The Wine Whisperer: Holiday wines from Oregon

I just got done tasting a few very nice wines for the holidays and I thought I'd share with you the results of what hit the glass. Some of these wineries have been around for some time, others are pretty new to the wine scene in southern Oregon. Here we go.

The wonderful Tyee winery in the Willamette Valley is doing marvelous stuff with two white wines of merit: the Pinot Gris and the Gewrztraminer.

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio (same grape) is known for its very clean backbone, fresh flavors and a somewhat dry grapefruit or tropical nose. This wine can also be used with a great many types of seafood and chicken or turkey but also does well putting out the heat in Mexican or hotter Asian offerings. Gris can have, at times, a pinkness to the color, but not as pink or blushed as a rosé wine. Pinot Gris can also be a little sweeter than other white wines, but if you grab a Gris at over 12 percent alcohol, you will get a drier version of this versatile grape. The release from Tyee is very, very good on all levels and the wonderful flavors seemingly go on forever. I can't remember a Gris with such a wonderful length, lovely, up flavors and such a complex bouquet as the Tyee. This is a very nice wine.

Gewerztraminer is a wine that I love to taste. Many times, if I am asked to judge this grape professionally at commercial wine judgings, I ask for this (the drier version) wine to come first before tasting any of the other white wine varieties. One of the reasons I ask for Gewerztraminer to start a commercial wine judging is that this wine is laced with layers and layers of taste sensations, which enables the professional wine judge to tune his or her palate to nuance and texture. This is a great starting point for long judgings. It is also the lightness of Gewrztraminer that can be so enchanting. Gewerztraminer has such a delicacy about it that it is always a shame to rush the wine down the palate; it is born to be savored. Of course, the driving force of Gewerztraminer is the spiciness in the bouquet, as well as the palate. I do not know of any white wine grape that shows this kind of spiciness and, in fact, the name "Gewerztraminer" means "spicy traminer" in German. The European Gewrztraminers are notably French with great houses selling this noble wine for well more than 100 years.

The offering from Tyee is splendid, long in the palate, spicy in the nose and eminently refreshing with just about any fare. The dry releases, those more than 12 percent, go really well with the traditional turkey fare, including sweet potatoes, gravy, mashed potatoes and the ubiquitous cranberry side dishes. This wine is dry, redolent of all spice, cinnomon and a hint of what appeared to be caramel. I went back to this wine a few times and I swear there was a slight, very lovely caramel hit in the bouquet.

Also from the north comes the Namaste winery with its release of Gewerztraminer. This wine comes in the traditional, long, brown (hock) bottle and displays a very lovely, clear and elegant richness in the glass. I liked this wine very much, as well. This wine is a bit more drawn than the Tyee, meaning that it has a heavier feel on the palate, an almost silken feel, and ends up as a very creamy offering, which is unlike the Tyee, which is very crisp. The heavier feel and cream on the palate is offset by the very clean and wonderful acidity, which makes this wine a hit with heavier fare and will do nicely with reduced sauces and gravy. Nice wine.

Remember, Gewerztraminer comes in dry and sweeter releases. In a very general sense, from France we see, for the most part, drier releases. From California, we can see the sweeter wines and, from Oregon, the wine comes both ways. Always look for the alcohol content on the label. If the wine is less than 12 percent alcohol, the chances are that the wine will be sweet. If you see the words "late harvest," the wine will be sweet, as well.

Well, there you have it. Have a great holiday. See you next week!

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