Gewürztraminer: In the Glass and in the Ground

Sheldrake Point 2014 Gewurztraminer

Gewürztraminer was one of our original plantings in 1997, and Winemaker, Dave Breeden, started making Gewürztraminer with our 2006 vintage.

Pronunciation of this varietal might seem like a mouthful, but here in the Finger Lakes wine region it rolls easily off the tongue. Our cool-climate AVA is a great place to make white aromatic wines like Gewürztraminer, so we take full advantage of this versatile grape that we first planted at Sheldrake Point 20 years ago.

Gewürztraminer Grape Tutorial

Gewürztraminer takes part of its name from the city of Tramin in Northern Italy, located in an alpine valley on the southern border of Alto Adige and Trentino. Today the grape is grown throughout the Alps in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary, extending to Moldovia, Ukraine, and even to the cooler climates of Southern Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, including the Finger Lakes.

DNA profiling reveals that this pink grape is an aromatic mutation of a rare variety called ‘Savagnin’ (not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc), which has its roots in France and Germany.

Speaking of France and Germany. Two very common styles of Gewürztraminer are German and Alsatian:

Germany. Despite the etymology (“Gewürz” is the German word for spicy), Gewürztraminer is not a singularly German wine varietal. German-styles tends to be sweeter and fruitier.

Alsace. Alsace is the largest producer of Gewurztraminer in the world and the majority of wines are made in a rich, floral, dry style. Gewurztraminer is one of the 4 Grand Cru grapes of Alsace and has been produced in the region for hundreds of years, today making up almost a quarter of this region’s grape plantings. (Note: The French do not use the umlat ü in their spelling of Gewurztraminer.)

Warm climate Gewürztraminers tend sweeter, with tropical fruit flavors of guava, pineapple, and stone fruits such as peaches and apricots.  Cool climate Gewürztraminers, such as ours, tend toward dry, with floral aromas of roses and lychee, and citrus and spice on the palate.

The Sheldrake Point Winery 2014 Gewürztraminer has a generous nose of warm cinnamon, peach, and apricot, leading to a palate of ripe mango and honeysuckle, with nutmeg and allspice lingering through the finish.

As for pairing with food, don’t get stuck in the rut of believing Gewürztraminer to be a wine only for Thanksgiving! While it is delicious with turkey and cranberry sauce, enjoy our semi-dry wine any time of year with Asian dishes such as spicy Thai, Indian curries and coconut sauces, as well as smoked duck and blood orange salad, or a ham and Gruyère grilled cheese.

Gewürztraminer Wine Characteristics
Courtesy of WineFolly.com

FRUIT FLAVORS (berries, fruit, citrus)
Lychee, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Peach, Apricot, Orange, Cantaloupe

OTHER AROMAS (herb, spice, flower, mineral, earth, other)
Rose, Honey, Ginger, Incense, Allspice, Cinnamon, Smoke

ACIDITY
Medium Low

SERVING TEMPERATURE
“Fridge Cold” 43 ºF (6 ºC)

SIMILAR VARIETIES
Muscat, Riesling, Torrontés (Argentina), Loureiro (Portugal), Malvasia Bianca (Italy)

Gewürztraminer at Sheldrake Point

Gewurztraminer on the vine

Gewurztraminer on the vine.

Sheldrake Point’s unique location helps us to produce the quality white aromatics that many wine lovers enjoy. “Our entire site favors white grapes,” says vineyard manager Dave Weimann. “It’s a vigorous site with fertile soil and access to a flowing, subterranean water supply that white grapes prefer. In fact, these conditions help enhance and preserve those aromatic white flavors.”

Though aromatic white grapes are far more susceptible to rot, disease pressure is low in Gewürztraminer. Dave says though it acclimates more easily than Riesling, Gewürztraminer is less cold tolerant in the spring, so we have planted it closer to the lake, which helps to protect from the cold.

Gewürztraminer was one of our original plantings in 1997, but it would be years before we used those grapes to make wine. Our Winemaker, Dave Breeden, started making Gewürztraminer with our 2006 vintage and has continually refined his methods, producing an award-winning 2012 vintage that made a reviewer at Wine & Spirits magazine gush: “I am beginning to daydream about the wines that will pair best with afternoons of sun, horseshoes and soft-shell crab.”

“In the past we used a three day cold soak with juice and skin contact before pressing,” says Dave, of his Gewürztraminer method. Dave tells me this is a common practice

“Guh-vurtz-tra-MEE-ner”

When you are wine tasting in the Finger Lakes, Gewürztraminer is an excellent wine to taste across wineries to compare how our cool-climate neighbors are coaxing different flavors from this versatile grape.

But, why wait?

On May 11, our 2014 Sheldrake Point Winery Gewürztraminer will be poured at our winemaker’s dinner at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY. Click here for ticket details.

 Menu:

Compressed Watermelon, Watermelon Radish & Aged Balsamic
Sheldrake Point 2016 Rosé

Lively Run Chèvre, Tender Garden Vegetables, Pinot Gris Vinaigrette
Sheldrake Point 2013 Pinot Gris
Sheldrake Point 2015 Pinot Gris

Big Eye Tuna, Baby Fennel, Arugula Miso Dashi
Sheldrake Point 2015 Gamay Noir

Lamb Loin, Charred Cipolinnis, Potato & Herb Purée, Pistachio, Lamb Jus
Sheldrake Point 2012 Meritage

Ewe’s Bleu Ice Cream & Profiterole
Sheldrake Point 2014 Gewurztraminer

Rhubarb, Raspberry, Sabayon Brûlée
Sheldrake Point Ice Apple Wine

Or, join us for our June 24 event, Sheldrake Point Winery Gewürztraminer: Past, Present, Future featuring 10 examples of library, current, and yet-to-be-released wines from Sheldrake Point Winery. Click here for how to attend!

For more on food pairings Gewürztraminer characteristics, visit our friends at Wine Folly!

Born and raised in the Finger Lakes, Whitney has always been passionate about the region.  She attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where she earned her degree in English and Education.  After a tasting room position at a local winery, she traveled to California, New Zealand, and Washington State to work harvest and gain production experience, returning in early 2015 to join the Sheldrake Point team.