First and foremost, I adhere to the philosophy that wine is to be enjoyed. I may subscribe to simple wine rules, like white with fish and red with meat, and probably spend way too much time thinking about which wine to pair with practically every meal. However, I am quick to say if you only drink red, then go ahead, drink red with that white-sauced clam fettuccine, if that’s what you like. I had a fascinating wine experience not long ago at a family get-together where my brother, who once again out-did himself, prepared a Spicy Thai noodle salad with a healthy dose of fresh jalapeno and grilled up garlicky flank steak with vegetables basted in a chipotle butter sauce (sorry for the mouth-watering details). I brought over a big, fruity California syrah, thinking that this would stack up well against all those zesty, hot flavors. As it turned out, it withered under all that heat and spice. The real hit and unbelievably delicious match was a 2006 Pinot Gris Rotenberg from Domaine Ehrhart that I brought to start out the evening. A white wine with flank steak? Oh yeah, it was marvelous. I was once again reminded how perfectly suited Alsatian wine is to bold food flavors and how sometimes, rules need to be put aside. The round, oily texture of the Pinot Gris coated the palate allowing the heat of the food to dance along gracefully.
Only about 25% of Alsace’s total production is exported, of that the US is probably the fifth largest importer. In other words, not a lot of Alsatian wine makes it here. So, chances are there are many of you reading this who have never ever tasted an Alsatian wine. The story relayed above may be a round about way of suggesting this to you, but you should. You owe it to yourself. And specifically, you should try the ’06 Pinot Gris Rotenberg. Domaine Ehrhart grows and farms vineyards throughout ten different communes, all of which are certified organic with the French government. The ’06 Pinot Gris Rotenberg is laden with flavors of tree-ripened apricots, delicate overtones of fresh tarragon and citrusy aromas. The round, oily mouthfeel never feels cloying as the minerality of the wine balances the flavors out nicely on the palate. It is what I like to categorize as a POTATO CHIP WINE, because you can never just have one taste!!! Speaking of potato chips, so good with those cracked black pepper flavored ones! As you contemplate and organize your next big, backyard blow-out this summer, consider pairing the 2006 Pinot Gris Rotenberg with your spiciest offerings!
So now that I’ve established the taste merits of the ’06 Pinot Gris Rotenberg, I want to persuade you that there is tremendous price value here as well. This is a single-vineyard offering from a family run winery (the winery dates back to 1725!!!) that tend to their vines and wine with exhaustive care and detail, for under $25. You could easily spend that much on a mass-produced, “custom-blended” (read: purchased bulk wine) bottled from anywhere around the globe kinda wine. Why not taste something that offers authentic flavors of the highest caliber?
The basil in my garden is thriving and the cushions for our new lounge chairs should be arriving any day. I plan to capitalize on these two seemingly unrelated occurrences to whip up something pungent and spicy, maybe grilled chicken with a sweet chili dipping sauce or pork chops with an herby salsa verde, to serve with the well-chilled bottle of Pinot Gris Rotenberg I have waiting for me in the fridge. A sante! Anya Balistreri