Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wine-(Me)down In St Louis

Sasha's Wine Bar & Market opened the year I moved to St. Louis in 2002. I was working as a chef for a local Bed & Breakfast off Grand early morning, and managing/cooking at a restaurant off the Loop during lunch and late night. On my days off when I wanted to wind down I missed the great wine bars of Dallas. Like West End's Cru and Mercy. Sure St. Louis has some great $$$ eateries around the West End off Kingshighway that offer wine lists, but I lived in Clayton, and with long work days I did not want to drive far out of my neighborhood.

Sasha's Wine Bar opened and I finally had a small, but friendly haunt to visit. Their wine list boast like a novella. Offering a menu of appetizers, sandwiches, entrees to pizzettes, as well as a full bar, Sasha has lasted longer than some of the long time restaurants in downtown Clayton (after the economy went down here and in Dallas).

I believe this wine bar has become a classic (still listed as trendy in local reviews) wonderful service from long time employees, and the owners care in detail of its offerings. The interior ceiling is covered with wine box ends, comfortable booths and tables, bar seating, sliding patio doors that open up for outdoor seating (for weather that cooperates), and custom built wall to wall bottle holders for that 'to go' bottle purchase when you taste something you have to open another day.

St. Louis boy and I decided it was time to pay Sasha's a visit. He always did like the smoked salmon platter with Crème fraîche , capers, and red onions. I was in the mood for their spicy hummus and pita, and we would share a pizzette.

I decided we would order a bottle of wine that he nor I had tasted before. He mentioned chardonnay, but with the menu we picked, I felt another white would be more appropriate. A Riesling, not too sweet, not to dry!

(Notice there is a hand showing up in the food photos? Yeah, St. Louis boy was hungry and had to be reminded that photos needed to be taken for the post!)

Well the food was worth it! The salmon was just as we remembered. The hummus creamy with added paprika spice, and great with the grilled pita. Now let me tell you about that pizzette! Smoky mushrooms and locally smoked ham, oh my! That with marinara on top of that perfect flat bread. Oh my! I think you get the message. Now what wine would compliment our food?

I was leaning towards the Schloss Saarstein Riesling. Since they offer a good percentage of wines by the glass and whole bottles ($20-60 per bottle) The waiter let us try a sample to see if it was right for the food and our mood. Rieslings can be more on the sweet side depending on the region of Germany they are from, but most are semi-dry with more of a subtle sweetness.

This 2007 gem is from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany.

This was a fresh Riesling with lean flint and citrus flavor on the nose and taste buds; it was also firm, juicy and pleasing. Light floral and tangerine scents and a touch of sweetness balance the mineral acidity on the finish. I know many of my friends back home in Dallas, and Jersey will like this wine. I have only had one other wine that matched this flavor profile and that was another Riesling ($21) at Baitinghollow Vineyards on Long Island.

Like typical restaurant mark up, by the glass price is $8 (bottle $33), and you can purchase this wonderfully crisp wine for about $15 a bottle. I saw a few retailers selling it for about $13 a bottle; which it is a great bargain for a decent tasting wine that most definitely will go with most foods.

Lets hope Sasha remains on the top of its game here in St. Louis, because I plan on returning to try another platter of salmon and check off another bottle of wine off my 'to try' list.

Hey/! St. Louis boy there is one more piece of pizza left...I will fight you for it!

Sasha's Wine Bar & Market
706 Demun Ave.
Clayton, MO 63105
Price range: $$ ($9-$15)

New Location- 4069 Shaw Blvd, St. Louis MO (314) 717-7274

More on German Wine Standards:

Schloss Saarstein Estate History

The Saarstein estate owns the oldest vineyards in the village of Serrig. On the steep monopoly site of "Serriger Schloss Saarsteiner" Christian and Andrea Ebert put all their enthusiasm and dedication to produce great Rieslings. Schloss Saarstein wines are noted for their elegant steeliness balanced with crisp fruit.

Production is concentrated on the one vineyard surrounding the estate with great emphasis on strict selection when hand-picking. The wines are then carefully treated in wooden thousand-liter barrels, called "fuder", to maintain each wine's individual character. Schloss Saarstein now ranks among the leading producers of the Saar Valley.

The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region is known for the finest Riesling wines in the world. Saar wines are elegant, distinguished by a fine fruity aroma and a pleasant steely acidity.

German Wines- Germany as the eighth largest wine-producing country in the world.[1] White wine accounts for almost two thirds of the total production.

As a wine country, Germany has a mixed reputation internationally, with some consumers on the export markets associating Germany with the world's most elegant and aromatically pure white wines while other see the country mainly as the source of cheap, mass-market semi-sweet wines such as Liebfraumilch. Among enthusiasts, Germany's reputation is primarily based on wines made from the Riesling grape variety, which at its best is used for aromatic, fruity and elegant white wines that range from very crisp and dry to well-balanced, sweet and of enormous aromatic concentration.

Saarstein Riesling is rated in the medium area of Germany's QbA classification chart as far as sweetness goes, and listed under semi-dry.

Many other Rieslings coming from Germany can be in the category of Spätlese (literal meaning: "late harvest"; plural form is Spätlesen) is a German language wine term for a wine from fully ripe grapes, the lightest of the late harvest wines. Spätlese is a riper category than Kabinett in the Prädikatswein category of the German wine classification[1] and is the lowest level of Prädikatswein in Austria, where Kabinett is classified in another way.[2] In both cases, Spätlese is below Auslese in terms of ripeness. The grapes are picked at least 7 days after normal harvest, so they are riper and have a higher must weight. Because of the weather, waiting to pick the grapes later carries a risk of the crop being ruined by rain. However, in warm years and from good sites much of the harvest will reach Spätlese level.

The wines may be either sweet or dry (trocken); it is a level of ripeness that particularly suits rich dry wines from Riesling, Weißer Burgunder and Grauer Burgunder grapes for example, as at Auslese levels the alcohol levels may become very high in a dry wine leaving the wine unbalanced,[citation needed] making wines with at least some residual sweetness preferable to most palates. However, most German wines are traditionally dry, and the amount of sugar is not the only figure balancing a wine. Dry German wines can be very balanced and usually get higher rates from German wine journalists than a comparable wine with more sugar.

Many Spätlese wines will age well, especially those made from the Riesling grape.