This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20071219.php.
You can call it snobbery or you can call it caution born of experience; but whatever you call it, a lot of wine "geeks" are wary of mass-market wines made by industrial-size producers.
By and large, frankly, there's some justification for skepticism. Wines made in tank-car lots and destined for low-end sale in grocery stores or piled high on pallets in impulse-buy positions in the wine shop generally tend toward the least common denominator, a position that's economically safe for the stockholders but that rarely tickles the wine geek's taste buds.
But just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't always judge a wine by its label. Take today's featured wine, for example. The Gewurztraminer from Fetzer Vineyards, a fair-size Mendocino producer that's a property of corporate Brown-Forman, is a fine choice for quality and value.
While it's certainly no match for a rich, unctuous and powerful Alsatian Gewurz, its consistent pattern of fresh, spritzy refreshment coupled with balanced and clearly defined Gewurztraminer character makes it a winner, pleasant for sipping aperitif-style and as a match for a surprising variety of dishes at the table.
An old-time favorite rediscovered as part of our monthlong inquiry into Gewurztraminer in December's WineLovers Discussion Group Wine Focus, it offers a good benchmark for the lighter-weight California Gewurz style ... and it would be a fine, affordable pick to tote to your office Christmas party for sharing. You'll find my tasting report below.
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Fetzer 2006 California Gewurztraminer ($10.99)
Clear, pale gold. Particularly attractive on the nose, peach and pink grapefruit forward, a hint of honeydew melon behind. An edge of sweetness on the palate, presents as just off-dry and not at all cloying, peach and citrus and sufficient acidity for balance. A touch of peach-pit bitterness joins in to add a bit of complexity in the long finish. Quite a good Gewurz in a balanced style, a fine aperitif but with the structure needed to fare well with appropriate food. (Dec. 11, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Spaghetti with butter and sage proved to be a surprisingly effective match that went beyond "wash down the food" to create positive synergies. The wine's light but present acidity cut through the creamy butter; its floral fruit joined in a particularly attractive dance with the heady herbal aromatics of the sage. Try it also with richer "white meat" dishes from pork and onions to turkey with the trimmings.
VALUE: Fine value at the low end, but it's worth shopping around, as prices vary nationally across an unusually wide range - from $5.99 to $12.99 - in a Wine-Searcher.com report on the 2006.
WHEN TO DRINK: The "slick-sleeve" plastic cork protects against wood-cork taint, but it makes longer-term aging iffy, a disappointment because late '80s and early '90s vintages of this modest wine cellared remarkably well, drying out and gaining substantial richness over five years to a decade.
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