Gewurztraminer, 1981. L.H., Smothers| Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | September 1983

A short six years ago, Dick Smothers of the famous comedy team started making wine in his garage. Fortu­nately he had an eight-car garage for the vintage Fords he collected. The cars have since been moved and the entire space now is the main fermentation room of this small award-winning winery. He calls it Vine Hill Wines, Inc. It is located near Santa Cruz.

The ranch-style home where the winery is located is on 20 acres of vineyards. Most of the appendages of the home have been converted to winery use. The carport be­came a barrel room, and the tiny lab in the back of the garage is where winemaker William Arnold does his thing.

Forget the facilities! The equipment is good, the winemakers have been excel­lent, and the steering hands of this enduring straightman have produced superlative wines right from the start. In fact, the 1977 version of our featured selection this month, won a gold medal and the Grand Prize at the 1978 Los Angeles County Fair. It so happens that among all the varietals that Dick Smothers produces, his favorite is the Late Harvest Gewurztraminer. His Mercedes license plate reads GEWURZ I !

The Gewurztraminer grape is described by Bern Ramey, the noted enologist, as: “Perhaps, the most exotic of the great wine grapes … producing a fascinating, exciting wine of great flavor concentration. There is mellowness, originality, fullness and fire, all in pleasing proportion.”

Typically, it is a spicy, aromatic wine. It can be made as a dry version, or with various degrees of sweetness. Many look upon Gewurz from the Alsace region of France as the classic standard for this wine. Cali­fornia, Austria and Germany are the other important pro­ducers of this variety. The Alsatian varieties tend to be dry; the Austrian and German on the sweet side generally. The American versions can be across the full spectrum, from the driest to the des­sert type sweet wines. Some California wines show the percentage of residual sugar on the label. Under 1% is on the dry side. Between 1% and 2.5% the wine will be some­what sweet. From 2.5% up­wards, it becomes sweet.

Our wine is golden yel­low in color. It has a sweet, flowery and fruity aroma with some indication of spice. The bouquet is clinging. It tastes sweet, with the varie­tal flavor very dominant, spicy, with peach overtones. The balance is low in acid. It finishes with a distinct flavor of the botritis. Serve well chilled with dessert that is not too sweet. (Try a kiwi fruit tart), or as an afternoon sipping wine with fresh fruit.

Cellaring Notes. Drinking best now. Can last 5 years.

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