Wine to Rock the Dinner

By David Hagedorn
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wine aficionados consider importer Terry Theise the ne plus ultra when it comes to wine pairing. He takes painstaking care before deciding which wines will win places in his portfolio of German, Austrian and French estate collections.

Theise opted to pair Eric Ripert's New Year's Eve dinner for 12 with Austrian wines. "These are really some rock 'em, sock 'em wines," he said. "Not too subtle or too delicate, and not anything that is so expensive that it aggrandizes the wine at the expense of the food." It is Theise's fervent hope that at some point during Sarah and Neal Rothleder's dinner, someone will turn to his neighbor and say: "Wow! These are Austrian wines?!"

Theise offered two alternatives for each course, but suggested drinking both wines with the main course and seeing which you prefer -- "or even more likely," he said, "seeing that you like them both but for entirely different reasons."

Eight to 10 bottles total for the first two courses would be a very generous pour. (Be sure to designate a driver.) Theise chose not to offer dessert wine. "I've been to too many wine dinners with tables full of unconsumed glasses of very expensive dessert wine," he said. "It is just a waste."

-First course: Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur With Caviar. Theise found the smoked salmon to be the most challenging ingredient to contend with. A pinot noir ros-would have been lovely, but he did not have one in his portfolio. A champagne made largely with pinot noir would have worked, but he found that a bit of a cliche. He figured no one at the dinner will have tried an Austrian sparkling wine, so he chose one for its novelty, plus a Gruner Veltliner as an option (or supplement). His choices:

NV Schloss Gobelsburg Brut Reserve-- estate-bottled Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, $23

Theise calls it "one of Austria's few great sparkling wines," made of 70 percent Gruner Veltliner, 15 percent pinot noir and 15 percent Riesling. "You can amaze your wine-geek friends by serving it blind and watching them grope to identify what part of Champagne it comes from," he says.

2004 Gruner Veltliner Eichholz-- estate-bottled Weingut Setzer, Weinviertel, $21

This wine "is just emerging from its infancy," said Theise, who calls it "ripe and rich" with "a pointed structure" and pronounced aroma.

-Second course: Roasted Veal Loin With Black Truffle Madeira Sauce. This was an easy dish for Theise to pair. "With the mushrooms, mustard greens and root vegetables, there are a lot of pinot-noir-type flavors going on here. So I decided to do two sides of the same coin: a big, wintertime, roasty red wine and a really robust and generous white wine with an oak component." His choices:

2005 Sankt Laurent Reserve-- estate-bottled Weinbau Sattler, Neusiedlersee (Burgenland), $30

Theise says this reserve, from the winemaker's ripest fruit, "behaves in the glass like a Burgundy to which 15 percent Chateauneuf-du-Pape was added. It is round and sumptuous but not quite entirely civilized, so it should be decanted an hour before dinner."

2006 Grauburgunder-- estate-bottled Weinbau Heidi Schrock, Neusiedlersee-Hugelland, $26

Theise thinks this grauburgunder (pinot gris), aged up to 10 months in wood barrels, might be even better suited than chardonnay to oaking. He calls it "bold and luscious while still maintaining the fruit and structure which elude many new-world chardonnays."

Wines are available at MacArthur Beverages, 4877 MacArthur Blvd. NW, 202-338-1433, .

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