When I get an assignment to cover a favorite restaurant of mine, it’s understood that we’ll be coming up with the goods: great wine, great food, at sensible prices. That I can continue to walk about town without looking over my shoulders and without fear from some vino-luster or foodie who’ll challenge me to a duel of words about my recommendation; instead, I look forward to being greeted with a “Hey Rick! Great call! Delish! “
But before we get into the meat and potatoes of our featured restaurant, let’s run with the fun dynamic of discussing and discovering some wonderful wines which are featured on their wine menu.
Wine lovers know, it’s always a great pleasure to broaden our palates and let the whole world of wine open up for us as we find success with a new or unfamiliar wine from a region or country outside our “comfort” zone.
In the last couple of decades,Austria has emerged as a vigorous, innovative producer of quality dry whites and dessert wines. And red wines—20% of the country’s vineyard area, are starting to make an international reputation as well. These are not only to be experienced by anyone claiming to be a well-rounded wine drinker, but the new wave of young wine drinkers will want to be the first ones on the block as well.
Most people sweep Austrian wines under a sub-heading of German ones. First off, I’m a great German white wine fan—but Austria is not Germany. Although they share a border, a language, and a brotherly love of Riesling, German and Austrian wines are worlds apart. Austria’s drier (i.e., non-sweet) whites are fuller, richer, headier, and bolder in flavor than Germany’s lighter and leaner wines. Austria’s most famous white is the Gruner Veltliner with a general profile of vanilla spice, apricot, pear and grapefruit/ lime notes with nuances of red apples, peach and green herbs. Fresh, fruity, with plenty of acidity to enjoy and match well with all meals.
When it comes to reds—versus Germany, the Austrians are brawnier and jucier with tasty fruit. Austrian reds are some of the world’s great wine values which have been underappreciated and are unbelievably delicious. Austria offers a duo of truly distinctive red wines: Blaufrankisch with its dry red profile of berries, cherries, and licorice with supporting aromas of smoke, spice and black pepper; and, Zweigelt as the lighter red—fruity , juicy, smooth round-the-mouth texture of spiced cherries. Guess where we can find these wines offered?
Johannes Bacher is the Executive Chef and Owner of Johannes Restaurant in Palm Springs. As I’m known as the “sommelier-about-town”, he’s known as “the Eclectic Chef”. Born and raised in Austria—classically trained, he has taken his passion for food world-wide, securing top chef positions.
And here’s the skinny on his restaurant: it’s where a slew of other chefs and restaurant owners from all over the valley come to dine. I know this– I’ve asked around: Now that speaks volumes! Speaking of which, Johannes’ wine menu is an actual volume in itself, containing over 300 wines by the glass, half-bottles, and bottles! It’s one of the most impressive wine lists in the desert carrying everyone’s favorite label. I love all his Pinot Noirs, Cabernets, and Chardonnays and more—but please, have fun and be adventurous: Try his Austrians!
Chef Johannes is the artist-type that we like to see in the kitchen. When speaking to a loyal diner, she smiled, “He does a kind-of Southwest Asian fusion”. Another customer said, “Oh–he’s global in his creations.” The New York Times wrote of Johannes’ “modern twist on European classics”. With the plethora of food programs and commentaries available, Johannes reports that the German food, art, and travel magazine, Der Feinschmecker, is one of his favorites.
Receiving accolades from all over the gourmet media map, Johannes assures that everything is prepared fresh daily, that his focus is to provide local and sustainable organic products whenever possible and the quality of the food he serves will not be compromised with less expensive ingredients or pre-processed foods. All of this interesting info, photos, menu selections and so much more are on his new and improved website. Check it out: http://www.johannesrestaurants.com
Funny story: On one of the days I was to meet with Johannes, I was invited by the owner of a newly opened restaurant down the street to come and have lunch. I told him I was meeting with Johannes. Delighted, the owner asked I bring Johannes along—that he’d treat us both to lunch. I called Johannes immediately with the good news. He declined—granted, he did have a later lunch appointment already, but Johannes said that he wasn’t up to going to the new place because they had such a super large menu, “How could everything be fresh!” Although I was left out in the cold by missing a free lunch, my heart was warmed by the sentiment and integrity of Johannes who demands freshness every time, and apparently, everywhere!
If you read through his menu selections you’ll see that Johannes’ cutting edge cuisine—defines his eclecticism. Appetizers include poached Tiger Shrimp in secret dressing, Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tartare, Roasted Red Beets & Organic Ruby Red Grapefruit with Goat Cheese, Toasted Pistachios, Watercress and Honey Dijon Dressing, and, Smoked Idaho Steelhead Trout. The Mark Huber Gruner Veltliner would be a tasty pairing with all of those.
Sophisticated and smart entrées include an authentic (or an Organic Chicken) Wiener Schnitzel, Seared Roasted Natural Raised Alaskan King Salmon, for which a Zweigelt will fit in quite nicely; other selections such as a Rabbit Loin or Australian Grass Fed Kangaroo Loin, a New Zealand Grass Fed Young Lamb Rack or Crispy Half Duck would find the delicious Blaufrankisch wonderful company
As you would expect, all dessert creations and sauces are prepared in-house. Dessert might be a trio tasting sampler of Apple Strudel, Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brulée, and Chestnut Flan. In which case, the consummate pairing would a glass of the 2005 Chateau Prieuré d’Arche Sauternes. This wine and other vins doux are listed under the cute category of “Sticky Wines”: a tasty and thoughtful collection of dessert wines from all over the world. How Sweet!
Simply stated, the food, wine, service, staff and ambiance provide a truly wonderful dining experience that transcends most others in the desert. Johannes Restaurant, 196 S. Indian Canyon Dr. Palm Springs, Ca. Reservations: 760.778.0017,
Wine Pairing Dinner Alert!: This coming Wednesday, Nov. 2 beginning at 6:30 p.m., Chef Johannes will present, pair and match his creative cuisine talent to that of Ambassador and Vintner Kathryn Hall and her premium Napa Valley wines. Running with the “Austrian-Eclectic” theme, a match made in heaven will be played out on the tables at Johannes Restaurant.
Kathryn will be on hand bringing her best 90+ point wines to match the six-course meal evening. These are the wine-pairing dinners we’ve been waiting for all season.
Bon Appetit! Cheers!
Rick Riozza is the desert’s sommelier-about-town entertaining at private & corporate wine tastings and events. He can be contacted at [email protected]