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Q:Freshly back from a recent trip to the states, I would like to know why Riesling is high up on EVERY wine list - in the restaurants I visit in the UK, the French and Italian varieties of wine are much more highly regarded. We asked one of the restaurants sommelier's who claimed Riesling is the best wine in the world... A quick search on the internet has not supported this. Is this true? It certainly doesn't appear to be the case this side of the pond?

Kym Bottomley,
Leeds, UK
A:Hi Kym,

Riesling is certainly gaining popularity among sommeliers and knowledgeable drinkers in the United States. The grape arguably the single most versatile varietal in the world - it is produced across Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, and wines made from it can range from dry to intensely sweet. The German classification system has 5 categories of Riesling, from driest to sweetest: Kabinett, Spatlese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, and Trockenbeerenauslese. No other grape yields single-varietal wines that vary so significantly in flavor and body.

It has a long history and tradition in Europe, and while it hasn't yet taken the US by storm, I'd expect to see it more and more often, especially as a pairing in high-level tasting menus.

StarChefs editors

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:I have just joined a food and wine club but have zero knowledge about wine. We are making an Italian pasta salad and need to find a wine to pair with that. Any ideas? The overall theme is Italy.

A:Hi Monica,

When it comes to Italian wine, there are a wealth of exciting options that are unique to Italy. You've only given a vague description of your dish, but I'd recommend trying the following Italian varietals:

Arneis (white)
Tocai Friuliano (white)
Aglianico (red)
Valpolicella (red)

StarChefs Editors

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:I have 22 years in the restaurant industry and wanted to take the first step to become a Sommelier. I live in sacramento and as a dinning room manager i work about 60 hours a week. Do you have any ideas how to go about this?

Scott McLeod,
A:Hi Scott,

The first step is to become involved in the wine program at your restaurant - or move to a restaurant that has a dynamic wine program from which you can learn. Start by helping the sommelier or wine director with ordering, inventory, and even table service, and be sure to taste and take notes on as many wines as you can. It may add some extra hours to your work week, but it will be worth it.

Once you build a basic foundation of wine knowledge, a good next-step is to look into formal classes. The American Sommelier Association offers a variety of wine education programs. The Court of Master Sommeliers is a popular certification program as well.

Another valuable activity is to join a tasting club - this is how many sommeliers hone their tasting skills and expand their palate and repertoire.

Taste as much as you can, and take meticulous notes on every wine - you'll never know when you'll need the knowledge. And successful sommeliers have become so through tasting, reading, studying, and hands-on learning.

Good luck!
StarChefs Editors

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:I recently received my certified certificate from the c.m.s. and moved to Las Vegas from the Napa Valley. I worked at the restaurant for several years before going on the floor, and therefore was familiar with the wine list. Now I have my own program in the Venetian, and find it hard to absorb it all so... quickly! My question: is it acceptable to present a wine list to the guest and then use one while table side for making a recommendation until I am confident with my knowledge of the list?

justin teixeira,
las vegas, nv
A:Yes, but be confident about it. Even if you know the list inside and out, sometimes it is helpful to have a copy in your hand in order to show the guest where certain wines are located. At times, it is uncomfortable to reach over a guest and point to certain wines on the list. Having a copy of your list tableside is not a direct indication of what you know and don't know. Sometimes it's fun to have a copy of your list in your hand, I always enjoy reading mine.

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:I have a question about sake. I was recently in a Japanese restaurant where they served sake in a glass inside a box. When pouring, they pour until the glass is full and then overflowing into the box. This is meant to celebrate and perpetuate abundance. I am wondering, what is the proper etiquette for consuming this?
Thanks a lot,

Joel Mikels,
Roseville MN
A:Drinking out of the box, "Masu," can be tricky when the pour is generous, and the sake reaches the rim of the box. Gently lift the cup just enough to displace the level of sake and take a sip from the corner of the box. The person receiving should lift the masu off the table with one hand and support it with the other. After you drink from the masu, you can pour the remaining sake back into glass, and then drink from the glass.

