Expert Guides


Quick Brief: Food and wine are incredibly inter-related reflected over centuries in absolutely every culture. Generally, there’s a reason that the wines made in any given area pair so well with the local cuisine. That’s how and why this basic mantra became the foundation wine country learning block and continues to this day: “If it grows together, it goes together.”

Over the last 20 years as more and more people (especially women) embraced wine and were discovering wines they liked, they were also discovering the best foods to pair with their new wine favorites.

Mayo & the mob: For the last 5-10 years, Mayo Family Winery (Sonoma) made an art of pairing their wines with their in-house chef’s extraordinary tapas, petite gourmet bites – even desserts.

Now, with Mayo’s success dubbed “awesome and best value in wine country” by The Wall Street Journal and with more Millennials embracing wine and the foodie world using Instagram to share their food and wine pairings, it seems like every week another Napa or Sonoma winery is adding a food and wine pairing activity for their customers.

In the “beginning”: The misleading pairing guideline was simple: “reds go with meats and whites go with veggies, fish and seafood”. All well and good but it so vastly underestimated the complementary enhancement that food and wine shared in one’s dining experience. And it took away from the fun and adventure of discovering new wine-food combinations. Finally, let us not forget: the chance to impress one’s dinner guests or business associates at lunch.

Foodies & Creative Chefs: And since the early 2000’s, the food world was changing and as the term “foodie” emerged reflecting that group’s serious interest in all kinds of food, chefs were making very creative changes to classic recipes and with it the need for additional ways to determine which wine type went with which variation on a theme.

Congruent: So the next platforms of decision-pairing came to the fore: congruent – matching similar flavors such as acidic or sweeter wines with similar foods or…

Contrasting: Think fatty foods with acidic wine and spicy foods with sweeter wines.

Vegan: But what if you are a vegan and don’t necessarily like white wine, what do you do? Out of the shadows a variation on a theme was preached – Choose your wine based on acidic, sweet or spicy flavors of the sauce for your menu items as reflected in congruent or contrasting pairing.

Bubbly: Finally, what so few people think about except for holiday turkey, prime rib etc. pairings typically associated with Thanksgiving or Christmas, Hannukah or Easter is Bubbly. Yes, Sparkling Wines, Prosecco, Cava and Champagne can be your trusted go-to pairing partner because they are more food-friendly than still wines.

The Old Rules:

  • Reds go with meats; whites go with fish & veggies.
  • Congruent – matching wines & food with similar flavor profiles (acidic, sweet, bitter).
  • Contrasting – matching wines & food with opposing flavor profiles (acidic, sweet, bitter).
  • Sauces – applying the approach from 2 & 3 above to the sauces on your menu items.
  • When stymied or just adventurous – A Sparkler is always safe and can turn an ok meal into a celebratory event!

The New Rule:

  • Forget Rules 1-5 and drink what you like when you like. We also try to imbue this lesson in our clients’ simple wine tasting experiences: you don’t have to like a wine because a famed wine critic said it was great. Only you and your palette should be your final judge!

The Future Installments: Every month we’ll supply a few new category pairings here and in our Monthly Newsletter and if you have a favorite or need a solution to a pairing dilemma, share it with us and we’ll try to help.

Now it’s time for some fun and new tasting experiences we’re sure.