Tag Archives: pairing wine with food

Grape of the Week: Viognier


Viogner, UC Davis

I know we’re past Valentine’s Day now, but why not give it a long finish and take a look at this very exotic, sexy grape.

Sexy? Absolutely. Sensual? Oh, yeah…

What to expect
If you haven’t gotten around to trying Viognier, please let me encourage you to take the plunge and dive into what Jancis Robinson has referred to as “The hedonist’s white wine.”

This is one big, voluptuous kiss of ripe peaches and apricots, orange blossom, tropical fruit and honeysuckle. And heady, too. Viognier won’t let loose with all those wonderful aromatics unless it’s plenty ripe, so it’s quite common for it to be upwards of 14% alcohol. Of course, the alcohol gives it considerable heft, by white-wine standards so when you’re feeling burnt out on Chardonnay you can easily substitute the highly perfumed Viognier.

I’ve learned the hard way that It isn’t easy to get it right. Poorly made, it can remind you of the syrup in the can of fruit cocktail your Mom served you when you were a kid (I suppose I’m dating myself here.)

It’s usually dry but occasionally you’ll find a sweet one. Not my cup of tea – the sweetness can be cloying – Viognier isn’t a high-acid grape.  Some examples have oak imposed on them, which is hard to understand for a grape with so much up-front charm. If there’s a chance to taste before you buy, go for it! Continue reading


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Grape of the Week: Chardonnay


With this grape of the week theme, I’ve decided to address the biggies first. And Chardonnay may well qualify as the most popular wine in the world. For many people, white wine is Chardonnay.

What to Expect
It’s popularity is interesting because from a winemaker’s point of view, Chardonnay is somewhat a blank canvas – a relatively neutral variety ideal for showcasing terroir (an expression of the place it comes from) and also his bag of tricks! When pinned down, winemakers often compare Chardonnay to apple, pear and citrus. But, you’ll find tropical aromas – banana, pineapple – from warm-climate situations like Napa Valley and the warm spots of Australia (most of SE Australia.)

It’s also quite the jet setter. While many varieties are limited to a warm climate or cool climate situation, Chardonnay is successfully grown just about everywhere. And, this makes it hard for you to know what to expect. Continue reading

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Wine Pairings for the Super Bowl!


Well, I thought I’d written about this long ago, but wrong again! And, search analytics are telling me that you want to know about wine pairings for your Super Bowl party, so I’ve been remiss.

You know, I don’t think anybody thought about this a few decades ago, so we truly are becoming a wine-drinking country! Congrats to us! Here goes:

First, my old saw no matter the occasion: Most wines and foods taste pretty good together, so serve the foods you like with the wines you like and you can’t go too far wrong.

The main wine components that can trip up your enjoyment of any pairing are high alcohol, high tannin and overdone oak. And, really heavy reds aren’t as versatile as the light to medium-bodied ones. Fortunately, if the wine is of moderate alcohol, it’s probably not too heavy either.

The most broad brush, sweeping advice I have if you’re serving several different kinds of apps or dishes is to go to my old favorite: When in doubt, serve a bubbly – or a clean, high-acid white – easy on the oak or none at all. But, I’d still put out at least token red or two because there are those who drink red no matter what. Try to avoid high-octane reds – shoot for under 14%. Better stock some beer, too, huh?

White wine goodies
If you’re doing really simple stuff like chips, popcorn, fries, onion rings and nuts whites and fizzies are really the ticket for salty foods. Haven’t we heard, ad nauseum by now, that sparkling wine and popcorn love each other? In fact, they’ll love each other a little more if you sprinkle some truffle salt on the popcorn. Adds such a nice note of elegance to offset the carnage on the screen. Nuts can go either way – red or white – they’re very wine friendly! Continue reading

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White Wine Food, When You Feel Like Red


photo from dharmabumx on Flickr

Does that ever happen to you? Happens to me all the time. My protein of choice seems to call for white, but I really want a glass of deep, satisfying red wine. Well, most often I say “The heck with it.” and have what I want. As I’ve said, ad nauseum, most wines and foods taste pretty good together and it’s silly to worry about pairing.

But, the fact is, if you haven’t actually cooked the protein yet, there are bridge builders you can use to make a better match.

You could use a pork chop as an example – or chicken breast – or even a piece of sword fish or halibut.

My favorite bridge builders?  

Grill it! Those blackened, crusty grill marks can pull the dish into the red wine column. The grilled flavor loves tannin and makes the oak pop. Still not quite right? Add salt and lemon juice (thank you Tim Hanni.) Continue reading

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Recipe: Duck Breast with Porcini Mushrooms and Pink Pepper Sauce

How about a quick, easy and delicious recipe to pair with Cabernet Sauvignon? This one’s courtesy of Chef Michel Cornu of Raymond Vineyards here in the Napa Valley. Bon appetit! 

Long Island Duck Breast with Porcini Mushrooms and Pink Pepper Sauce

Cornu: “The wine’s softness, roundness and balance make it a good match for Raymond’s Generations Cab. It’s good with the sweetness and gaminess of the duck,” Another cab might be too big. It needs to be a soft cab with good acidity.”

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Throw a Wine and Food Pairing Party!

We talked about a couple of great books on pairing wine with food recently. Now that you’re armed with really good advice and recipes, how about throwing a wine and food pairing party? Tons of fun! 

What are some of your favorite formats when you host a wine tasting party or pairing party?

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