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A superb $9 white from Washington state

It’s hard to pronounce, but the 2004 Gewürztraminer from the Columbia Winery is a great wine to have on hand for all those spicy and savory meals.

Gewürztraminer is not going to win any contests for wine words that are easy to remember or pronounce. But this unusual white wine, made from the grape of the same name, can be wonderful to drink and pairs especially well with spicy and other strongly flavored foods. Case in point: the Columbia Winery's excellent 2004 Gewürztraminer from Washington state, which is also a real bargain at about $9.

The signature of gewürztraminer (pronounced ge-VURTZ-tra-mee-ner) is found in its distinct herbal and floral notes, which make it unique among whites and instantly recognizable. That quality seems most pronounced in wines from France's Alsace region, while it is often more muted in gewürztraminers from this country.

Although clearly present in the Columbia gewürz, which is from the Columbia Valley appellation, the herbal component is more of a backdrop, one layer among several in a wine that is balanced and not overbearing, as gewürztraminer can sometimes be. This one is semi-dry, meaning that it's on the slightly sweet side (emphasis on slightly). Think of it as a blend of very ripe fresh fruit tastes, mainly peach and apricot, punctuated by touches of lime, orange rind and minerals, and with a crisp acidity that keeps it from being flabby.

While altogether satisfying to sip on its own, the wine, as I said, is made for food. After a busy weekend I opened the bottle on a Sunday night with Chinese takeout food. The wine held its own with spicy chicken with vegetables and cold noodles with a spicy sesame sauce. But that was just the first test.

I had a vision for it with a fish stew I was planning — my version of a gumbo, actually. I had brought home from the country a small pile of just-picked yellow tomatoes, a box of okra from an unmanned, put-the-money-in-a-box farm stand, a green pepper and two kinds of fish — a couple of small weakfish (also called sea trout) caught by me and my 6-year-old son, and a piece of cod and some shrimp from the fish market.

I put it all together with some onion, a little garlic, a bay leaf, freshly chopped oregano and thyme, cooked it for a couple of hours and spooned up a sample. All the varied flavors combined beautifully in this yellow and green stew and tasted even better with a sip of the Columbia gewürztraminer, which not only accentuated the sweet and spicy qualities of the stew but also provided a lively and refreshing finish.

I was instantly reminded that this is what wine and food are all about, the potential for each to enhance the other and make it more complete. At $9 or less, this is a wine to buy by the case, to have on hand for that next spicy or savory meal and, with its sweet touch, even with dessert.

This Week’s Wine
Name: 2004 Columbia Winery GewürztraminerType: Semi-dry whiteCountry: United StatesRegion: Columbia Valley, WashingtonGrape: GewürztraminerPrice: About $9

Edward Deitch's wine column appears Wednesdays. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at EdwardDeitch