Editor’s Note: We are pleased to have Tom Thulen as a guest author. Together with his wife Betsy, they are the creative minds behind the recently published cookbook, Tasting Minnesota: Favorite Recipes From the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Read more on Tom & Betsy, and “Tasting Minnesota”, here.
The poor, misunderstood, under-rated grape called Riesling is the world’s favorite grape, though most people have not yet come to realize or discover this yet. In the early 20th century, Rieslings were highly regarded and considered to be on the same level as red and white Burgundies. If ever there was a grape variety to embrace, I have to say this is it. I enjoy all Rieslings but, when it comes down to it, the place I look to first is Germany, the Mosel in particular. This is where Riesling shines. This is Riesling’s home. An aromatic and light-skinned grape, Riesling wines show a great expression of terroir, and a well-made Kabinett can be quite light and very punchy in flavor with layers of minerality.
When it comes to food, Riesling is one of the most versatile food-friendly wines you will come across. Whether it be light, dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, sweet, very sweet, stony, minerally, fruity or full-bodied, there is a Riesling for every meal. A low-alcohol Riesling with a bit of sweetness will complement spicy Asian dishes beautifully, whereas Rieslings with crisp acidity can refresh the palate while enhancing the flavors of heavier cream- or butter- rich dishes.
So why does Riesling have such a bad reputation? German wines as a whole are wrongly accused of being sweet, and the truth is, most are produced dry. The history of sweet German wines is traced back to World War II. The Germans were releasing large amounts of sweet, inexpensive wines that appealed to American soldiers and, consequently, sales of these cheap table wines flourished. By the 60’s and 70’s Riesling had been falsely labeled as sweet. In the 80’s Germany started to see a renaissance in winemaking as a younger generation began to take over the vineyards, handcrafting the wines to reflect vintages and place. Large wineries also started to tighten quality and now Riesling is enjoying its place once again in the global market, although it still has a ways to go.
The key to great wine is balance: fruit, acidity and alcohol. I like to think of Riesling in terms of picking an apple from a tree or making lemonade. The perfect amount of sweetness balanced by the perfect amount of acidity. Think about how you want that apple to taste when you bite into it. Dry and flavorless? Overripe and sweet? Or sweetness that’s balanced by acid?
For the upcoming holidays, go seek out a Riesling to pair along with your favorite meal. Look for a bottle that indicates Trocken (German for dry) or Kabinett (these can be dry to off-dry). I think you will be pleasantly surprised and perhaps even develop an appreciation of the world’s finest white wine grape.
Goat Cheese, Honey, Date and Pistachio Truffles
Chris Kohtz/The Wedge and Wheel/Stillwater Minnesota
Located just yards from the St. Croix River, the Wedge and Wheel is a crossroads between the dairy traditions of Wisconsin and the grains and farms of Minnesota. This award-winning recipe would be lovely paired with an off-dry Riesling or sparkling Moscato to keep up with the sweetness of the truffle.
10 ounces fresh chevre, such as Stickney Hill from Kimball Minnesota
5 whole Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons light and floral honey, such as Basswood honey from Ames family farm
1/2 cup finely ground pistachios
makes 12 truffles
Mix the chevre, dates and honey together in a bowl using a wooden spoons or clean hands until smooth. Scoop by tablespoonsful and roll into balls with the palms of your hand. Lightly roll each ball in the chopped pistachios and then roll again lightly to press the chopped nuts into the truffle. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Tom Thulen is a wine rep with Libation Project and a food and still life photographer living and working in Minneapolis, MN. Earlier in his career he spent 9 years in NYC in the food and wine industry where he developed a passion for good food and wine. Wine and food are a passion for Tom and he enjoys photographing them when he can.
Betsy is a native Minnesotan, has degrees in psychology and art from the University of Minnesota. After forging her way through college working food service jobs as a student, she sought her career in the restaurant industry. She spent ten years working through the Twin Cities at a variety of restaurants, including Cafe Brenda, Azur, Tour de France and the Aveda Spa and Retreat. She then made a natural transition to food styling calling upon her art background and experience with food. She also works as a recipe developer and has written recipes for a variety of commercial clients and magazines including Target, Experience Life, Renew and The Viking. She is married to Tom Thulen, who took the amazing photographs in this book, and has two children.
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