Gewurztraminer is often considered a European-happy grape variety, especially when grown on the terroir of eastern France. Specifically, Alsace. Across the pond, Oregon can boast of only half the number of vines of Gewurztraminer (a mere 3,200 compared to Alsace’s 7,000) but Oregon holds its own in flavor, character, and nuance. Brandborg’s 2013 Elkton Oregon Gewurztraminer is a classic. Aromatic and explosive, this wine is not shy. Really, 14.1% is monstrous for a white, something akin to one of Orin Swift’s Napa concoctions. But don’t be deterred, as the wine is balanced and soft on the palate. A sip teases with opulent aromas of lychee and orange peel, evolving into more austere notes of grass, honey, and tea, stitched together with a highway-sized trail of minerality. A touch of residual sugar adds freshness and clarity.
Elkton is notably the coolest and most northern demarcated area of Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, and was established to distinguish the quality of its cool climate whites. A coastal mountain range defines the terroir, and most vineyards grow on volcanic or metamorphic rock overlain with soils of clay and silt loam. The Brandborg family settled even before the creation of the AVA, aware of the area’s potential. Over the course of two decades, Terry and Sue Brandborg have made wine for nine different labels — as much as 15,000 cases a year. All the while, they have produced award-winning whites and reds grown in their own vineyards. Recently, the younger Brandborg generation has also begun to assist Terry and Sue in the vineyard. The Brandborgs seem to be a “wine family,” with all hearts and hands in the vineyard.
But back to us and our currently empty wine glasses. The Brandborg’s 2013 Gewurztraminer can be many things, due to its soft yet structured body. You name it: a porch-pounder, a picnic wine, a dinner wine. Some quick food pairing suggestions, however: Gewurztraminer, being hearty and high in alcohol, wants to be paired with food that can keep up. Fatty meals based on things like duck, bacon, and pork are well-married to Gewurztraminer, in addition to seafood meals with shrimp or crab. Soft, stinky cheeses are best, and as for vegetables, try something roasted or caramelized. No less, amazingly hard to pair with wine, artichokes supposedly meet their match with Gewurztraminer. The family’s 2013 Gewurztraminer is a delicious and wonderful opportunity to learn about Oregon’s quality whites. I’ll be celebrating the last days of summer with a glass of this Gewurztraminer. Maybe three.