TheLiterateLush: Wines for a glorious day…


A rainy-day reprieve! Imagine my excitement, after waking at the crack of 9:00 to find that outdoors the sun is brightly shining. Birds chirp (as they shit) on my balcony railing, and my little plants look a touch perkier than they did under oppressively grey skies. And while the temperature has yet to catch up to the shining sun, I’m certainly it’s only a matter of time. So, as a result of this fantastic weather, let’s discuss what to eat this evening and what to drink with it!

Only so often am I able to take the time (usually on Mondays) to plan a dinner for myself and my lovely (and unendingly patient) wife. I feel like firing up the grill, if for no other reason than that it pisses off the new renters above us and being that they suck, I don’t feel bad. But what to put ON the grill once it’s to cruising-speed? I’ll leave that to chance, it will just be a matter of what looks sexy at Marczyk, but I’m pretty sure it will be fish. So, bearing that in mind, let’s do this hypothetically. Join me now on an imaginary bike ride as we discuss what we will cook, and what will be paired with said dish!

Ah, the Schwinn feels good today, particularly squeaky.

As we pedal up 20th towards Broadway, let’s suppose that Pete will have on offer some of those wicked Electric Blue Prawns, you know, the ones the size of a small animal and just a touch intimidating at first. With their weight and general girth (giggle) they should handle the heat of the grill brilliantly.

Spicy fried King Prawns
Cruising across Broadway and connecting in with 19th let’s head East towards our favorite market. What to serve with the prawns? I like contrast in my dishes, both in terms of texture and temperature and flavor profiles. Let’s think about something hot (both physical temperature and spiciness). Perhaps some green chilis or another roastable pepper for a puree. Perfect, we’ll char our peppers on the grill, then peel and puree them with some honey and veggie stock. What about veggies? Again, I like contrast. Something fresh and raw against something earthy and grilled. What about some grilled spring onions? The big, bulbous kind. Sounds like a plan. For something fresh and snappy against it let’s do a slaw. I like the idea of some julienne apple tossed with shaved green cabbage and fennel, along with a few squeezes of Meyer lemon, cilantro and fresh thyme. There we go, that’s a tasty-sounding dish. If of course Marczyk doesn’t have the protein we want, we can always go with some Halibut or even Yellowfin Tuna. Now, let’s talk seriously about the vino.

A couple of the glorious options...

As we pedal home via 18th street, let’s consider the flavors in our dish. With the heat from the pepper puree, we’re looking more than likely at a white wine (mostly because I don’t feel like drinking Malbec or Gamay tonight). Something with oak? Probably not, we have a LOT of fresh, sexy flavors, something too oaky would make everything feel chunky and awkward. That in mind, we’ll skip Viognier and Chardonnay from California and the New World.  The inherent acidity in our dish from the slaw demands a white with high acidity that can either: a. overwhelm the lemon’s acidity or b. contrast with a different texture (i.e. bubbles).

Now we’re getting somewhere.

So, screaming acidity, that’s gonna fall towards Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling or Gruner, though there are also some high-acid Chardonnays like Chablis or certain examples from Italy. I’m feeling a little fruity, so how about some Riesling. And while MOST Riesling is already high in acid, there is one region in particular that I think of as being so high in acid that it approaches painful: Southern Australia. In particular, Victoria. My favorite producer from this area is Mount Langi Ghiran (moving West towards Clare Valley you’ll want to look for Peter Lehman). Their Cliff Edge Riesling is SUPER hard-to-find in Colorado at-the-moment (no distributor currently), and is CLASSIC Australian Riesling: screaming acidity, petrol notes, ultra-ripe peach and nectarine and an unmistable scar of lime zest. But keep in mind that more-or-less all Aussie Rieslings do this, so go to your favorite wine shop and pick one up, it needs to be either from Victoria, Clare or Eden Valley to get the desired effect.
Riesling 6 Rows

A quick note about Riesling: My friends, I FUCKING LOVE RIESLING! And the next time someone responds to my “try a dry Riesling” recommendation with “I don’t like sweet wines”, I’m going to kill that person. Seriously. I’m going to choke them with the bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay they’re drinking. The VAST majority of high-quality Riesling imported to and made in the United States is dry. I’m not talking about Blue Nun or Liebfraumilch, I’m talking more-than-eleven-dollars-per-bottle Washington, Australian, German, French and Austrian Riesling. Riesling is truly glorious and for centuries actually commanded higher prices than classified growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy (for real).

So shut your mouth, quit it with the preconceived notions about my favorite white grape, and put down your not-quite-dry Oakbomber California Chard and indulge in the delights of dry Riesling. On German labels, look for the work TROCKEN, CHARTA (or the three Roman Columns on the label or capsule) or SELECTION. Believe me, you’re gonna love it.

But let’s say you’re not so convinced on Riesling. Let’s say in this case you still just can’t believe that Riesling can be so dry that it hurts. Well, in that case let’s hop on the Bubbly Train! Let’s keep it different and go to California, where they make some silly fizz. My personal favorite amongst the best CaliFizz producers is J Vineyards and Winery. It was founded by the wife of Tom Jordan, proprietor of Jordan in Sonoma. Winemaker George Bursick crafts a super-slick line of sexy bubbles that run the gammut from ever-so-slightly off-dry to big, broad, lees-y and dense. And of course some of the best Cali Rose out there! While the “Bin 1008” I plan on drinking isn’t available to the general public (it’s a dorky mailing-list-only offering), I highly recommend their Cuvee 20 or Brut Rose. You can’t go wrong and they’re available at nearly any wine shop of repute.


So, there you have it. A glorious plate of grilled prawns with roasted pepper puree and apple, fennel and cabbage slaw, served with some delightfully dry Riesling or slick and racy bubbles. Either way, you’re going to have a great excuse to tie on a cool buzz and spend some time on your patio. Cheers…

About Kelly Wooldridge

A sommelier, barman, writer, lecturer, nerd. Kelly works as the sommelier, beverage director and bar manager at Trillium in Denver's Ballpark District, he is also an Adjunct Instructor in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University. An Advanced Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, Kelly has dedicated his life to wine-related nerdery. And of course he also doles out advice and guidance to wine collectors in Colorado and elsewhere under the aegis (and isn't that an awesome word?) of VinCierge, a consultancy based in Denver. Sometimes he rides a bike, but most times you can find him wherever you see Denver's most beloved FrankenFord, Goldie, our wino's trusty Hoopty.