Pinot Gris: Beck-Hartweg Frankstein Grand Cru 2010 Alsace – Pairing Rating: 9.5 out of 10.0
Mid-March and 80˚ in Newport Beach, CA! Wow . . . my kind of winter! These warm, sunny days scream for fresh fish on the grill, served with a creamy, spiced sauce and a fruity, refreshing white wine.
We have been enjoying great, fresh seafood from Santa Monica Seafood in Costa Mesa. Their swordfish always looks terrific and is unquestionably fresh. So after securing a 2 lb block of their loin-cut swordfish, we reached for Weber’s Art of the Grill cookbook. Their recipe for Swordfish Kabobs with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli is a crowd-pleaser, a breeze to assemble, and it looks like summer on the plate.
The swordfish “cubes” (about 1-1/2˝) are briefly marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, Hungarian paprika, chili powder and a little salt. I prefer to use metal skewers for the heat transfer properties they bring to the grilling process; the kabobs take only about 5-6 minutes total over high heat. The paprika and chili powder, combined with the grill marks, will impress your guests, showcasing your inner grillmaster.
The aioli (served room temp) plays more than a supporting role in this dish. On the plate, it frames the swordfish in a summery, salmon-colored backdrop of creaminess. On the palate, it delivers a subtle lemon-cayenne pepper accent that complements the fish’s texture; and amplifies, rather than covers, the flavors of the swordfish. This is one of the best combos of grilled fish and sauce I have encountered.
If you have the time and the patience, you can grill the red peppers yourself. Don’t bother. Use jarred, roasted peppers – they work beautifully. Process the peppers with lemon juice, chopped garlic, good quality mayonnaise, a little salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper and you’re done.
The lemon juice and the cayenne are key to this wine pairing. We felt a sufficient amount of acidity was needed to stand up to the lemony flavors in both the marinade and the aioli, while delivering a lushness to balance the cayenne and a freshness to cleanse the palate. I found all of that in an old-world Pinot Gris from Alsace : Beck-Hartweg Frankstein Grand Cru 2010 ($20). This is a beautifully balanced expression of Pinot Gris. When your nose meets the complex pear and apple aromas in the glass, you know it’s summer. But it’s not a beach party where the white wine competes with the Bud Light. No, this is an elegant, pool-side, dinner party where the competition is Champagne and Vesper Martinis.
I would have scored this a perfect 10.0, but the wine may be a little hard to find. It’s not expensive, it’s just not carried by a lot of wine stores. If you have trouble locating a Pinot Gris from Alsace, look to Oregon. Chehalem ($21) offers a good alternative. But make no mistake: Pinot Gris is not Pinot Grigio. It’s more elegant, complex and lush. Perfect for this great recipe.