Posts Tagged ‘wine and food pairing’

Simple Hedonisms – Simple Suggestions For Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

It’s the time of the year when people often agonize over what canadian pharmacy discount code viagra to buy and serve over the Holidays, especially Thanksgiving, which tends to be poultry (gobble gobble) focused.

While I won’t go as elaborate as the article Jon Bonne’, (one of my favorite wine writers) published last week in Three wine strategies for Thanksgiving dinner’ , I will try to be creative and offer a mainstream and an adventurous suggestion.

Throughout the article I have created links, in the name of the varietal, to previous reviews.

The ADHD Version:

If you can’t read for more than thirty seconds: go Bubbles and Pinot Noir. Essentially a white and a red, that pair with, and please, almost everyone.

Where To Shop:

Do not go to your local large grocery store and stare at the massive aisles of wine, that for the most part really offer very little differentiation, despite appearances. If you are wanting to expand your wine knowledge and palate, its time you form a relationship with a local wine shop, that brings in a variety of domestic and

imported wines. The latter both to expand your horizons (Try a French or Australian chardonnay in comparison to California) as well as good values.

Its Thanksgiving, do buy local or American and at least partially support our economy.

Budget – Match it to Your Drinkers…. – er I Mean Guests

I try and match the wine expenditure to the crowd and its levels of wine interest and experience. I will never forget the Thanksgiving a ‘wine lover’ poured half a bottle of Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot (pricey and hard to come by) into his glass and swilled it down, saying ‘not too sweet’ – arrgh.

This can be hard to gauge for large crowds or a dinner party where you don’t know everyone. If its the family, and wine isn’t their thing, bring some good value bottles, but perhaps hold on to those most special bottles. Or smuggle one in and stash it to pour with your best friend or partner who loves wine as much as you do. Let Uncle Jimmy go to town on that $12 Malbec, while you drink the Arnot Roberts allocation.

If its a dinner soiree in San Francisco with strangers, err on the other side, with at least 1-2 good bottles, to make a good impression.

(1) Wine To Start, Mingling and Apertifs


White: A good Sauvignon Blanc is something that will please most. (Except those burly types who puff out their chest, and proclaim “real wine drinkers only drink red.” For them roll your eyes and pour them some Two Buck Chuck, and let them have at the Megapurple and wood chip derived concoction. (See the Jon Bonne’ cheap wine article in bottom section.)

Good value Sauvignon Blanc, widely distributed by larger producers like Rodney Strong and Dry Creek Vineyards can be readily found in a pinch and have been previously reviewed and recommended. A little pricier ($22), but more unique and Sancerre style is one of my favorite California Sauv Blancs – from Inspiration Vineyards in Santa Rosa.

Pink – I also recommend a good dry rosé. I have written repeatedly to dismiss the myth that Rosé is strictly a summer wine. This ‘pink’ wine, derived from red grapes, pairs well with food, or standalone, all year round.

Red – Its always good to have a red on hand as well, a decent domestic Pinot Noir should please many. If you want to be really safe, some people always drink Cabernet, the king of reds, no matter what you are serving or recommending.


Bubbles are almost a universal pairing wine; from salty potato chips from desert. Nothing is as festive or widely received. If someone in your house won’t drink bubbles, tell them Bah Humbug and hand them a Coors Light. Sparkling wine also can run the gamut of good value for $10, usually imported. For value sparkling, look for a good Cava from Spain. High quality Prosecco from Italy has emerged as a hot market this last year as well. There is a wide selection of $20-$60 mid priced Napa and Sonoma sparkling wineries, and then of course ‘true’ Champagne. Adjust your selection and budget based on the previous crowd suggestion.

Vinho Verde, Dry Gewurtzaminer, Gruner Veltliner, Grenache Blanc

(2) For the Main Course:

I actually like to allow guests, room permitting, to have 3 or 4 glasses at their setting. If a sparkling or a rosé was poured previously, its often fun to continue to pour these, and try them with food pairings. Let people sip and nibble and try a myriad of food and wine pairings.

White Wine:

Mainstream: Chardonnay is the Queen of California whites. Our classic California oaky, buttery Chardonnays

goes decently with Turkey, but a better match is a Chardonnay, that is leaner, less oaky/buttery, a trend many winemakers jumping on. One can even play with unoaked Chardonnay, although I’d suggest leaving a crisper wine like that for starters.

Adventurous: Go Rhone. Look for a Rhone white blend that contains 25%+Roussanne – a denser white varietal (sometimes referred to as a winter white.) This may also be blended with Marsanne, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc. The Roussanne (and the Marsanne) provide some mouthfeel, weight and density that will pair well with food. Avoid overly floral Viognier dominant blends, or overly acid Grenache Blanc based if you aren’t familiar with the wine.

Red Wine:


Some will argue Cabernet is a great Thanksgiving match – while it certainly does please the typical wine consumer, its generally better for roasted meats at Christmas, if turkey is your Thanksgiving meat, I’d recommend a Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir varies widely by region and producer. For mass appeal, most Russian River or Central coast bigger Pinots are a hit. For those who like their Pinot leaner, and higher in acid, steer to Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast, or Oregon. (Please note this is a general rule of thumb – each region has a full range of styles.)


