I'M not sure what it is, but the last couple of times I've been lucky enough to break bread with winemaker Johannes Selbach, it's been in a Chinese Restaurant, which makes absolute sense.
That's because Selbach-Oster is (mainly) all about Riesling, good Riesling at that. And more than a few folks agree: Riesling, and German wines in general, often make for pretty good partners with Chinese cuisines.
The other night we were invited to join Vinoscenti and the B.C. Wine School in welcoming Selbach to Sun Sui Wah for a Chinese New Year wine dinner. It was an evening packed full of good tastes and conversation, and no shortage of useful information from Johannes, expertly translated.
Lots of winemakers travel a fair bit but I suspect Johannes Selbach has more Air Miles than most: He's been tirelessly spreading the Riesling gospel for years, and showing people how you really can gain a sense of place from wine in a glass.
I'm lucky enough to have climbed the steep, rocky shale vineyards above the Mosel and never fail to be excited by what I taste in these wines.
As the meal was served "family style" it offered a chance to pair the wines with any number of flavours, which I think only added to the adventure.
For instance, I've always known Selbach's 'Fish label (2011, BCLS 15.95) as one of the most flexible and food-friendly wines around, but who would have thought about pairing it with spiced jellyfish, which plays perfectly off its juicy, fresh fruity apple tones? My notes say, "Seriously, you could drink this wine with just about anything you want . . ." And we did.
One big revelation was the minimally oaked Selbach Pinot Blanc QBA 2011. It sports a gentle creaminess that went nicely with the scallops and sautéed shrimps, but was an absolute slam-dunk with the flavours and texture of the egg-white fried rice.
Steamed rock cod and braised noodles with abalone sauce were paired with the wonderfully mineral Zeltinger Schlossberg Kabinett 2011 (BCLS 08, $32.99), which really shows the slate in the terroir; one of the night's highlights, it was superb (although I have to confess the thought did cross my mind that a light red would also have been a good match for the mushrooms or the braised noodles).
The citrus and pronounced stony notes of the Zeltinger Schlossberg Spatlese 2011 (BCLS $38.99) played well off the "famous roasted squab," although it was even better as a counterpoint to the deep-fried pork chop with garlic, while the baked apple notes and opulent richness of the late-picked Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese 2007 (BCLS $27.99, 375 ml.) was perfect with dessert.
As he often does, Johannes had a surprise in store, treating the group to his 1993 Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese, which underscored just how well (properly stored) Riesling can age. It's turned a beautiful gold, in contrast to the pale yellow where it would have started out, and is now quite dry with some smoky and dried fruit notes. Makes me want to run out and put some 2010 down right now! (BCLS $27.99).
. . .
Belly's Budget Best
? Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Syrah 2010 A splash of Cab and Petite Sirah tweaks this affordable, full-bodied red with a tad more interest than you might expect. Slightly dusty on top with loads of black fruit and spice on the palate with some nice peppery varietal notes in the end. Think braised red meats for sure (89 pts), excellent California AVA wine of origin value for BCLS $17.99.