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Monday, March 9, 2009

Wine for rocking out

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Tried and true recipe for a successful 80's metal band:

Aqua Net? Check. Leather pants? Check. At least one power ballad? Check.

And, of course, an umlaut somewhere in the band's name.

For those of you unfamiliar with German diacritics, "umlaut" is the name for the two dots above a vowel. Now, 80's bands randomly peppered umlauts anywhere they could, but hey…that's rock 'n' roll.

Just the same, I can never look at a bottle of Gewürztraminer without wistful remembrance of my Queensrÿche fanboy days. But I don't need to go into great detail about my mulleted, body-waved boyhood.

The Gewürztraminer grape originated in the Italian Alps, but the Alsace region of France and the mountains of Germany are best known for this aromatic grape. The German word "gewürz" translates as "spicy" or "perfumed" -- either of which easily apply to the wine. Gewürztraminer is a mutation of the traminer grape, hence the full name.

Only a few regions successfully grow this grape. In addition to the aforementioned, New York, New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest, and a few counties in California do solid gewürz's.

Gewürztraminer produces a medium-to-full bodied, extremely fragrant wine. These wines are generally very fruity and somewhat peppery. Gewürztraminers may be some of the most food-friendly wines around. However, Gewürztraminer really comes to life when paired with fresh fruit, strong cheeses, or almost any spicy food. It's perfect with almost any Asian or Cajun cuisine.

Gewürztraminers tend to be a little difficult to find at Vine prices. Even so, there are a few bottles that Warrant a mention…

I wanted to try different plantings of American Gewürztraminer market, so I got two: one from California, and one from Washington. The Adler Fels 2006 Gewürztraminer is from Sonoma County. I was wonderfully surprised by this wine. The Adler Fels was one of the best whites I've had in a long time. It has a nice floral and apple nose, is medium bodied with a nice crisp acidity and some pear flavors -- but it's not as sweet as many other wines of this type. The finish is very long and peppery, with more of that tasty pear flavor hanging around. The Columbia Winery 2006 Gewürztraminer from Washington had a much more pronounced nose of honey and grapefruit and was quite full bodied. The taste was considerably sweeter and not as peppery on the finish. We decided to taste them side by side with different dishes. We had them with a spicy Thai vegetable curry and a version of ginger and garlic chicken. We also tried them both with sushi. With food, the Columbia actually works better as the sweetness cut through the spice more effectively. The Columbia is a simpler wine, so you don't lose as much of the complexity and flavor as you do with the Adler Fels paired with spicy foods. Overall, I think the Adler Fels was the superior wine, and consider having it with cheeses or on its own. The Adler Fels is $13-15. The Columbia is $7-11.

Until next time…Rock on!