicken, gefilte fish, fresh fruit, and the cheese course. Aunt Edna (who won’t drink red wine) will love this throughout the meal, but will remind you to pour her “only a little” each time you come by with the bottle. A great value in non-Mevushal, Kosher-For-Passover wine at a daily drinking price.

 

Yarden Gewürztraminer 2016; Golan Height’s Winery, Galilee, Israel. 14.5%ABV, SRP $21/bottle.

This non-Mevushal, Kosher for Passover white is world-class gewürztraminer! Medium straw in color with sweet citrus on the nose. On the palate: lychee, pineapple, a hint of clementine, some orange peel. Nice acidity without being too hot. Great balance with mouth-watering acidity, the mid and back palate pucker up as the wine moves back and down on the long finish. Without a doubt, this is among the finest examples of Gewürztraminer  I’ve tasted from Israel. This medium-bodied wine is the perfect for the discerning and difficult wine drinkers to start their meal with- your first few cups, perfect for the fish and salad courses, before you move on to the brisket. After the brisket, you can come back to this for dessert, it’s that mouthwateringly delicious. If you want a little more citrus, smoke and a tiny hint of mint that is serious enough to pair with crispy duck, a roast, or the salmon course, look no further. This is a serious white wine for Pesach, and it’s a delightful expression of the gewürztraminer grape!

 

 

Yiron, Upper Galilee, 2014 Red Wine Blend, Galil Mountain Winery; Galilee, Israel. 15%ABV, SRP $32/bottle.

The serious red blend! Made of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah, and 5% Petite Verdot, this is aged for 16 months in French oak. Color is deep garnet with purple edging. The nose offers blueberry pie and a bit of extra alcohol to burn. Given some time to air, the aromas of vanilla, blackberry, spice box and forest floor come through. On the palate, find a mix of black currents, blueberry, and tart black plum. With above-average acidity and strong tannins, a swish around the mouth allows you to sense the unctuous, full-bodied mouthfeel and enjoy its long, tart finish. This is an excellent choice to serve with your roast or brisket, no doubt, you might be tempted to name this wine when the youngest one asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Trust me, keep that answer to yourself, and wait for the next cup -it’s worth it. Last but not last, this bottle would also be a perfect gift wine for Passover if you’re a guest joining others for the annual ritual and celebration.

 

What wine will grace your glass, and your Seder plate this year?

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m a fan of Yarden and their head winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, who is credited as being the single greatest influence in elevating Israel’s wine to a world-class level. You can check out my other posts about his wines, and more Kosher for Passover wines at these links:
http://bit.ly/VSYarden
http://bit.ly/YardenRosé
http://bit.ly/JvBYardenII

à votre santé!

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

Ruhlmann Wines from Alsace

14 Mar

Alsace: a northeastern border area of France known for its beautifully fragrant wines. A wine region that is sandwiched between the Vosne mountain range and the Rhine river, it has changed hands between Germany and France several times throughout history, and many of the wines demonstrate Germanic or Austrian influence.

As an oenophile, I have found that many Americans are largely unaware of Alsace. When they are introduced to the wines, they often become fans. If you don’t know Alsace wines, this is a perfect introduction in the $20-and-under range for family-made, classic wines with lineage and complexity that sing of their terroir and heritage.

The Ruhlmann family has been making wine since 1688 in the Alsace village of Dambach-la-Ville, where they produce about 1.2 million bottles annually, with 40% of their products exported under the watchful eye of winemaker André Ruhlmann.

Ruhlmann Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV is a pale straw color with a refined nose of peach and fresh brioche. Gentle flavors of white stone fruit and dried apricot on the palate, delightfully dry with solid acidity and a hint of sweet honeysuckle on the top palate that makes the mouth water. A blend of pinot blanc, pinot auxerrois, pinot gris, and riesling, this sparkling wine has enough body to provide an afternoon delight or pair through dinner. $20/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Muscat Fleur de Printemps 2015 is the color of early morning sunshine and offers a sweet, aromatic nose of wildflowers. On the palate, it demonstrates gentle citrus, with notes of lime and starfruit. Secondary hints of yellow pear, orange peel, sodium and sand evolve as the wine warms gently. This muscat is bottled quickly to retain the powerful nose and pairs nicely with Thai, Chinese, and white meats, but I would not hesitate to open this and sit on the porch to enjoy on a carefree, sunny afternoon. 100% Muscat, 11.5% ABV, $15/bottle.

 

 

Ruhlmann Gewurtztraminer Vieille Vignes 2014 offers a pale yellow color with a spicy nose of rose bush, violet flowers, clove, and a hint of jasmine. Mature and refined green apple, lemon zest, banana peel and white pear on the robust palate give way to soaring acidity. Thirty-year-old vines show their deep roots with a finish of limestone and hints of clay and slate. This wine is powerful enough to pair with foie gras, a meat entrée, or a full-bodied cheese, and will age beautifully, showing greater complexity in 4-5 years.  Around$15/bottle, with 13%ABV.

 

 

Ruhlmann Riesling Vieille Vignes 2014 is pale straw in color. On the nose, faint lychee, lime zest, passion fruit, and hint of limestone. In the mouth, lemon-lime, pear, and lemongrass are followed by notes of clementine and lychee. Searing acidity powers through the full-bodied palate without heat ever crossing the back or top palates, while notes of gravel and clay round out the reserved finish. Delightful now, and will only improve with age. $16/bottle, 12.5%ABV.

 

And finally,

Ruhlmann Crémant de Rosé NV “Harmonie de Rosé” is 100% pinot noir, with tiny effervescent bubbles and a hue that verges between salmon and pale orange. The nose offers young raspberries and baking spice, while the palate is pure strawberry, slate and limestone. What’s not to love? $23/bottle, 12%ABV.

