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Wine Pairing 101

Blah…blah…blah…….that’s what most of us hear when we brave asking the wine guy at the market what he’d recommend. It’s all too often that you are meeting up with friends at their place for dinner and they ask you to bring the wine!!! So you head to the market and pick out the best looking label you can find in the white or red section…but you would really like to bring something all the guests can rave about the next day. Well, let’s talk about the myths & dispel the confusion we most often get.


  • Rule 1: Red with Meat White with Fishnot the case!

Let’s role play…Mr. Salmon here is a local line caught pacific Salmon grilled to perfection but he is not alone. Brushed on his crispy skin is BBQ sauce! Fabulous homemade ginger chipotle BBQ sauce. He is served with a delicious side of spiced sweet potato mash and crispy brussel sprouts. Still thinking that cool glass of chardonnay is what you want? It could be…but you could also try something a little more fun & red!

  • Option One: Grgich Hills Chardonnay or other California Chardonnay
  • Option Two: Hanzell Vineyards Pinot Noir or other California Pinot Noir

Both are great combinations and here is why…

  • The Grgich Hills Chardonnay is referred to full bodied & fruity(as opposed to a sauvignon blanc, which is thinner and crisp) this fullness & fruitiness helps balance the tartness in the BBQ sauce and the bitterness in the brussel sprouts. This Particular Chardonnay is also considered spicy or smokey. Think toasted wood. This comes from the way they make the wine, since this producer uses oak barrels to age their product. So you have full body, smokey, fruity and decent acid. Now I know I just said acid but think of wine as a whole as a varying scale of flavors and acid. Acid being the thing that cleanses your palate between sips… Trust me, you want the acid otherwise the fats in the foods we eat would just hang around in our mouths dulling the flavor ride on our plates.
  • Next is the Hanzell Pinot Noir, now Pinot Noir and salmon are old school pals. They adore each other and I hope you try this next time you order or make salmon. It’s basically the same principals as the chardonnay but since Pinot Noir is a light bodied red it marries even better than the chardonnay. Lost you? Color, Pinot is lighter in color than a Cabernet is which really means concentration. Pinot is a delicate grape with thiner skins than the Cabernet grape so when you press it to make wine the color is less intense. Another aspect that matters is, fruit,  Chardonnay has a more apple/citrus flavor to it and Pinot Noir has a more cherry/cranberry/strawberry flavor to it. This gives a great fruitiness to the wine but since Pinot Noir is also aged in oak it is also smokey and mysterious as well. Pinot can also be more or less rich depending on where in the world it comes from. But let’s stick to California for now. California Pinot is typically fuller bodied than say it’s french cousins as well as Oregon’s. Which with a heavy hitting sauce like BBQ this is a great thing; otherwise the wine would kind of die on your palate.

Pinot is

So I urge you to try a Pinot Noir with your Salmon next time and feel free to share your experiences.

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