Exciting trips on the books? Wine tasting excursions to wine country? Reservation at your favorite restaurant? Nope…me neither:) As we are stuck home in quarantine, I enjoy writing about the most fabulous food and wine pairings I have been lucky enough to enjoy. We’re not quite at a place where we can do any of these things just yet, but alas, we can dream.
This brings me to memories of an LA Wine Writers luncheon with Winemonger, an importer of Italian, French, Austrian, and German wine. This lunch featured wines of Austria expertly paired with dishes at Napa Valley Grille in Westwood, CA. I’d be remiss if I did not mention and give kudos to our host, Brian Cousins and the Napa Valley Grille in Westwood. Though Napa Valley Grille is closed during this COVID-19 crisis, I look forward to patronizing them again once the city reopens.
Napa Valley Grille takes both their food and wine seriously. They are a mainstay in Westwood and for this reason, they maybe get passed over. They’re not the celeb hotspot or a new restaurant being touted by the food world. In contrast, they are an oldie but goodie.
Brian explained to us that unlike many restaurants, they give wine pairings directly on their menu. We always talk about making wine easy for the consumer to understand, and this is a perfect example of that. Their staff gets extensive training, including deep dives into grapes, one by one. Their list is full of classic wines and benchmarks, but there are lots of values to be had, and also thoughtful, and interesting selections. Check out my post HERE from last week about another lovely food and wine pairing at Napa Valley Grille.
But first, a high-level view of Austrian wines. Austria is known for both dry varietal whites and sweet botrytized whites. White wine, in fact, makes up 2/3 of wine in Austria. There is also an increase in fine red wines in Austria. On the dry white side, Grüner Veltliner is king. 2/3 of white wines in Austria are made from Grüner, which have classic notes of white pepper and spice. On the red side, Zweigelt is the most planted grape.
And now for the food and wine pairings with my tasting notes!
Lobster Carpaccio (Compressed Apple, Fried Capers, Micro Dill, Espelette Oil)
Light, fresh, and delicious.
Ludwig Neumayer Riesling Engelgarten 2016 ($22 retail)
A precise and balanced Riesling. On the nose: lime peel, white flowers, and petrol. Ripe stone fruit on the palate (apricot and peach), pineapple, and petrol on the palate. Bracing acid. Zippy. Love it.
Der Pollerhof Vom Loess 2017 ($25 retail)
We’re in the Weinviertel DAC, which is Grüner country. But this is not Grüner. The blend is 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Gelber Muskateller, and 5% Traminer. A beautifully feminine, perfumed wine. Both fruit forward and savory at the same time. Wondering about the label? That’s loess soil…as a wine nerd I love that.
Chicken Milanese (Mitzuna, Red Onion, Orange Citrus Vinaigrette)
Lichtenberger-Gonzalez Muschelkalk 2017 ($23 retail)
A whisper of fruit/floral notes, then we move to secondary/savory notes with a smokey minerality.
Ebner Ebenauer Grüner Veltliner Bürstig 2016 ($28 retail)
A classic (higher end) Grüner from the Weinviertel DAC. Lovely perfumed and spicy Grüner nose. Persistent flavors with a nice, long finish.
Corvina (Summer Squash, Plum Sauce, Arugula-Fennel Salad)
Umathum Rosa 2016 ($22 retail)
A blend of 40% Zweigelt, 30% Blaufrankisch, and 30% Saint Laurent. Raspberry, cherry, and red currant on the nose. Biodynamic.
Umathum Rosa 2018 ($22 retail)
This is somewhere between a rosé and a light red. Crunchy red fruit such as raspberries plus orange peel. Structured; Tavel-like.
Short Rib (Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Mushrooms, Thyme, Braising Jus)
Rosi Schuster Blaufränkisch 2017 ($23 retail)
A savory, animal note on the nose plus bright red fruit and a steely minerality.
Moric Blaufränkisch 2017 ($30 retail)
Savory/herbaceous notes plus cranberry and plum.
Zantho Grüner Veltliner Eiswein 2016 ($40 retail 375mL)
The grapes are harvested and pressed while frozen. Honey honey honey. A beautiful and SWEET wine (190 g/L residual sugar).