Monday, April 5, 2010

Dinner in McLean, Virginia - What We Ate and Drank

Picture: The Morning After

We had a dinner at our house in McLean, Virginia. We were 8 people. Here is what we ate and drank. Benjamin and Annette Schiller did the cooking; in addition Fuad Issa cooked the Syrian dish.


Food: German Knaeckebrot with Avocado Salsa

Wine: NV Taittinger, Brut Reserve, Champagne, France, US$ 35

Wine: NV Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin, Brut, Champagne, France, US$ 35

Tasting Notes: These are classic, fine Champagnes, but the Taittinger came out slightly ahead, with layers of pears and white peaches on the nose, lots of fine bubbles, earthiness and wet stone notes on the palate, and a creamy finish, true masterpiece in each sip.

First Course

Food: Green Leaf Salad with Salmon, Roasted Fennel, Olives, Grapefruit and Tamarind Dressing

Wine: 2006, Albermarle, Rose, Kluge, Virginia

Picture: President Thomas Jefferson

Virginia is the fifth largest wine industry in the US, following California, Oregon, Washington State on the west coast and New York State on the east coast, with nearly 200 wineries and 2,500 acres of vineyards. Over the past 50 years, Virginia wines have experienced a tremendous development - to elegant and balanced mostly European vinifera-based wines.

One thing that is not well known in Europe is the struggle in America in the past centuries to find the appropriate grapes for winemaking. In the original charter of the thirteen colonies was a royal commission to pursue three luxury items that England was unable to provide for itself: wine, silk, and olive oil. Every colony made attempts to satisfy the requirements of its charter, but made only limited progress. The problem was that on the one hand there were the native American grapes. All these native American grapes were cold tolerant and disease and pest resistant, but not well suited for wine making, due to their coarseness, high tannins, and "foxy" flavors. On the other hand, the vitis vinifera which settlers brought from Europe, were well suited for wine making, but uniformly did not survive long enough to produce a crop.

Despite many years of failure, the early Americans persisted in their efforts. And they had some success. First, they planted several different native varietals in the same vineyard and over time some natural mutations occurred; the results from some of these hybrids were far better than any of the unadulterated natives. A big step forward was made in 1740 when a natural cross pollination occurred between a native American grape and a European vitis vinifera. Other successful crossings followed.

Only native American grapes and hybrids were grown in Virginia half a century ago. Today, the picture is quite different. European vinifera grapes dominate wine production.

Tasting Notes: Albemarle is the county in Virginia where wine connoisseur and American President Thomas Jefferson grew up. A fresh, crisp rose from one of Virginia’s premier wine producers; a French winemaker in the Provence could not have made it better. US $ 15.

Second Course

Food: Sea Scallops with Green Vegetables and Pomegranate Seeds

Wine: 2001 Riesling Gold-Quadrat, Sybille Kuntz, Mosel, Germany

Sybille Kuntz is an astonishing winemaker who has been present in the American market with dry Rieslings for a number of years now. She is on the wine list of many top Restaurants like Keller’s Per Se and Nobu in New York City.

Tasting Notes: This is an ultra-premium quality wine. Pale yellow, greenish in the glass; hint of honey, suggesting that some of the grapes were botrytised, wet stone and slate on the nose; elegant, generously textured and full bodied wine with marked acidity on the palate, lasting finish.

Here is what Sybille Kuntz says about the Gold-Quadrat: Grapes are selected from the most mature and oldest vineyard sites of the Estate and these old vines, planted in the 1920s, have low yields and small berries with intense flavor profiles. We take great care to pre-pick the steep Riesling vineyards several times. Only the healthy and most mature grapes remain on the vines. The grapes continue to ripen until they reach a natural potential alcohol level of 11-11,5 % by vol . From these very ripe and golden yellow grapes we make the much celebrated: Gold-Quadrat.

I bought 2 cases of this wine at a steeply discounted price in Washington DC about half a year ago. Why was the wine on the market at a steep discount? I guess part of the explanation is that the retailer found it difficult to sell the wine to the American customers, as it is a wine from the vintage 2001 already. In my view, the wine has nicely settled down in the bottle during the past years. It has not yet started to age, but has become a ripe, mature, great wine. To compare the wine with women, I would say, the wine is like the beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones, who just turned forty, well established in her life, married to Michael Douglas, mother, very attractive and sexy. But American customers appear to prefer Sienna Miller (who I saw in a Show on Broadway in New York--an outstanding performance in "After Miss Julie", a Strindberg classic), she is in her early 20s, stunning look, very sexy, but still searching for her place in life, with great prospects.

