Wine & Food Pairings

Simplifying Wine Pairing

    The perfect food and wine pairing can make or break a meal, but how do you pull it off? Do you serve a new wine with each course? What if your guest wants to keep sipping what is in their glass, and you’re moving on to the next course and next wine? These aren’t major life issues, but when you want your gathering to come together seamlessly, every detail, including the food and wine pairings, becomes important. This seems especially true during the holiday season. Pouring red wine into a glass with food in the background  

    Wine Pairing Tips

    For my work I often need to find recipes that pair well with specific wines. To do this, I first taste the wine, noting the aromas, flavors and structure. Then I either look for a recipe that has similar flavors, or one that has contrasting flavors that will complement those found in the wine. An example of similar flavors would be a Zinfandel with rich berry flavors pairing well with Raspberry Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, or a bright citrusy Sauvignon Blanc with Pan-Seared Halibut with Lemon Caper Sauce. For contrasting flavors, an aromatic Gewürztraminer is perfect with Saag Paneer Enchiladas, which marries Indian and Mexican cuisines with a Germanic wine. If you’re just learning about matching food and wine, try pairings that you know will work—hearty foods with robust wines, and lighter meals with lighter wines. As you get more comfortable with wine pairings, expand your choices and do some experimentation. If you find a bottle of wine doesn’t work with the food, have a backup option available just in case. You can always use the wine that didn’t work as the after-dinner sipper.  

    More Wine Pairing Tips

    If you’re pairing wines with each course, let your guests have multiple glasses in front of them. This allows them to move on to the new course and new wine without having to set aside (or gulp down) the wine from the previous course. They can also revisit the previous wine and try it with other foods being served. This is how our palate learns what pairs well with particular flavors — trial and error. Don’t dictate what they should sip with each course, rather suggest the wines that pair best. Avoid serving foods in the same meal that require different wines to truly enjoy both the wine and the food. An example would be serving a red meat entrée that pair perfectly with a robust red wine and having one of the side dishes be asparagus, which taste better with sparkling or white wines. If you want to serve asparagus or artichokes hearts as part of the main course, serve an entrée that pairs with a crisp white wine. Make sure you’re serving the wines in “tasting order.” Tasting order is lighter to heaviest, and driest to sweetest. Why? If you serve a heavy or robust red wine first and then a white or sparkling wine after it, your palate will no longer be able to detect the subtilties or nuances of the lighter wine. One example of a tasting order is sparkling wine with appetizers, white wine with a salad course, red wine with dinner, and a port or late harvest wine for dessert. Sometimes I return to serving a sparkling wine with a cheese course for dessert to give my guests a break from heavy wines, then serve port or a big red as the after-dinner sipper.  

    Know When to Let Go

    If you want to serve multiple types of wines at a gathering, let go of your desire to control who drinks what with each course. In a festive atmosphere, the focus is on having a good time and you shouldn’t stop someone from enjoying the wine they prefer. If you want to make sure the food and wine pair well together, then select wines that go with everything you’re serving. Wine is about enjoyment and sometimes my guests will drink Cabernet with prosciutto wrapped asparagus, but I know the fat and salt from the prosciutto will make even that pairing palatable.  

    Classic Pairings

    The following wine pairings will give you options for the upcoming holiday season. Included are some pairings from winery websites and from the Wine & Food Affair recipe database. These websites are gold mines of recipes. When you look at one of the recipes linked below, take a few minutes to back up to the main recipe page and look at more options. You won’t be disappointed.  

    Wine Pairings with Appetizers

    Caviar Pie paired with sparkling wine Hot Artichoke and Jalapeño Dip paired with Sauvignon Blanc Strawberry Brie Bites paired with Grenache Oysters with Rhubarb & Pink Peppercorn Mignonette paired with Pinot Noir Roast Beef Crostini with Horseradish Cream paired with Cabernet Franc Artisan Cheese and Charcuterie Board paired with Merlot Marble slab with various meats, cheeses and fruit.  

