The upscale Vietnamese restaurant Slanted Door, in San Francisco, focuses on aromatic dry white wines on its wine list. It always had a preference for light, low-alcohol Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Austrian and German Rieslings and light crisp reds from France. Although miffed California wine partisans would rather see more of their wines on the list, the restaurant has held fast. I understand why. Those are the wines that taste best with Charles Phan’s food.
The delicate green papaya salad, the sesame oil-savory glass noodles with crab, and caramelized tiger prawns in chili sauce don’t want a big wine horning in on their turf. They want something zingier, and a dry Grüner Veltliner such as Hirsch's 2007 Kamptal Kammern Heiligenstein bottling fits the bill perfectly. When I recently visited Slanted Door, the wine's tart balance and generous tangerine aromatics, with ripe apricot and nectarine flavors, did a little dance around the food, setting it off beautifully.
At $53, it was one of the more expensive whites on the list, but it was worth every penny. I would go to 90 points, non-blind, on the wine alone. The matches made it seem three or four points higher.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind tasting review for Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal Kammern Heiligenstein 2007 (89, $30).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Grüner Veltliners from Austria.