Wine: 1990 Bacheracher Posten, Riesling , Spaetlese trocken, Bastian, Mittelrhein, Germany

Tasting Notes: A bone dry 20 years old Spaetlese trocken from 2 grapes Gault and Millau producer Fritz Bastion, which I bought many years ago at his wine tavern in Bacharach in the Rhine valley. His wines have a high acidity level and we had a hard time drinking them when they were younger. The wine has aged very well and presents itself with amazing freshness; can easily be put away for another 5 to 10 years.

Third Course

Food: Seared Fois Gras with Fig Sauce and Fresh Dates

Wine: 1998 Nightingale, Botrytised, Napa Valley, Beringer, USA

2/3 Semillion and 1/3 Sauvignon Blanc; the juice for this wine was fermented and aged in small French Nevers oak barrels for 19 months; sugar prior to fermentation was 35 Brix and residual sugar in the finished wine is 125 grams per liter; 14,2 % alcohol

Jacob Beringer, the founder of Beringer, left his home in Mainz, Germany, in 1868 to start a new life in the U.S., enticed by his brother, Frederick, who had sailed to New York five years earlier and wrote home constantly of the grand opportunities to be found in the vast new world. New York did not appeal to Jacob, however. He had enjoyed working in wine cellars in Germany when he was younger and had heard that the warm, sunny climate of California was ideal for growing wine grapes. So in 1870 he traveled by train from the East Coast, first to San Francisco and then on to Napa Valley . To his delight, he discovered rocky, well-drained soils similar to those in his native Rhine Valley. The volcanic soil was ideal for growing the same grapes found in Europe 's great winemaking regions. Best of all, the hills could be dug out to provide storage and aging tunnels that would maintain the constant temperature needed to produce fine wines. Jacob and Frederick together bought land in 1875 and set about making wines that compared to the best in Europe . In 1876, they founded the Beringer Winery.

Tasting Notes: This very special wine, in a small bottle, offers a golden hue and features aromas of apricot nectar, crème brulee, vanilla and honey. Rich flavors of butterscotch, stone fruit and spice, with just a slight hint of cigar box, coat the mouth and linger for a long, luxurious finish. We drank 2 bottles of this delicious wine. US$ 40

Fourth Course, prepared by Fuad Issa

Food: Walnut Chicken with Aleppo Peppers (Aleppo is a large city in the North of Syria, where Fuad Issa was borne)

Wine: 1996 Barbera d’Alba, Alba, Piedmont, Pio Cesare, Italy

This is the wine bottle which was at the origin of the wine dinner. Bob, Lynette, my wife and I met the owner of Pio Cesare, Pio Boffa, a few weeks ago and I remembered that I still had a Barbera from the mid 1990s in my cellar somewhere.

The province of Piedmont is in the northwestern corner of Italy, located in the foothills of the Alps forming its border with France and Switzerland. The most well known wines from the region are Barolo and Barbaresco. They are made from the Nebbiolo grape. While Turin is the capital of the Piedmont, Alba and Asti are at the heart of the region's wine industry.

For five generations, the Pio Cesare family has now been producing Piemontese wines in its ancient cellars, located in the center of the town of Alba. The cellars walls date back to the Roman Empire period. Pio Cesare ownes more than 50 hectares of vineyards. In addition, Pio Cesare has fostered long term relationships with growers and manages all aspects of viticultures in these vineyards. The name of this estate is derived from the name of its founder, Cesare Pio, who set up this now long established family business in 1881. It remains in the family, with Pio Boffa, the great grandson of the founder, at the helm.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Pio Boffa at Teatro Goldoni in Washington DC

Tasting Notes: Ruby-red in the glass, cherry and red currant on the nose, a full-bodied and complete wine with notes of chocolate mint and mushrooms on the palate, a herbal-fruity finish of some length.

Main Course

Food: Lamb Chops with Red Beet Mousse and Celery Mousse

Wine: 2005 Clos Apalta, Limited Release, Casa Lapostolle, Chile

Wine Spectator Wine of the Year 2008 with 96 points; 6000 cases made; a blend of Chile’s distinctive Carmenere variety with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon; rich and velvet; U$75

Casa Lapostolle, established in 1994, was originally a joint French and Chilean operation, until the French side bought out the Chilenian partners. The Marnier-Lapostolle family, the French half of the original partnership, are best known for their Grand Marnier Liqueur, although they also own the Chateau de Sancerre in the Loire Valley. Casa Lapostolle is now a sizable operation with an amazing 300 hectares, about the size of the smaller German wine regions, planted up with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenere. Michel Rolland consults exclusively for Casa Lapostolle in Chile. Clos Apalta is Casa Lapostolle’s premium cuvee.

