European traditions value wine


POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2009

Cheryle and I recently spent two weeks touring top vineyards in Germany and France. It was one of the most insightful wine trips we have ever taken. We met with 15 of the world's most revered winemakers and got to spend time in their vineyards during harvest.

When we returned, many of our restaurants' regular guests naturally wanted to know what wines we came home with.

The answer? Two bottles, plus a wealth of information, wisdom and 834 pictures. From all that, here are several insights we were reminded of on this trip.

FIRST OF ALL, we were reminded that a wine should be delicious. Keep in mind, some wines will take five, 10 or even 50 years to become delicious.

We visited Philippe LeClerc, who has a small tasting room in the town of Gevrey Chambertin. Interestingly, they offered the current vintage as well as some aged, “;library”; selections (two each from 1995, 1997 and 1999) which really showed how their wine evolved. They were also on sale at quite reasonable prices!

At the same time, there are wines that are delicious right out of the gate. The 2008 Fritz Haag Riesling Kabinett is a fine example—slightly sweet, deliciously fruity, rivetingly pure and effortlessly light. This is a sensational thirst-quencher, especially in warm climates like ours, and is amazing with an incredibly wide array of foods, from German sausages with sauerkraut to Szechuan shrimp and fresh hamachi sushi.

If you prefer a drier wine, consider the 2008 Kunstler Dry Rieslings. Franz Kunstler is the very best dry Riesling maker in the world, and tasting his 2008 vintage will show you why.

THIS IS THE perfect segue into our second insight about wine and food.

As we have mentioned before, we are always amazed at how many people in Europe have wine with their dinner. They drink wine with food to wash it down as well as cleanse and refreshen the palate between bites.

Wine at the dinner table is a way of life there. An attitude.

Some of our standout dining experiences included the Pied du Cochon Bistro (reputedly home to “;the world's greatest onion soup”;), where we relished a dry southern French rose and a rustic Rhone Valley red wine. At the legendary Amis Louis restaurant, white and red Burgundy worked especially well with the fabulous and classically prepared escargot, foie gras and roast chicken courses.

The most cherished insight I walked away with, however, is a renewed respect and appreciation for the culture and heritage of Europe's top restaurants and wineries. Jean Louis Chave, for instance, is the 16th generation of his family to grow and produce the legendary Hermitage wine.

Despite the fact that his newly released, sole white wine just garnered 99 points out of 100, when you shake his hand it is very coarse and calloused. He works the ground, the earth, his vineyard, just as his father and grandfather did.

On the restaurant side, we were really impressed how French superstar chef Anne Sophie Pic followed her now deceased father, Jacques, and has since re-earned a Michelin three-star rating for their restaurant and hotel.

With such vision, dedication, elegance and style one rarely sees in America, it certainly was the real deal!

”;By the Glass”; appears every second Friday in HILife. To contact Chuck Furuya, visit www.dkrestaurants.com.