Pacific Rim American Dry Riesling Non-Vintage ($11): A couple of years ago, when I had to come up with a title for this column, I sought a name that would suggest: a.) personal choices in wine, and b.) my premise that wine belongs on the table. The wines I like are wines that survive the test of food. Sometimes they are expensive, elite wines but often they are what you might call 'everyday' wines. Either way, when I sit down and drink them, I find them delicious and fascinating.
I recently enjoyed a remarkable wine-on-the-table experience with a modest, $11 bottle of Riesling. The wine was Pacific Rim Dry Riesling. The Pacific Rim brand had been part of the Bonny Doon Winery in California, but in 2007, owner Randall Grahm spun off the brand into an independent operation situated in Washington. Eighty percent of this wine comes from grapes grown in Washington and twenty percent comes from the Mosel region of Germany, in cooperation with respected winemaker Johannes Selbach. As a result of this sourcing, the wine can carry only the appellation of 'American,' and cannot carry a vintage year.
Details, details. While the 'American' appellation and the lack of a vintage date are irregular, the wine itself need not make any apologies. First of all, it does in fact taste dry, and it is unmistakably Riesling. The wine has aromas of peach, apricot, ripe apple and lime, with a touch of honeysuckle--all medium-plus in intensity when you smell the wine. This is not a light Riesling, but a medium-plus bodied wine, with high acidity and a bit of a phenolic impression, as if perhaps from the grape skins, which together with the wine's medium (12.5%) alcohol lends the wine substance. The wine is made entirely without oak and does not undergo malolactic fermentation to lower its acidity, but it does have several months of aging on the lees (dead yeast cells) to enrich its texture; maybe that is what I am calling 'phenolic.' The wine's flavors echo its aromas, and are medium-plus in intensity.
Enter the food. Delicate prosciutto, salty-sweet, has a structural complexity similar to the wine's acid-alcohol-sugar balance (the wine has 6.6 grams of residual sugar, and so is dry but not bone dry); what emerges from the pairing is the wine's intense flavor. Smoked trout challenges the wine and the wine challenges back, each rising in flavor to meet the demands of the other, for a remarkable crescendo of taste. Red pepper paste as a flavor accent presents no problem for the wine. A flavorful, slightly pungent Langes AOC cheese becomes milder with the wine.
These are some combinations I happened to try one evening. I have no doubt that many more delicious and surprising tastes are in store with this wine for anyone who likes Riesling and who likes to drink wines that truly do perform on the table.