To Pair With Corned Beef And Cabbage: Riesling!

Monday, March 16, 2015 7:02 PM


Forget what the calendar says, it’s springtime in San Francisco! Temperatures touched 80F today here in the city and around the bay. A customer who braved traffic to visit us today advised us to steer clear of Market St. as thetraditional pre-St. Patrick’s Day Saturday Paradewas well attended by a large crowd of revelers enjoying the weather and whooping it up. St. Patrick’s Day? Yes,Tuesday’s the day. What does that mean? Different things to different people. Now that I’ve toned down my part in the Paddy’s Day festivities, I think more of this day as an easy way to enjoy one of my favorite meals … corned beef and cabbage with potatoes. Anya and I had a conversation about this earlier this week, she said it’s no big deal, as she likes this dish way too much to relegate it to a St. Patrick’s Day-only meal. I understand her point, as I’m known to consume it year-round as well. It probably has something to do with the Eastern European background we share, but it just tastes like home.

It has been around this time of year when we both have mentioned St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef and cabbage,and recommended a wine to complement what some may consider a difficult meal for a wine pairing. Sure, we all know a lot of beer gets poured with it, but there’s a more elegant way to enjoy it without perhaps feeling bloated afterwards. With Riesling. Dry Alsatian Riesling to be exact.



One of Alsace’s most famous dishes is Choucroute,which is a preparation of sauerkraut with sausages and other salted or cured meats. Hmmm, sounds familiar. What do Alsatians drink with Choucroute? What pairs perfectly with Choucroute? Dry Alsatian Riesling, of course.
Ah, it’s been too many years ago now, but Chris and I once visited Alsace as TWH won a trip to the area for “best northern California Alsatian wine promotion.” I learned a ton during that trip and we met some prominent growers and winemakers. Apart from that, we ate some delicious food and enjoyed some wonderful wines with our meals. One of these meals that sticks out is the lunchwe had at the home of Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart.We arrived in late morning to taste through their entire line of wines, and did so in the dining room adjacent to their kitchen. Somewhere in the middle of this tasting, the lid to the simmering Choucroute was removed and the“just like home” aromas enchanted me with cartoon-like appeal. I literally felt like I had my eyes closed and was physically floating in the direction of its source. As we concluded tasting and sat for lunch, it was the four bottles of Riesling that made it to the table.
It’s interesting to note that our current selection ofDomaine Ehrhart (Domaine St. Rémy in Alsace) Rieslings mirrors the selections we enjoyed with our Choucroute.The entry-level 2012 Vieilles Vignes Riesling: Dry, refined and delicate, it’s marked by fleshy fruit, blossoms, and minerals. A sip of this and it’s easy to grasp how well this varietal pairs with this kind of cuisine. It doesn’t taste like entry-level anything. The 2011 RieslingHerrenweg is all sourced from one vineyard planted in a mix of gravelly sand which preserves the fruity character while maintaining freshness. It has a lush, deep mouth feel, with notes of citrus, pear, and honey, yet has the “cut” to work well with the salty meat and cabbage frame. The 2011 Grand Cru Hengst Riesling is a special wine. If one takes into consideration what prices “Grand Cru” wine command elsewhere, these are outright bargains. The vineyard is special in its soil content: calcareous marl, limestone boulders, and sandstone pebbles abound. The 2011 is aromatically expressive with notes of apricots, tropical fruit, and stony minerals. The palate is full and complex, with hints of herbs and beeswax floating with the aforementioned fruit. It has azesty finish which suggests it will pair with a myriad of dishes such as lemongrass chicken or enchiladas suizas. The 2010 Grand Cru Hengst is similar, of course, yet has a slightly deeper, honeyed fruity component. It too has an excellent display of minerality, and finishes with flair.Perhaps one can understand exactly why a meal enjoyedmany years ago can still be fresh in my mind!