Following the path Pinot Noir and softer reds, try a Grenache. This Rhone red, when left to express itself, is a pretty, soft, red wine. Avoid dark color, over oaked, or a high blend of Syrah added. Grenache is naturally a lighted red. I have many favorites including Holly’s Hill, David Girard, Bonny Doon, Philip Staley, Wind Gap, Tablas Creek, Mounts, Quivira, and more.

The most important thing – relax, have fun, and enjoy the moments with dear friends and family – these are after all also a part of ‘simple hedonisms’ – life is short and precious, enjoy it.


Related Articles:

Three wine strategies for Thanksgiving dinner (Jon Bonne’)

Pinot and Rhone-style whites for Thanksgiving dinner (Jon Bonne’)

The False Promise of Cheap Wine (Jon Bonne’)

Chardonnay regains respect – now to maintain it. (Jon Bonne’)

Wine Review: Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc; suggested holiday pairings

Wine of the Week: Cartograph 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer

Tasting Notes: Ortman 02 Series Grenache Rosé – Paso Robles

Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks.

Wine of the Week, Winery of the Month – Tablas Creek 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc

Nov 5 & 6 is the North Sonoma Wine Road "Wine & Food Affair" a Simple Hedonisms Favorite.

The Wine Road Wine & Food Affair is one of my favorite events in the County and of the year. It features over 100 wineries from Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley offering their great wines, paired with some of the very best food to be found, from some of Sonoma Counties best chef's and caterers.

Oh and pssst, listen close. TICKET SALES END TODAY. No exceptions!

The Cookbook Alone is Worth It

Admission includes this years stunning 308 page cookbook. I love this event viagra online sales so much I have sought out and bought almost all of the years bound copies in existence – and what an evolution over 13 years. Gorgeous full bottle shots, amazing recipes, of course paired with wine.

Each winery has two pages.  On the left is a bottle shot (each one shot just for this cookbook)  and some background on the origin of the recipe. This one from Mounts Family Winery, a personal favorite in Dry Creek, describes Lana Mounts family heritage and tie in to the dish, created by Jude Affronti, of Affronti Restaurant.

What is also amazing to me is how much this book has evolved. An early fan of the Wine Road, in the stint I left the Bay area for brief sojourns in Seattle, Denver, and Baja Mexico, I acquired used copies of previous years on to keep me company.  Shown here side by side is the 2011 308 page cookbook, compared to the softbound, black & white, 160 page bound version from 2000. (Which is when I had started working for a Petaluma startup known as Calix.)

No Ticket Sales At the Door

Tickets are $70 in advance AND include this $35 cookbook. Even without the cookbook, $35 a day for the best of this regions food and wine is the least expensive, high quality entertainment you'll find. Try getting a bottle of wine and a good dinner for two for much less than that!

Ticket sales end this Monday Oct 31st. , if they don't sell out prior. (Which many years they do – so don't wait!)

There is also a Sunday only option for $50. Are

you a foodie more than a wine-o? DD tickets are $30.


1. Make A Plan.

Every year when I write about this event, I have the same primary suggestion plan. (See Don’t Miss! The Wine Road’s 11th Annual Wine & Food Affair. (tips inside))

This event is one to savor and enjoy, not racing around guzzling wine. As of this time, the downloadable guide is not yet available (I will add when it is) but you can go to , click “Program”  and look at the pairings each winery is offering – this event is as much about choosing the food as it is the wine!

2. Map Your Route Around Traffic Times, Patterns

Some areas and wineries get VERY BUSY. Others that are new, or off the beaten track will be more manageable. Saturday afternoon is typically the busiest, especially in downtown Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley. Consider saving those for Sunday, or doing first thing in the day. Many Russian River Valley wineries (downloadable map) , because they are more spread out, don't get quite as heavily traffic.

Seek out some new wineries you haven't been to before. Also remember not all Wine Road wineries participate, so it's a good idea to again check the list of participating wineries.

3. Dump or Spit

This concept is as much about being able to properly appreciate the wines, as it is being responsible. After tasting at 2 wineries, if you have swallowed everything poured, you will have consumed enough alcohol to limit your sensory abilities. Essentially you have migrated from wine tasting and appreciation to drinking. And hey, if you have a DD and thats your thing, power to you., but for those of you looking to expand your wine appreciation consider this: Dump a wine in your glass you don't love, or try the experience of spitting – the standard 16 oz plastic disposable cup is the standard weapon, and some wineries will have these out. Taste like a Pro, and you may get some special pours to boot.

4. Support Your Local Artisans: Take Home Some Wine

Yes you did pay for these tickets – but most of that money supports the event, and perhaps some of the food costs. These wineries, the vast majority of whom are very small family businesses, make money one way: WHEN YOU BUY WINE.

Buy a few less Starbuck's lattes and/or that grocery store mass produced wine  – if you like a wine you taste, buy a bottle. It will help you appreciate and remember the event, and you show your support for a local business and artisan, as well as have something great to take home.  (ps put a cooler in the car – we often have nice weather for this event, always better to throw it one.)

