Washington Riesling provides the ideal balancing act for dishes with spice.
Germany is famous for a number of historical and cultural landmarks, such as bratwurst, Rammstein and the roots of our English language. Possibly the lesser known of the bunch – Riesling is the golden nectar of the Rhine.
In the Oxford Companion to Wine, renowned wine writer and critic Jancis Robinson lists Riesling as the 20th most planted grape variety in the world, as well as the key variety of Germany with more than 52,000 acres planted.
However, the German white is often seen in a negative light, accompanied with inquiries about sweetness, comments pertaining to your mother’s choice breakfast beverage or just a simple, straightforward proclamation, such as, “I don’t like Riesling.” These days, however, Riesling is making a comeback — spearheaded by the Northwest’s own Chateau Ste. Michelle, as well as German Riesling mastermind, Dr. Ernst Loosen (pronounced loh-zen).
As the state’s second-most planted white grape variety (after Chardonnay), Washington is the largest Riesling producer in the United States. Most Washington Rieslings are produced in a dry to off-dry style for the exact purpose of why we are here today: food pairing!
The Restaurant: The Kingfish Cafe, Capitol Hill. Southern soul-food brought to Seattle residents by locals sisters Laurel and Leslie Coaston in an ode to their family’s roots.
The Dish: Citrus jerk wings. Caribbean-inspired with sweet and heat packed spices of the classic jerk paste, highlighted with orange slices and a citrus salsa generously portioned on top. Hand-wipes are available — but the overall alternative consists of finger licking instead to avoid wasting a single drop of the appetizer.
The Grape Variety: Riesling. Aromatic, typically displaying a floral quality backed by orange, lemon and lime fruits with hints of honey and mineral tones for structure and a viscous texture.
Why It Works: There is sweetness in spice and spice in sweetness, at least with Riesling and Caribbean jerk sauce. Offering a cooling effect to the heat of the wings, Riesling is opulent, rich and inviting altogether with the fruit profiles of both that match up flawlessly.
The Recommended Wine Match: Pomum Cellars 2010 Yakima Valley Riesling. With grapes sourced from some of the oldest Riesling vines in the state at Sunnyside’s Upland Vineyard, Pomum gives a pure expression of Riesling in their bottle with zero oak aging and bright focus on the fruit.
Citrus, apricot and nectarine aromas are abundant with a balancing acidity and mineral tone that give this wine enough complimentary characteristics to the wings but also support it with backbone to stand up next to the food, instead of behind it.