Pairing Tempranillo with Vegetarian Food

What do you do when you want to uncork a red wine with dinner, but red meat isn’t on the menu? The trick is to find a dish with the right bridge ingredients – those that connect the wine with the food. To do this, I recently turned to a recipe from the cookbook, Plenty, by Ottolenghi.

The response to my Instagram post of the pairing surprised me. People near and far chimed in about their appreciation for the cookbook, revealing how extensive a chef’s reach can be. Additionally, wine lovers revealed a thirst for Tempranillo. It served as a wonderful reminder that wine and food bring us closer together.

Instagram Post Food and Wine

A Dish for Tempranillo

I began with the wine, because a friend was joining us for dinner. We had all visited The Walls tasting room together when we traveled to the Celebrate Walla Walla event. The wines we tasted, crafted by talented winemaker Ali Mayfield, were stunning. It was time to uncork one of the wines purchased that day to relive that OMG memory.

Tempranillo has a depth and intensity that pairs well with meat. However, I did not plan to serve meat on this occasion. The vegetarian dish I usually turn to for Tempranillo is Tabbouleh Salad. This time, I wanted something a little more robust. Paging through Plenty, Ottolenghi’s recipe for Farro and Roasted Red Pepper Salad caught my eye. It combines the earthiness of farro, the savoriness of black olives, and the smokiness of paprika to pair like a dream with Tempranillo.

If you like Tempranillo, I urge you to give this pairing a try!


Learn more about Tempranillo and food pairing.

If you are in Seattle and want to explore wines from The Walls, Walla Walla Wines visit Seattle once a year.

Valentine Wine Pairings from 14 Wine Lovers

What do wine lovers uncork and serve up on Valentine’s Day? Curious, I posed the question on Instagram. Below is a summary of what people profess to be eating and drinking on the day of romance. So, if you are still trying to figure out how to make your sweetheart weak in the knees, here is all you need for inspiration.

What I find interesting is that these pairings come from a mix of casual wine drinkers, weekend wine warriors, students of wine, wine bloggers, professional wine writers, and wine industry professionals.
A big thank you to all for playing along!

pasta and red wine

There’s that adorable scene in Lady and the Tramp where they share a bowl of pasta. 🍝 But for some, that creates more of a Friends “Joey doesn’t share food” situation. 😳 In both cases, there’s no mention of wine! 🍷 So tell me, what’s your favorite romantic food and wine pairing for Valentine’s Day? ❤

Filet mignon and lobster tails. Wine of course – a nice Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 🍷

So many options! Champagne and oysters followed by a perfectly grilled steak & Washington Cab or Merlot 😊🍷

Champagne just oozes romance to me and one of my favorite things to have it with is steamed shellfish. Ok, that and French fries.

I always start with sparkling wine or champagne. It goes with just about anything and I a great way to clean the palate. My husband is always begging for my homemade chicken Parmesan with either pasta or cheese ravioli. It is a family favorite. I pair with that @luna.vineyards Sangiovese or if it’s a special night, Canto which is their Super Tuscan blend. Candles and a fireplace, nice music and we are all set. Hubby loves Port and dark chocolates to finish.

Always like seafood and a great white – love prawns, scallops- salmon or Halibut – lobster is the ultimate.

It’s cliché but sparkling wine is my wife’s favorite so we always go with something bubbly.
One of the things we love about it is how well bubbles go with everything–scallops, butternut squash lasagna, truffle fries, steak, fried chicken etc. We don’t try to pair it with anything in particular. Just the moment.

Dark chocolate and LBV Port.

Always wine and chocolate for us.

So many great suggestions. I think a beautiful bowl of Bolognese or wild boar ragu with a well-aged Brunello – it’s like an Italian opera.

Rosé champagne. Food optional so I’m not distracted from the wine!

Rosé Champagne and just about anything! Pink bubbles are always festive and fun.