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:I am serving wild salmon with roasted tomatoes drizzled with a lemon-oregano oil. It is a beautiful dish, any suggestions for wine?

Melissa Graney,
Palo Alto
A:For me, roasted tomatoes, fatty salmon, and savory oregano scream medium body Italian red or a lush rose. I would suggest:
1) Rose of nebbiolo by Burlotto from Piedmont 05/06
2) Rose of grenache/cinsault/mourvedre by Chateau Pradeaux from Bandol, Provence 05/06
3) Rosso di Montalcino by Canalicchio di Sopra from Tuscany 03/04
4) Chianti Classico Riserva '01 by Castello di Cacchiano from Tuscany. It's fun to experiment too. If you wanted to try something different, I'd try a Rose champagne/or sparkling. Schramsberg, from California, makes a beautiful vintage sparkling Rose.

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:What are some of the best Zinfindel's in your opinion. What foods to they go best with. I really love them with aged hard cheeses. What to you recommend under $30?

Maryann Watrous,
Shadow Hills
A:My favorite zinfandels are: Chateau Montelena Estate 2004 (has black cherry and a seductive smokiness), Mayacamas Range Estate by Storybrook Mountain (reminds me of tarragon, blackberry, roasted game), and Dutton Goldfield, Dutton Ranch-Morelli Lane, Russian River Valley (clean, brighter red fruit, refined). I prefer these wines with grilled or roasted game meat/fowl, particularly venison, squab, or quail.

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:After much research I am still a bit confused by the terms; appassimento, recioto and passito. Can you differentiate them for me?

A:Appassimento loosely means "withering." It is a process in which grapes are partially dried before fermentation in order to create a sweet wine or a very dry wine. Grapes are usually laid out on straw or bamboo mats to dry naturally or by means of fans or dehumidifiers. While appassimento is a method of winemaking, passito is a type of wine, referring to "raisin wine." When grapes have gone through an "appassimento" process, they become a "passito." Recioto is a sub-category of passtio; it is a passito wine from the Veneto in Northeastern Italy. The most common forms of Recioto are Recioto della Valpolicella (a sweet red wine) and Recioto di Soave (a sweet white wine).

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:Which foods could you recommend with Moscato d'Asti?
Thank you,

Colts Neck, NJ
A:Firstly, I love Moscato d'Asti without any food. Its flavors are delicate, so I'd pair it with something simple, like fresh apricots drizzled with acacia honey, a piece of almond nougat, or freshly spun white peach sorbet.

--by Allegra Angelo

Q:What is the best wine pairing for curry?

A:Curry is not as tough a pairing as one may think. An issue arises when deciding what application will be applied to the curry. Traditionally it is made of the following components: Cumin, Tumeric, Coriander, Ginger Garlic, Caraway Seed, Cardamom and Red Chile Powder.

First, do not pair dishes with a lot of spice with heavily oaked wine! Spice only accentuates the flavoring and creates a one-dimensional wine. Both spice and wine, with high alcohol content, create heat on the palate and mixing these two variables creates a less than pleasurable experience.

Wines to consider should be unoaked, lower in alcohol and have a fruit forward style. Below are some suggested regions and their grape varieties to possibly pair:
? ALSATIAN: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris & Pinot Blanc varieties
? LOIRE VALLEY, Vouvray & Savennieres regions: Chenin Blanc variety
? AUSTRALIA, Riverina & Hunter Valley regions: Semillon variety
? AUSTRALIA, Isolation Ridge & Clare Valley regions: Riesling variety
? ITALY, Soave Gargenga region: Trebbiano variety
? ITALY, Friuli region: Tocai Friulano variety
? PORTUGAL, Vinho Verde region: Albarino variety
? SPAIN, Galicia region: Albarino variety

--by William Rhodes
--The Carlyle

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