As mentioned in our recent write-up about the 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet (Pre-Arrival), I will be off to Bordeaux soon, this being my last stateside “Sunday Email” for a while. I’ve heard many things about the 2014 vintage in Bordeaux, but I will travel there with an open mind ready to see for myself what this new vintage is all about. I’m preparing to send, at the very least, and update on things a fortnight from tonight on location from Bordeaux, hopefully I’ll have some time to send more. I’m planning on sharing some photos and other things on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so if you follow us there, you’ll be in touch. But all things in good time; I’ve got an excuse to sit down with some corned beef, cabbage and potatoes … sign me up for a bottle of that Grand Cru Hengst! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments:
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July 25. Yes, we are aware of the fact that we have sent out several emails recently embracing Rosé, and all things summer. Why not? We have now entered late July and the period known as the dog days. What does it mean? Many things to many people. France is about to shut down for a month, and some of our friends from over there have been over here visiting. Last week it was Hélène Garcin-Lévêque from Bordeaux, and this week, we were visited by longtime friend, Philippe Ehrhart from Alsace!



Ever been to Alsace? Seeing Philippe again always brings back wonderful memories of the time Chris and I visited the Ehrharts at Domaine St. Rémy in Wettolsheim. If you don’t know the story, Chris had been with TWH for around 5 months at the time, and I had just started. A French food & wine promotional company was offering a free trip for 2 for the retailer that did the best job promoting the wines of Alsace during a given period of time.  Chris built the most magnificent pyramid of picturesque Alsatian boxes with different bottles displayed on each tier, flanked by maps of the region. It was rather eye-catching, to say the least. Our sales of Alsatian wines were quite brisk during this period, and one day a few months down the road, the phone rang. It was a representative of the French company sponsoring the contest. We had won! In what I can only describe as pure luck, I was chosen to accompany Chris on a whirlwind tour of Alsace with visits to 9 estates in 3 days. David was consulted by the sponsor for recommendations as to whom to visit. He also amended our itinerary to spend an extra day there in order to visit the 2 growers that we represented at the time. After 3 days chock full of visits, tastings, and rich meals, we were picked up on that final morning by Philippe Ehrhart himself and driven down to Wettolsheim to Domaine St. Rémy.

On the drive, Philippe regaled us with information about the villages, vineyards, and countryside. Once at the winery, he introduced us to his father and we began tasting tank samples of the recent harvest. It was rapidly approaching midday, so we were off to meet Philippe’s wife, Corinne, at their home for a tasting which included lunch. Philippe made the introductions and then led us to the dining room in which 10 bottles of various Domaine Ehrhart wines were opened and ready to be tasted. Somewhere after we tasted our 3rd sample, Corinne must have removed the lid to the pot with the simmering Choucroute, and the heavenly aroma wafted into the dining room. Beside one of my notes I scribbled, “Omg, I smell Choucroute.” (Wait, did I write “Omg?” Really? Hey, it was 2006, I was just a kid.)


Needless to say, the Choucroute was divine! Having the opportunity to taste the Ehrharts’ Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Auxerrois, and Gewurztraminer alongside it was the perfect Alsatian cultural experience.  So, even if it sounds a little cliché, when a couple of Alsatian winemakers invite you to their home for Choucroute, cancel the rest of your plans immediately and accept their invitation! We stayed well past our time limit, and when Philippe asked us what time our next appointment was, I looked at my watch and said, “5 minutes ago.” Philippe exclaimed that he wished we weren’t leaving, and we all reluctantly got in the car for our 20 minute drive.



I learned a lot during that trip. Having an eastern European background, cured meats, sausages, cabbage, and potatoes are all within my sphere of familiarity. I just never had a clue of what wines to pair with them. I can’t tell you how many bottles of quality red Bordeaux I brought to family gatherings which featured ham at the center of the table. In retrospect, the wines were all great, they just didn’t pair with the salty cured meat. After this trip, I knew, Riesling is the wine. Pinot Gris works too, as does Pinot Blanc’s sibling, Pinot Auxerrois. Gewurztraminer may be a little aromatically overwhelming for a holiday ham, ah, but the things you can pair with Gewurz … More on that later. The trip really opened my eyes as to how versatile the wines of Alsace are, and the formation of my opinion that the best pairings are with white wines had begun to take shape. I eat a lot of spicy food. These wines work well with spicy food. Really well.

