Aldous Huxley once said: "There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception."
Categorically it's those "doors of perception" that make producing gew?rztraminer the most challenging, according to co-winemaker Randy Schock of Handley Cellars in Philo.
"It's tough to overcome the perception that gew?rztraminer is very sweet and that it is the wine of grandparents," Schock said. "The other challenging part is critics seeking a so called -#8216;bone-dry' wine. When this varietal is made bone-dry, the aromatics are diminished and bitter tannins from the skins can be evident."
Schock is behind our wine-of-the-week winner - the Handley Cellars, 2012 Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer at $18.
It's an exotic, complex gew?rztraminer with notes of honeydew melon, pineapple, honeysuckle and a hint of lemongrass. It has bright acidity, a crisp finish and it's a steal for the price.
"Our house style could be described as New World," Schock said. "We bottle all our Alsace varietals very quickly post-fermentation in late February... Our flavors are bolder at harvest and we do not want any malolactic fermentation to interfere with the clean fruit flavors. The result is a clean, fruit-driven wine with a crisp finish which can be paired with a wide variety of food or enjoyed on its own."
Gewurztraminer can transcend cultures and hopefully generations like no other, Schock said.
"If I were to plant a vineyard in China or India I would definitely include gew?rztraminer," he said. "In my opinion, the range of floral characters cannot be matched by any other varietal. No other varietal can express such intensity and flavors such as rose petals, gardenias, lychees, and other tropical fruits."
<em> Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or firstname.lastname@example.org.</em>
<strong>Wine of the Week:</strong> Scouting for the tastiest white wines
Wine writer Peg Melnik had a blind tasting this week of white wines from gew?rztraminer to fume blanc and chardonnay. While all the refreshing whites showed well, our wine-of-the-week winner is the Handley Cellars, 2012 Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer at $18.
<strong>TOP PICK: Handley Cellars</strong>
<strong> Handley Cellars, 2012 Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer,</strong> 13.8 percent alcohol, $18. 4 stars. An exotic gew?rztraminer with good complexity. Aromas and flavors of honeydew melon, pineapple, honeysuckle and a hint of lemongrass. Bright acidity. Crisp finish. A steal for $18.
<strong>Other impressive wines:</strong>
<strong> La Follette, 2011 Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County Chardonnay,</strong> 13.3 percent, $38. 4 stars. An outstanding chardonnay with incredible depth. Aromas and flavors of ripe apple, brioche and mineral. A touch earthy. Lingering finish. Striking.
<strong>Etude, 2011 Grace Benoist Ranch, Carneros Chardonnay,</strong> 14.2 percent, $32. 4 stars. An earthy chardonnay with gorgeous fruit - ripe apple, and honeydew melon. Buoyed by bright acidity. Lingering finish. Impressive.
<strong> Gary Farrell, 2011 Rochioli Vineyard, Russian River Valley Chardonnay,</strong> 14.1 percent, $50. 4 stars. A layered, tropical chardonnay with aromas and flavors of white peach, ginger and Meyer lemon. Rich, yet manages to be balanced with crisp acidity.
<strong>Grgich Hills Estate, 2012 Napa Valley Fume Blanc,</strong> 13.5 percent, $30. 3.5 stars. A tasty aromatic fume blanc with white peach, Meyer lemon and dried apricot. Nice and dry, with a crisp finish.