This week is the 200th issue of EWine of the Week. I think that if you’ve read each issue you’ve seen a great deal of the wine world! If you haven’t, maybe I have 200 more left in me.
The next EWine of the week columns will be devoted to the Alsatian style whites and Rhone-style reds of the newly-arrived winery that my partner and I just brought into Arkansas—The Bunnell Family Cellar, including the finest dry Gewurztraminer I’ve had since I visited Alsace, a Pinot Gris, a Syrah, and a Rhone-style red blend.
The winemaker, Ron Bunnell, has an incredible “power resume”—master’s degree in winemaking from U.C. Davis, head of Beringer’s Napa Valley vineyards, assistant winemaker at Chateau Souverain, founder and head of Kendall-Jackson’s syrah program, head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle’s red wines, and he has now received 92 points in both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast for his own wines—Bunnell Family Cellar.
And now let’s talk about a grape that was once so popular that everyone grew it, even in Napa Valley, but that fell out of favor because the name was difficult to say. It’s back now.
Taste something good this week!
Gewurztraminer (“guh VURTZ tra MEN uhr”) is a white wine grape that’s grown in many countries—Italy, France, Germany, Austria and more. At one time California “gewurz” was extremely popular, even mainstream, in this country. Robert Mondavi and others grew it in Napa Valley. Fetzer still grows it.
As with any grape variety, it comes in many styles, from bone dry to lusciously sweet. The most recognized style is called “Alsatian” after the region in northeastern France that borders Germany. Light, dry, unoaked, and most importantly, the soft spiciness from which this grape gets its name.
Gewurz means spicy in German, and Tramin is a town in the part of northern Italy that belonged to Austria until the end of the first World War. Even today it’s a transitional, semi-autonomous zone, where every town has two names on its signs, one in Italian and the other in German.
But Alsatian style is a French style—drier than most German versions, fuller than most Italian.
Gewurztraminer is famous for its fragrant, flowery nose, with a soft spiciness that follows through the palate to a lingering finish. It tends to be softer in acid than many other grapes, making it a good match for many dishes from salads to seafood. It’s also a good match with mild cheeses.
The wines of Washington state sometimes strike a balance between California fruit and French complexity and compatibility with food, at least in part because of its northerly latitude, which passes right through France. It gives an average of two extra hours of daylight each day.
An example of a Washington Gewurztraminer made in the Alsatian style is from Ron Bunnell of The Bunnell Family Cellar. I brought this into Arkansas recently, as an example of the style. Retail price around $20.