"Gewurz" means "spicy" in German, so it's not surprising that the adjective finds its way into most descriptions of wines made from this grape. It's also that quality that makes Gewurztraminer a great choice for your holiday table, helping it pair well with and complement the wide mix of dishes that make the meal. And while the Alsace region of France is the best-known source for the variety, this tasting showed that other regions can prove equally worthy. Here are the panel's top picks:
2010 Ch. Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer, $7.99
When it comes to Northwest wineries, Ste. Michelle is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but with that size comes a well-earned reputation for quality and value. This exceptional bargain leads off with honeysuckle, green apple and spice, along with an enticing touch of tarragon. Made in an appealing off-dry style, the wine's ripe pear and peach flavors are balanced by bright citrus. This wine finishes clean and lightly sweet with an intriguing layer of creamy hazelnut.
2010 Slight of Hand, The Magician, $15.99
An entry from Washington, this winery adds 15 percent riesling to the blend. The aromas are light but lovely, highlighted by soft peach and pear, which are backed by basil and spice. Honeyed-fruit flavors of apricot and blood orange play against the lively acidity more characteristic of the riesling grape. The wine's finish is crisp and dry, colored by lemon zest and spice.
2010 Valckenburg Gewurztraminer, $12.99
This wine opens with a beautiful mix of aromas, including white peach, green apple, tropical fruit, spice, thyme and lychee nut. There's a definite richness on the palate with ripe stone fruit up front, followed by mango, papaya and tangy citrus. Supple spice and lemon zest come through on the round and refreshing finish. This is a very versatile style from this German winery.