Tasting Notes: A blend of 80% Merlot and Carmenere, with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby red in the glass with thick legs, a bit restrained on the nose, a full-bodied wine, with a creamy mouthfeel, long lasting finish.

Wine: 1995 Chateau Hourtin-Ducasse, Haut Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, France

Chateau Hourtin-Ducasse is located in Saint-Sauveur at the edge of the Pauillac commune. Its name undoubtedly comes from the juxtaposition of those of two of its former owners, Mr. Hourtin (18th century) and Mr. Fleury-Ducasse (19thcentury). The Chateau was acquired in 1976 by Mr. Marengo.The property includes approximately 30 hectares, including 25 devoted to the vine.

Tasting Notes: Dark red in the glass, notes of dark plum and cassis on the nose, a 15 years old wine that displays an amazing freshness on the palate, with blackcurrant, cedar, and dark fruits, drying finish.


Humbold fog, California
Cowgirl Red Hawk, California
Aged Capot Cheddar, Vermont
Hirtenkaese, Bavaria, Germany
Blue Cheese, cow milk, Wisconsin

When you talk in Paris with a Frenchman about cheese made in the US and tell him that there are now excellent such cheeses made by very devoted and knowledgeable cheese makers, he will not believe you. But there is a rapidly expanding production of great artisanal cheeses in the US, though starting from a very low level. Cheese will probably never play the role in an American household it plays in a French household. The typical French grew up in a household where in the evening his or her mother would serve a four courses meal---crudites as starter, main plate, cheese and dessert, with a glass of wine of course, or two. The French have it in the Jeans. He or she knows so much about good food, including cheese. In the US, it is very different. Cheese is eaten as topping for Pizza or for the cheeseburger or similar food. But America is changing. Some Americans have started to show serious interest for high-quality cheese and artisanal cheese makers are springing up across the country.

Wine: 2004 Barolo, Alba, Piedmont, Pio Cesare, Italy

In the past, Barolos used to be very tannic, and they needed a lot of time to soften up. This was so because fermenting wine sat on the grape skins for at least three weeks, extracting huge amounts of tannins; then it was aged in large, wooden casks for years. In order to meet the international taste, which preferred fruitier, more accessible styles, the "modernist" winemakers cut fermentation times to a maximum of ten days and put the wine in new French barriques. The results, said “traditionalists", were wines that weren't even recognizable as Barolo and tasted more of new oak than of wine.

Tasting notes: Dark red in the glass, notes of black tea, strawberry, cassis and tobacco on the nose, full-bodied powerful Italian red wine, that will not soon be forgotten, lush and juicy on the palate, leaning more to the new style. In the Wine Spectator 2008 list, where the Casa Lapostollo was the Number One wine, this one was among the top 10 wines, 94 points, US$62


German Quark with Cassis
Mousse au Chocolat

Wine: 1999 John Hancock, Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Stanley Brothers, Australia

Tasting Notes: A juicy and jammy New World Shiraz wine from Barossa Valley, which has already aged a little bit.

Digestive: Asbach Uralt, Germany

In Europe, for generations, Asbach Uralt Brandy has been savored and appreciated by connoisseurs of fine brandies. But it is in no way any way near the great Cognacs or Armagnacs from France. A German day to day Brandy

Picture: The bottles

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

Top Virginia Red Wines - Governors Cup 2010

Wine Served at President Obama's State Dinner in Honor of Prime Minister Singh from India

Thomas Jefferson, 3. President of the United States, Visited Hochheim, Germany on April 10,1978

Saint Valentine's Day: French Champagne, German Sekt or Virginia Sparkler!

German Wine Makers in the World: Eduard Werle - Owner of the Veuve Cliquot Champagne House

In the Glass: 2001 Riesling Gold Quatrat trocken Weingut Sybille Kuntz Mosel

Pio Boffa and the Wines of Pio Cesare, Piedmont, Italy

Wine and food: Artisanal American Cheese Going to Europe


  1. What a wonderful dinner this was. Every glass was accompanied by delightful companions and delicious food. Thank you Christian, Annette, and Benjamen.

    Bob and Lynnette Harris

  2. Very outstanding! I'm surprised you did not select a Riesling for the Foie Gras. Happy Easter!

  3. Fabulous dinner, great people and wonderful wine. This dinner will go down in my book as one of my favorite meals!

  4. Getting hungry and thirsty, this sounds and looks delicious! YUM!