The best wines to enjoy with a holiday baked ham

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By: Frank Piaskowy

Frank Piaskowy/Flavor 574

As snow melts and daffodils begin to sprout in my yard, I contemplate Easter meals and blooming flowers.

When it comes to wine, there is nothing more symbolic of spring than an aromatic Gewürztraminer [geh-VURTZ-tra-meen-er] or the closely related Traminette [trah-mn-ett].

Either white wine is an excellent pairing with a holiday baked ham. The high natural sugars in the grape give sweetness to the wine that offsets spices in the ham that may include clove, garlic, anise, fennel or cinnamon.

I recommend smelling the wine when first opened.

  1. Pour off a partial glass and tip it slightly forward towards your face.
  2. Stick your nose all the way into the glass with eyes closed.
  3. Take a deep breathe in through your nose.
  4. Think about what scents you’re picking up. Bottom line: there is no wrong answer. (Remember, smell is all about previous experience and memory recall. Individual perceptions can be varied.)

Now place the glass on a hard, flat surface and swirl the wine vigorously for at least 10 seconds. Repeat steps 2 through 4.

Traminette was designated the signature grape of Indiana in 2009.

Typical floral notes of rose petals and jasmine should be more prominent in the agitated sniff. The swirling process helps release aromatic radicals from the wine that otherwise would occur more slowly in a static glass.

“Gewurtz,” as it may be referred to, has been produced for hundreds of years in the Alsace region of France (Trimbach) that borders Germany.

Michigan (Chateau Grand Traverse, Tabor Hill) and Washington (Chateau Ste Michelle, Hogue, Pacific Rim) wines are domestic examples that frequently are available locally.

Traminette has a more recent and local history. In 1965, the grape was developed at the University of Illinois by crossing a hybrid grape, Joannes Seyve 23.416, with Gewürztraminer.

The vines were noted to be more resistant to fungal disease and hardier in cold temperatures than Gewurtztraminer while producing wine of similar character.

As a result of successful vineyard management and production of quality local wines, Traminette was designated the signature grape of Indiana in 2009. This represents a melding of our agriculture, climate and soil with scientific inquiry and a dash of marketing.

Unfortunately, distribution of Traminette is rather limited since most producers are small operations that only sell out of the winery.

I have seen Easley, Tabor Hill and Oliver in stores. But it’s best to visit and taste at the winery.

White Pine and Domaine Berrien in Michigan or Fruit Hills and Satek in Indiana would be on my list. Ultimately, a trip to Southern Indiana (Huber, French Lick and Chateau de Pique) would be a nice itinerary in pursuit of Traminette.

For those who prefer red wine, try a Spanish Grenache (Evodia) or a California Pinot Noir (Mac Murray Ranch).

A sparkling, like a Prosecco (Mionetto) or Blanc de Noirs (Gruet), would also go well.

Enjoy the warmer weather and your holiday dining. Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.

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