So yeah, Philippe Ehrhart visited our new digs in Dogpatch this week! We popped one bottle each of the entire Ehrhart line in the cold box this past Tuesday and tasted them with Philippe and David after their full day of meetings and appointments. Having just flown in, Philippe showed no signs of weariness, and eagerly discussed the wines as we tasted them. The Ehrharts have always farmed organically, and the purity and precision of the end product is evidence of this practice paying off. Philippe informed us that he has been employing bio-dynamic practices in the vineyard, and beginning with their 2012’s, will be Demeter certified.


The Ehrharts have recently moved into a lovely, modern new winery complete with upscale tasting room. Another recent development has been to employ a scale from 1-10 on their back label describing the perceived sweetness of their wines.  This is extremely helpful for consumers because there is a wide range of styles amongst the wines of Alsace. Some wines are sweeter than others, and to point out the perceived sweetness in this fashion is useful. With their organic techniques, their new facility, and Demeter certification, we see nothing but great things ahead for the Ehrharts! We love their wines and we applaud their ability to look forward and not rest on any of their laurels. Never been to Alsace? It is worth strong consideration, you won’t regret it! – Peter Zavialoff
2012 Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Auxerrois Val St.-Gregoire

White Wine; other white varietal; Alsace;

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Perceived Sweetness – 2

Pinot Auxerrois is considered the finest clone of Pinot Blanc due to its natural low yields and smaller berries. It’s a great aperitif, as it has round apple-like flavors and aromas. Great with things like chicken salad, grilled trout, creamy cheeses, or a lobster roll.
2011 Domaine Ehrhart Riesling Herrenweg

White Wine; Riesling; Alsace;

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Perceived Sweetness – 2

It may say 2, but it seems drier to me. The aromas are fresh, there are floral hints surrounding the core of pear fruit and stony mineral. The palate is lively; it’s the epitome of a dry, versatile white wine. It goes with most traditional Alsatian fare, but there’s oh, so much more. Hunan smoked duck would be fun with this, also raclette, spicy shrimp scampi, or maybe even chile verde.
2011 Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Gris Im Berg

White Wine; Pinot Grigio/Gris; Alsace;

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Perceived Sweetness – 2

Unlike the Riesling, I get a little more body and sweetness out of this one. Their Pinot Gris has a fuller body and is deep and rich. Aromas of earthy mushrooms are ever-present. The palate has depth, yet is well balanced. Versatile and giving, you can pair this with things like carnitas tacos, a ginger panko crusted salmon with Asian vegetabels, sushi, or Kung Pao pork.
2012 Domaine Ehrhart Gewurztraminer Herrenweg

White Wine; Gewurztraminer; Alsace;

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Perceived Sweetness – 4.5

Gewurztraminer is a bit enigmatic. If you like spicy curry dishes, I highly recommend you try a glass of Gewurz with your next curry. I wouldn’t particularly sit down at a wine bar and order a glass of it, but when the balance of the sample bottle was up for grabs, that was all the motivation I needed to whip up a big batch of pork curry with a myriad of peppers last night, and all I have left, sadly is the leftover curry. The Gewurz is long gone! It is the perfect curry wine, no doubt, but I’ve tried it with spicy red beans and rice with much success. Spicy jambalaya, and an abundance of Asian dishes are begging for this highly aromatic, slightly off-dry wine. 

From The Mosel: The Wines Of Jakoby-Mathy

Friday, September 27, 2013 12:53 PM

Chances are, if you’ve been by the shop or called us up lately, you may have encountered someone new. Working with us here this summer and fall, all the way from his family’s property in the Mosel in Germany, is Stefan Jakoby!  Please join us in welcoming Stefan to San Francisco, and feel free to stop by or drop a line and meet this energetic young gentleman. We turn it over to Stefan:


I am very happy to spend my summer and autumn here in San Francisco with the staff at the Wine House. It is so interesting for me to learn more about international wines and to see another side of the business.

Some of you may know our wines; we’ve been exporting them since 1988. I am proud to recommend them to you.

