Wine of the month
Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling Wine
The wine: Not quite bone dry Champagne-style sparkling wine
The grapes: Blend of chardonnay, riesling, muscat, semillon, gewurztraminer, muller thurgau and pinot gris
The source: Oregon
The verdict: I feel redeemed. I’ve been proselytizing about demystifying bubbly wines for years, advising folks to let the wine make the occasion special. Now comes Oregon’s respected Sokol Blosser Winery saying the same thing, only selling a wine to go with it. With a sketch of a chicken on the label, it suggests drinking Evolution with Cordon Bleu or nuggets. My kind of people. And this is my kind of sparkler. It’s a crisp yet fruity Brut that goes well with most foods. Evolution Sparkling joins its red and white brethren in Sokol Blosser’s drive to be edgy yet casual.
The price: About $22.
In gazing at the galaxy of grapes used to make April’s Wine of the Month, you may have noticed gewurztraminer. And I’m sure many of you are muttering, “What the heck is that?”
I’ll tell you what that is. It’s one of my favorite white wines, that’s what!
And if you are afraid of biting off a portion of tongue trying to pronounce the whole word, just say “Gewurz.” BTW: The whole word is pronounced guh VERTS tra meen er.
This grape started off life as the traminer grape in the area of Germany, Austria and eastern France. Somewhere in its history, it was crossbred to develop a spicy flavor and it became Gewurztraminer. “Gewurz” is a German word for “spicy.”
Characteristics are hints of clove, honey and a distinct rose petal aroma. The classic wines come from the Alsace region of France on the border with Germany. These beautiful wines are very dry and steely but with the traditional Gewurz structure.
Sadly, it’s tough to find good gewurztraminers on supermarket shelves or the small package stores in this area. The one you will likely find is by Fetzer. Although I have been a Fetzer fan for decades, their Gewurz is too sweet.
I recently came across a handful of lovely gewurztraminers from Alsace, Italy, New Zealand and Washington state. Some will be easier to find than others, although I have been assured all are available in Georgia.
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht 2012
This is classic Alsatian Gewurz. Hints of peach and honey in the mouth with rose petals in the nose. Yum.
This wine is quite dry, which is why it’s a great food wine. Try it with a pork roast.
I like the quote from winemaker Olivier Humbrecht, a Master of Wine: “Good wine is made by people who actually do everything they say they are doing.”
And it’s an Earth-friendly sipper; certified organic and biodynamic. It’s about $26.
Lawson’s Dry Hills 2012 New Zealand
This beauty comes from the creative Kiwis of New Zealand; the first I’ve had from there. It is close in style to the Alsatians and reminds me of the fruit-first approach taken with New Zealand’s famed sauvignon blancs. No oaky, fruit salad distractions; just the strength and balance of the Gewurz grape.
This one has a lot of rose petal to it, along with the spice. It’s been well received, winning two international trophies at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
It’s the perfect companion for pork dishes or spicy Asian fare. Its price is around $16.
Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Theo 2012
We’re back in Alsace, near the town of Kaysersberg. And talk about ancient. This land has been cultivated with grapes since before the year 890. The winery itself was established by Capuchin monks in 1612.
These vineyards, too, are organically cultivated. The wines get lots of hands-on care. That dedication shows in flavors that practically glow.
I find this gewurz different from the Zind-Humbrecht. The finish — the overall taste/aroma sensation left after you swallow — seems longer and fuller. But both the Alsatians are gems.
The winemaker suggests pairing it with smoked salmon. It costs about $36.
Elena Walch Alto Adige 2013
Never had a New Zealand gewurz and never had one from Italy. Now I’ve solved both of those issues. Elena Walch is known as the Queen of Gewurztraminer in the Alto Adige region in northeastern Italy. The winery is family owned and produces a pair of killer gewurz.
This one comes from the larger of two vineyards and gets the extra attention needed to make excellent wine. Cool fermentation and aging in stainless steel tanks gives the wine a full definition of Gewurz character. I found this and the next Walch wine to be slightly softer than the Alsatians. But the flavors are right there. It is close to $20.
Elena Walch Kastelaz 2013
This wine comes from Walch’s smaller vineyard —15 acres. And it reflects the quality that comes from such specific sourcing.
The color is a darker yellow than the others and the flavors of dried fruit really come through.
For decades I’ve advocated for gewurz with the Thanksgiving turkey. This one will be on my table in November.
The cooler climate in Alto Adige seems perfect for this grape, and this example is elegant. I think I’m in love. Its price is about $32.