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Wine Without Pretense: Pinot noir and label confusion
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Wine Of The Month

The wine: Treana White 2010.

The grapes: 50 percent Marsanne, 50 percent Viognier.

The source: Central Coast of California.

The verdict: This is a lovely white that will be a wonderful mate for that big, succulent dish that likely will crown your holiday table — unless it’s a big roast of some kind of red meat. Treana is the winery name, and it was established by the well-respected Hope family. This blend brings together two white wine grapes with origins in France’s Rhone Valley. The marsanne gives the wine vigor and body, the viognier brings a soft fruitiness to the party. There’s almost a meatiness to this wine. Satisfying fruit flavors are bonded with a good level of acidity, giving the wine a crisp, balanced touch in the mouth. Want something different to grace your holiday table — or any table, for that matter? Give Treana White a shot.

The price: About $22.

 

Came back from our North Sea cruise in mid-September to find some questions from readers on my email. Since I had written my October column in advance of the trip, I’ve had to wait until this month to address them.

Question: I heard you speak recently in Gainesville about Georgia wines. I was surprised to hear you say area winemakers are producing some excellent wines. That’s good to hear, and I will be visiting some local wineries quite soon. I have seen merlot, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, among others, made in Georgia. But my favorite red wine is pinot noir. I have not seen any Georgia pinot noir. Why is that?

Answer: Pinot noir is the regal, but temperamental red wine grape of France’s Burgundy region. It is one of my favorites, too. You won’t see any made from Georgia-grown fruit because this is a difficult grape to grow. Pinot noir is thin-skinned and is susceptible to the ravages of high humidity and heat. You may have noticed we get both in abundance in Northeast Georgia. Because of the extra work — and risk — involved in cultivating pinot noir here, Georgia winemakers avoid it. Another of my favorite grapes, the white gewurztraminer (see below), has the same issues.

Q: We recently visited family in Hawaii. I jokingly asked about Hawaiian wineries. Imagine my surprise when my brother-in-law hauled a bottle of pineapple wine from his wine rack. I was even more surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. What can you tell me about it?

A: Chances are you sampled one of the pineapple wines from Tedeschi Vineyards in Maui. I’ve had one of their selections, Maui Blanc. And I liked it, too! Open the bottle and the sweet, fruity aroma of fresh pineapple wafts out. Of course, you expect a wine that tastes like pineapple juice ... and just as sweet. It’s not. The fruit flavor is there, but muted. And Maui Blanc is medium-dry, similar in style to a white zinfandel. It’s great with spicy Hawaiian/Pacific Rim seafood dishes, or just as a unique cocktail wine. Tedeschi also makes a sparkling pineapple wine — Hula O’Maui — and a sweeter, passion fruit-enhanced wine — Maui Splash. And, no, I don’t know where you can find them locally.

Q: I just bought a bottle of French red wine. I am accustomed to seeing the term "Appellation Origine Controllee," on the label. But this label said, "Appellation Origine Protegee." What’s that all about?

A: The first reference, AOC, referred to French regulatory practices that guaranteed that particular wine met specific requirements regarding, among other things, how much fruit was grown in the vineyards, what grape types went into the blend, the vintage date and more. AOC on the label informed the buyer it was a high-quality wine. AOP is merely the new, Euro-centric form of AOC. Means the same thing, only that this term will be applied to Euro-zone wines.OK, so much for Q&A. Let’s move on to holiday wines.

If you’re planning on having a big turkey for your Christmas table I’ve already suggested one white for that gobbler (see Wine of the Month). But my first choice for the roast turkey is, as I’ve been saying for 20 years, a good Alsatian gewurztraminer. That’s the name of the grape, and the wine is generally crisply dry with overtones of spice. Give it the bird!

I’ve found two that not only are super-nice wines, they are reasonably priced — reasonable for Alsatian gewurz being under $25. They are Pierre Sparr and Michel Leon. You may have to visit larger wine shops to find these, or ask your local wine shop owner if she/he can order them.

I used to push Trimbach and Hugel gewurztraminers, but they have become quite pricey in the last five years.

Why not try a local wine? I like the viognier reserve from BlackStock Vineyards outside of Cleveland. Habersham Vineyards near Helen offers a succulent viognier under its Creekstone label.

Want to blow it out? Pick up a bottle or three of Tiger Mountain Vineyards gold medal-winning Petit Manseng. Ain’t cheap, but it is wonderful.

Prefer red wine? In my book, no red matches roast turkey like a good Oregon pinot noir. California’s Russian River Valley and Carneros regions also crank out respectable pinot noirs.

Have a mixed table? A well-chilled bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine always makes a good companion for just about any kind of food.

Enjoy your December holidays ... and count your blessings.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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