Long Island Wine: Three Local Go-Tos for Gewürztraminer

Merlot, chardonnay, cabernet franc, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, Riesling… there are several grapes—and wines—that you probably think of before you get to Gewürztraminer, a spicy, floral grape that most people either love or hate.

I’m firmly in the “love” camp and we’re lucky to have three local wine producers making outstanding renditions.

The Lenz Winery, located in Peconic, has built its reputation primarily on the back of its merlot and sparkling wine programs—and with good reason. Winemaker Eric Fry’s merlot, particularly his “Old Vines” bottlings are always standouts. Similarly, his sparkling wines are always among the top in the region. But, one of the real gems of the portfolio is the Gewürztraminer. Fry has a certain affection for the grape, and it shows.

In some ways, Lenz Winery 2007 Gewürztraminer ($20) is like 10 pounds of gewurzt in a five-pound bag—and in this case, I mean that as a good thing. There is a lot of gewurzt going on here. The nose is super spicy and floral, combining lychee, cinnamon, ground ginger and rose petals with underlying pineapple and melon aromas. Though a bit less floral, the palate is intense, and rich-but-balanced, with ripe fruit flavors of pineapple, lychee and cantaloupe sprinkled with ginger and brown spices. It’s dry, with enough acidity to balance the richness. Medium-long on the finish, it ends with floral notes and a slightly bitter quality many expect from the variety.

Though once near-sister wineries, the Corey Creek Vineyards label has been almost entirely absorbed by the mother Bedell Cellars label over the past several years. The chardonnays, cabernet francs and rosés all wear the Bedell label now, but one holdout—at least for now—is the Corey Creek Vineyards 2010 Gewürztraminer ($35).

Pretty honeysuckle and rose petal aromas are backed by lemon-grapefruit citrus, gingery spice and a hint of classic lychee nut. The lychee and spice qualities are a bit more intense on the balanced, forward palate, adding layers of complexity to sweet-fruit flavors of lemon and tangerine. Floral notes re-emerge towards the end of the mid-palate and lead into a medium-length finish that shows pleasant bitterness.

Anthony Nappa Wines, the private label of former Shinn Estate Vineyards winemaker Anthony Nappa, offers Anthony Nappa Wines 2010 Spezia ($18), a Gewürztraminer for Gewürztraminer lovers like me.

Spezia is Italian for “spice”—and this is a wine that delivers a heaping pile of varietal character. Bursting with complex aromas of tropical fruit, peach, gingery spice, and rose petal the nose also features a grapefruit-spice-herb.

Though hefty at 14.6% abv, the dry, mouth-filling palate wears that alcohol well, offering a mélange of tropical fruits – pineapple, mango and papaya – with notes of fig, spicy candied ginger, and more of that floral-herbal quality. Ripe, but focused, there is great balance here with subtle varietal bitterness and beautifully incorporated acidity.

Find Long Island Wineries on Dan’s List!

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