 

If you love Alsace already, then you should add these wines to your list or cellar. If you are new to Alsace wines, these are a perfect introduction to the region you can enjoy and share with friends. 

à votre santé!

 

2015 Nativo by Markus Wine Co, Lodi CA

22 Oct

2015 Nativo Lodi White Wine, Markus Wine Company, Borra Vineyards. Lodi California. 13.2% ABV. MSRP$18.99/bottle.

 

Pale straw in color; featuring a delicate nose with hints of lychee, gardenia and honeysuckle. On the palate, restrained white peach, lemon-lime zest, starfruit and gorgeous acidity with rigid chalk and stone on the finish. Such a subtle balance of flavors and responses without any of the oppressive heat I’ve found in great kerner wines from Europe, Markus Niggli’s white wine blend will smack you over the head with beauty, convince your mouth it is enjoying a brilliant expression of a $50+ Austrian wine, and make you open your wallet to order a case of this to enjoy whenever you simply want a really well made wine that goes with almost anything. I like this wine even more now that I first did when tasting in the vineyard in Lodi, both times I approached with low expectations and had an eye-opening experience. You will, too. Thank me later- I’m finishing this glass first. Fermented in stainless steel, using only native yeast and no malolactic fermentation, it is a blend of 52% Kerner, 29% Riesling, 15% Bacchus, 4% Gewürztraminer all grown in Lodi’s Mokelumne Glen Vineyards.

 

 

markus-nativo

 

nativo-back

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Alto Adige: Northern Italy’s Powerhouse Wines

12 Jan

I recently had an opportunity to get up close and personal with some amazing Alto Adige DOC wines, and I was impressed with the quality, the flavors, and the prices of these wines.  They will have a regular place in my vocabulary and cellar from here on out, and it’s time we looked closely at them. Trust me, you will be glad you did!

AA 1st schava

Cantino Valle Isarco Schiava DOC 2011, Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines.  ABV 12%. No MSRP listed.

This schiava is bright ruby in the glass with a nose of young cherries. On the palate, very delicate- the softest of the reds I tasted, light with gentle tannins. With balanced acidity and tannins, this wine pairs best with pastas, appetizers or a meat & cheese plate.  This is a tasty and light summer red. Though not easily found,  it is available in NYC through the distributor: www.panebiancowines.com.

This wine warmed me up for the next three heavy hitters:

Eppan Pinot

St. Michel-Appan 2011 DOC Pinot Noir. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 13% ABV MSRP $13.

Color: Pale ruby with clear edging. Nose: hints of red fruit, raspberry and cherry blossoms together with a note of old wood.  On the palate; a fresh young blend of blackberry, cherry, and cassis is delicate going down. Harmony is demonstrated by matching young fruit and the right amount of acidity together with supple tannins for a very enjoyable experience.

It paired beautifully, after opening, with basic rigatoni pasta a garlic and olive oil, and side of steamed broccoli. Ideal to cut the garlic from the palate, leaving my mouth refreshed. This would also be a great appetizer wine, with the lush fruit and crisp acidity this is a sommelier’s pairing dream. A very strong competitor against both US pinot noir and Burgundy, I was surprised at how good this wine is for the price, and I kept finishing my tastes early- the bottle was gone far too soon.

In NYC, you can find this wine at Gotham Wines & Liquor .

Galea Schiava

Nils Margreid Galea Schiava DOC 2011. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 13% ABV, MSRP $19

Color is pale ruby center with garnet notes, translucent with clear edging. A delicate nose of ripe red fruit, ancient wood and a hint of limestone. In the mouth, it expressed more body and depth than I expected, fresh fruit and nice crisp acidity with gentle tannin. Instead of  layers of flavor, I experienced singularity of flavor and location. This wine screams Tyrol, and reminds me of hiking in the mountains and taking an early dinner with thinly sliced meats, a house salad, a side of pasta, and fish. This pairs delightfully with each of those, and is just as nice by itself.

When you buy this wine, whether its for yourself or a friend, don’t stop at one bottle. It goes down so easily, you’ll open it while you’re cooking and finish the bottle before dinner is ready.  It took all the patience I had to save enough to try this with fajitas, stir-fry, burgers, and pasta and this wine went the distance with each one.

In the NYC area, this is available from NJ-based www.trainoswine.com .

Andrian Gewurz

Kellerei-Cantina Andrian Gewürztraminer DOC 2012. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 14.5% ABV,  MSRP  $16.

Color: pale straw. Nose: a delightfully aromatic wine, slightly perfumed, touch of citrus and jasmine with underlying floral blend.

On the palate, If there ever was a wine that came close to a handmade salted caramel, this might be it. Lychee is the initial fruit, followed by notes of toffee and butterscotch, and an amazing blend of sweetness, acidity, and salinity that made it difficult to put the wine down from either my nose or mouth. Addictive.

This is a 90+ point wine all day long, and it was so tasty that I kept this bottle for a several weeks, rationing tiny sips just to keep reminding myself how delicious it tasted. Every time, the aromatic wine with sweetness and a noticeable salinity just knocked me out. I did several searches for this wine locally and found consistent ratings in the 90-92 point range, prices $20 and under, and limited availability (usually only several hundred cases per year in the USA). So you won’t find it on grocery store shelves, but when you do find this, buy me a bottle- I’m good for it.

Yes, it’s just that darn good. And each of these is something special. Look for wines of the Alto Adige region (also known as Suditirol) to start popping up in the least expected places, on wine lists you love, in your wine stores.  Why? They are a Powerhouse region, providing  solid wines with great value, my friends… this is the next big thing in wine.

à votre santé!

*Special Thanks to Cornerstone Communications!*

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