    Wine Pairings with Salads

    Caesar Salad with Rock Shrimp paired with Rosé Salad Pear, Pecans & Gorgonzola paired with Pinot Gris Salad of Frisée, Apples, Blue Cheese & Bacon paired with Chardonnay small white plate with greens covered with a slice of blue cheese, sliced pears, a piece of prosciutto drizzled with salad dressing  

    Wine Pairings with Entrees

    Seared Scallops with Leeks and Ginger paired with Chardonnay Salmon Wellington with Smoked Paprika Tomato Sauce paired with Pinot Noir Crab Cioppino paired with Sangiovese Chanterelle Ragout with Acorn Squash Ravioli paired with Mourvèdre Chicken Piccata paired with Sauvignon Blanc Saffron Paella with Chicken, Andouille Sausage & Shrimp paired with a Red Rhone Blend, like GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) Pan Seared Duck with Blackberry Sage Sauce paired with Dolcetto Grilled Pork Loin with Maitake Mushrooms and Cannellini Beans paired with Syrah Grilled Lamb Chops with Pomegranate Molasses and White Beans paired with Malbec Filet of Beef Wrapped in Parchment with Bearnaise paired with Cabernet Sauvignon close up of paella with shrimp and sausage in a blue pan  

    Wine Pairings with Dessert

    Orange Panna Cotta paired with Gewürztraminer Crème Brûlée paired with Late Harvest Muscat Flourless Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce paired with Late Harvest Zinfandel Easy Chocolate Mousse paired with Cabernet Sauvignon   Wine Road web page with Wine & Food Affair Recipes database options.

    Explore the Wine & Food Affair Recipes

    The food and wine pairing lists go on and on in the Wine Road’s Wine & Food Affair recipe database, with hundreds of recipes and pairing suggestions from past Wine & Food Affair events. What I love about this database is you can search by:
    • Winery or Lodging who contributed the recipe/pairing
    • Category, such as appetizers, breakfast, lunch, main dish, salad, and more
    • Main Ingredient
    • Wine Pairing, which lists dozens of varietal options
    • Vegetarian or Gluten Free
    • Year published in the database
    Here are just a few of the recipes listed: Mushrooms and Gouda in Puff Pastry paired with Sauvignon Blanc Chorizo Mac and Cheese paired with Zinfandel Italian Style Breakfast Pizza paired with Pinot Noir Lamb Shank Cassoulet paired with Malbec Boeuf Bourguignon over Swiss-Style Creamy Polenta paired with Syrah The Wine & Food Affair Recipe database will provide you with so many recipes and wine pairings, you’ll be thrilled to have it at your fingertips.  

    Keep it Simple

    Sharing wine and food is about having fun, enjoying time with others and exploring the pleasures of smell and taste. As you explore the links in this blog and dig deeper into the various websites, enjoy the journey and I hope you discover your perfect pairing this holiday season. Six hands with red or white wine in their glasses toasting. Blurred images of food in the background.  


    Although many winery websites include recipes, only a few were included in this blog. I want to thank them for sharing their wealth of recipes and pairings online. Thank you to Alexander Valley Vineyards Capo Creek Winery DeLoach Vineyards Jordan Winery La Crema Pedroncelli Winery Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards And of course, the Wine Road for their amazing Wine & Food Affair recipe database. Happy Holidays & Happy Sipping!  

    7 Reasons to Attend Wine & Food Affair 2023

      Sign reads Come Celebrate the Harvest with Us Wine & Food Affair A Weekend of Wine & Food Pairings Sign is surrounding by images of fresh produce, a glass of red wine being poured and a vineyard in the fall. There are many reasons to attend this year’s Wine & Food Affair, but here are my top seven. If you don’t already have your tickets, get them ASAP. If you have your tickets, keep reading so you don’t miss the best parts of the Wine & Food Affair weekend.

      #1 – The Scenery

      No matter the month, the beauty along the Wine Road is breathtaking, but the autumn scenery in Northern Sonoma County is exceptional. The vineyards will be displaying their fall color palette, as will many of the local trees. Plus, the quality of light in early November makes every photo appear as if you spent hours waiting for the right moment to shoot. It’s the perfect time to take your holiday photo with the ideal backdrop — a gorgeous vineyard! Undulating hills covered with vineyards that are turning color in the fall. Tree covered mountain in the background.

