What is Your Favorite Wine?


my restaurant career began here

Usually when you’re starting off drinking wine, we tend to like the sweeter versions, and of course… the cheaper versions. Who wants to spend a lot of money on something which is an acquired taste?

In college I started with Moselle wines from Germany. This one liquor store in Chico had a whole barrel full of Moselle wines positioned right near the front of the store. I’d go in and usually grab a German Riesling called the “Black Cat”. Unlike other Rieslings from Germany it was easy to pronounce, easy to remember, moderately sweet, and had a smooth finish. That was my go to and was the right price for under four dollars a bottle.

I kept that liquor store busy filling up that barrel over the course of my tenure at Chico State University. Later as I was introduced to red Burgundy’s from France and Cabernet’s from the Napa Valley, my wine world expanded. Over the course of the years I probably could have bought a small yacht for all the money I’ve spent on wine and the food to accompany that wine.

Anyway the point of this blog is not to tell you about my spending habits related to wine and food. No, the jest of this blog is to help you understand the paring of wine and how it relates to weather, food, and atmosphere.

Enjoying wine can be enhanced by the correct choice. This is an art form that evolves through experience. First let’s delve into the world of white white wine. In this blog we will only broach the subject of the three most common white varietals:

  1. Chardonnay:
  2. Sauvignon Blanc
  3. Riesling

If you’re going to drink Chardonnay only drink the finest… life is too short to drink cheap wine. The most critically acclaimed Chardonnay comes from three places in my humble opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there are other places that claim they produce top notch Chardonnay but please… they can’t compare with these places.

First and by far the best, is the Burgundy region of France. The Cote de Beaune is the Belair of white Burgundy production. The roughly 25 kilometer strip of the Cote de Beaune produces some of the most show-stopping, intense expressions of Chardonnay on the planet. Just a couple examples would be the 2017 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Montrachet Grand Cru, or the 2015 Domaine Leroy Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. These earth first representations are the most delightful mix of being full bodied, rich and powerful, with intense aromas and flavors of almond, apple, white flowers, spices, with incredible length in the finish which propels you to a place few wines can take you.

Second on my list of exceptional chardonnay but definitely a notch below the above mentioned… the Russian River region of California and the Napa Valley of California. The buttery constitution of the California chardonnays mixed with the terroir add flavor to a rich composition. The top two I’d list in these two areas would be Kistler (Russian River) and Kongsgaard “The Judge” (Napa Valley). Kistler has many different vineyard options and they vary from year to year. Cuvee Cathleen and the Dutton Vineyard are my two favorite representations from this winery.

For the Napa Valley I would have to choose the Kongsgaard “The Judge” Chardonnay. Aromas of honeysuckle and green apple with candied lemon peel and soft French oak notes. At $840.00 a bottle this is the most expensive Chardonnay in California.

The pairing of Chardonnay with food is an easy match. Usually with a more robust fish such as Salmon, or shell fish, shrimp, mussels, crab cakes, and even lighter meats prepared in a lemon butter sauce such as veal.

Chardonnay at an out door party in the summer is a wonderful introduction to any pass around hors d’ oeuvres. Drink in one hand, food in the other, smile on your face… perfect!

Sauvignon Blanc is a green skinned grape variety that originates from the city of Bordeaux in France. The Loire region is famous for this varietal and produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc’s in the world.

The district in Loire that produces the most famous Sauvignon Blanc is called Poully Fume. Les Chemins De I’Abbaye is an elegant example that bursts with vibrant, citrus-fruit flavors. Most Sauvignon Blanc in this region is aged in stainless-steel and bottled while fresh and youthful. However, later, as in any evolutionary process the finest wines of Pessac-Leognan in Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is blended with other white grapes and fermented and aged in oak.

Other regions that produce quality Sauvignon Blanc include South Africa, New Zealand, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Central Coast California, Santa Maria California, and even the Algarve southern coastline of Portugal.

Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire region of France is typically a crisper, more herbal, refreshingly chalky minerality with a whisper of floral. Each region producing Sauvignon Blanc has its own characteristic that pronounces its terroir.

As a rule, (depending upon the region) the dryer region character I enjoy from the Loire is perfect with more delicate fish, or higher in acid items that contain capers like carpaccio. Of course this is another wine that pairs perfectly with shell fish, especially west coast oysters (higher in salt content).

One of my favorite parings is with a dish indigenous to the Balkans, Moussaka, a eggplant based dish stuffed with ground meat. The acid in the wine pairs perfectly with the richness of this Balkan/Middle Eastern dish.

Finally there is Riesling. There is really only one place to obtain Riesling, and that is Germany. There are five different Riesling types from dry to sweet. I will only be talking about one type for the simplicity of this discussion.

The type I will discuss is not the type I drank in college. My taste buds evolved as I grew more accustomed to pairing Riesling with food. The Riesling I enjoy the most is Kabinett the lightest style of Riesling in the German Pradikat System.

This fresh off dry white hails from colder German wine regions like Mosel and Rheingau. It usually has intense floral aromas and delicious apple, peach, pear and fruit flavors. In 1971. the term Kabinett was officially noted in German law. It was defined as wines that are light and non-chaptalized (no sugar added to grapes during fermentation.)

Kabinett is naturally high in acid and minerality and can age in your cellar for up to ten years. I love pairing this wine with salads. Especially salads that have a variety of different vinegars that enhance the flavor of the fruit and vegetables. Fresh fish, and complicated versions of vegetable dishes make for the perfect pairing.

As with most white wines the perfect season is from spring through the fall. Although anytime of year is perfect for a wine that has the quality and strength of composition to relate its history of terroir in every sip.