How to Pair Chardonnay with Food

Chardonnay is one of the most popular wine varieties in the world. In fact, it is the most widely planted white grape variety here in Washington State. This food friendly white wine also happens to complement a number of my favorite dishes! To create the ultimate match, here are some easy tips to pair chardonnay with food.

Chardonnay Food Pairing
Shrimp Risotto and Chardonnay are a great match

Flavors in Chardonnay

Match Chardonnay with food using similar or contrasting flavors.
♦ Pear ♦ Lemon ♦ Apple ♦ Pineapple ♦ Vanilla ♦ Butter

Base Ingredients

Select a base ingredient that is likely to match with the variety.
♦ Crab ♦ Shrimp ♦ Scallops ♦ Mussels ♦ Halibut ♦ Salmon
♦ Chicken ♦ Turkey ♦ Quail ♦ Lobster

Bridge Ingredients

And/or use these bridge ingredients:
Tip: select one or just a few. A dish that’s too busy competes with the wine rather than complements it.
♦ Apple ♦ Pear ♦ Fennel ♦ Citrus ♦ Corn ♦ Dijon Mustard ♦ Vanilla
♦ Dairy ♦ Roasted Garlic ♦ Parmesan ♦ Swiss Cheese

Suggested to Pair Chardonnay with Food

When we’re in a celebratory mood at our house, I make a batch of crab cakes and break out a lightly oaked chardonnay. This pairing is THE way to celebrate a special occasion! Buttered corn makes a terrific side.

Food Pairing for Chardonnay
Crab Cakes and Chardonnay are the ultimate celebratory pairing

Riff on risotto and drizzle it with truffle oil for a decadent pairing. Or, keep it classic and top that risotto with some shrimp. Either way, you can’t go wrong with Chablis. Chablis hails from the Bourgogne region in France where the Chardonnay is known for its bright acidity and minerality. Translation:  it’s the opposite of buttery California Chardonnay.

Alternatively, try dishes such as lemon chicken, corn chowder (chilled or warm), roasted salmon, or Thanksgiving fare. It is also a nice pairing for my Light Weeknight Macaroni and Cheese Recipe.

Chardonnay Day

One of my early experiences on Twitter involved participating in wine chats. Initially there was Taste Live. Then, Rick Bakas founded Chardonnay day in 2010. It gave us the perfect excuse to gather with friends over food and wine. Of course, it also meant posting impressions of the wines and pairings on Twitter.

Chardonnay Day still takes place annually on the Thursday before Memorial Day. Either Twitter or Instagram are great places to share your experience. If you’re celebrating on this day, be sure to use the #ChardDay hashtag and tag me so I can see how you choose to pair Chardonnay with food!

#LetsTalkAboutWine

How to Pair Malbec with Food

Ten years ago things really started to heat up in my kitchen! I was a student at the Northwest Wine Academy not only studying the craft of winemaking, but learning the art of pairing the finished product with food. In one of the classes Chef Lenny Rede challenged us with an assignment he titled, “Iron Chef:  Malbec.” The goal was to create a dish to complement a Malbec of his choosing. Here are the principles we applied to pair Malbec with food.

Flavors in Malbec

Pair Malbec with food using similar or contrasting flavors.
Blackberry ♦ Blueberry ♦ Cocoa ♦ Citrus ♦ Black Pepper ♦ Smokiness

Ingredients

Select a base ingredient that is likely to match with the variety.
Beef ♦ Lamb ♦ Veal ♦ Pork ♦ Tuna ♦ Chicken ♦ Duck ♦ Sausage

And/or use these bridge ingredients:
Tip:  select one or just a few. A dish that’s too busy competes with the wine rather than complements it.
Blackberries ♦ Blueberries ♦ Mushrooms ♦ Sun Dried Tomato ♦ Balsamic Vinegar ♦ Beets ♦ Bacon ♦ Aged Cheeses ♦ Mustard

Cooking Techniques

Grilling ♦ Roasting ♦ Smoking ♦ Barbecuing

Of course, let’s not forget one of the great food and wine pairing principles that says, “If it grows together it goes together.” In other words, pair Malbec with a dish you would find in an area where the wine is widely produced, such as Argentina. You know, like grilled steak and chimichurri! Or empanadas.

Meat

Suggested Food Pairings for Malbec

Back in class, some roasted sweet potatoes that Chef had served us inspired me to consider preparing sweet potato gnocchi and topping it with a Chimichurri sauce rather than pesto. Then, my class partner tasted my gnocchi and very nicely suggested that we try something else. “It might take us a while to perfect the technique for making those light fluffy pillows,” she hinted. Let’s just say I’m still working on that!

