by Fred McMillin
for September 17, 1998

 

Spice Is Nice


Prologue

"There is not enough Gewurztraminer in the world."

...Connoisseurs Guide to California Wine


Gewurztraminer Milestones

The Early Years—The grape is one of the oldest identifiable species in the wine world. Roman soldiers marching across the Alps 2,000 years ago, discovered the wine and its vine in the village of Tramin in South Tyrol. They appropriated as much as they could transport to Rome, where it became immediately the court wine of the Caesars. Traveling west, the Roman legions took it to Alsace. (R. L. Balzer)

January 1862—Col. Agoston Harazthy brings the first Gewurztraminer vines to California.

1887—The noblest wine I have seen in this State of California is made from the Traminer grape. (Prof. George Hussman)

1940—Traminer is capable of producing excellent wine in California, though there is pitifully little of it. (Author Frank Schoonmaker)

1976—When well made, Gewurztraminer is full of flavor, spicy in quality with a strong perfume...delightful, yet there is not a lot of it on the market. (Critic Henry Rubin, S.F. Chronicle)

Kendall Jackson1990 - Acreage of the vine has fallen to 1,840, compared to the 1984 figure of 4,110. 1998—Kendall-Jackson is among those leading the charge to increase the standing of this highly-respected, under-produced varietal. My tasters sampled the 1996 and rated it VERY GOOD. I checked back 18 months and no other Gewurz has scored this well.


The Wine

1996 Vintner's Reserve Gewurztraminer, California
Kendall-Jackson Winery
Rating—VERY GOOD
Phone—(707) 544-4000
Price—$10 range


Postscript

There are three principal forms of the Traminer grape, white, blue and pink. Only the pink has the spicy character, and only it is called GEWURZ("spice" in German).. TRAMINER.

Note—For more about the Kendall-Jackson juggernaut, see the June 23, 1998 WineDay, titled " Gangway for this Chardonnay."


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 

 


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