Most of us are scaling back on our holiday festivities this year, looking ahead to 2021 when we can gather with friends and family once again. But that doesn’t mean we have to tone down our enthusiasm for Christmas revelry; instead we will be kicking up our heels and clinking glasses via Zoom or Facetime.
Gabe and I will be going it alone, as we did for Thanksgiving, but we plan to embrace as much good cheer as we can. I’m flirting with the idea of roasting a pork loin marinated in Cuban spices, a nod to the traditional lechon asado served on nochebuena (but that is small enough to fit in my oven!)
We’ll see how that goes.
In the meantime, I’m taking every opportunity to create small fiestas on ordinary days; tasty treats that we can enjoy without spending too much time in the kitchen. Over the past week, I’ve been inspired to make a batch of sweet-savory biscuits and a glazed pork tenderloin. Up next is a delicious-looking vegan cake from Alison at Keeping the Peas.
My wine pairing for all these dishes?
The 2019 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer, which drinks way above its modest $10 retail price.
Note: I received this wine as a complimentary media sample. I’m writing about it because it’s delicious and pairs well with many holiday dishes!
A Little Background on Gewürztraminer
Most often associated with the Alsace region of France, this grape leaves an indelible impression on you the first time you smell and taste it. Profusely aromatic, with perfumed notes of rose, lychee, apricot and ginger, Gewürztraminer is unlike any other grape variety. Depending on where it’s grown, it can be made bone-dry or sweet – and at almost every point in between.
For many folks it’s a love-it-or-hate-it wine; I’m definitely in the former category.
As a pairing, Gewürztraminer can be a challenge: its pronounced aromatics, full body, and lower acidity can be tricky with some dishes. But it comes into its own with foods that – like Gewürztraminer – are sometimes hard to pair. Spicy Thai dishes and sweet-savory combos (pork loin with a fig-orange glaze, anyone?) tend to work well, as do ginger-infused dishes from India and China.
In her best-seller The Paris Cookbook, Patricia Wells shares a recipe for Les Moules Secrètes de la Femme du Chauffeur de Taxi (the Taxi Driver’s Wife’s Secret Mussels) which bathes the moules in two cups of Alsatian Gewürztraminer. I’ve made it twice, to rave reviews; the wine really accentuates the sweetness of the main ingredient.
I also love dry Gewürztraminer as an apéritif, especially when served with rich pâté that’s got a little sweetness to it. Years ago I was invited to an elegant dinner in Paris, hosted by a couple who knew their wines. They served a lovely bottle from Alsace with hors d’oeuvres, an idea that seemed odd to me then but which forever changed how I view Gewürztraminer!
A Few Pairings for Fetzer’s Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer
As I reorganized my kitchen cabinets (how 2020 of me!) I came across a few things that needed to be used soon. Top of the list was a bag of biscuit mix that had migrated to the back of the shelf. Up next? Dried apricots and dates, also shoved out of the way.
That led to my whipping up a batch of biscuits with dried fruit and drizzled with maple butter. They came out of the oven around tea time and, while tea would have been a nice accompaniment, the Fetzer Gewürztraminer was much more to my liking. All the flavors mingled together nicely, giving Gabe and me a special mid-day treat. Celebrate when the mood strikes, I say!
A few nights ago, I thought about pairing herb-grilled pork tenderloin with a tangy, sorta sweet glaze with the wine. Really simple to make, the glaze was just a combo of this crazy-good fig and orange spread from Croatia and a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar. Warmed in a saucepan while the meat rested, the glaze added fruit and spice notes to the dish, which worked well with similar flavors in the wine.
My last proposed pairing is one I haven’t made yet. It comes from Alison at Keeping the Peas, a blog featuring plant-based recipes that are both beautiful and delicious. Her most recent post presents a whole holiday menu, and includes this Vegan Ginger Cake. I love the idea of it and plan to make it soon!
Details on Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer
Not much Gewürztraminer is grown in California, mostly because it tends to be too warm for the grape to maintain acidity in balance with its other structural components. This wine, however, is made from grapes grown in Monterey County, where the vineyards experience considerable oceanic influence. Mornings are sunny and warm but, later in the day, fog rolls in, cooling temperatures down. The effect is to slow down the ripening process, which helps the grapes retain acidity. It also helps preserve the aromatic qualities for which Gewürztraminer is known.
The soils – based on shaly loam, for which the wine is named – are a combo of fossilized seashells and limestone. Winemaker Margaret Leonardi ferments the grapes in different lots – some to complete dryness, others to varying levels of sweetness – leading to what she calls “brushstrokes of flavor” in the final blend. Some lots contribute tangy citrus notes, while others add spice; still others bring floral aromas to the mix.
This wine is widely available at retailers nationwide.
I hope this post has encouraged you to rethink Gewürztraminer and its possible food pairings. It really is a grape like no other, and Fetzer’s Shaly Loam bottling wraps up all the lovely aspects of it at a very reasonable price.