Columbia Winery, Gewurztraminer 2006

Before I review this delightful wine, I would like to take a few lines to complain describe a particular alcohol law in our great state of Indiana. Not only am I unable to ship wine (specifically) to Indiana, but buying wine on Sunday is strictly prohibited. Now, granted, I found out about the not buying booze on the Lord’s Day fairly early on. But as I went to the grocery store this past Sunday to pick up my bi-weekly food items, patting myself on the back for strategically buying food and wine in one trip, I met reality with some…frustration. I had the wine in my shopping cart. I was pleased with my selection. I was about to buy a Campo Viejo from Spain, but remembered this wonderful Wine Library TV episode where Gary Vaynerchuck reviewed several of these weird-sounding wines (which wines aren’t weird-sounding?) called Gewurztraminer (guh-VOORTZ-truh-MEE-ner). I saw a bottle and thought, what the hell? So there I was, Gewurztraminer in cart, getting my final food item purchase of hummus. Then an elderly woman passed me, critically looking into my cart. I looked right back, not impressed with her selection of canned goods. True, Bumble Bee canned tuna is on sale, but why buy a crappy product? Yes, I’m doing a little product placement here; I’m a huge fan of Starkist tuna I must admit. As I passed by granny, I suddenly thought of the predominantly older population that attends daily Mass, thought of Sunday Mass, and…oh crap! It’s Sunday! *insert multiple obscenities* I was not happy, and was equally frustrated with my lack of forethought. Nevertheless, I decided today (Monday) to return to Martin’s to read and write a bit, and just so happened to swing by the wine selection to pick up my Gewurz.

Image courtesy of Columbia Winery.

Although it may make a certain amount of sense, it has taken me awhile to recognize the importance of the smell of a wine, its aroma. I usually thought the smell of a wine as insignificant, and not really playing a role in the actual tasting. People with too much money and sophistication seemed to take a wiff, ever so lightly, to show their delicate superiority. And those without the money used their noses in order to look more like the upper class. Well, my views on the wine sniff were highly misdirected. The pre-tasting sniff is not a pretentious nose tilt, but a preparation ritual. Ever notice when you have a cold and your sinuses are all stuffed up so that everything has a dulled taste to it? Our sense of smell is crucial in giving us information about what we eat and drink. When I smell a wine, for example, its aroma gives me a page of the wine’s book. That page doesn’t give the whole story, but the story itself may be incomplete without it.

With my newfound appreciation for my nose, I smelled. The aroma of Gewurztraminer is usually pungent, with scents of honeysuckle, peach, mango and spice, usually clove. And I must say that the smell of this Gewurz did not let me down. I have never pulled back from a wine glass because the smell of the wine was too strong. Now I can say that I have. I was not expecting the strength of the aroma to be so powerful! The wine has a distinct flowery scent to it, with honey overtones. Think of taking a honeysuckle, or any flower for that manner, and crushing it with your hands. That powerful scent is what I’m reminded of. It has a sweet smell, but that bitter, spicy smell from the flower stalk is also very much present. I personally think it’s refreshing and reminds me of when I was a kid and used to rub honeysuckle flowers in my hand. But, I know not everyone has that memory and may be turned off by stalky freshness.

The color of this Gewurz is light gold, which, honestly, is a bit disappointing. I was hoping for a color with a little more copper or pink to it, which would indicate the grape’s ripeness when harvested and fermented. But, depending on the year and vineyard, the color should not play a huge role in the wine’s scent or taste. I just personally wanted something a little more colorful.

As to how this wine tastes, there are four flavors that really stand out for me once I picked them out. This is what I absolutely love about wine. If the wine is at least decent, the taste is usually complex with several flavors and aromas. Gewurztraminers are almost always sweet wines, ranking up there with Rieslings. The difference is in the flavor, dryness and body of the wines, which are indeed different. (Yes, they’re similar but different, figure that one out.) This particular Gewurz lives up to its name. While the smell is pungent, its primary flavors are the Lychee (aka Litchi) fruit, clover, and honeysuckle, with secondary flavors of mango and caramel. I must be honest and say that I just recently tasted a Lychee, and would bet that most Americans have never tasted one and wouldn’t know what it is. In brief, it’s an odd looking fruit, whose flesh is crisp and sweet with a slightly bitter core surrounding its poisonous seed. The experience of tasting a Lychee is almost parallel to that of the Gewurz – there’s an overwhelming sweetness with a bitter spice that gives this wine quite a dynamic character. The spice can be fairly easily tacked to the clover, so much so that I was half expecting my mouth to go numb after tasting the Gewurz. And finally I taste some distinct honeysuckle flavors that attest to the light sweetness of this wine while acknowledging its full body. Unlike the Riesling, which is light in body, the Gewurz is normally heavier, almost having an oily texture to it. Perhaps this is why one of my secondary flavors is caramel. The taste itself reminds me of the candy, but the thickness of it, its tendency to stick with you several minutes after you stopped chewing or sucking, is akin to the Gewurz. The finish, then, is of spice and sweetness, which may remind you of a gingerbread house. And if that image or scent helps you, run with it. Like clover, ginger is pretty ‘spicy’ until you mix it with a sugar.

The best foods to pair with Gewurz’s are spicy foods, to compliment the spice in the wine. I tried this Gewurz with a chicken soup dish I made with jalapenos and a little hot sauce…it was divine. The wine did not clash at all with the food, but ‘swam with’ the food, if you will. The tastes complimented each other, and while milk products tend to diffuse the spice on the tongue, the Gewurz actually prolonged it and made it enjoyable. I will echo other critics and say that spicy Japanese, Indian, or Mediterranean food will go very well with this Gewurztraminer.

I applaud Columbia Winery of Columbia Valley, Washington for making a solid wine that I’m sure competes well with its Alsatian counterparts. I really like this wine, and am giving it 90/100. While there isn’t anything that particularly jumps out from this wine, the consumer is getting a great value at the price.

Score: 90/100

Price: $9.29


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