We often make a fantastic breakfast for dinner, like Eggs Benedict with Dungeness Crab. We like to pair that with a great mimosa made with Prosecco.

Champagne is my favorite way to celebrate love. And it’s so food friendly!

We’ll start with some bubbly from @laetitiawine and finish with a bottle of @jordanwinery Cab. Only question will be which vintage to uncork with our filets!

What are you serving up? Do tell – head on over to Instagram and share! Speaking of Instagram, I’ve included links to the profiles of those mentioned in this post to make it easy to follow them.

Tater Tots and Wine

Tater tots and wine may seem like an unlikely match. Yet, why shouldn’t casual grub from the frozen food aisle be enjoyed with a nice glass of wine? Since there is an official National Tater Tot Day (I promise, I don’t make these things up), here are some of my favorite dipping sauces and wines to accompany the crispy potato bites.

Tater Tot Dips and Wines

Pesto Dip + Rosé
This pairing is a result of my yearning for spring, when we’re inclined to drink pink with greater frequency. The bright pop of a lemon laced pesto is so refreshing, and even more complex when part of an herb based sauce. Plus, the dip comes together quickly by mixing equal parts of pesto with sour cream. A nice, crisp rosé makes a lovely accompaniment.

Chimichurri + Torrontés
Both Chimichurri, an herb sauce similar to pesto, and the white wine, Torrontés, hail from south of the border. As the saying goes, if it grows together it goes together.

Guacomole + Albarino
If you love margaritas, you’re bound to appreciate Albarino! This vivacious white wine from Spain has the hallmark flavors of lime backed with a surprising salinity. Doesn’t that sound like the ultimate pairing for guac?

Barbecue Bean Dip + Zinfandel
What wine complements anything barbecue better than a nice, fruity Zinfandel? Check out Lodi for its beguiling Zins at reasonable prices.

Sloppy Tots + Cabernet Franc
That’s right, I said Sloppy Tots! Instead of a bun, throw that Sloppy Joe mixture on a bed of crispy tater tots. Then pour a Cabernet Franc alongside. The variety pairs well with the green pepper in the dish.

Did I miss an epic tot and wine pairing? Head on over to social media and let me know!

For more fun pairing ideas, check out my Flavorful Sparkling Wine and Popcorn Pairings.

Light Weeknight Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Here is a recipe for a lightened up macaroni and cheese that is packed with flavor. Feel virtuous even when pairing it with a glass of wine! Plus, with some shortcuts it comes together quickly making it perfect weeknight fare.

This dish is inspired by a recipe from the cookbook, “Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites”. The trick is to substitute the calorie laden béchamel sauce with a thick and creamy alternative. That magical element is quark, a versatile dairy product that is thick like Greek style yogurt.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Use a food processor to minimize prep and save time. Then, bake the macaroni and cheese in ramekins. Not only does this mean brief oven time, it also offers portion control.

Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Whole wheat pasta

Makes 4-6 Servings

  • 1/2 pound shell pasta or macaroni (I use whole wheat), cooked until al dente
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Low Fat Quark
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350˚. Use a mister to spray 4-6 eight ounce ramekins with a light coating of oil to prevent sticking. Time saver: use the grating attachment on a food processor to make quick work of prepping the Gruyere cheese and onion. Combine the grated Gruyere and onion in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Swap out the grating attachment in the food processor for the standard blade. In the food processor bowl, add the Quark, milk, mustard, nutmeg, and salt. Pulse until ingredients are combined. Pour contents into the mixing bowl containing the Gruyere cheese and grated onion. Add the cooked macaroni. Stir to combine ingredients.

Transfer the macaroni and cheese mixture to individual ramekins. Top each with Panko bread crumbs. Spritz each with a bit of oil from the mister.

Macaroni in ramekins

Put the filled ramekins in the oven. I recommend setting them all on a baking sheet just in case there are any drips. It also makes it easier to get them in and out of the oven. Bake for ten minutes or until bread crumbs are browned.

Note that these serving sizes are rather minimal. For a healthy and filling dinner, we typically combine it with another dish such as Easy Curried Sweet Potato Soup.

Wine Pairing for Macaroni and Cheese

Both the Gruyere cheese and the Dijon mustard make this dish a nice match for a Chardonnay. If you prefer a more fruity wine, reach for unoaked Chardonnay. In our house, however, we favor Chardonnay with a little creaminess. So, we usually look for one fermented in neutral oak.

When we are feeling fancy, I top the dish with splash of truffle oil and have the hubby break out some bubbly. Now, doesn’t that sound like a better way to get through the week? Tag me over on Twitter and let me know what you think!

Flavorful Sparkling Wine and Popcorn Pairings

Sparkling wine and popcorn? YES! Admit it, you’ve had carbonated beverages with salty treats before. This just ups your game! Here are some fab combos. It all begins with basic popcorn.

truffle salt and herb blend

Blanc de Blanc Champagne with Truffled Popcorn

This classy combo is perfect for kicking off the weekend on a Friday night or closing out the year on New Year’s Eve. After all, blanc de blanc Champagne is a classic! A brut or extra brut version that is crisp and dry (in other words, not sweet) is a refreshing contrast to the saltiness of the popcorn.

To make the popcorn, substitute truffle salt for regular salt. Beware – not all truffle salt is created equal! The one we use in our house contains 10% real truffle. That’s 2% more than most others. It’s also actual black summer truffle, not truffle “flavor”. For extra flavor, add a splash of truffle oil to the butter. A shaving of orange zest created a version the hubby will not stop talking about.

Sparkling Grüner Veltliner with Ranch Popcorn

This sparkling wine and popcorn pairing is a fun combo for board game night, or your game day viewing party. If you haven’t tried sparkling Grüner Veltliner yet, here’s the perfect excuse to seek it out! An impressive bottling comes from Syncline Wine Cellars in Washington State. Note:  this is not a paid endorsement, I just really like their wine!

In this take on seasoned popcorn, simply substitute ranch seasoning for salt. World Spice Merchants in Pike Place Market makes a fantastic herbaceous blend that’s quite different than packaged ranch dressings found in grocery stores. I also like to substitute some or all of the butter with good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Sparkling Rosé or Sparkling Syrah with Smoky Popcorn

The next time you’re binge watching Netfilx, serve up this sparkling wine and popcorn pairing! Crémant is a terrific alternative to Champagne, as it’s made using the same method but comes from different regions in France. As such, it is likely to also be crafted with grapes beyond the traditional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier. For example, a Crémant de Loire I recently purchased features a blend of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.

Gourmet salts are widely available in grocery stores and specialty shops these days. Even the hubby was able to track down an alder smoked salt to tuck into my Christmas stocking. It’s a tasty alternative to regular salt on popcorn. Just remember, a little goes a long way!

sparkling wine

Cava with Garlic Popcorn

Cava is another sparkling wine made in the Champagne method offering great value. Coming from Spain, the grapes traditionally used are Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.

For years now, I’ve seasoned my popcorn with garlic powder and salt. It might sound simplistic, but packs a lot of flavor.

Update! Some great comments were received on Instagram resulting in some additional noteworthy pairings:

Via Nick Berube, Wine Comm Guy:   I prefer a little heat on my popcorn like chili powder. Might work well with an off dry sparkling.

Per Rick of the blog Strong Coffee to Red Wine:   Ah popcorn with parmesan cheese and Lambrusco.

From Nancy (yes, another Nancy!) of the blog Pull That Cork:  I love California olive oil and salt on my popcorn paired with about any bubbly!

As the guys from the podcast We Like Drinking say, “You’re going to need more popcorn.”

There you have it, a basic snack just got more interesting. Go pop up the corn, unpop the cork, and share your favorite popcorn and sparkling wine combo on social media!

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