By The Glass
'Joy of Riesling' at the Halekulani
THERE WAS a time when I was uncomfortable admitting that German Riesling was one of the first wines that piqued my curiosity. After all, real wine connoisseurs do not drink Riesling. They are fruity, sweet and not at all serious wines -- or, are they?
Back then, I found something beguiling about Riesling's fresh flavors, intensity, minerality and purity. Although the labels were confusing, the wine's qualities challenged me to seek out Rieslings from all over the world. Initially, my German favorites were from the popular Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau and Rheinhessen regions. Eventually, other areas followed -- Pfalz, Baden and Nahe. In time, I discovered that not all Riesling is sweet; there are fabulous dry styles, as well.
Years ago, a co-worker, Phillip Shaw (now GM of Michel's restaurant), said to me, "So you like Riesling? Good. Try everything there is and become an expert. You can be my sensei and teach me everything about it."
Although I have learned a good deal about Riesling, the real "sensei" is a man named Rudi Wiest. Founder of Cellars International, Wiest has single-handedly carved the quality German wine movement in America. Through his vision, German wines are served in America's finest restaurants and paired with the world's most elegant cuisines.
The first weekend in July, Wiest and representatives from Germany's finest estates will be at the Halekulani Hotel for the Halekulani Lifestyles Program "The Joy of Riesling." This series of educational tastings is open to the public, with a distinguished panel that includes:
» From the Mosel, representing winemaker Monchoff: Robert Eymael is from an estate started back in 1177 A.D.
» From the Saar, representing winemaker Zilliken: Hanno Zilliken's wines age extraordinarily.
» From the Rheinhessen, representing winemaker Gunderloch: Fritz Hasselbach delivers some of Germany's finest sweet wine rarities.
» From the Rheingau, representing Robert Weil: Operations manager Karina Stuehler is a graduate of the prestigious Stuttgart University.
» From the Rheingau, representing Franz Kunstler: Operations manager Felix Burklein is from one of the Rheingau's most profound wineries.
» From the Pfalz, representing Von Buhl: Operations manager Christoph Graf oversees the finest property of the Pfalz.
Discover the diversity of German wine styles with our first seminar at 2 p.m. July 1. Affectionately nicknamed German Wine 101, this classroom-style event will cover the varied styles of vinification (winemaking), wine regions and effects of age.
A panel of renowned winemakers, led by Wiest, will let you know all about Riesling in a nutshell. Highlights of the seminar's 18-wine tasting flight include Zilliken's '93 Saarberger Spatlese, Monchhof's '85 Würzgarten Spatlese, and Gunderloch's Beerenauslese.
After the seminar, participants will have an opportunity to mingle with panelists over light refreshments and hors d'oeurves.
Our second event at noon July 2, is an interactive seminar on German wines and food pairings. What does one drink with Riesling -- whether it be, dry, medium-dry, fruity or sweet? Does Riesling work with food to begin with? For those who have always wondered how the pros do it, this event is for you.
Wiest leads the initial discussion with a few quick lessons and rules of thumb. Then, he cuts you loose to create pairings of your own. For your tasting pleasure, this walk-around event features three food stations created by Halekulani executive chef Daryl Fujita, and 12 Rieslings from our panelists' estates.
Each station's cuisine is paired with a particular style of wine. For example, "Variation of Oysters" matches with dry-styled wines, "Trilogy of Moi" with medium-dry wines, and "Symphony of Duck" with fruity wines. After this experience, you may never glance at a restaurant menu or look at a bottle of Riesling the same way again.
For the finale, explore "Treasures from the Cellar" in La Mer at 6 p.m. July 2. To showcase the nobility, elegance and versatility of German wines, the evening begins with a mini-tasting with our panelists. Guests are then treated to the Epicurean partnership of La Mer Chef du Cuisine Yves Garnier and Wiest -- a seven-course dinner accompanied by duet wine selections from our panelists' estates.
As you savor Chef Garnier's cuisine, experience an aged Monchhof's '85 Spatlese, Weil's silky '04 Gräfenberg Auslese, the crystalline Zilliken's '83 Saarburger LGKA, and Von Buhl's luxurious '89 Beerenauslese. Our finale is a grand evening not to be missed. Seating is limited.
Our German Wine Styles Seminar is $155, the Interactive German Wine and Food Pairing class is $175, and our La Mer Grand Finale is $360. All event prices are inclusive of tax, gratuity and valet parking. For event information and reservations, call the Halekulani at 931-5040.
Kevin Toyama is a Sommelier at the Halekulani Hotel and an Advanced Certificate holder from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org