Located in the heart of Westwood Village, the Napa Valley Grille is frequented by local business people and those affiliated with UCLA. It is not a new restaurant and will not likely be written up by the local food press sources. But, we should not overlook the Napa Valley Grille. Behind the doors is a restaurant that has been served diners for more than 15 years. General Manager Brian Cousins and Chef Kenny Spost are staying current and with the fall season upon us, they have created a new menu and paired the menu with some unexpected wines.
The Napa Valley Grille focuses on California cuisine with an emphasis on wine country. Historically the wine list has been primarily filled with California wines. However, GM Brian Cousins has been adding wines from around the world to the list. While still predominantly California, you can find wines from Italy, France, New Zealand and more. And now, with the new menu, Brian has paired the dishes with wines from Germany and Bordeaux, two distinct destinations, offering surprising styles.
Brian invited a group of LA Wine Writers in to try the new pairings.
Last week, I wrote about the dry riesling found in Nahe, Germany and the fact that 90 percent of German wine is dry. But fruity, sweet wines do still exist in Germany, specifically produced in the Mosel, Nahe and Rhinegau regions.
When we talk about “sweet” wine in Germany, we are not talking about overly sweet, cloying wines. We are talking about wines of finesse. These are wines with fragrance, fruity acidity and a mineral undertone. We are talking about riesling, considered the king of wine grapes in Germany. Of all the white wine grapes, riesling grapes produce the most intense and flavorful wines.
Unlike the dry riesling which is categorized under the VDP (“Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter”) system, the sweeter wines are classified under the traditional Pradikatswein. The levels of sweetness will vary and are dependent on when the grapes are picked. There is trocken (dry), kabinett (off-dry), spatlese (late harvest), auslese (select harvest), beerenauslese (berry select harvest) and trockenbeerenauslese (“dry berry select harvest”).
To differentiate between these different styles, it was best described to me by a winemaker who likened these styles to bananas. Kabinett is described as the perfectly yellow banana whereas spatlese is a banana with brown spots. Auslese is the banana that is almost entirely brown and trockenbeerenauslese is a dehydrated, concentrated banana.