      #2 – Unique Experience

      Where else can you enjoy a two-day progressive food and wine tasting experience? Have you looked at the program and seen the delicious food options and all the wineries who are participating? If you’ve not had the pleasure of attending Wine & Food Affair before, let me fill you in how it works. You go online and buy a ticket that is good for the entire weekend. At the time you purchase your ticket(s), you select a starting winery where you’ll check in. At check in, you get a wristband to indicate you’re a ticketholder and pick up your Wine Road logo glass that you’ll use all weekend and then take home. Once you’ve checked in, you’re free to go to any of the participating wineries. To make the most of the event, be sure to review the program and have a general plan for the day so your progressive tasting follows a logical path. [caption id="attachment_81875" align="aligncenter" width="900"]A large piece of mouthwatering lasagna with two bottles of Colagrossi 2018 Sangiovese just behind the food. Mouthwatering lasagna at Colagrossi Wines during 2022 Wine & Food Affair.[/caption]

      #3 – Add-on Events

      There are three Friday Night events ticket holders can attend as well. Two require an additional ticket purchase and one is complimentary. Alexander Valley Vineyards is hosting an insider’s tour of their barrel-aging wine cave and tasting with light appetizers. This is a ticketed event. Hook & Ladder Winery will have a complimentary concert, with their wine and food truck fare available for purchase. West Wines is offering a Sunset Library Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting with their winemaker Katarina Bonde. This is also a ticketed event. There is also a VIP package with Friday Night Happy Hour at Limerick Lane and Saturday Morning Breakfast at Jordon Winery, plus a six-pack of spices, but all the VIP tickets quickly sold out. Maybe you can snag VIP tickets next year!

      #4 – The Food

      Each winery will be offering a tasty treat to pair with their wines. Here are just a few of the offerings: Smoked Duck Breast and Bresaola served with Rustic Bakery Olive Oil and Sel Gris Flatbread at Baldassari Wines Mushroom, Spinach and Gouda Puff Pastry at Bucher Wines at Grand Cru Conchiglioni Ricotta e Spinaci at Colagrossi Wines Rosemary Dark Chocolate Bonbon at EHRET Curried Orzo Marrakesh Al Baldi at Ektimo Winery Traditional French Cassoulet at GC Lurton Vineyards Kathleen’s Local Harvest Vegetable Paella at Kelley & Young Rigatoni Bolognese at Mengler Family Wines Lobster Bisque Drizzled with Truffle Oil alongside a Pullman Sourdough Grilled Cheese with a Savory Dollop of Tomato Jam at Pech Merle Winery Salmon Cake and Zucchini Fritter with Red Pepper Aioli at Russian River Vineyards Pumpkin Pear Bisque with Goat Cheese Brioche Croutons at Soda Rock Winery The list of foods being served is just mouthwatering. To view all the food offerings, check out the Wine & Food Affair program online. [caption id="attachment_81874" align="aligncenter" width="900"]A bottle of J. Bucher 2020 Pinot Noir, a Wine Road glass with a little wine in it, and a slider on a paper plate. The perfect pairing at Bucher Wines during last year's Wine & Food Affair.[/caption]

      #5 – The Wine

      The wineries along the Wine Road all produce stellar wines. By attending Wine & Food Affair, you’ll have the opportunity to explore new wineries, plus visit some of your favorites. The Wine Road website lists all the Wine & Food Affair participating wineries, and has a link to a map showing each winery’s location. When you click on a colored winery marker, a side window opens, giving details about the winery including what food they’ll be serving. This is the perfect tool to help you plan your itinerary each day. Sample of the Wine & Food Affair online map showing details on Pedroncelli Winery and where the participating wineries are located. As you’re planning your path, be sure to add in a few off-the-beaten-path wineries on Sonoma County’s renowned and beautiful less-traveled roads.

      #6 - The Value

      Have you purchased a winery wine and food pairing experience recently? If you have, you’ll know that rarely are any of them offered for less than $50 and often they are much more. A ticket to Wine & Food Affair is $125 for the entire weekend. Each day you can go to as many or as few wineries as you like during the five-hour tasting window. If you like to linger and thoroughly enjoy the experience at each stop, you might only able to do five wineries a day, or ten over two days. However, I know folks who carefully plan their itineraries and visit eight or more wineries each day. Whether you go to ten wineries for the weekend or more, this wine and food experience is a bargain! Can’t make it both days? There are Sunday-only tickets, and if you’re lucky enough to have a designated driver, there are reduced tickets for the DDs as well. Plus, if you’re a Wine Road Insider, you get 10% off your purchase one or two tickets.

      #7 - Ideal Wine Country Weekend

      What could be more enjoyable than spending a weekend in Northern Sonoma County’s Wine Country than cruising along scenic backroads, sipping on delicious wines and partaking of tasty treats at each stop? I can’t think of too many things I’d rather be doing the weekend of November 4th and 5th, can you? Hope to see you along the Wine Road at Wine & Food Affair 2023. Happy Sipping!