Winning dishes presented in our Iron Chef:  Malbec showdown included vegan chili, goulash, and a lovely cheese plate.

A good friend prepares a roast chicken by massaging baking spices under the skin. It’s a truly lovely match for Malbec.

Mole sauce is also fun to pair with Malbec. I like to go rogue and use it as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or a topping for turkey meatloaf. In Seattle, the French Grocery at Pike Place Market usually carries a mole paste that enables the home cook to whip up a batch of mole without spending days in the kitchen.

Also, if you’re a fan of the grape, be sure to mark your calendar – Malbec World Day is on April 17th each year. Join the celebration!

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!

Resources

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.

A Tale of Two Carménères

Is there a big difference between Carménère grown in Chile versus Carménère grown in Washington State? I put them to a taste test and was surprised by what I discovered.

Although Washington State is home to roughly 70 varieties, there are not a lot of Carménère vines planted. So when I received a sample bottle of a new release of the variety from Davenport Cellars I couldn’t wait to experience it! I also wanted a point of reference. So I picked up a bottle of Carménère from Chile to see how the two compare.

Washington State vs. Chile

With the first whiff of the ruby red Davenport Cellars wine, one word came to mind. Granted, it’s not something I say in everyday conversation. It is, however, a word emphasized by a sommelier when I participated in an advanced wine sensory class last winter. That word is rotundone. Simply put, it’s a peppery characteristic. In this case, it was present as a pronounced aroma of white pepper. Each delectable sip of this wine confirmed the presence of that spicy compound.

Here’s where things get interesting. When tasting the Chilean Carménère, the first thing I noticed were strong notes of bell pepper. This trait is known as pyrazine, a fancy word for an aroma compound identified by its noticeable vegetal attributes. In fact, Carménère is known for its high level of pyrazines. Sipping this wine was like tasting a bite of veggie pizza with green bell pepper, black olives, tomato sauce, and sprinkled with oregano.

What caught me by surprise was that one wine roused my senses with its vibrant spicy character while the other taunted with an intense green and herbaceous nature. If all Washington State Carménère is this distinctive and lively, I must have more!

It’s not often that I share my tasting notes and opinions of wines. What I taste and experience is just that – my experience. Nevertheless, I hope by sharing this particular tasting it will inspire others to explore Carménère for themselves.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work with Davenport Cellars in Woodinville Wine Country. I have long been a fan of this husband and wife owned winery.

The Wines

Davenport Cellars 2015 Carménère
Available direct from the winery for $30.
This Woodinville based boutique winery produced just 77 cases of this wine crafted with fruit from acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carménère 2017
Available online via U.S. retailers for around $8.

If this does encourage you to try Carménère, please share your findings on social either via Twitter or Instagram and #LetsTalkAboutWine!

Want to learn more? A great resource on wine is the latest Wine Folly book.

Pairing Cabernet Franc with Food

Cabernet Franc is one of my red wines of choice when pairing wine with food. Although the red grape is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is not quite as full-bodied. This makes it a better match for the type of meals I prepare at home. Those meals are often composed of roasted vegetables seasoned with herbs, and void of red meat. With an herbaceous character, and often notes of bell pepper (for you wine geeks, that’s called pyrazine), Cabernet Franc is a wonderful pairing partner.

Food Pairing Cabernet Franc
Herb flecked Farrotto pairs well with Cabernet Franc

Tips for Pairing Cabernet Franc with Food

Match the wine with food using similar or contrasting flavors:
♦ Raspberry ♦ Black Currant ♦ Green Bell Pepper

Use one of these base ingredients:
♦ Beef ♦ Lamb ♦ Game ♦ Duck ♦ Pork ♦ Eggplant

And/or use these bridge ingredients:
♦ Basil ♦ Bay Leaf ♦ Garlic ♦ Rosemary ♦ Oregano
♦ Red Sauce ♦ Roasted Veggies ♦ Mushrooms ♦ Hearty Grains

Use these cooking techniques:
♦ Grilling ♦ Roasting ♦ Stewing

Try dishes such as veggie pizza, herbed farrotto, pasta with hearty red sauce, pepper steak, roasted vegetables, mushroom ravioli, roast pork with fruit sauce.

Paring Cabernet Franc with food isn’t the only way to celebrate this magnificent variety. If you’re a fan of the grape, be sure to mark your calendar! Cabernet Franc Day is on December 4th each year. Many thanks to Dracaena Wines for dedicating a day to this grape.