Come Back Next Wednesday for Wine Sales Incentives Articles

Some of the wineries will offer sales incentives this weekend  on new releases, other inventory for single bottles, case purchases, and more. I will publish a list of special promo's sorted by region. This has been a popular article in the past as its a great chance to stock up – holidays are coming! Come back next Wednesday for this list AND a special announcement.

Follow the WineRoad on Facebook & Twitter, and “Live Broadcasts” via Twitter Hashtag

The Wine Road Executive Director is one of the best I know in Winery Social Media, and will keep you well informed. Follow the Wine Road on Facebook and on Twitter . To follow Tweets during the event follow Hashtag #WAFA11 or click here.

See you on the Wine Road – Heaven Condensed! (Love that old slogan!)

Related Articles

Don’t Miss! The Wine Road’s 11th Annual Wine & Food Affair. (tips inside)

The North Sonoma Wine Road launches their iPhone App: Review & User Tutorial


Wine & Food Pairing Tips from Chef Jeffrey Saad at the Wine Bloggers Conference #WBC10

There were many great sessions on the agenda at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference last week, (ok ok yes to my FourSquare followers, I snuck out a few times to go taste at Rhone producers – sue me!), but my favorite, and I think many was the Food & Wine Pairing Seminar by Chef Jeffrey Saad.

The fact that so many people enjoyed it, and Tweeted so heavily about it, is an even stronger testament to the seminar and his energy; this was the last day for the group, and many of us were going on our 4th+ day of late nights, and there was a large contingent of people, self included, who blew it out the night before, and were a tad less functional than normal.

I love to cook, and its no secret I love wine, and I enjoy pairing the two, but I have always felt it was something I could improve on, so sleep deprived or not, I was in my chair all ears at the start.

I did a series of Tweets about the key points to share with the #WBC10 team, as well as for my own archives. Whether everyone else was to tired to do their own, or they found them salient, they were heavily ‘retweeted’ so I thought I’d share them here.

The underlying rule that came out really emphasized acidity in wine, when pairing with food, and generally being careful with tannic wines.

Chef Saad started out with a great analogy, demonstrating most of us inherently are wired for the basics: “What sounds better with a pizza, a cold coke, or a glass of milk?” For most people, the glass of milk just doesn’t sound appealing. The acidity and spice in the tomato sauce, pairs nicely with the tannins and sweetness in the coke.

Pair acidic foods  with acid.  Pair fatty foods with acid.

Acidic wines in most cases are the safe choice. Salad dressing pairings can be a challenge, match the acidity in the dressing to an acidic wine.

Acidic wines also pair nicely with fatty foods, as they cut through the fat, and the flavor of the wine and food is enhanced, mutually.

Pair proteins with tannin; animal fat softens the tannin

Tannins (bigger red wines) softens when paired with animal protein and fa. They also cut through the fat, and again enhance the food, allowing its flavor to come through. This is why beefy cabs and steaks pair so well.

Pair sweet with sweet; The wine should be at least as sweet as dessert, if not more.

This is an important point for desert pairings, a dry wine clashes horribly with sweet desert.

Avoid spice with tannin – major no no.

Spice and Tannins clash, the affects of the tannins are (negatively) enhanced by the spicy food, fight with the heat, for a culinary disaster. Pair with a wine that will let the spice be in control. Slightly sweet wines are often recommended, but others pair well too.

Always put shallots in your vinaigrette

More of a food tip, than a pairing, but Chef Saad was passionate about this point, and I always am looking for ways to improve salads!

Treat your food and wine like your (good) relationships – pay attention, remember

I am not sure my relationship history is the best source for this but the advice was sound. Just as we try and educate and advance our wine palates by association of flavor and aroma profiles,, we should do so with food.

3 safe wine bets for any pairing – dry Rose, Champagne, or Barbera

  • A dry Rose pairs well with many meals; high acidity, a touch of tannin from brief skin contact, and holds up against spicy as well.
  • Bubbles – perhaps the universal safe (and fun!) pairing; high acidity, low. alcohol.
  • Barbera – this one surprised me, and refers I think more to old world Barbera, than US produced. Barbera’s are high in acid. (see a theme yet?)

Personally I’d add Pinot Noir, especially ligher more traditional style. (Compared to the sadly growing fad of Syrah like Pinots.) Pinot has good acidity and (usually) subtle flavor profiles that don’t clash, and moderate (excluding the syrah-ish pinots) tannin presence. If I am taking a bottle of wine to a restaurant, I almost always take Pinot as my red, unless I know in advance what I intend to order.

There were some other great tips such as “Pair funky with funky”, “Red wine kills stinky cheese” (go for aged cheese), and “Go Local” (think Italy.)

After this great seminar, we were treated to an amazing set of food pairings with white and red wines, which was just what the doctor ordered after talking about food for an hour!

Have any great food and wine pairings you love? Or advice, experiences you wish to share? Post them in the comments.


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