I have this Gewurztraminer fetish. Whenever I taste a good one, it takes over my senses, first the smell, then the taste - and if it hits my g-spot I'm on my way to vinous ecstasy.
Villa Maria set the senses off this week, sending me on the road to rapture, with their new Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Gewurztraminer 2004 from Hawkes Bay.
It's a light golden colour with aromas of lychees over exotic Asian spices - an infusion of ground coriander and cumin with a splash of lemon oil - leading into a warm, oily, Alsacienne-like palate that just flows into all the places that matter and bewitches with its beautiful flavour. It's oily in a slippery sense, not a greasy sense, if you get my drift, and sets off the Lemon Turkish delight, rose spice, mandarin peel and the honeyish finish with a lacing of orange pomander (an orange stuck with cloves and spices), beautifully. The aftertaste is long, exotic and harmonious and there's a slight graininess to the texture coming from the spices.
Because it is a 'Single Vineyard' wine it is not surprising it is so exquisite, because the Single Vineyard range is the best that Villa Maria produces - and only produced when conditions are right.
Winemaker Corey Ryan says that the 2004 vintage in Hawkes Bay was exceptional for Gewurztraminer - although people who like the Villa Maria Private Bin Gewurztraminer 2004, a combo of Hawkes Bay and Gisborne fruit, will already know this. VMPB 2004 is my favourite Gewurztraminer quaffer and a bargain when it's specialled at the supermarket for under-$12, as it was last month. It also won gold at the New World Supermarket's under-$20 Wine Awards. But this wine didnít get the best fruit, the Single Vineyard Keltern did.
"We picked by taste," said Corey, explaining that they tasted the grapes for the level of Gewurztraminer spiciness that they wanted. Consequently they picked just the outside bunches that were at optimum ripeness, for this top tier wine. The grapes had 5 hours of skin contact before being run off to large oak puncheons, where fermentation began with the grape's natural yeasts. Fermentation was stopped with 13 grams of residual remaining and after malolactic fermentation, the wine matured for five months on its yeast lees.
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I wanted something absolutely awesome to match to this wine, something to make me quiver in delight. It turned out it was as simple as a slice or two of streaky bacon, cooked in a little butter to render the fat, then eaten warm, dripping with its own delicious fat. Gewurztraminer is fantastic with fatty foods for some reason and in Alsace, the spiritual home of Gewurztraminer, pork is top of the meats list.
I'd cooked the bacon to provide the fat to cook some scallops in, to serve atop chopped up lychee on spoons. This intriguing combination came courtesy of Thor Iverson on the Wine Lovers Discussion Group in response to my request for an ultimate Gewurztraminer food match. However, fresh plump new season's New Zealand scallops are rather sweet on their own and with the canned lychees we had, were even sweeter. It could work with another Gewurz, but not the Keltern. But with a little bacon chopped in with the lychees, it was better.
Fortunately I only cooked up half the scallops this way, so I fell back to my favourite scallop recipe to cook up the remaining six delicacies.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan until sizzling. Add the scallops, grind over some pepper and salt and sizzle for no more than 60 seconds. Turn over and immediately add a tablespoon of cognac and light. Shake the scallops around in the pan 'til the flames die down. Add 2 tablespoons of thick coconut milk and a handful of fresh coriander leaves, stirring until this thickens - which takes no time at all. Serve in a little bowl. Did it make me quiver. Yes!
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Villa Maria is riding a perennial quest of a wave that is set in motion at their stunning new winery complex set inside the caldera of the extinct Waitomokia volcano in Mangere. Sited in Montgomerie Road, this is the closest vineyard to Auckland International Airport and with the natural protection of the volcanic tuff ring, the 20-hectares of grapevines have a real sense of place. Once inside the crater, you see the country's largest undercover winery with warehouse, bottling hall, administration block and visitor facilities attached. No other buildings, except an adjacent conference centre, can be seen.
It is definitely worth a detour to visit when travelling in the area. You'll have to pay for wine tastings, a small token amount, but that doesnít matter. Tours of the winery can be put on the agenda too. But the best thing is to be able to find some of their fantastic Single Vineyard and Reserve Wines.
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Gewurztraminer 2004 cost me $29.50 at the cellar door shop. It is sealed with a screwcap and carries 14.5% alcohol by volume.
Find out more from www.villamaria.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
14 August 2005