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Food Pairings and Riesling Tasting

July 28, 2010

FOOD PAIRINGS AND RIESLING TASTING – Dee Vine Wines, Pier 19, San Francisco (7/24/2010)

Dee Vine is probably the best source of German wine in the country. They also carry some Burgundy and other regional French wines, but the heart of their business is German Riesling–in a very funky, warehouse-pier setting, on San Francisco’s Pier 19. Those of us who adore German Riesling are fortunate to have them in our backyard. Over the years, they have done a lot of tastings. Some focus on the current vintage, some showcase German auction wines, others feature mini-verticals of particular wines. I’ve learned a lot from their tastings over the five years or so I’ve been attending.

They had not done a tasting for several months, as the business has been undergoing some change of personnel and they’ve been rethinking their tastings. What they came up with for their first tasting in awhile was a food and wine pairing, showing the versatility of Riesling with a variety of foods. In so doing, they seem to have attracted a new crowd–there were few of the faces that have become familiar at Dee Vine tastings, and a lot of younger people than usual. I enjoyed the tasting, and was delighted that it appeared that new people were being introduced to the glories of Riesling. Usually food is a distraction in a tasting for me, and I already know that Rieslings go fantastically with a lot of what I eat, and I pair them regularly with those foods, so I would not normally be attracted to a food and Riesling tasting. I tried to really go with the theme, however, and found that some of these wines that I’d tasted before did show even better with the food pairings they’d selected than when I’ve had them in the past. I’d hate for all of Dee Vine’s tastings to be food pairings like this, but it was a fun change from the usual and they pulled it off well.

My favorite wines of the tasting were the ’07 Knebel Winninger Röttgen Auslese Goldkapsel and the ’04 Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Spätlese Goldkapsel (the latter, with some age on it, is a rather nice buy at $28.50). The best pairings were the sausages and spicy mustards (always a favorite Riesling pairing for me), the Thai curry with the particular Rieslings they matched to it, and the dessert and blue cheese pairings. For more details on the pairings and how they worked with the Rieslings, see below.

Manchego and White Cheddar Cheese Pairing

This was the best vintage I’ve had of the Sekt, which I’d like to try pairing with other white cheeses, and with salads and cream-based soups. It worked well against the intense cheddar, but less well with the salty manchego. I thought the Kabinett was a better pairing with the Manchego, and okay with the cheddar, although it brought out the tartness in the cheddar more than anything else. A good start.

  • 2007 Solter Riesling Brut Sekt – Germany, Rheingau
    Light yellow color, with extremely tiny, micro bubbles; sense of salinity, chalk and minerals on nose; tart pear, lime, chalk and mineral palate with character; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken – Germany, Rheingau
    Light pale green yellow color; white peach, fresh lime nose; tart white peach, lime, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium finish (89 pts.)

Grilled Chicken Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce

For me, sweeter Rieslings–Kabinetts, Späts and Auselses–work well with Asian foods, which often have a sweet and sour synergy going on. Both these wines I thought were too dry and tart to really play off the chicken satay and its sweet peanut sauce. The Spätlese feinherb worked the best of the two, and helped bring out the peanut flavor in the sauce. It’s also a very nice wine on its own. The Kabinett trocken was refreshing enough on its own, but just didn’t work that well with the satay, in my opinion. I’d rather see it with a good chicken salad or a broiled white fish.

Grilled Sausages with Spicy Mustards

I adore grilled sausages and Riesling, and pair them up regularly. I didn’t taste the super hot sausage they offered, but stayed with the apricot flavored sausage and the spicy mustard. Both our wines went very well with the sausage. I’ve had the Prinz from other vintages, but hadn’t tried the ’04 before, and it’s drinking very well now, starting to show a little petrol and lemon oil, and luscious on the palate. It was gorgeous with the sausage, and would pair well with a lot of savory dishes and Asian recipes. The Auslese was also quite tasty, with a gorgeous nose, and it paired particularly well with the oiliness of the sausage, and highlighted the apricot in the sausage and the acid in the mustard. Tasting the wine and food together in this case made for an even longer finish than the wine had by itself. You just can’t go wrong with sweeter Rieslings and sausage.

  • 2004 Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Riesling Spätlese Goldkapsel – Germany, Rheingau
    Lovely bright lemon yellow color; nice petrol, mineral oil, lemon oil nose; tasty, oily textured, ripe peach, ripe lemon, lemon oil, tart pineapple, tropical fruit palate, luscious, but with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Von Hövel Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Medium golden yellow color; focused, apricot, botrytis, floral, coconut nose; tasty, tart apricot, mineral, dried apricot, lemon palate with close to medium acidity; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Asian-marinated Beef Skewers

Beef with Riesling? The handouts Dee Vine provided (which included some nice recipes for Riesling-friendly foods), suggested that the “sweet/acidic Knebel compliments the sweetness of this sauce, and the richness of the Schönborn works well with the texture of the beef.” I think they were right about the latter, but the Knebel, I thought, was just okay with the smoky beef–not really complimentary at all. Both are good and complex wines, and would work with a lot of seafood or poultry Asian dishes, but beef wouldn’t be my first choice with them. The Knebel is made from 80 to 110 year old vines grown on steep cliffs. The Schönborn is from their monopole vineyard, which normally provides grapes for Spätlese, but the extreme ripeness in ’06 resulted in this delicious Auslese.

Thai Yellow Curry

Both of these wines worked well with the yellow coconut milk curry. The Rosch played delicately off the curry, and complemented the herbs and spices. It also shared the dish’s creamy texture. The von Beulwitz had juiciness and good acidity that helped it cut through the richness of the curry, but which also highlighted the creaminess of the sauce. These were definitely pairings that heightened the tastiness of both the wine and the food.

Dessert & Blue Cheese

For me, delicious Ausleses like these are dessert in themselves. The Schloss Schönborn had a vaguely savory flavor to it, along with luscious stone fruit, and would be interesting paired with complex savory dishes, especially those with a fruit component. It went the best with our fresh peaches with chantilly cream, heightening the peach flavor. The Knebel was the priciest wine of the tasting, at $60 for 375 ml bottle, but also the tastiest. It wasn’t just a luscious fruit bomb though, it also had a strong mineral component as part of its overall complexity. It was particularly good with our Point Reyes blue cheese, which was a pairing of complementary opposites. The pairing also highlighted the chalk notes in the blue cheese.

  • 2005 Schloss Schönborn Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Auslese – Germany, Rheingau
    From 375 ml – light medium lemon yellow color; herbal, baked peach, sour cream, vaguely savory nose; rich, luscious, complex, apricot, peach, mineral, tart orange palate with good acidity; long finish (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Reinhard & Beate Knebel Winninger Röttgen Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    From 375 ml – light medium lemon yellow color; ripe, fresh lemon, clementine, Meyer lemon nose; tasty, delicious, deep, Meyer lemon, ripe clementine palate with an underlying chalk and mineral component and sense of light green herbs, and good acidity; long finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)

Nice job Dee Vine! It’s good to have you back doing tastings again.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. JIM CHRISTENSEN permalink
    July 29, 2010 6:25 am


    The vintages you tasted were from ’04-’08 and you commented that “the ’04 Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Spätlese Goldkapsel (the latter, with some age on it, is a rather nice buy at $28.50).”

    Do you find Riesling to enter a “dumb phase?” Is six years a mature Riesling?

    You’re the best wine writer out there.


  2. July 29, 2010 9:05 am

    Thank you for the very generous words. You’re too kind.
    Unlike something like white CdP or red Bordeaux, which tend to enter fairly predictable dumb periods, the period during which German Riesling is transitioning from delicious, primary fruit to taking on secondary and tertiary flavors depends a lot on the vintage, and on the initial sweetness level of the wine. I don’t find much of a “dumb period” at all on sweeter styles–Ausleses, and a lot of Spats–because the richness seems to carry it through that transition in such a way that it is still very tasty at all periods of its evolution. With drier versions, I think there can be a more marked “dumb period,” and the length of that period will vary with the vintage, extract level and other factors. With the general warming they’ve experienced in Germany in the last several vintages, we may be getting to the point that most of the wines are based on fairly ripe fruit, which should carry them through the transition without much of a dumb period at all. At any rate, I wish I could give you a rule of thumb for holding Riesling, but I’m not aware of one. I wouldn’t worry about it much, though, for the sweeter styles.

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