Our Estate:

Jakoby-Mathy is a small winery in Kinheim, a village in the heart of the Mittelmosel near Bernkastel. Winegrowing in our Family goes back to the 19th century. My father Erich Jakoby took over the Estate with my mother Rita in 1976. Today the Family (Erich, Rita, my brother Peter, and myself) work and run the winery together. We have Riesling and a little bit of Pinot Noir on 4.5 ha of steep slopes that face the Mosel River. Our vineyard sites are in Kinheim (with Rosenberg, Hubtertuslay and Römerhang) and a couple of parcels in Zeltingen (Himmelreich). Our new label is now Jakoby Pur. In English you can call it Pure! Pure is the language and the character of our wines. I think it says all about our wines and our philosophy that you need to know.

We use stainless steel for 75% of our wines, which keeps the freshness and the typical and delicate aroma of our Rieslings. The balance in our cellar is fiberglass tanks with a maximum size of 4000 liters per unit, ensuring low temperatures during the fermentation.

2011 Riesling Herrenweg: Domaine Ehrhart

Sunday, March 17, 2013 6:45 PM

At the start of the New Year, Pete vowed to drink more Alsatian wine – I think he’s on to something there! Food flexible with many affordable choices, Alsatian wines are just so compatible to the way food-conscious, wine-drinking people eat in the US; it’s a wonder more people don’t clamber for them. Admittedly, there are a few hurdles Alsatian wines must overcome marketing-wise, but if you’re in a hurry to reach for a bottle of wine to bring to a dinner party and know nothing about the menu, taking along a dry Alsatian Riesling is a safe bet. The 2011 Riesling Herrenweg from Domaine Ehrhart is distinctive and fresh while still being an open canvas in culinary terms. What wouldn’t the ’11 Riesling Herrenweg match up well with?  The last time I sampled it, my tasting notes ended with “incredibly drinkable”. Now, I concede that this is an overused and vague term, so let me clarify this further.  “Incredibly drinkable” means to me that it has hit a bliss point where acidity and sweetness combine perfectly to demand another taste. The Ehrharts know that choosing an Alsatian wine can be tricky when it comes to sweetness levels, as there are no designations like the Germans use to help consumers easily navigate with terms like Kabinett or Auslese. Starting with the ’11 vintage, the Ehrharts have devised a clever tool located on their back labels. There is a linear scale from 1-10, 1 being dry and 9 being sweet, with a wine glass placed at the point at which they feel the perception of sweetness is matched. The 2011 Riesling Herrenweg is at 2, so it is not bone-searingly dry, but it is nevertheless dry. I think this scale should be implemented more widely in Alsace- super handy!


I had the pleasure of meeting Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart at the end of January. They came to SF to visit with The Wine House and to meet with new and old supporters around the Bay. They are a lovely couple that, despite their obvious jet lag, were excited to share their passion for their domaine, which began farming organically over two generations ago and is now officially certified organic. For the Ehrhart’s, organic farming is not some new zealous pursuit, it’s simply how they’ve always farmed and will continue to farm. It was a memorable experience to taste through the range of wines, from the creamy Cremant to the heady Grand Crus, with Corinne and Philippe guiding us along. Their understated elegance shone through to their wines. I bemoaned their short stay as I thought back to Pete and Chris’ good fortune of having Corinne’s Choucroute while in Alsace a few years back…would it be rude to ask a visiting vigneron to prepare dinner? You can’t stop a girl from dreaming.Not exactly Choucroute, but I’m guessing a large percentage of the population has had their fair share of Corned Beef and Cabbage this past weekend. I won’t pass up an opportunity to eat Corned Beef and Cabbage and neither will I pass up an opportunity to drink with it, Riesling. A richer, fuller-bodied Riesling like the 2011 Riesling Herrenweg is what I prefer. If you’re reading this post-St. Paddy’s Day and the leftovers are all gone, here’s another way to go: Pad Thai. Oh, yes, so very tasty! 
I won’t be whooping it up this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, though I’m wearing the green. That nasty cold has come to visit chez Balistreri and, as with many un-welcomed guests, won’t go away. Knock on wood, to date I’ve been spared. I attribute my health to that cherished glass of wine post-bedtime reading/lights out time. It is my shortcut to a meditative state of mind. Ah the restorative nature of wine, amen. —Anya Balistreri

