Tales from the Tasting Room
Blog updates from Preston Radford, Tasting Room Manager, Sommelier
Stay tuned for tasting and wine pairing notes as we sample upcoming vintages!
Celebrate the Everyday
General Guidelines for pairing food with wine
Pairing wine and food seems to be one of the most intimidating things. There is a stigma attached to getting that perfect pairing and there are entire libraries devoted to the subject. For me there are few excellent pairings, such as fresh oysters on the half shell and champagne (sparkling), and conversely there are very few outright disasters like chocolate cake and champagne (sparkling). Food and wine pairing should be something to have fun with and not worth stressing about.
Basically, my philosophy is don’t be a slave to rules, take them as rough approximations, experiment and have some fun.
Having said all that here are a few guidelines that I use to help me along when determining a good or unexpected food pairing.
Pair the region to the food – if you look at where the wine comes from (we are talking old world here) and what type or style of food is grown there, you can’t go too far wrong. For an example – the Champagne region is famous for Reims Ham, Reims Mustard, Chaource Cheese, Truffles and Pink Biscuits (Les biscuits roses de Reims, locals are fond of dipping them into a glass of champagne). So, it only stands to reason that these foods will pair wonderfully with champagne.
Pair the wine with the most dominant element in the dish or on the plate. Many of today’s gastronomic ‘events’ are complex and made up of numerous ingredients. It can be a herculean if not impossible task to try to find a wine that perfectly pairs with every single element in a dish. What I find to be the most helpful is to identify the predominant flavor or ingredient and work from there. When you pair a wine based of the dominant flavours, I find the supporting characters fall into place, but it is sometimes fun to take a supporting flavour and experiment with pairing with wine to see what if anything happens to the dish.
Generally, when trying to work out what wine will go with a dish or meal, I try to tackle it somewhat systematically, working from the least forgiving of my guidelines to the most forgiving. What I tend to look at first is the sweetness level of the dish. I find that this is the aspect of food and wine pairing that has the least amount of flexibility. A wine should be at least as sweet as the food that you are trying to pair it with. When a wine is drier that the food, I find that the wine becomes flat and sometimes will give it almost a sour aftertaste. Having said that I do find that a bit of sweetness in a wine will often balance out some heat or spice in a food.
Once I have tackled the sweetness equation what I would then tend to look at is the weight or body of the food I am trying to pair. This will more often come down to perception and how you personally interpret these aspects of a dish, but a few very simple examples would be: a powerful red will likely overwhelm a light salad with a citrusy vinaigrette. Conversely a soft, fruity white will likely lose its way against a rich meaty stew.
Working down my checklist, this is the one that I tend to have the most fun with as it is the most versatile, and that is acidity. Here is where I tend to work slightly backwards and look at the wine first, a nice dry, high acid Riesling will cut through rich foods. High acid wines will also stand up to any tartness in the food. Sparkling wines tend to be high in acid, so I love to experiment with using them as a counterpoint to fried foods or foods higher in salt.
The last thing that I will look at will generally have to do with red wines and food – that is where I will look at tannins and alcohol and how these will affect the food. Tannin absorbs fat, making it such a great accompaniment to red meats. The main thing that I keep in mind when I am looking at a tannic or red higher in alcohol is the effect that these elements have on spice. These wines have a tendency to make spicy foods spicier and bitter food seem even more bitter. With these guidelines I will generally pair these bolder reds with rich savoury dishes.
My one last comment is that it is sometimes best to let one or the other become the ‘star of the show’ if you have a great bottle of wine that you have been hoarding for that special occasion. Let it shine and either enjoy on its own (with the best company of course!) or pair it with a simpler dish. Or conversely if your chef is letting his creative juices flow, then pair with a simple versatile wine.
These are just the guidelines that I use but my most important motivator has always been to have some fun and try different things. I once paired a beautifully aged port with some spicier chorizo and was wonderfully surprised at the result, but always have a tried and true bottle waiting in the wings.
Here are a few surprising everyday food pairings for your favourite sparkling wine that will elevate even your Thursday night Netflix marathons.
- Anything fried – a few of my favourites include fried chicken (KFC – who would have thought!), mushrooms and zucchini sticks – even mozzarella sticks.
