german wine dinner joy

IMG_3034We had some scrumptious wines at Marché recently.  If you are someone who sticks safely to Oregon Pinot Gris or finds comfort in the red side of the wine rainbow, I understand; I really do.  But over the years, I’ve started hungering for more, and the odd poetry of some of the more interesting whites has grabbed me and won’t let go.  This is scary, of course, because a wine habit attaches to one’s pocketbook, and my purse always seems to have a hole at the bottom.*

Ewald Moseler, for those of you who don’t know, is a godsend.  He’s a distributor who has been importing German and Austrian wines and educating Americans from his base in Portland for almost thirty years.  Ryan managed to coax him to come down to Eugene for one of Chef Crystal Platt’s wonderful special tasting dinners.  This was an unusual move, as wine dinners usually feature a label or a type of wine.  But well worth it.

To welcome in spring, try a dry Riesling. I can’t emphasize this enough. The color is perfect for the season, a little neon-greenish, almost highlighter yellow.  The characteristic smell of fresh little flowers and honey and pear — wrapped in PVC — will shake you out of your complacency.  If the fetish appeal doesn’t grab you, then think of it this way: this wine is a sweet and obliging servant, kind of like a French maid. In PVC. Oops, I’m back in the fetish stuff again, sorry.  So let’s just put it like this: Riesling usually features a strong acid component that balances out the gentle sweetness, acting almost like a cleaning crew for sugars in the wine to enliven your palate.  Which is perfect for spring, no?

IMG_3019We tried three beautiful Rieslings at the tasting dinner:

(1) a bubbly one (!) called Wingut Diehl Riesling Sekt Extra Trocken Roschbacker Rosenkränzel from Pfalz (2009) with pork rillettes and roasted bone marrow toasts drizzled with rose hip jam (above);

(2) a dry (Trocken) Selbach “Blauschiefer” from Mosel (2011) with a perfectly browned sea bass chunk over bold green miner’s lettuce and little asparagus with a grassy swath of nettle purée (below — the picture doesn’t do it justice, sorry);  and

IMG_3025(3)  A deep, intense dessert Riesling:  Christoffel Jr. Riesling Ausles “Ürziger Würzgarten” from Mosel-Saar-Wuwer (1999), a wine that could have been only better with a longer finish so I could have it in my mouth for but a few more moments.  It was served with an apple crostata accompanied by a brilliantly paired unsugared buttermilk mousse.

IMG_3033O how I wish Crystal were able to integrate more experimental dishes into the rather conservative Marché menu, since her food is fabulous and the way she integrates seasonal ingredients, often foraged or PNW-oriented, could renew and envigorate many of the French bistro classics.  I think she’d soon gain a following of her own, not to mention we need to support talented, innovative women in the high-end restaurant biz.

And the pairings were so good.  The entrée of braised then fried boar over red cabbage and what seemed like a lardo and mustardseed mayonnaise special sauce to me, paired with another Wingut Diehl wine, this time a Gewürztraminer Kabinett from Pfalz (2011) might have just transformed me into a Gewürz drinker.  It certainly did nothing to quell my yearning for Central European food.

IMG_3032The only almost miss of the evening was the dish served with the only red, the only Pinot Noir (!) of the evening, an example of how climate change is allowing wine growers to put in grapes farther north than ever.  Morel mushrooms mired in a potatoey swamp of purée, with wild vegetation and flowers growing up around it gave off an Oregon rainy winter vibe, but it didn’t seem to be grounded in anything.  Still, it was an interesting pairing with a Mayschosser Spätburgunder Trocken (2011) that was unlike either our Oregon beloveds or the California pinots we spurn.  Pinot aficionados might want to take note that Spätburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir, and it is always Trocken.  The Ahr is the region in which you’ll find it now grown.

IMG_3029So all of this brings me to an unsatisfied conclusion.  Where can I get more of these delicious German wines?  Well, Ryan told me he’s bringing some in to Provisions, or you could visit one of the places Ewald services up in Portland by joining his email list.  Either way, they’re a must try.

Thanks, Ewald and Ryan, for making this happen!  Hope we can do it again soon.

*Note: I wasn’t paid a red cent for covering this dinner.  It was absolutely, totally, completely all my pleasure and I had to go home with a few extra bottles, too.  Growing hole in pocketbook.  Q.E.D.

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in which she sings of rosé

I’m sad you missed the Kermit Lynch rosé tasting at Provisions yesterday afternoon.  You are too.  Most of the wines were from Langedoc, and worlds apart from the boxed White Zin your mom used to drink over ice.  They’re also quite different from the cheaper, quaffable, fruit-forward rosés one sees coming out of Oregon and California.  Instead of bright cherry or strawberry dominating, these show more of the terroir with more complex flavors and a noticeable minerality. Not a jot of sweetness — dry and crisp like an Oregon summer morning.  And the colors range from a pale apricot to an amber to a deep cerise.