2006 Dry Riesling Marlborough Isabel Esate Vineyard

Thursday, January 20, 2011 5:01 PM

Happy New Year, all! Whew! I hope all y’all’s holidays went well. I knew sometime in late November that I wouldn’t be taking my foot off the gas pedal until mid-January. See, I have reason to celebrate January 1st, 3rd, 7th and 14th. Actually, for me, it really goes until the 25th, and this year, next week will be packed with good stuff. The annual UGC Bordeaux tasting comes to San Francisco next Friday, the 21st. Also, we have the Sauternes/Barsac tasting dinner with Aline Baly, and the fabulous wines of Chateau Coutet coming up at Restaurant Picco this Monday evening. Another Sauternes friend will be arriving Wednesday, and there are more dinner plans. Followed by what will be my first glimpse into the newly bottled 2008 Bordeaux! Whew! Is right.

I just returned to the treehouse after being treated to dinner by one of my dearest friends. She and I go way back, and we are often spotted at Brandy Ho’s on Columbus & Pacific. In all the years I’ve been going to that restaurant, there is one dish I order EVERY TIME. It is the spicy Smoked Ham With Cloves Of Garlic. If you like smoky ham, garlic and lots of hot pepper, I highly recommend it. One of our favorite rituals is that she asks me to take the leftovers (I call them “Brandovers”) for the next day, provided I send her a text when I’m eating them, expounding on their delicacy. So, a bit of a rarity, tonight being Saturday, I will not eat my Brandovers at work tomorrow, I will eat them here, so I get to pair them with wine! What wine, you may ask? Tomorrow, it will be the2006 Dry Marlborough Riesling from Isabel Estate Vineyard. So the story goes something like this: Just as the ever-popular, sold out, 2004 Chateau Mont Perat, we caught a distributor closing out a great wine. (Please keep in mind that we taste a lot of “closeouts” and pass on the vast majority of them.) But this wine was poured for me blind, in a sense, and as I inhaled the aromas, I was impressed. It had an herbal note that was unmistakeable, a mineral drive and that petrol-like complexity that Riesling of distinction can have. On the palate, it was crisp and lively. The fruit was in harmony with the herbs and minerals, and it was as complex as some of my favorite dry Rieslings from Alsace. Anya already knew what I didn’t, but when they told me the price, I took a glass to a very busy David, and asked him what he thought. Stop. For a second. David is an expert. His ability to evaluate a wine is amazing. So when I do things like this, I don’t tell him a thing about the wine. I just handed him a glass. He took in the aromatics, blind, mind you. His response was “It smells like Riesling with a little age, but on the palate, it has New World fruit … it’s enigmatic, but really good!” I then told him that we could sell it for 8 bucks a bottle. He arose from his busy desk, greeted the rep, asked how much they had, and bought it all. Now, we can offer this to all of you … for 8 bucks. If you love dry Riesling with character, this is a no-brainer!

So yeah, Monday night will be the dinner with Aline at Picco, and that will be epic. I may have a seat or two (no more than that) available, and will be checking my email Sunday and Monday, in case any last minute Coutet fans may fancy hanging with us. But one night before, I will be enjoying my Brandovers with a couple of glasses of the 2006 Dry Riesling from Isabel Estate Vineyard! – Peter Zavialoff



Okay. First, the big news. I will be representing The Wine House at this year’s En Primeur tastings in Bordeaux beginning March 29th. Never mind the fact that long-term forecasts are calling for “showers” for the whole week. Never mind the fact that I’ve been worried sick over making all these reservations and appointments. Anya has threatened to “whack (me) upside the head” if she hears any more worry or concern. But I understand her point. Yes, I am going to Bordeaux. I accept. I will keep quiet. I will be professional. Starting NOW!  

