When planning a meal do you start with the food or the wine? I may have just given away my approach by listing food before wine, but honestly sometimes we begin with the food and sometimes the wine. And, some food is more challenging to pair with wine, and some wine is more challenging to pair with food. But one thing is for sure: Riesling is easy to pair with most food. This Riesling, which we received as a tasting sample, proves the point.
Charles Smith, co-owner and winemaker with his brother Stuart of Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, discussed Riesling’s food-friendly nature in a recent series of social media posts. He noted that Riesling goes with just about everything except a steak. He should know.
Stuart and Charles Smith have been growing grapes and making wine in Spring Mountain District above Napa Valley since the early 1970s. As you might expect they make Cabernet Sauvignon, but they also make Chardonnay and, unexpectedly, Riesling. They make Riesling because they appreciate and love Riesling, not because it is a big seller.
Only 34 acres of their 200-acre mountain property are planted to vines. Vineyards are planted to a variety of elevations, slopes and exposures. 6.25 acres of Riesling is planted on the steepest part of their hillside vineyard (34% slope), at 1300 to 1900 feet above sea level, and is mostly planted on its own roots.
2018 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley — pale yellow with generous aromas of petrol, white flowers and apricots. Complex flavors include stone fruit, pears, stony minerality and hints of pineapple with juicy acidity. The body is light but a bit round and the wine has a long, clean, dry finish. 13.3% abv. 1611 cases made. SRP $36
In the afore mentioned social media post, Charles noted it is particularly true that Riesling is made in the vineyard because the winemaking is so straight forward. The grapes are pressed, go through a cold fermentation and is finished without malolactic fermentation, lees stirring or barrel aging. He noted, “It is almost a pure expression of the grape.”
That pure expression is delicious. The flavors are complex and balanced with great acidity and nice weight on the palate. Generous fruit flavors might have you wondering if it’s dry; it is. We found it paired perfectly with Italian Sausage with Farro and Kale Pilaf.
Over the years we have paired previous vintages of Smith-Madrone Riesling with Farfalle with Pistachio Cream Sauce, Thai Peanut Chicken Salad in Butter Lettuce and Guacamole and chips. It will be delicious with salads, roasted chicken and even pork. As Charles said, pretty much everything but a steak. Save the steak for Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon.