Pairing Pasta Marinara with Washington Wine

Here we are stuck at home. Well, at least there’s pasta in the pantry. Truly, no pantry should be without dried pasta and jarred sauce at any time. In this case, we’re talking about pretty much any dried noodle with a tomato based sauce, such as marinara. This pantry meal is a weeknight miracle enabling dinner to get on the table in a minimal amount of time. Now, let’s take it to the next level and talk about pairing pasta marinara with wine.

Wine Pairing Guidelines

When you hear wine pros talk about selecting a pairing for tomato sauce they talk about acidity. The rule in wine pairing is that the wine acidity level should be equal to or slightly greater than the level of the food’s acidity level. Since tomatoes are an acidic food, it follows that the wine to complement tomato sauce needs to meet or slightly exceed the sauce’s acidity. Blah, blah, blah, right? Who typically knows what that heck that means? Honestly, it wasn’t until I started seriously studying wine that I even contemplated acid in wine. So, here’s one way to simplify it. Think about how a squeeze of citrus can wake up a dressing or fried fish. Ta daaaaa! It’s because that squeeze of lemon or lime adds acid.

How do you know if a wine has bright acid? Basically, if the wine makes your mouth water after you swallow a sip then bingo, you have a winner! Several go-to red wine varieties with this characteristic are Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Barbera.

Pairing Pasta Marinara with Washington Wines

Pro tip:  when heating up the sauce, add a splash of wine. A splash for the cook might be just the right thing, too!

Washington State wines offer a New World interpretation of Old World varieties. The following are a few Washington wines I’ve had the pleasure of tasting recently and recommend.

As I write this, Washington State is under a stay-home order due to the recent pandemic.  Local wineries have been hit hard as a result. Forced tasting room and restaurant closures combined with canceled release parties have resulted in decreased sales for many. Thankfully, a number of wineries have quickly pivoted and offer online and/or phone orders with options such as no-contact curbside pickup and even delivery. Some have shipping specials as well. If you are a wine lover and able to spend money to enjoy some wine at home, purchasing direct from wineries can help keep these businesses going. Just be sure to check each winery’s website or Facebook page for current updates. Don’t let these challenging times prevent you from getting your hands on some delectable juice and supporting the wine industry!

Foundry Vineyards 2016 Sangiovese

$32 / bottle
This wine is 100% Sangiovese from the acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla Valley. Aged 24 months in 50% new French Oak barrels, I noted flavors of root beer candy, anise, Italian plum, and raspberry. It’s been dubbed the “yeah, sure” wine by tasting room staff because it’s what they say whenever asked if they want to open a bottle. In addition to being my recommended pour with pasta marinara, they suggest pairing it with everything from pho to tikka masala. The Foundry Vineyards Sangiovese is a delightfully juicy, lively wine.

Patterson Cellars 2017 Sangiovese

$38 / bottle
This wine is 91% Sangiovese and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet brings some chocolate to the party, making it a deeper, moodier style. In fact, if Cabernet Sauvignon is usually your go-to wine, this could be the gateway to other varieties. The Patterson Cellars Sangiovese is an ideal selection for those who appreciate a full bodied red wine.

Cascade Cliffs 2018 Nebbiolo

$55 / bottle
A lighter option, this Washington State example is crafted with fruit from the winery’s estate as well as McKinley Springs Vineyard. I picked up notes of leather and vibrant strawberry on the palate. This sassy Nebbiolo from Cascade Cliffs is delightfully approachable. I also couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle of their Dolcetto.

If you’re looking for an alternative to pasta marinara, check out my easy pairing for puttanesca sauce and red wine.

Are there other pantry pairings you’ve enjoyed lately? Head on over to Twitter or Instagram, share, and tag me!

Easy Pairing: Puttanesca Sauce and Red Wine

My secret sauce for pairing wine with food is, well, sauce! It’s a particularly handy approach to bring red wine together with dishes that are meatless. Plus, sauce has the ability to nurture us in times of trouble. Whether it’s the creamy comfort of a melty cheese base reassuringly enveloping tubes of macaroni, or a vibrant red concoction clinging to long strands of spaghetti, sauce gives us sustenance when we are hungry for better times. Let’s talk about one of the less common sauces – puttanesca – and pairing it with red wine.

All the cool cats love puttanesca sauce!

Of Italian origin, puttanesca sauce is composed of capers, olives, anchovies, crushed red peppers, garlic, and tomatoes. All those briny, spicy, umami flavors are a wake-up call for the taste buds. While devouring the following preparation, the mouth fills with sensations of mild chili heat countered by the cool creaminess of the cheese.

Serving Puttanesca Sauce

Traditionally, puttanesca sauce is served over spaghetti. Recently, however, it was served to us at Seattle restaurant, Tilikum Place Cafe, as a starter course. The shallow bowl delivered to our table had a base layer of slightly warmed up puttanesca. Then, in the center of the bowl was a glistening white orb of burrata cheese. The captivating thing about burrata is how it looks like ordinary mozzarella yet exudes a creamy white filling when cut open. It’s a gratifying effect similar to tucking into a perfectly cooked poached egg and watching the yolk ooze out. The crusty grilled bread served alongside provided an excellent carrier for the sauce and burrata combination, each bite delivering a celebration of textures and flavors. Continue reading “Easy Pairing: Puttanesca Sauce and Red Wine”

Pairing Pinot Noir with Food

Pairing Pinot Noir with food is one of the best ways I know of to up your dinner game. After all, this variety of red wine is generally lighter in body and lower in tannin than most red wines. Those qualities can make it quite food friendly. Think of Pinot Noir as a refined dinner date that offers engaging conversation while gradually revealing its sophisticated personality.

Location Matters

Here in the Pacific Northwest, incredible examples of Pinot Noir can be found in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. While attending the Wine Writers Educational Tour in August, I was taken on a far-reaching journey, exploring the diverse characteristics of the AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) within this region.

Pinot Noir Tasting
Tasting Oregon Pinot Noir is the Best Way to Understand It

The Dundee Hills AVA is generally known for producing Pinot Noir that is red fruit oriented. By contrast, the Yamhill-Carlton AVA can tend to produce wines with riper, blue fruit characteristics.

Wines from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA were explained by Shane Moore, Winemaker at Zena Crown, as depicting circular shapes.

“Elevation is a big dictator of the wine you’re going to get,” remarked Luisa Ponzi, second generation winemaker at Ponzi Vineyards.

Winemaking Matters

Not only do different vineyard sources influence what’s in bottle, winemakers have different styles. For example, winemaker Erik Kramer of WillaKenzie is looking for “flavor town” when making picking decisions.

By contrast, Aaron Bell, winemaker at Domaine Drouhin, is “looking for liquid cashmere.”

What does this all boil down to when selecting a recipe to serve with a bottle of Pinot Noir? It means that those softer, circular wines can work with lighter fare. Alternately, those riper styles can make a nice counterpoint to a fattier, hearty dish. Below are some further guidelines to help pair Pinot Noir with dinner.

Flavors in Pinot Noir

Consider the flavors of the wine, and create a match by incorporating or complementing those flavors in the food:

Base Ingredients

Start with one of these proteins to pair with Pinot Noir:
Tuna (think Ahi/seared or grilled)
Pork (to be clear, this includes bacon and sausages)

Bridge Ingredients

And/or include ingredients that connect the wine with the food:
Dijon Mustard

Thanksgiving wine and food

Suggested Dishes for Pairing Pinot Noir

If you’re hungry for more wine and food pairing, check out these posts:

Pairing Malbec with Food

Pairing Merlot with Food

Pairing Chardonnay with Food

Pairing Rosé with Summertime Foods

Pairing Merlot with Food

Let’s talk about what a fantastic variety Merlot is for accompanying dinner. This medium bodied red wine can be round and silky, making it a great wine to bring to the table. So, here is a quick and easy guide on pairing Merlot with food!

Quick tip: match the wine with food using by using the wine in marinades and sauces.


Consider the flavors of the wine, and create a match by incorporating or complementing those flavors in the food:
Baking spices

Start with one of these proteins to pair with Merlot:


And/or include ingredients that connect the wine with the food (aka “bridge ingredients”):

Herbs (especially thyme)
Cheddar Cheese

Noah Fox Reed, currently the winemaker at Tinte Cellars, once suggested pairing Merlot with food you normally pair with Cabernet Sauvignon. Think grilled or roasted beef, lamb, and duck.


Although red wines have been known to be traditionally served with red meat, vegetarians should not despair! Try a dish such as farrotto, a preparation made in the style of risotto that substitutes the rice with the ancient grain farro. It’s got a richer flavor, and the dish has more weight to it making it perfect for fall and pairing with Merlot.

One of my favorite Merlot pairings comes from a friend – a cherry and basil salad with balsamic onions. Instead of lettuce she uses basil leaves. There are some lovely cherry infused balsamic vinegars that can be used to make a vinaigrette dressing. Give it a try during cherry season!

Whether we’re celebrating Merlot Month in October, International Merlot Day in November, or just a regular weeknight, Merlot is a variety we tend to keep on hand at home for regular uncorking. It’s a softer red wine than some other varieties, and it suits the type of foods I often prepare for dinner. What are you serving up with Merlot? Head on over to Instagram and spill it!

Pairing Rosé with Summertime Foods

When I ask my friends what they like to pair with rosé, many often cheekily respond, “Summer nights on the patio.” In all seriousness, though, rosé and summertime foods need to be on your picnic table! Let’s take a look at some of the mouthwatering rosé food pairings I’m serving up as well as those recommended by some of my favorite wine and food lovers on social media.

pairing for rose wine

Almond, Anchovy, and Fennel Toasts

This recipe for Almond, Anchovy, and Fennel Toasts comes from acclaimed chef, cookbook author, and TV host, Joanne Weir. Don’t let the anchovies turn your back on this delectable preparation. They add a bit of umami and saltiness which are countered nicely by a bright, dry rosé. This dish is my go-to starter when friends join us for dinner.

Salade Nicoise

A Provencal classic, this dish originated in the south of France where they know a thing or two about pairing rosé with food.

We also enjoy a variety of salads made with seasonal ingredients sourced from our local farmers market. Dry crisp rosés pair with more savory salads while off-dry (slightly sweet) rosés get poured with fruit based salads. A summer strawberry salad is a favorite of AdVINEtures.

Grilled Salmon

A crisp rosé and salmon are pure harmony. Pro tip:  sprinkle some smoked salt on the salmon during cooking.

Charcuterie and Cheese

“Honestly a cheese plate is my favorite pairing because that’s what I open for cheese plate nights on the patio!” professes Dani G. Morris. In agreement is Pam of Always5Star. Also, don’t miss the beautiful grazing boards from Fine Foodie Philanthropist.

Chilled Cherry Soup

chilled cherry summer soup with rose wine

If you like your wine on the sweet side, my recipe for Chilled Cherry Soup is the perfect pairing for an off-dry rosé on a hot summer day!

Hot Dogs

Although I’m not a hot dog eater myself, wine writers Michelle Williams and Kathleen Willcox sing the praises of a dog served up with a glass of pink.

Tater Tots

If you’re going to have hot dogs with your wine, you might as well take it to the next level and dish up some Tater Tots and dips. Right?

Serving Rosé

Sure, Rosé is meant to be chilled. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to drink it right out of the fridge. Consider taking rosé out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving time. That enables more of the enticing fruit flavors to show up.

Currently, I’m a little obsessed with Devison Vintners Rosé. What’s on your picnic table? Head on over to Twitter and Instagram and #LetsTalkAboutWine and rosé food pairings!