So there’s a few things that I think you’ll find interesting, the varietal, the location of the vineyard(s) and the folks behind the label. This is a Union Sacre Gewurztraminer Santa Lucia Highlands 2016
Let’s start with the most basic: Gewurztraminer.
If you buy all your own wine, this is likely a new varietal. It isn’t new internationally and it’s been around since wine grapes have, in that small section of northern Italy that actually speaks German first and Italian second. Having spent the better part of a college summer in Italy, much like Milan perhaps, it’s a strange part of Italy. The grape follows that IMO. The namesake of grapes, the Traminer’s offer a ton of different choices, largely because their genome is considered unstable. In the animal kingdom, that would be a death knell, but in an agricultural product it’s something of a unicorn. This is a strange part of the old world when it comes to wine. Italian varietals can’t grow here because of the altitude. There’s some ancient Swiss stuff that grows well, is hearty, but that no one likes. So if you’re planting a vineyard, wouldn’t you put in some of the stuff that just might change enough over the course of a generation to produce something good for your site?
I sure as hell would.
Not surprisingly, others have as well. It seems like a number of the crosses, according to a friend who teaches Italian at UC Berkeley, as well as a friend who teaches at a German immersion preschool next door, are considered different grapes in Italian, but synonymous in German. I think that’s partially because in German, these are pretty similar, but in terms of style of wine produced, what’s here is dramatically different than what happens in the rest of Italy.
So what should you do here?
First, spin your bottle around. There’s no back label, but there is a design on the back of the front label. That’s a long neglected spot of advertising space. The back story is that when you have a wine bottled, there’s a constant need to control costs. Adding an extra dimension to the printing of the label is relatively cheap, it adds maybe 5 cents to every bottle. Adding a back label, though might add something closer to another quarter. Before you think that’s a tiny sum, wouldn’t you try to avoid it if you could, if it cost you a few thousand dollars per year?
Secondly, before you drink any of this Gewurztraminer, take a second to smell what’s in your glass. In the years of all the genetic changes, one thing happened and seems to have stuck with the grape. Aromatically, it’s about as good as it gets.
Another interesting aspect, this is actually a Rose. I think in 6 years shipping wine, I’ve never even come across a Gewurztraminer that is made into a Rose. Most of the time, Rose is made from red wine.
Quite a few times, I’ve had customers tell me that they only don’t drink two wines: Pinot Noir and Rose. For those of us living in Northern California though, those two options are normally made from the same grape. So really, do you not like Rose, or do you not like Pinot in any of its forms? Hey, it happens. My in laws entire family, simply won’t drink a Malbec if its the last wine on earth.
Next, the Santa Lucia Highlands. I get it, keeping track of AVA’s in California is almost a full time job. The Highlands cut a fairly long swatch, across the central coast. They’re located just east of the town of Monterey (yes, the one with the aquarium) and sit high on the hillside that separates the cold coast, from the inland valley of Salinas that likely provided the last five vegetables that you ate, almost all the salad you ate this year and probably the last good organic strawberries you ever had. The valley floor on the other sides of the hill, are easy places to grow stuff.
The highlands are graced with some of the most powerful and cold winds, year around of anywhere in California. I live about a mile from San Francisco Bay. A block up from the house, you get a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge, so we get as much fog as does the city of San Francisco, that’s pretty famous for it. But, compare our average temperature to that of Monterey and the highlands that surround it-we’re almost always 10 degrees warmer year around. The reason? The Bay has an average depth of about 8 feet, which we always try and remind friends when they’re nervous about riding BART to SF under the bay…it’s just not that deep. While that depth of water doesn’t warm in the sun, it doesn’t provide much of a cooling influence either.
But in Monterey there’s a quirk of geography that cools everything down. Called the Monterey Trench, it’s basically the Grand Canyon, but underwater and with a vertical wall to the east instead of a steady falling. I’d go deeper into it here, but in large part I think it suffices to say, there’s a quirk or two that have led to a diversity of life, like Vampire Squid’s long the favorite of every Kindergartner I know, but also to a darn cold section of California. For grape growers, those differences are important, really important.
I felt like I had to bring that all up because Rose is made in one of two ways. First, some extra juice is removed from red wine. Second, grapes are intentionally planted in a spot where they won’t ripen all the way. That’s the case here-which seems incredibly odd for Gewurztraminer, but the coldest of the site comes into play.
In any case, I know this is a different one. I think I’ve only seen one or two other Gewurztraminer Rose’s attempted in California.