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Never in my wildest dreams did I intend to pair a burger with a Riesling; even with my excitement for the high-acid white wine, it seemed taboo. I wouldn’t underestimate Riesling, with its lithe acidity and sprightliness on the palate, but it just does not spring to mind when I am entertaining the notion of having a gourmet burger or any incarnation of red meat nestled in a bun. Nevertheless, it transpired and I am living to write about the experience. Buckle up—your pairing world won’t be the same again.

I was at The Standing Room again, recently, to tackle the crab sandwich with a buddy of mine—writer of Detroit OnLion—and enjoy a nice chilled Riesling with the highly touted lunch item. I brought the tumblers and a few packs of ice to keep the tall tapered flute chilly while driving down from the Westside of Los Angeles. We went in and perused the menu and when comfortable placed our order for the sandwiches… only to have our request denied—the Crab was not ready. We scrambled to find alternatives and when Jeremy audibled he went big ordering the Napoleon—a behemoth that consists of short rib, fried egg, half pound patty, two different cheeses, French fries, bacon, arugula and some other standard accompaniments—for nearly fourteen dollars. I tried two more times to get something that might match the Spätlese but the items were out or had been 86’d, and I was forced to settle with the Cash burger (crispy onions, Chinese barbeque sauce, avocado and bacon). It did not strike me as an ideal partner for the wine and I was losing faith, a little dispirited at the thought of an unintended pairing.

We waited for our order in the car and poured the wine, making the most of what I thought was a lost scenario and would ultimately mean another dash to Redondo Beach to eventually try that elusive crab sandwich. The 2008 Braunerberger Juffer (#199) from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer had a light straw color and a fragrant bouquet of green apple, lime and some notes of new tires (strong fresh rubber). On the palate the wine was nearly off dry with a healthy dose of RS on the tongue and bountiful green apple coating the buds. Light, zippy and refreshing, the Riesling was falling further from my mind as I had pondered a different pairing. It just didn’t seem realistic for the meal at hand.

When we got the burgers, we created a mock photo shoot and began tweeting our experience before eating. We took our first bites—it was cumbersome for Jeremy—and both of us were smitten with our selections. I urged him to drink his iced tea since I was confident his burger was off limits for the Spätlese and he heeded the recommendation. Midway through the burger, with its sweet flare, I reached reflexively for my tumbler full of wine and took a sip. My eyes went wide with astonishment, the sweet flavors of the bbq sauce and the crispy onions matched with the residual sugars in the wine, and the acidity was enough to ready my mouth for another bite of beef. I would say that there was a weight issue with the wine, the body not quite as big as the burger but, nevertheless, it made nearly an outstanding pairing because of the signature attributes of the Riesling. Another reason the Cash burger was almost a perfect partner was its delicate nature, not strictly focusing on a big patty as much as it was on the Asian fusion vibe of the Standing Room and it happened to be a successful combination of ingredients all around.

I finished my burger, while Jeremy had to roll up his sleeves and get medieval on the Napoleon burger; drippings from the egg, pieces of tender short rib as well as Parmesan Truffle Fries were strewn about the wrapper and basket. He was in hog heaven (stating later that it may have been his favorite burger on the West Coast) and I was left scratching my head over a Riesling that had the power to stay with the Cash burger. I still have to try the crab sandwich (one day making it back to Redondo Beach), but this pairing proved to be another fortuitous experiment in burgers and wine.

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