Alsace Weekend

Alsace Weekend

Wine of the WeekPaul Zinck 2005 Riesling (89 points, $19.95,, FranceThis is a fulsome, fruity, dry riesling from a warm vintage in Alsace, showing all the expected attributes of apple, with a touch of honey and petrol. Nicely fleshy, with a ripe-fruited sweetness on the palate, refreshing acidity and a dry finish. Only available by the case from Lifford Agencies, but visit the site and ask about other Zinck wines as well. This producer has always impressed.

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Last Saturday evening, along with hundreds of others, I spent a balmy evening in the Distillery District. There, blues bands played in the various courtyards, their bass lines ricocheting off the brick walls, funneling down alleyways and merging in constant atmospheric thump. We spent much of our time enjoying an array of surprisingly good appetizers on the patio at Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill, washed down the aforementioned Wine of the Week, Paul Zinck 2005 Riesling. Still basking in a post-Mosel Valley riesling glow from a trip to Germany in April, it was the best European riesling I could find on the list. A couple of good 2006 Niagara rieslings would have been too slim and piercing on a mellow night like this. The Zinck was substantial, fruity yet dry and refreshing—outstanding accompaniment to a salad with fresh figs and pecans, salmon gravlax or ceviche, with calamari, or a bowl of ginger-laced mussels.

The riesling was served with genuine charm by a young woman who obviously had some training in serving wine on a patio. The wine temperature was perfect when she put it on the table. She poured only small amounts in each of our glasses, and kept topping up frequently to keep the temperature cool. At the outset, she asked if I wanted an ice bucket, but after seeing her pouring technique I knew it wouldn’t be needed. And indeed the wine continued to deliver refreshment for well over an hour—until all was gone. Riesling, with its great acidity, can do this better than most whites.

On Father’s Day, I drove to Lakefield in the morning to prepare dinner for my father, sister and niece. I shopped at an excellent gourmet butcher and produce shop (called, simply, The Market) where I purchased pork tenderloin, Stonewall Kitchen’s Roasted Apple Grille Sauce, new potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms—all destined for the BBQ. We then went to the tiny, local LCBO for a bottle of wine, where I was depressed by the lack of selection in the riesling department. Then, with memories of Alsace still top of mind, I spied bottom-shelved bottles of Leon Beyer 2004 Pinot Gris ($16.40, LCBO), and all was saved. Eating outdoors again, at almost the same time of the evening, with food of similar weight and freshness, this Alsatian white worked extremely well again. Not quite as refreshing and fruity as the Zinck riesling, but its nutty, apricot flavours caught the sauce and the asparagus. The bottle again sat un-iced on the table, but worked so well that it was emptied easily by meal’s end.

In the days and weeks ahead I begin tastings for the annual Toronto Life Food and Wine CityGuide published in the fall. I look forward to updating the Alsace category, which has gone through some changes on the LCBO general list. It continues to struggle as the price of decent Alsace—indeed all classic European appellation wines—continues to rise through the general list ceiling. Increasingly, such wines are being de-listed, their space being taken over by cheaper Tetrapak and “critter” wines from the New World.