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What Goes With What? Vintners Weigh In on Favorite Food & Wine Pairings
By Marguerite Thomas
Apr 17, 2018
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As co-writer of WRO’s column Wine With, I spend a lot of time thinking about specific foods and wines and how they might, or might not, go well together.  Food and wine pairing choices can be personal and sometimes quirky (popcorn and Champagne), or obvious and unanimous (steak and Cabernet).  One thing I’ve learned about the subject during a long career of interviewing and frequently sharing meals with winemakers and others directly connected to wineries around the world is that many of these men and women take selecting the “right” wine to go with a particular meal very seriously.  Of course this is not a universal preoccupation--many vintners, like many consumers, do not really care all that much about what goes with what as long as the wine is good.  Still, people who work with wine all-day-every-day are inclined to have pretty definite ideas about what wines will best flatter the food they like. 

And so, with this in mind, I decided to ask a handful of vintners in a variety of different wine regions in the US, east and west, to describe one or more examples of their favorite food and wine pairings.  The only instructions I gave them was that they could not select their own wines.

--Carl Helrich, Allegro Vineyards, Brogue, Pennsylvania

“I’m a sucker for trocken or halb-trocken Riesling. Not sure if it’s my German last name or what, but there’s something appetite-whetting about those wines.  One of my favorites is Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen--there’s nothing like Riesling for lunch, or before dinner, or to re-inspire me after a day of tasting reds.

“But, like many winemakers, I’m blindly infatuated with great Pinot Noir. I find my highest highs usually in Oregon, where Cristom Jessie Vineyard and Louise Vineyard wines hold a special place for me.  Sometimes I’ll go for a Calera, which is one California Pinot I’m fond of.  Having these wines with roasted salmon with a soy-maple syrup based sauce is really the best combination of earthy savoriness with a bridge of sweetness that parallels what’s in my glass.”

--Rich Olsen-Harbich, Beddel Cellars, Cutchogue, Long Island, New York

“These are two pairings I really enjoy. The first is a wine from the Nahe region of Germany, which is where my mother’s ancestors have lived for hundreds of years.  One of the best wines in the region is Dönnhoff.  This pairing goes back to my childhood celebrations--my soul food: Dönnhoff Estate Riesling 2016, Nahe, paired with roast goose, spätzle and red cabbage.

“My second choice showcases the potential of Petit Verdot on Long Island’s North Fork, which I’m really excited about: “Channing Daughters Petit Verdot 2015, North Fork of Long Island, with grilled filet mignon, sweet corn, and roasted potatoes.

--Sheila Nicholas, Anam Cara Cellars, Newberg, Oregon

“Since we are Pinot Noir devotees, here is a wonderful pairing that I have yet to experience, so can only dream about now:  Slow cooked wine-braised wild boar stew with cracked dried juniper berries over polenta, paired with Harry Peterson-Nedry’s [Chehalem Winery] 2010 Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir.  This pairing is based on a recent winemaker dinner we had at Agrivino, a Willamette Valley ‘insider’ restaurant.  On that occasion the boar was perfect with our own 2014 Mark, but I think the power of Harry’s agreeable Ribbon Ridge Pinot would be spectacular with this dish.

“I also think fish and chips with dry Oregon Riesling is a match made in heaven!”

--Luca Paschina, Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, Virginia

“To celebrate spring: Risotto with morels and asparagus, with refreshing and youthful Ferrari Brut non-vintage from Trentino-Alto Adige.

To celebrate summer: Burrata and Grilled Shrimp from North Carolina, with a salty and silky 2016 Fiano, Salento IGT, Masseria di Altemura.

To celebrate winter: A soup with cannellini beans, rosemary, and Parmesan, with earthy and spicy 2014 Gigondas, Chateau de Saint Cosme.

--Claudio Salvador, Firelands Winery, Sandusky, Ohio

“Osso Buco Alla Milanese, with saffron rice and polenta, paired with Cantina Pedres Cannonau (Grenache) from Sardinia.”

--Tom Sharko, Alba Vineyard, Milford, New Jersey

“Shea Chardonnay from Oregon--Dijon clones, with 20 years of growth, this is a new-world Chardonnay that is totally unique and a real treat!  Bright and crisp, with great minerality, it works well with seafood, pasta in cream sauce, or wood-fired white pizza with fresh clams.

Kistler Chardonnay (Hyde Vineyard)--A truly extraordinary wine with great weight and real finesse that pairs well with grilled swordfish.  I’ll always have a deep appreciation for Kistler wines and for Mark Bixler [one of the founders of Kistler Vineyards who died last year after a brief illness], who spent one Saturday afternoon with a couple of growers from New Jersey talking about what it takes to grow and craft extraordinary wines.”

--Carlo Devito, Hudson-Chatham Winery, Tannersville, New York

“1. Roasted lamb with garlic and broccoli rabe, paired with any of these:
Black Ankle “Leafstone” from Maryland
Keuka Lake Leon Millot from the Finger Lakes, NY
Barboursville “Octagon” from Virginia

2. Roasted pork seasoned with rosemary and garlic, served with mashed sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus, paired with any of these:
Lincoln Peak Marquette from Vermont
Heritage Estate Reserve BDX from New Jersey
Hermit Woods Petite Blue from New Hampshire
Bedell Cabernet Franc from Long Island, NY

3. Roasted lemon chicken with roasted root vegetables and string beans, paired with any of these:
Palmer Vineyards Aromatico from Long Island, NY
Maquam Pear Wine from Lake Champlain, Vermont
Jonathan Edwards Gewurztraminer from Connecticut
VaLa Vineyards Prima Donna from Pennsylvania”

--Kim Stare Wallace, Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County, California

“Raimun Verdejo: This full-bodied Verdejo pairs perfectly with fresh Dungeness crab or clams cooked “the sailors way” in a saffron-infused broth made with white wine.

Domaine de Montille Bourgogne Rouge:  A feminine and pretty Burgundy that is a wonderful accompaniment to halibut prepared with an earthy wild mushroom ragout.”