- Crudité – Just a fancy work for raw vegetables – for a dip I like Olive Tapenade or Taramasalada
- Crostini – Another of those fancy words – this one is small toasts – again for a topping try anchovy, olives, goat cheese or prosciutto.
- Hard Cheeses – Pecorino or an aged cheddar – there are a few good Italian pecorino’s out there with truffle that are easily available and relatively inexpensive.
- Potato Chips or Popcorn – try adding a bit of truffle oil to your melted butter and a touch or dried thyme.
- Mac and Cheese – to get a bit decadent and a bit more mileage out of your truffle oil – add to your cheese sauce and top with a bit of crispy pancetta and brioche breadcrumbs.
- CORN DOGS – no seriously – use ketchup if you must but I prefer a good Dijon or stoneground mustard.
- Grilled Cheese – Do we see a cheese theme developing here – I use a favourite sourdough and add a bit of ham and caramelized onion.
- Vegetarian Chili – Doctor up some store-bought chili with some extra red beans and top with a bit of grated cheddar.
- Prawn Spring / Egg Rolls – your favourite Chinese takeaway never felt this good – plus an excuse to have another glass an hour later.
- Fish Tacos – keep the spice down with a nice salsa verde and don’t forget the avocado
- Margherita Pizza – this is awesome with a Rose sparkler.
- Eggs Benny – quintessential brunch fair but skip the orange juice – to impress that special someone substitute the ham for smoked salmon (lox) and capers.
- Fruit Desserts – anything with fresh berries – add a few to your glass for a bit of extra presentation.
Above all – have some fun and ENJOY!
Well is looks like Summer has finally arrived! (well sort of)
Like many of you when the weather turns warm my thoughts turn to the BBQ, great food and of course great wine. We recently did a tasting of our new 2018 Pinot Grigio and I was immediately transported to those wonderful summer days with friends and family, and especially a trip to Italy where I had a day that will live with me for a lifetime. A day spent exploring and discovering, culminating in a wonderful meal by the ocean of the freshest seafood and a wine that I came to love.
I immediately got in touch with some of my best friends and set about trying to recreate this experience, and let’s face it this is no easy feat for those of us in the hospitality industry! A date set and we were off, we are very lucky here in the Okanagan that we have access to some of the best ingredients around. We spent the morning gathering everything together – raiding gardens and some of our favorite fruit stands as well as our new best friend, the local fish monger. At the end of the day we gathered and started to create. Everyone was given a task and the patio was abuzz with stories and laughter, reminiscing some of our best times together.
Just as the sun had reached the horizon the meal was ready, the Pinot Grigio was chilled to perfection and it was time. We had been lucky enough to score some fresh in season Halibut. We seasoned it very simply with EVOO, Lemon, Lime and a bit of Herb de Province. Done to perfection on the BBQ with some beautiful new potatoes, greens with some fresh berries and melon, and some lovely baby vegetables. We took a moment to admire our work, everyone stuck in and there were a few moments of quiet as we all savoured the perfectly paired flavours of summer with the newly released Pinot Grigio. The delicateness of the Halibut struck just the right note with the crisp citrus notes in the Pinot, and the addition of the Herb de Provence melded wonderfully with the lingering finishing note of pear and melon. Each note would linger and then perfectly evolve seamlessly to the next creating almost a dance on the palate that only left you wanting more.
Soon the last morsel had disappeared and over another glass we continued the easy banter that can only be achieved with those closest to you. All too soon it was time to call the evening to a close, but with a promise that we will get together again soon. While this was not the same as that day in Italy in a lot of ways this was better, a day spent with those closest to me and memories created that will come to me every time that I find a fresh bottle of Pinot Grigio in my fridge.
To get this limited new vintage of Pinot Grigio please follow the link
Recipe for Halibut
Filet of Halibut (Fresh Trout would work wonderfully as well)
Salt and Pepper
Herb de Provence
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
On a piece of foil place your filet of Halibut and rub with some EVOO, season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange slices of lemon and lime (alternating) and then season with some Herb de Provence. Heat the BBQ to medium and place the Halibut - the Halibut should only take 15-30 minutes to cook through depending on the thickness of your filet. Serve with fresh lemon and lime and a gentle sprinkling of fresh Herb de Provence. Enjoy with some Pinot Grigio!