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To Riesling or to White Burgundy with Crab?

It's the high-point of crab season, folks, so time to get crackin'. Last week SF sommeliers and a few lucky others (including yours truly) had their annual Crab and Riesling lunch. Except for some call it the Crab and White Burgundy lunch, a disagreement that highlights a rift in the wine-and-food pairing orthodoxy. Which goes better with crab? I'm firmly a Riesling person, especially, a srpy German Kabinett or a minerally smaragd from Austria. But many others, including Sara Floyd, who co-sponsors the lunch with fantastic winemaker Brian Talley of Talley vineyards in Arroyo Grande, believe in white Burgundy with crab.

The lunch pulled in a cavalcade of notable somms, from Larry Stone to Debbie Zachareas of the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and Andrew Green of Spruce to Eugenio Jardim of Jardinere. To me, the hero (besides Talley), though, was Nunzio Alioto, the proprietor of Alioto's. Nunzio also happens to be a Master Sommelier, so he has an incredible wine knowledge. But more impressive is his skill in crab cracking, which is expert level. He gave us a lesson, in fact, in the art of taking a part a crab and getting out every little morsel of meat.

As for the wines, I still like Riesling over Chardonnay with crab and there were remarkable examples of both brought by every attendee of the lunch (including Talley's own Chardonnays, which stood well against the many epic white Burgundies). But try your own pairings and let me know what you think. The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is getting in on the action itself with an event on the 18th. Details are below.

Santa Cruz Mountains
Wine & Crab Taste-Off

What:              Wine & Crab Taste -Off
When:             Sunday, January 18, 2009; 2p.m. - 5p.m.
Where:            Ma Maison, Aptos; Sanderlings at the Seascape Beach Resort, Aptos; Michael’s on Main, Soquel; Theo’s Restaurant, Soquel
Cost:   $49.00 per person for two restaurants ($16.00 each additional   restaurant)
Contact:       Shannon Flynn (831)685-VINE (8463)

Taste wonderful crab dishes paired with luscious local wines.  The Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association presents the sixth annual Wine & Crab Taste-Off!  Four of the finest local restaurants will be battling it out in hopes of being named “Crab Cook 2009.”  We need your help to make the decision, so come and judge for yourself!

All four restaurants will be preparing two crab dishes to satisfy your appetite on Sunday, January 18th from 2-5pm.  For $49.00, we welcome you to take on the challenge of “consumer judge”.  Taste food and wine at two restaurants, of your choice, and let us know what you think.  All ballots will be tallied to determine the “Consumer Choice Awards” as well as scores from professional judges for the “Judges Choice Awards”.  For an additional $16.00 you can visit another restaurant of your choice.