Pennsylvania’s Benigna’s Creek Vineyard & Winery recently became the very first PA winery to be honored by the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA), winning a bronze medal for their Traminette. The DWWA, organized by wine media brand Decanter, is a prestigious international wine competition that attracts submissions from all over the world. The expert panel and sommeliers at the DWWA were impressed with BC’s Traminette, noting its “generous palate, rounded body, and fruity finish.” In addition to the DWWA recognition, this wine also received an 89-point rating from James Suckling.
Not being acquainted with Benigna’s Creek wines, we endeavored to seek this one out, and, fortuitously, realized it was available at our local FWGS store for a mere $14.99.
For those unfamiliar, Traminette is a hybrid white grape variety — the offspring of Gewürztraminer and an obscure hybrid called Joannes-Seyve 23.416 — created in 1965 at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign. (Funnily enough, creator Herb C. Barrett’s intention was to make a table grape that tasted like Gewurz.) Though born in Illinois and chosen by the Indiana Wine Grape Council as the state’s signature wine, Traminette is also quite popular in PA and the mid-Atlantic for its ability to ripen fully while retaining enough acidity to make quality wine.
Traminette wines are known for their aromatic profile, featuring unique and often polarizing floral and spicy notes reminiscent of Gewürztraminer. (Being honest, neither of these grapes is for everyone, and even people who like them probably don’t want to drink them everyday.) They typically exhibit a crisp acidity and can vary in sweetness levels, from dry to off-dry.
Both the Benigna’s Creek website and the hang tag on this bottle proclaim this NV wine a “dry white.” To my palate, however, it is absolutely off-dry, which was somewhat disappointing considering all the above emphasis on it being dry. In fairness, however, on the back of the bottle the wine is listed as a 2 on an 8-point sweetness scale, which suggests the presence of residual sugar. (Though I might move it to a 3.)
There’s at least some east coast twang on evidence here, though interestingly it seems to intermingle well with the unique floral and spice notes of Traminette (which is perhaps another reason why this is a popular grape in the region). And while the upfront sweetness does help offset those notes, it is borderline cloying, at least for my palate. That said, there is ample acidity on the finish, suggesting it might be a great pairing for spicy Asian or Indian fare. (Which would generally be said about most off-dry Gewurz.)
In sum, this is a well-made wine that I’d recommend to those who like a bit of sweetness in a white, and who are open to new flavors. A dry white, however, it is not.