Chenin Blanc and Gewurtztraminer are what I like to call “forgotten varietals,” because most people don’t think of them until reminded. (I used to place Riesling in this category, but thankfully that grape has become more popular in recent years. So I’ll continue to plug away on behalf of the other two.)
Of Chenin and Gewurz, Chenin is by far the more food friendly. It is an impressively versatile partner to food, from snacks and appetizers to seafood and slightly spicy Asian cuisine. It is also impressively varied in terms of its sweetness, power and minerality, a character that may be a marketing disadvantage for average consumers. Much US-produced Chenin used to be rather sweet and plodding, lacking acidity or interest, a filler for American “Chablis.”
French Chenin Blanc doesn’t really help in the market consciousness department. It is the main grape of the central-western Loire Valley, with appellations such as Vouvray and Saumur. It can come in a full-bodied semi-dry (demi-sec) style, or a racy dry version that smacks of stones and earth. Or it can be unctuously sweet as a dessert wine. The problem is, the labels don’t usually tell you which is which. Here are two dry Chenin Blanc wines I’ve enjoyed recently:
Domaine de Saint-Just, La Coulée de Saint-Cyr, Saumur, 2002. ($20). Stony minerality, with pears and apples underneath. Good complexity and depth. Still young, actually. Imported by J. Cambier Imports, McLean, Va.
Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, 2006. ($12). A perennial favorite. This new release is fresh with flavors of melon, pear and apple, and good acidity. Being Californian, it favors fruit over mineral qualities. It is beautifully balanced and an excellent partner to mildly spicy Asian cuisine or salty olives.
Gewurztraminer, of course, excels in Alsace. Anyone who’s tasted a Gewurz from Domaine Weinbach knows that it is possible to float to heaven on a lychee blossom. The problem, of course, is these are very expensive and hard to find. Some American producers are just iconoclastic enough to make stellar Gewurztraminers, and the joy of these wines is that they often come from unexpected places. They may not be very easy to find, but when you do find them, they tend to be affordable
One of my favorites is the White Hall Vineyards Gewurztraminer from Virginia. The 2006 ($18?) is lean and dry with ample floral notes and lychee flavors, without being over the top. It pairs well with Asian cuisines, and would probably stand up to mildly stinky cheeses.
Other Gewurz producers I like include Fox Run,Dr. Konstantin Frank and Lenz (New York), Carlson (Colorado), Columbia (Washington), and of course Navarro (California – Mendocino).
Most people don't notice bylines on a newspaper article, but as a (recovering) journalist, I tend to pay attention. This article and byline from today's Washington Post Health section made me spew my coffee:
Getting to The Heart Of ED
Sexual Problems in Men Are Often Tied To Vascular Disease
By Ben Harder
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, March 13, 2007; Page HE01
But then I got to thinking. The ... er, thrust ... of the article is that cardiovascular disease is linked to sexual dysfunction in men.
And we all know that red wine contributes to cardiovascular health.
So ... by the transitive property of equality (if I remember high school math correctly) ...
If A = B, and B = C, then ...
RED WINE = VIAGRA!
No doubt you've heard of Michel Rolland, the famous peripatetic "flying winemaker" who consults at more than 100 wineries across the globe and is lauded by his fans as a winemaking genius, even as he's reviled by his detractors for making wines conform to a uniform recipe. One of Rolland's clients is quite close to home, for me - Kluge Estate winery in Virginia. Not content to listen to the gossip, I decided to check out Rolland's work in the Old Dominion for myself, and for Wines and Vines magazine. Read More ...
Grant Burge produces some outstanding Shiraz. Remember when Australia first caught your fancy with juicy fun wine at rock-bottom prices, before those wines got trendy and expensive and created a gap underneath that Yellow Tail could fill? Well, this lovely value from Grant Burge comes in with a moderate price and more than a mere taste of what all the fuss is about. It’s rich, spicy, dark and long, and at 14% alcohol, well balanced. Imported by Wilson Daniels, St. Helena, Calif.