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.
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.
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.
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:
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)
And/or include ingredients that connect the wine with the food:
Suggested Dishes for Pairing Pinot Noir
- Consider Pinot Noir for a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
- Following the classic “if it grows together it goes together” theory, Pinot Noir and salmon have long been a definitive Northwest pairing.
- One of my personal favorite Sunday dinners to serve with Pinot Noir is Braised Chicken in White Wine and Mustard by “On Rue Tatin” author Susan Hermann Loomis.
- Check out the Willamette Valley Wine website for a recipe from Left Coast Cellars for Pinot Noir Braised Short Ribs.
If you’re hungry for more wine and food pairing, check out these posts: