I recently enjoyed yet another fantastic dinner with my fiance at Chicago’s Blackbird Restaurant (www.blackbirdrestaurant.com) and had to make a separate post about some wines we enjoyed there. We’re pretty straightforward with our dining at Blackbird… first we order our own appetizer, than our own entrée. Always so easy and simple, and the experience is always superb.
My fiance ALWAYS (and I can’t blame her) orders the salad of endives with crispy potatoes, pancetta, basil, Dijon and poached egg. I started with the scallops with pears, brussels sprouts, and powdered sauerkraut. I wanted to pair up some whites to start us off while our bottle of red for the rest of the dinner was breathing (more on that in the full Blackbird review). I checked out the wines-by-the-glass and was delighted to see not one, but TWO selections from Alsace, both from different producers and both from different grape varietals. I ordered the Paul Blanck Pinot Gris(www.blanck.com) to go with the salad for Erin, and the Ostertag Riesling for my scallops dish. All I can say, is WOW! It has been way too long since I’ve enjoyed some Alsatian whites along with some great food and it reminded me, in a BIG way, just how delicious these wines are and how easy and versatile they are to pair with food.
If you haven’t tried these wines as a food pairing, please do yourself a favor and pick some up at your local wine merchant (not the grocery store… wine merchant!). The main varietals to look for are Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Gewürztraminer. There are other wines from the region, but for the beginner I would start here. PLEASE, THIS IS IMPORTANT–> the wines from this region are DRY, NOT SWEET. Yes, even the Riesling! Alsace is on the border of Germany but everything about its food and wine culture is FRENCH. The growing season enjoys long warm and sunny days which fully ripens the grapes to perfection. These used to be mostly bone dry wines, and some still are, but it is fashionable right now that the wine makers are leaving a small amount of residual sugar in the wine to add the slightest kiss of sweetness.
Look to pay about $10-$20 per bottle for good entry-level juice, but you will find the top wines selling for $30 and upwards. The most expensive wines tend to be the sweet dessert style wines from the area which are to die for if you have a sweet tooth. Don’t worry about which producer to choose because they’re nearly all great, but if you see either of the two from this article, I can assure you that you will have a delicious bottle! Many of the wine makers practice organic farming and even biodynamic farming in this region. These special wines are pure examples of the noble grape varieties grown here. Pair them with salads, seafood, Asian cuisine, and white meat dishes. Trust me, there’s enough body and acidity in these wines to cut through a double-cut pork chop if you so desire!