Gewurztraminer and grenache are underappreciated wines that are difficult to pronounce and often overlooked. Both tend to pair well with traditional Easter holiday dishes, especially ham and lamb.
Gewurztraminer can come in a number of styles, from dry to slightly sweet to very sweet. This aromatic and aggressive white is one of those love-hate styles of wine. It has a spicy, racy character that can catch some off-guard, especially the drier styles. Its origin is Alsace, France, where it is generally produced on the dry side, although several of the recent vintages have had a riper, more full-bodied style, because of warm weather. Pairing it with traditional hearty dishes such as Alsatian choucroute, a mixture of pork, sausages and potatoes on top of sauerkraut, really shows off its spicy, rich character. The other match that works fairly well is pairing a slightly sweet-style gewurz with spicy Asian food. The wine's fruitiness balances some of the heat in Asian cuisine.
Grenache, a work horse red wine, was one of the most heavily planted grape types in Central California a number of years ago. It was rarely labeled by itself, and was overcropped, producing light, undistinguished wines for many years. Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Winery was a pioneer in bringing it back more than a decade ago as he produced several notable wines from grenache. More recently in California, some of the most promising results are in our own back yard as foothill vinemakers and producers are making quite a name for themselves.
Grenache has its origin in the warm southern Rhone Valley of France, where it is the predominate grape in a number of regional wines, including Chateaunuef du Pape.
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In Spain, garnacha is essentially the same grape and has a long history. Grown primarily in the north, near the base of the Pyrenees Mountains, there are a number of producers having great success with the grape after having revitalized their facilities and old-vine vineyards.
This Easter, consider one of the "G" wines with dinner and after your guests are pleasantly surprised, offer them a second glass, but only if they can pronounce the wine's name correctly.
Trimbach 2005 gewurz
From Alsace in France, the Trimbach 2005 is a dry gewurz that is very distinctive. Very fragrant and loaded with spice, it has an assertive style that would work with heavier dishes, including a pork roast with caramelized apples and onions. About $18.
Bucklin 2006 Sonoma gewurz
The Bucklin 2006 is a drier-style California white that has enough spice and richness to work well with spicy dishes. Floral and peach aromas. A good match with an Easter honey-glazed ham. $15.
Lavender Ridge 2005 Grenache
Lavender Ridge produces a number of Rhone-style wines. The Calaveras County winery's grenache is very drinkable with generous strawberry and cherry fruit flavors. It's round and rich with a silky texture. Try with garlic and herb rubbed roasted leg of lamb on Easter. About $23.
Also, the winery's dry grenache rose is a medal winner and a perfect summer wine.
Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha
The Borsao Tres Picos is an old vine Spanish grenache from low-yield vineyards. It is a richly textured, full-bodied red with plenty of blackberry and plum fruit. There's a good dose of spice and leather in the finish of this 2006 vintage.
About $15. The winery's Borsao red table wine, which is made up of 75 percent garnacha and 25 percent tempranillo, is a very good value at $8 a bottle.
Wine picks are from Tom Bender, wine instructor at Columbia College and wine steward for O'Brien's Market, 4120 Dale Road, Modesto, 545-8100.
These picks, for Hope wines, are from Laura Staley, owner of Angels' Share Wine Shop, 2101 Sylvan Ave., Suite 101, Modesto; 492-0600; www.aswineshop.com.
Drink good wine for a good cause with Hope Wine. Launched in 2007 out of Southern California by Jacob Kloberdanz and several philanthropic partners, Hope Wine turns fund raising into a year-round business that benefits charities and wine drinkers.
The group produces a chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, with each wine designated to help a specific cause, from breast cancer to HIV to autism research. From each bottle sold, Hope donates 50 percent of its profits to the selected organization. This year, for instance, profits from the 2006 chardonnay will be donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure (http://cms.komen. org/komen/index. htm). As additional wines are added to the lineup, other causes and organizations will benefit.
Features California grapes from coastal regions including the Central Coast, Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Medium-bodied with crisp, fresh apple flavors. With a pink ribbon label, this 2006 vintage helps support breast cancer research. $17.99.
2005 Hope merlot
The 2005 Merlot features California grapes from Sonoma, the Central Coast and Lodi regions. Easy-drinking, with cherry and plum flavors. With a red ribbon label, this wine helps support HIV and AIDS research. This particular vintage supports Aids/Life Cycle (www.aidslifecycle.org). $17.99.
2005 Hope cabernet sauvignon
California grapes from coastal regions. Ripe berry, plum and cassis flavors dominate this smooth cabernet. With a "puzzle" ribbon label, this wine helps support autism research. This particular vintage supports Act Today (www.act-today.org). $17.99.