When it comes time to sit down to that special holiday meal, you will probably want to step things up a notch. Now's the time when people bring out that big, oaky California Chardonnay they've been saving for just the right moment. But Thanksgiving dinner is the wrong moment. The array of flavors you find at the holiday table, from spicy pumpkin pie to tart cranberry sauce, beg for something a little more reserved than a big Chard. Instead, try a Gewürztraminer. With its clean fruit and light spice, it works well with everything from turkey to Aunt Martha's green bean casserole. That makes it the perfect match for Thanksgiving. Here are the panel's top picks from the world of Gewürztraminer:
2001 Deloach Gewürztraminer, Early Harvest $11.99
This California entry opens with aromas of grapefruit, tart plum, orange blossom, caramel and clove. Surprisingly fresh for an '01, the bracing acidity probably helps. This is a very dry Gewürz, with a light spice component and soft melon and peach flavors. Bright citrus comes through on the crisp, clean finish. This one is at it's best when paired with food.
2003 Snoqualmie Naked Gewürztraminer, $9.49
Made with organically grown grapes, the "naked" refers to this Washington winery's goal of achieving a "pure expression of nature." Whatever. The panel was won over by the rich ripe fruit up front and an off-dry style that's kept in check by crisp acidity. The aromas are reserved and subtle offering honeysuckle and peach, and the flavors more assertive, reminding me of cinnamon apple pie with hints of caramelized brown sugar. It's a good price on a nice wine.
2002 Trimbach Gewürztraminer, $15.99
This Alsatian entry is something of a benchmark, setting the standard for dry-styled Gewürz. The 2002 is a classic with big aromas of honeyed apple, rose, lychee nuts and spice. The wine exhibits impeccable balance tasting of tart cherry and sweet peach fruit backed by soft spice and candied nuts. It finishes bone dry with a nice hit of crisp citrus.
2003 Valckenburg Gewürztraminer
Each of the top four wines comes from a different locale, the Valckenburg representing Germany. Charming for its lively aromas of dried nectarines and spice, this one is the sweetest of the four. But with enough acidity to balance things out, the flavors are rich with honeyed peach and apple fruit. Cinnamon, nutmeg and clove come through on the finish, which lingers nicely.
This week's panel: David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay.