Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Riesling’

Riesling with your Shrimp Catch

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

shrimpGrilled Hood Canal shrimp and a chilled bottle of Riesling is just the ticket for these warm sunny days. And right on cue, a couple of emails received earlier this week highlighted the length that some aficionados go to for love of Riesling.

The first was a traveling tasting experience from Key West to New York City. Riesling enthusiast and NYC restaurateur Paul Grieco and German wine author and expert Stuart Pigott will spread the word and German Riesling with their wine bar on wheels, leading tastings for trade and media and hosting dinners along the way.

The other was a blog about the Summer of Riesling. The Summer of Riesling is a worldwide movement which encourages the consumption, discussion and enjoyment of Riesling.

Riesling is a noble grape that originated in Germany’s Rhine region. Riesling does well in cool climates. Germany has one of the world’s most northern vineyards and they’re pretty frosty to boot. Since the 15th century, they have staked their vineyards on Riesling because it can survive and thrive in cooler climates.

Extremely versatile, Riesling can be made dry, semi-sweet, sweet, dessert or sparkling. It’s rarely blended and when it does see oak, as is the case in the Alsace, the barrels are lined with centuries of tartrates that insulate the barrel.

Riesling is usually consumed young, when it’s a fruity and aromatic with aromas of green apples, peach, rose blossoms or minerals and crispness from the bracing acidity. In cool climates, the wines tend toward apple and peach notes with crisp acidity that’s balanced by the residual sugar. It develops citrus and peach notes in warmer climates. In Australia, you’ll find a lime note.

This naturally high acidity and prominent residual sugars make it a likely candidate for aging. With aging, Riesling takes on honeyed character, petrol aromas and an amber hue.

Two German wines to try are the Losen-Bockstanz 2012 Mosel Wittlicher Lay Riesling Kabinett, and the Rudi Wiest 2012 Mosel Riesling QBA. Both sell for just $11 and have the crisp acidity and mineral component that is the hallmark of German Rieslings.

Because of that broad range of acidity, flavors and sweetness or lack there of, there is, of course, a broad range of dishes that work so well with this wine. One dish that comes to mind this time of year is shrimp, Hood Canal Shrimp, sweet, succulent and slightly charred from the grill.

Here’s a favorite recipe an old chef friend made with Hood Canal shrimp. Make a marinade of grated lime peel with 1/4 cup lime juice, a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of chopped ginger. Pour over shrimp in the shells and let it stand for an hour or two. Drain into a sauce pan and simmer for about 5 minutes

Preheat grill for direct grilling on medium-high. Skewer shrimp with two skewers an inch apart so the shrimp won’t twist when you flip them. Grill 3 to 4 minutes turning over once until shells are bright and shrimp turn opaque. Line a plate with lettuce and mint leaves. Top with grilled shrimp, chopped avocado and pink grapefruit segments. Sprinkle with cooled marinade.

Even though shrimping 2014 ends this week, there is still a n opportunity to get some at the Brinnon ShrimpFest 2014 which runs Saturday, May 24th, 10 to 6 pm and Sunday, May 25th, 10 to 4pm. Gate Fee: $4/day or $6 for two-day pass.  For more information: shrimpfest@hotmail.com or check out their facebook page.


What we’re drinking: San Juan Vineyards

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Brynn writes:

As I mentioned in our maple glazed pork tenderloin and Kiona Vineyards piece, my in-laws were in town earlier this month.

For part of their visit we went up to Orcas Island. While there we hopped over to San Juan Island to check out the sights. Part of our itinerary included a stop at San Juan Vineyards. Jeff and I visited the winery four years ago when we stayed on nearby Brown Island, so we were looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine in the sun on the winery’s patio with his parents.

Unfortunately, the woman manning the tasting bar wasn’t very inviting, so we left after just one sip of wine. I’m going to give the lady the benefit of the doubt — I’m hoping she was having a bad day and isn’t normally that rude, otherwise the winery needs to reconsider who they have greeting the public.

I was disappointed we didn’t get a chance to take in the beauty of the winery while enjoying the wine, but we salvaged our visit by stopping into the winery’s tasting room along the main street in Friday Harbor. The woman manning the tasting bar there was friendly and gave a healthy pour, something I’ll never complain about.

I was strategic in my tasting. I knew I wanted to try one of the wines grown on the island and one sourced from Eastern Washington vineyards. At the winery I tried the Madeleine Angevine, grown on site. This grape is from the Loire Valley of France, and does well in our state — specifically the cool climate of the Puget Sound region. It’s a great wine to have with raw (or grilled) oysters. I liked the wine, but I think it’s one you need to have a few times to fully appreciate. It’s a dry white wine and I prefer to have it with food.

The other wine I had a the winery was the Cab Franc, which comes from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Eastern Washington. I prefer cab franc to Cabernet Sauvignon because it’s lighter. In this instance it had currant and tobacco leaf flavors.

When we went to the tasting room in Friday Harbor my father-in-law ended up buying a bottle of Riesling. We drank that once we got back home. We paired it with Chinese food, which the winery recommended. The Riesling was not too sweet, but not bone dry. It was filled with floral and citrus notes and I noticed honeysuckle. It was balanced and did well with the spiciness of the Chinese dishes.


Wine pair for grilled pork chops with bourbon glaze

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Last weekend we tasted the perfect white wine to accompany Ann Vogel’s rosemary bourbon glazed grilled pork chops with nectarines.

We were along the Bremerton waterfront at the Kitsap Wine Festival. One of Brynn’s favorite wineries — Kiona Vineyards and Winery — was again at the event, this year pouring three wines.

It was Kiona’s 2011 Chenin Blanc that caught our attention. As the founders of Red Mountain, an American Viticultural Area just outside of Yakima, Kiona’s vineyards have been around for more than 30 years. The family-run winery has been making chenin blanc for 31 vintages, according to sales manager JJ Williams. (Williams is the grandson of John Williams, who with Jim Holmes pioneered and planted Red Mountain in 1975).

The wine has a slight frizzante — a tingle on the tip of your tongue — that is followed by a tartness on the finish. As Williams described the wine Sunday “it’s lemonade for adults.”

While there’s a hint of sweetness to the wine, the crisp, tart finish balances out the initial sweet notes, making this a great accompaniment to the fruit-forward glaze on the pork chops.

Some have said chenin blanc, which is believed to have originated in France’s Loire Valley, is France’s answer to Germany’s Riesling. The grape is versatile and can be used to make everything from a stand-alone chenin blanc or a sparkling wine to a dessert wine.

Like most wines, a lot of how the Chenin grape tastes once in the bottle depends on the climate where it was planted, when it was harvested and the winemaking techniques used.

If left on the vine to rot — this is a good thing — it can make a delicious dessert wine where the sugars are balanced by the grape’s high acidity. But if harvested in too large of quantity, the grape’s aromatic and floral characteristics are lost and the wine becomes blasé.

Chenin blanc grows well in Washington, and Kiona has done a great job of capturing its acidity, which translates to tart green apple flavors. Serve it chilled to bring out its tropical fruit flavors, which will pair nicely with the grilled nectarines.

This wine retails for $15.


Fast wine pairings for quick meals

Friday, June 1st, 2012

If your home life is anything like ours, you can relate to the recurring scene that plays out each night in our kitchens as we try to come up with dinner ideas that don’t require hours spent slaving over the stove.

The stack of “15 minute meals” cookbooks continues to grow as we try to keep our taste buds happy with meals that can be prepared quickly.

When it comes time to serve the gourmet meals, we don’t want to slow things down by weighing our wine pairing options.

To meet your quick preparation schedule we’re suggesting various wine selections for Ann Vogel’s “one dish wonders”.

Her Red Pepper Spiced Chicken Rigatoni recipe was tricky to find a perfect wine match in part because of the red pepper flakes, which add a kick to the dish, and also because it combines marinara and alfredo sauces.

But after reviewing our trusty “What to Drink With What You Eat” book by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, we think we’ve got a couple options that could work.

If you opt to lay on thick the red pepper flakes, we recommend selecting a dry Riesling or gewürztraminer, both white wines. The slight sweetness of these wines will balance the heat of the red pepper flakes, while complimenting the rich creaminess of the alfredo sauce.

There are a number of affordable options available at the grocery store for each of these varietals, thanks largely to Riesling being a widely planted grape in Washington.

Look to Pacific Rim, a Washington winery focused on making various styles of Riesling, or Chateau Ste. Michelle for affordable gewürztraminer options. And remember to buy dry, not sweet.

If you’re not into heat and you’d rather drink a red wine with the marinara dominated sauce, consider a barbera. This Italian wine has low tannins, making it a great pair for tomato-based sauces, and high acidity, which again will compliment the richness of the alfredo sauce.

For Vogel’s Quick Couscous Paella, because the ingredients are shellfish and chicken based, we recommend a white Rioja.

This Spanish wine is a perfect summer sipper, and seeing it’s from Spain — where Paella is served regularly — it’s only natural that it would be the perfect accompaniment. Look for Marques de Caceres Rioja Blanco at the grocery store. It’s usually priced between $8 and $10, making it a great deal.


What we’re drinking: Okanogan Estate and Vineyards

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Mary writes:

We recently got to taste the whole line of Okanogan Estate and Vineyards wines. The selection was quite impressive but what really stood out was the number of icewines they have available.

Of the four available that we tried, the 2009 Riesling Ice Wine was one of the favorites.

The grapes were harvested after they had frozen on the vine and reached 38 degrees Brix. To give you an idea of how much sugar was in the must, most dry wines are harvested at 24 degrees Brix.

The acidity of the wine was more than double that of an average dry wine.

It was concentrated, rich, complex and sweet. But because there was more than double the amount of acidity in the wine, it balanced the sweetness nicely.

Tropical fruit flavors were dominated by dried pineapple with hints of apricot. The finish was long lasting and fabulous.

Here’s what winemaker Mike Buckmiller has to say about the wine:

This ultra sweet dessert wine is rich and luscious with an intense fruity-floral nose. It offers complex flavors of orchard and tropical fruit including mango, peaches, and candied pineapple with a velvety mouth feel and final notes of vanilla and honey. This Ice Wine is well rounded with plenty of acidity balancing the sweetness.

The wine normally retails for $40, but is on sale currently for $20 — a great deal for anyone who is a fan of icewine.


What wine goes with Thai Curry Chicken Wrap?

Friday, August 12th, 2011

When we think of wraps, we think of a light refreshing lunch for a sunny summer day — much like Ann Vogel describes in her recent luncheon on Bainbridge Island.

Initially when we saw wraps as this week’s recipe, we weren’t sure which wine we wanted to recommend.

Luckily for us, Vogel made it easy with her choice of Thai Curry Chicken Salad for the filler of the wrap. In fact, we have two wines we think would pair well with this dish: Gewürztraminer or Riesling.

Both wines fit the light lunch theme and are a refreshing treat on a hot summer day.

Our go-to wine pairing Bible: “What to Drink With What You Eat”, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, says Riesling — especially a Spätlese — is best for chicken or fish with curry sauce. Almost equally it says an Alsatian Gewürztraminer would go well.

Both wines boast a balance of acidity and sugar. Made in the traditional German style, the wines will be sweet and the higher residual sugar levels will be a welcome compliment to the grapes’ main characteristic: acidity.

It’s this balance between the acidity and the hints of sweetness that make these two styles of wine the go-to for most spicy Thai, Indian and Asian dishes.

So what is Spätlese? It’s a German wine term that translates to late (spat) picked (lese). It’s the lightest of the wines that fall under the late harvest category.

Spätlese grapes are picked at least seven days after the normal harvest, making them riper and giving them a higher must weight (the measure of sugar in grape juice).

A Spätlese Riesling has a high level of acidity that balances any overt sweetness; it is “fleshy” and intensely flavored, often with notes of apple, pear and honeysuckle and has an elegant nose with noticeable aromas.

Like the Riesling, the Gewürztraminer, or Gewürz for short, is a German grape known for its aromatics. This grape also grows well in France’s Alsace region. Whereas the Germans make a dry styled wine, the French let the grapes speak, producing a range of styles from dry to dessert wine.

For Vogel’s Thai Curry Chicken Salad Wraps we decided to recommend the same winery for both pairings. And it is by pure coincidence that we’re recommending a winery that has ties to Randall Graham, winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyards — the winery we recommended for last week’s watermelon and Rose pairing.

Part of the Bonny Doon crowd headed north from California to Washington five years ago with the intent to create the best Riesling in America. The result of those efforts was the establishment of Pacific Rim.

It’s because of the winery’s dedication to Washington Riesling that we recommend its dry Riesling.

We also recommend the winery’s Columbia Valley Gewürz because of its balance of acidity and 2.2 percent residual sugar.

On the next sunny weekend, we suggest holding a summer lunch for friends. Plan to make the wraps and buy a bottle of the Pacific Rim Riesling and Gewürz, then let your guests decide which they like better with the meal.

They’ll have fun choosing, and you’ll look like a coordinated host/hostess with your matching bottles and Asian-themed lunch.


Washington white best for mushroom risotto

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

A nice creamy risotto could call for two different styles of wine depending on how you decide to prepare it.

We’ve decided to prepare it two ways, allowing us to suggest two different wines that we’d serve with the dish if it were on our tables at home.

The richness of Ann Vogel’s Fresh Mushroom Risotto calls for a wine with equal richness. That’s why we’re recommending a Sémillon.

But before we get into why we would choose Sémillon, a little history. At one point it is believed that Sémillon was the most-planted grape in the world. That’s not the case anymore, and in fact some of France’s top Chateaus in Bordeaux recently joined together to create an association focused on growing quality clones because a decline in the grape’s popularity was resulting in fewer nurseries growing quality wine.

In Bordeaux it’s common to see Sémillon blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, in fact these are the three main grapes that make up traditional white Bordeaux blends.

The grape is also used to make some of the world’s best dessert wine, which is produced by leaving the grapes on the vine until noble rot takes over. The noble rot causes the grapes to shrivel, which dries up the moisture in the fruit and intensifies the acid and sugar levels.

In France, when Sémillon is the dominant grape being blended, it creates wine masterpieces like Château d’Yquem Sauternes.

We Washingtonians are lucky because we have wineries here that produce some stellar Sémillons, including one of Walla Walla’s oldest wineries L’Ecole No. 41.

L’Ecole actually produces two Sémillon wines, one from a series of well-known vineyards in the Columbia Valley appellation and its estate-grown Luminesce.

Both are blended with Sauvignon Blanc, but the Sémillon is 83 percent Sémillon, 17 percent Sauv Blanc, while the Luminesce is 67 percent Sémillon and 33 percent Sauv Blanc.

When the Sémillon grape dominates, the wine has a rounder mouthfeel with more floral, fruity notes.

If you decide to add some extras to the mushroom risotto — like asparagus and lemon — Sémillon is definitely the best match. L’Ecole’s Sémillon retails for around $14 and can be found at the grocery store and most wine shops.

If you prefer to make Vogel’s recipe with her suggested prawns and chili pepper additions, we have a different white wine for you.

Because of the sweetness of the shrimp, and the spiciness of the chili peppers, we suggest another wine that does exceptionally well in Washington: Riesling.

In fact, the wine does so well that last year the leading variety of wine planted in the state was Riesling, which accounted for 33,500 tons of grapes picked.

While some are hesitant to try Riesling because of a fear of sweet wines, we’re here to assure you, there’s nothing to be afraid of. We even recommend grabbing a sweeter Riesling over its dry cousins.

The sweetness of the wine balances the spiciness of the chilies — this is why Riesling is often recommended to accompany spicy Thai food.

And as we said before, the sweet notes in the wine will highlight the faint sweetness of the prawns.

Consider a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, also sourced from multiple vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA, which retails for around $9.


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