Did you know that China was the world’s fifth largest producer of grapes, behind France, Italy, Spain, and the United States? Now, they are producing wines as well, such as Dragon’s Hollow, a line that bills itself as “the first premium wines produced in China.”
Dragon’s Hollow wines are beginning to surface in local Chinese restaurants. The grapes are grown in the Helan Shan Mountains, a dry region approximately 600 miles west of Beijing, close to Mongolia. I’d guess it’s only a matter of time before Mongolian wines show up, too. If they ever do, I’m ordering lamb to go with them.
Dave Henderson, President of China Fine Wines LLC, hosted a dinner for Chinese and American journalists to showcase these wines at the dumpling house and Szechuan restaurant China MaMa. The restaurant rolled out an enormous menu, and the food there was as good as ever.
There were four wines on the table: Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, all of which originated in the above mentioned region. The Chardonnay was unoaked, and had a slightly tropical feel. I think the Riesling needs work. Of the four wines, I favor the Merlot, the brightest acidity wine in the group, a nice garnet red. The Cab is still a babe in the woods. I’d like to taste it down the road.
Henderson says his wines should hit the retail shelves with a $10-$15 dollar price point. At the moment, I’d say they were more attractive as a curiosity, but if you’re in a Chinese restaurant, where wine lists have little currency, they might be more compelling.
As always, China MaMa, an offshoot of a successful California Chinese restaurant, delivered. We started with several finger foods; shao loong bao, those terrific juicy pork dumplings served in a steamer tray, green onion pancake, Szechuan beef roll, what I call the ur-wrap, and kuo tip, crunchy pot stickers.
That was followed by a new dish the manager, John, referred to as “hand pulled noodle with green onion sauce”, which was mixed at the table strenuously by the staff. Then came sizzling rice soup and shrimp in two colors, prompting me to call the dinner “kwei-lo greatest hits.” I usually order jellyfish and pig’s ear in this place. I’m a minority.
They kept on sending out food, though, in obscene amounts. First the Double Happiness, fried flounder piled up to the ceiling with vegetable, and then the pork leg, an enormous thing drenched in primal brown.
Three-cup chicken (braised with one cup each of sugar, soy sauce and oil) arrived next with a platter of bok choy, black mushrooms and fresh bamboo marinated in a dark sauce. I didn’t stay for dessert.
So, the question is, do these wines have cache in a market such as this one. I don’t know the answer. I’ll leave it in the hands of the pros doing the marketing. Go to www.dragonshollow.com for more info.
China MaMa is at 3420 S. Jones Blvd. 873-1977.
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