I bought a Spanish Ameztoi Rubentis Getariako Txakolina (back) earlier in the spring, when they were available.  The pale salmon color and happy, tingly frizzante is also nothing like these later, Frenchier rosés. This time, I picked up a few bottles of Chateau Trinquevedel Tavel from the exclusively rosé-growing region of Tavel in the Rhône Valley, and a peppery Ermitage Pic St. Loup from Langedoc.

It’s very worthwhile to check out Provisions’ wine tasting events: the free tastings, the classes, and the dinners.  I don’t consider myself any kind of expert on wine — not even an educated amateur — but I feel more confident each time Ryan guides me through his tastings.  The next class is July 22, and features the wines of Spain.  Be there!

I plan to drink these rosés with grilled fish, or a juicy mound of grilled vegetable couscous, perhaps with a lamb sausage or perhaps not…Willamette Valley chickpeas, garden mint, and golden raisins as a garnish.   Or maybe a sour cherry claufoutis.  Ah, summer.

a post formerly known as “look at the size of that artichoke!”

Spring has sprung! Huge artichokes at Market of Choice this week, yo. I wanted to tell you all about them, then mention my new favorite dry Riesling by using the bottle to show off the size of the artichoke. Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2006 Dry Riesling, judged my favorite after obsessively trying all the rieslings in town that fell into the $10-and-under category, is currently on sale at an astonishingly low price of 7 bucks at Albertson’s on 18th. The 2007 just won a top award at the Riverside International Wine Competition in Riverside, CA, just a stone’s throw away from The OC.

As I’m carefully setting up the shot, Retrogrouch comes home and decides he wanted to show his favorite springtime treats, too. Soon enough, we have a veritable photo essay.

So: look at the size of that artichoke!

Why am I the only food blogger who has to put up with this malarky?

in vino matanzas

100-year-old zin vines

Had the most loverly day yesterday in Sonoma County. It’s been many years since I’ve been wine-tasting in Sonoma, and even then, we had always opted for the smaller valleys and the back-country routes. Then, around 1994 or so, Retrogrouch and I fell in love with Anderson Valley, and moved our wine-tasting northeastward to Mendocino County.

new chard line

Well, I had the good fortune to see some in-laws visiting from France, and we decided to take the leisurely drive up Highway 12 to sightsee and visit with their family friend François, the winemaker at Matanzas Creek Winery.

We had lunch in Sonoma and stopped at a couple of wineries along the way. Because I’m feeling more and more grumpy about merchants passing off overmarketed, mediocre products with bells and whistles that command a high price, I feel duty-bound to report that we were particularly disappointed with Kunde Estate in Kenwood, which was as horribly commercial as the most commercial winery in Napa County. They charge 10 bucks for a regular tasting, 20 bucks for a “premium” tasting where you’re allowed to sit down and scarf down some snacks, too. They’ve diversified their name into a line of mustards and all kinds of crap. Is the wine good? Who knows? I’m not going to try it, and I’m willing to encourage other people to complain about this kind of over-merchandising and treating visitors like potential marks that can be soaked for as much money as possible. It’s distasteful, and I hope others speak out about it, too.how\'s this for an ice bucket?

But we were pretty thrilled with the northern end of the trip, when we hit Bennett Valley and drove around in the meadows and farms (and even an errant redwood grove (!)). We were warmly welcomed at the winery. François arrived after we had had a chance to stroll around the lavender garden. The landscaping was really beautiful. It’s so nice to see mature plants, and the six gardeners at Matanzas have really done an excellent job keeping the grounds in top shape.

We got to tour the facility, starting out in the chemistry area with fancy machinery, geegaws and beekers. François then took us down to the cold vat room, where Chardonnays were a-brewin’, and we got to taste some raw wines. Although I was excited by the idea of a new reserve line being debuted and the whole meticulous process, I was particularly enthralled by the ice on the vats, which would shiver and crack every so often. He talked to us about some filtration and blending magic, then we saw the other areas of production. Afterward, we had a chance to spend a little time with his wife, too. It was such a good trip.

If you’re going to Sonoma or find yourself in Santa Rosa, it is well worth it to visit Matanzas. Their wines are excellent and the lavender garden yields both culinary and apothecarial lavender, the latter of which is turned into pure, fresh soaps and lotions for men and women, lavender wands, and the like. The lavender seemed much more fitting and appropriate as a companion product, and it wasn’t cheesy like Kunde’s clutter of cheeses, apparel, oils, vinegars, chocolates, etc., etc. And it smelled good, too. François seemed less happy about it, though. I guess when your job is nosing wine, a lavender jamboree in the room next door is not as wonderful as it seems. Ah well.