It is no secret that I love Bordeaux. Yes, it’s obvious. Very few things give me as much pleasure as sharing a fine bottle of Claret with the right company. Or Sauternes. Or Dry White Bordeaux, for that matter. I take particular pride in helping those of you who ask for recommendations for all wines Bordelais. It makes me prouder than a parent with an honor student bumper sticker when y’all come in raving about a Bordeaux that I helped you pick out. Well I’ll be. I had to stop typing this for a minute to ask a customer how he liked a half bottle I recommended last week. He loved it! He asked me to recommend something else in 750 ml format. He’s walking out of here today with a 2006 Chateau Fleur Cardinale. Something tells me he’s going to love that one too. 2006, to me, is definitely the most overlooked and underrated Bordeaux vintage that I’ve tasted in a decade!

So far we’re hearing a lot of positive things about the 2009 vintage. We’ve been here before. Vintage of the decade? Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! So I’m going to go find out for myself. And for all of you too! As a matter of fact, I would love to hear from you all about this. I will be tasting a lot of wine. A lot is an understatement. If any of you readers are curious about any particular chateau’s 2009, please drop me a line, and let me know which ones you’re interested in, and I’ll do my best to taste and evaluate the wine for you. I can’t guarantee I will be able to answer all requests, but I will do the best I can. I also plan to write about the week’s activities on our blog, with links onFacebook and Twitter. So be a fan on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and I’ll keep you up on all the goings on!




2003 Domaine Rene Mure/Clos St. Landelin Riesling Vorbourg

White Wine; Riesling; Alsace;

Reg. $33.99
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landelinAnd Now My Wine Of The Week:

Changing gears completely, how did you all survive St. Paddy’s week? With the exception of The Chelsea Blues crashing out of the Champions’ League, it has been a positive week for me.I had one particularly great wine-tasting experience. Once upon a time, I was in a rock and roll band that played on Front St. on St. Paddy’s Day four years in a row. For a bunch of amateurs with day jobs, those were the gigs of dreams. Anyhoo, it has become tradition to play music on this day (and get the car parked). Fast forward to this year, and my current band, who got together at Slaggers (That would be my nickname for the lead guitar player’s jam room). In fine Irish tradition, there was corned beef in the Crock Pot, boiled taters, and of course, the cabbage. He called earlier in the day and asked me to “bring a couple bottles of Riesling.” Not wanting to break the bank, I thought to take a shot on the2003 Grand Cru Vorbourg Riesling from Rene Mure. His Grand Cru Rieslings are unbeatable. They are rich and expressive, dry and mineral laden. 2003 was a very hot, dry vintage which made it difficult for the wines to achieve the proper levels of acidity. Mure’s wines were a different story. I tried several of his “entry level” Tradition wines from this vintage and have been impressed with the balance and verve of acidity. So impressed that when I saw a Grand Cru for less than $20, I had to jump on it. At first, I grabbed a bottle, and was looking for something else, and stopped in my tracks. “Why not just grab 2?” I thought. “You know this wine has good acidity, it’s a Grand Cru, it’s going to go over great.” Good instincts.

I got to my buddy’s house around 6:45, found the boys downstairs in the middle of “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, and immediately forgot about my commute. They stopped playing, we all went upstairs, I began to relax, and we assessed dinner was around 30 minutes away. Back down to the room for 3 songs and it was time. Set the table, got the food on serving plates, and out of the fridge came 2 bottles of the Riesling. The pairing couldn’t have been better. Nothing but praise from all 4 corners of the table. The wine had fleshy Riesling fruit, just a hint of petrol, a profound dusty mineral presence, bracing acidity, and a long zippy finish. It’s not just for Corned Beef and Cabbage either. If you like dry Riesling that speaks of a place, don’t pass this up. It’s the bee’s knees!

In just 30 minutes, everything was gone. Except the smiles. This gang knows their wine, so winning their collective praise is not an everyday experience. But on March 17, 2010, I hit the cover off the ball! Hmmm. Just think, what does Grand Cru Burgundy cost? Hmmm. Interesting indeed! The music took on a whole new vibe after dinner, and the beginning of my new song, “Like a Brick Through a Window”, was written! – Peter Zavialoff

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