Any Riesling to Attend a Wine Tasting

Okay, so I borrowed that line from John I., the resident punster of Vino. But about a month
ago Kevin Toyama, lead sommelier at the Halekulani arranged a wine dinner featuring German
wines imported by Rudi Wiest of Cellar International and included Dr. Marcel Tyrell from
Karthauserhof, Mr. Marcel  von den Benken of Schloss Schönborn and Mr. Maximilian von
Kunow of Von Hovel and Mr. Wiest himself. The Halekulani's Executive Chef, Vikram Garg
designed a four course meal with wines ranging from a 1959 Spatlese all the way up to a 2010
Riesling featuring sweet, off dry and dry wines. Of course, I HAD to attend this dinner!

German Wines

When you think of German wines, what's the first wine that comes to mind? Blue Nun
Liebfraumilch or Piesporter Goldtropfchen?  I know that these supermarket versions may have
initially turned you off to Riesling based wines. Too sweet with no character. I actually started
my wine fascination with Blue Nun as a poor undergraduate... paired with Hickory Farms
summer sausage. Little did I know back then that it was actually a rational wine and food
pairing - the sweet and acid in the Blue Nun balanced the rich and salty qualities in the sausage.
Of course Riesling and German wines are so much more than Blue Nun and the bottles you find
in the supermarket.

German Riesling

While young German Riesling is usually dominated by sugar and acid like domestic varieties
they usually have a pronounced minerality picked up from the rocky soil it grows in. However
when given several years of bottle ageing, the sugar sweetness is eventually replaced with
honeyed tones and caramelized fruit. And as the classification rises from Kabinett to Spatlese to
Auslese to the stratospheric Berrenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines so does the richness
and complexity as the wines age. Because these wines have abundant sugar and acid, they
literally can last from 30 to 50 years easily... which means that the 2001 and 2003 Gunderloch
TBAs we have in storage will peak well after I'm reduced to ashes.

However not all Rieslings come with a full load of sugar. Alsatian and Austrian variations are
usually harvested at the same ripeness as German Riesling grapes but that's where the similarity
ends. These "cousins" of the German varieties are usually fermented dry leaving very little
residual sugar. They have the same minerality and complexity as German Riesling but usually
pair with a wider variety of foods due to the lack of perceived sweetness. But not all German
Riesling is sweet. German vintners also produce Halbtrocken (half dry) and Trocken (dry)
Riesling along with the usual sweeter wines. I find that the Halbtrocken or off-dry Rieslings pair
with the widest varieties of foods, especially Southeast Asian cuisine because the touch of
sweetness tempers the chili pepper heat while the solid acid helps cleanse the palate of the
richness of the dish. The minerality in these wines as also a nice foil to the savory herbs like
lemongrass, mint, basil and cilantro. Fortunately, residents of the 50th can sample an excellent
off dry Riesling bottled by Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya with their pho, sushi, pad thai or
kalbi anytime they wish as the CF label is available in restaurants and at retail. And as far as
Trocken wines go, they are the perfect substitute to start a meal in place of Champagne as the
bracing minerality and acidity stimulate to palate for the meal that's to come. Which is how we
started our meal.

'01 Karhauserhofberger Eitelsbacher Riesling Auslese Trocken


Crab and Lobster Salad, Pirie Mango,  Onion Seed Vinaigrette

‘09 Schloss Hallburg, Pinot Blanc

‘10 Schloss Schönborn, Pfaffenberg Riesling Grosses Gewäch


Chia Crusted Halibut , Artichoke Barigoule, Sauce Maltaise,
‘08 von Hövel, Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese

‘93 Marcobrunner Spätlese from Magnum


Poached Veal loin, Chickpea Puree, Roasted Tomato and Grapes , Fennel Jus
‘08 Fürst Klingenberger Pinot Noir
‘08 Schloss Hallburg, Pinot Noir


Strawberry Mouse, Pistachio Briton, Rhubarb Confit
‘92 Schloss Schönborn, Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Auslese
‘05  von Hövel, Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Auslese

‘69 Karthäuserhofberger Kronenberg Riesling Feine Auslese
‘59 Wegeler Östricher Lenchen Riesling Spätlese

The Riesling worked wonders with the crab and lobster salad with the fruit in the wine balancing
the ripe mango with the sweetness balancing the sweet shellfish. Try a glass of off-dry Riesling
with your next lobster roll! The halibut also paired nicely with the next set of Rieslings though
my favorite (and favorite wine of the evening) pairing was the 1993 Marcobrunner which had
loads of petrol on the nose and had enough bottle aging so that the sugar sweetness turned
more to a caramel-like richness. The 28th generation owner of Schloss Schonborn, Marcel von
den Benken stated with his impeccable German accent that "der chubby guy on der label earned
his spot koz he du-lank 4 bottles a day".
The veal loin was paired with a duo of German Pinot Noir which had enough finesse so as not to
overwhelm the delicate flavor of the veal - I also love German Pinot Noir but that's another
column. The only course that didn't pair perfectly with the wines was dessert - it's not that
either was bad but I personally would have selected an off dry Rose or Gewurztraminer with
dessert. The evening ended with a pair of very well aged Riesling from the 50s and 60s and
though the 1969 wasn't showing very well, the 1959 was another of my favorites of the night. I
also brought a bottle of 1976 Schloss Groenesteyn Kiedricher Wasserrose Riesling Beerenauslese
that I shared with the rest of the table to end a great meal with great wines and great friends. So
the next time you're looking for a white wine that's pairs beautifully with food, try that other
white wine; Riesling.