Monday, September 19, 2011

The Case for Okanagan Goo

Could Gewurztraminer be the definitive white varietal of the Okanagan? We think it could...

However, lovers of BC Chardonnay need not fear (nor write nasty letters), nary a negative word will be written in this article knocking the many fantastic Chardonnays produced in BC. Rather, we desire to highlight the lesser-publicized varietal that is our small-bunched and blue-ish hued friend, Gewurztraminer.

One cannot define, with a single sentence, the Okanagan Valley's climate and selection of diverse terroir except, perhaps, to state that in many areas it is perfect for growing Gewurztraminer. However, does this statement alone make Gewurztraminer the region's signature white varietal?No, of course not. It takes a group of talented winemakers to work with the grape and produce the aromatic, joyful and delicate wine many of us "Wurz-heads" love so much.

Gerwurztraminer excels in the warm areas of cool climate regions which fits the Okanagan Valley to a tee. The valley's winemakers are also excelling in their own right using cool fermentation methods to preserve the natural aromatic qualities of the varietal producing an array of different Gewurztraminers to choose from. The wines, ranging from bone-dry table wines to sweet aperitif wines, showcase the uniqueness of each planted area in the valley and reflect the winemaker's vision for the final product.

The following Gewurztraminers represent our current favourites of the varietal on offer in BC today:

2010 Sumac Ridge Estate Winery - $15
A recent gold medal winner at the inaugural Summerland Fall Fair Wine Awards. Offers testbook typicity for straightward, non-flashy, dry BC Gewurztraminer and an unbeatable price point.
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2010 Oak Bay Estate Winery - $16.50
Classic Alsatian "Goo" flavours of lychee, spice and citrus fruits follow on the well-balanced, full-bodied palate with a touch of residual sugar, good acidity and a long finish with lingering peppery lemon.
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2010 Tinhorn Creek Vineyards - $18
The 2010 vintage was good to Tinhorn Creek's Gewurztraminer vines. The long, cool season provided the brisk nights needed to produce ample acid in the tightly bunched grapes resulting in a refreshing and relatively crisp wine for the notoriously low-acid producing varietal.
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2010 Thornhaven Estate Winery - $18
Recent silver medalist at the Summerland Fall Fair Wine Awards excels, year-in year-out, at the popular, sweeter, lush style of BC Goo.
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2010 Desert Hills Estate Winery - $23
Benefiting from the cooler than average 2010 growing season, the notoriously low-acid Gewurztraminer grape has outshone many of its much more popular white-varietal cousins in that vintage year. Matching its juicy, lush tropical fruit characters with tart, acidic notes rarely achieved (naturally).
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So, is Gewurztraminer the Okanagan's signature white wine? Well maybe, maybe not. It would be hard to say that the region's best Chardonnays and Rieslings wouldn't compete for that title as well. However, many of the elite Chardonnays command a premium price whereas BC's top Gerwurztraminers are almost always $20 and under. All of the wines featured in this article are below this price-point and many outshine Chardonnay of the same price. One could therefore propose that Gewurztraminer is "BC's signature budget white wine" or "BCSBWW", but that's a terrible title. We'll keep signing BC Gewurztraminer's praise and you can decide for yourself.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011

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