If I'm ever stranded on a desert island, you won't find me writing SOS in the sand -- look for a very clear, "Send Pinot and Riesling!" These two wines will not only hold up to the fish and coconuts I'll be living on, but they're darn tasty.
These two food pairing demi-gods have the perfect acidity, balance, complexity of flavors and freshness to pair with just about any food you throw their way. Better yet, both Riesling and Pinot Noir come in dozens of styles, pleasing many palates.
These unique characteristics are imparted by the climates and soils in which they prefer to grow. Both Pinot Noir and Riesling prefer limestone soils, which have the ability to retain "just enough" but not too much water. They also grow best in cooler climates with a fair amount of breeze to dry out the air and so typically grow on steep hillsides.
Riesling happens to be my favorite white wine in the world, ranging from crisp, dry, and citrusy selections to rich, honeysuckle- and apricot-scented dessert wines. It is more complex and layered than Sauvignon Blanc, has better acidity than Chardonnay (think refreshment), and can age for decades when purchased in a great vintage and region. For the top examples of Riesling, look for classics from Germany's Mosel Valley or Pfalz region (try Deinhard, $10 and Dr. Loosen, $13). These are high in acidity and have a lean mineral character that makes them enticing for both novices and collectors alike. For the driest styles, buy a "Kabinett" Riesling, slightly sweeter "Spätlese" (Spayt-lay-sah), and sweet "Auslese" (OWS-lay-sah). Other lovely regions for this aromatic variety include Washington and Oregon states (try Willamette Valley Vineyards, $15), Australia, Alsace, and New York's Finger Lakes (American Viticultural Area).
Pinot Noir also comes in a variety of styles -- from the elegant, soft and silky selections of Southern California to the structured, tannic, and intensely muscular varieties of Burgundy's Cotes du Nuits. The best growing regions include Oregon, Champagne, Burgundy (Michel Lelu Bourgogne, $15), New Zealand (Mudhouse, $15), Sonoma's Coast (Green Meadow Russian River Pinot, $22), and California's Santa Maria Valley.
Both Pinot and Riesling pair naturally with spinach and goat cheese salad, grilled or poached salmon, a Cajun-rubbed or fruity mango salsa tuna steak, as well as grilled pork loin marinated with fresh pineapple. They are also my go-to wines for tough-to-pair-with cuisines, such as Thai, sushi, and Mexican.
Whatever your dinner plans, these two naturally food-friendly wines will make everything from your desert island campfire to your next elegant dinner party absolutely perfect.