30 Second Wine Advisor: California Gewurztraminer

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 California Gewurztraminer
While Alsatian Gewurz takes the price for intensity and concentration, California comes in with an aromatic treat that's a bit less in-your-face.
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 Handley 2006 Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer ($17.99)
A happy mix of white grapefruit and tangerine aromas and flavors makes this bone-dry Gewurz particularly approachable, and more food-friendly than many of the variety.
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California Gewurztraminer

We're talking Gewurztraminer again today, following up on Monday's dissertation about our online forum Wine Focus topic for the month with a close-up look at a New World Gewurz to compare and contrast with Monday's benchmark example from Alsace.

As I mentioned then, many wine enthusiasts consider Alsace the world's top spot for Gewurztraminer because the wines it makes there tend to surpass all others in their aromatic intensity and concentration; and that, after all, is pretty much what Gewurz is all about.

Today, let's take a quick look at a fine example of an alternative style from California, Handley 2006 Gewurztraminer from Sonoma's Anderson Valley.

Very different in style from the Alsatian "The Furst" featured in Monday's tasting, it's aromatic but not over-the-top. The Alsatian wine's in-your-face rose and litchee aromas are toned down to appetizing grapefruit and tangerine here; the California wine is nicely balanced and sufficiently acidic (acidity is not really a signature characteristic of Gewurz in any case). In contrast with the Alsatian's distinctly off-dry flavor, the California wine is made bone-dry and considerably more food-friendly, with just a whiff of peach-pit bitterness in the finish.

I like both wines, and they're both typical Gewurz. But in this rare instance, the usual Old World-New World distinction is reversed: Despite the American wine's hefty 14.2 percent alcohol, it's the New World wine that makes you think of relatively subtle things - pastels or string quartets - while the Old World wine turns up the volume with Technicolor and crashing cymbals.

A curious footnote: Oddly, the French wine label presented the word "Gewurztraminer" with no umlaut over the "u." The California wine, with its label in English, uses the Germanic form with the double-dotted "ü." My notes on the Handley are below.

Handley 2006 Anderson Valley Gew├╝rztraminer ($17.99)


Transparent pale gold color. Attractive aroma evokes fresh white grapefruit. Bone-dry, with crisp citrus flavors, a happy mix of grapefruit and tangerine; good acidity for Gewurz, with just a hint of alcoholic heat (14.2 percent claimed). Despite being vinified fully dry, there's only a presentable whiff of peach-pit bitterness in the finish. (Dec. 4, 2007)

FOOD MATCH: A relatively easy food match for a Gewurz, it went nicely with a not-too-spicy Cajun-style chicken and okra gumbo.

VALUE: A fine expression of California Gewurztraminer and not unreasonably priced, although I do like it better for a few dollars under this $18 point, which matches the winery's suggested retail price.

WHEN TO DRINK: The conventional wisdom holds that Gewurz should age well and gain some complexity with a few years of cellar time; this rule of thumb, however, is typically based on off-dry to sweet Gewurz, and I can't claim much experience with cellaring the less commonplace dry versions.

This page on the winery Website offers some basic, advertising-style information about the 2006 Gewurz, with a link onward to a more detailed spec sheet.

Check prices and find vendors for Handley Gewürztraminer on Wine-Searcher.com:

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