Pairing Wine And Food


A friend requested I write about pairing wine and food. I was somewhat hesitant because I felt the post would either become a dissertation or be so short it would barely clear a paragraph.

There are many avenues to take for pairing, from mandatory adherence to a strict set of rules to “Vinotyping” and taste bud count affecting how a person tastes wine (i.e. Why You Like The Wines You Like by Tim Hanni, MW).  I lean more towards the the later.  In my opinion, there is only one thing you need to know: drink what you like, like what you drink.  Choose a wine you enjoy and desire to drink with whatever it is you’re eating.  Conceding to pairing the alleged “appropriate” wine with food will not make the pairing better if it’s not speaking to you in the first place. It will however, make for an unpleasant dining experience.

Taste is personal but I believe there are parameters we all generally share. Most people establish some level of tolerance for acidity and most people like sweet food. There are even a small percentage of people who cultivate a liking to bitterness. Accordingly, consider these basic guidelines when pairing wine and food:

Intensity: match intensity of wine and food (i.e. light wine-light food, heavy food-heavy wine)

Spicy food: pair spicy food with high acid, off dry, medium-sweet wine – try brut Rosé, Albarino, Riesling, or fight fire with fire and pair with a high alcohol spicy wine like Syrah or Zinfandel

Fatty food: pair fatty food with a high acid wine like an Vinho Verde, unoaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, or a tannic red like Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo

Salty food: pair salty food with a high acid wine or wine with a bit of sweetness – try something sparkling like Champagne, a crisp Falanghina or a tawny port (think pretzels dipped in caramel)

Sweet food: pair sweet food with wine that has a high level of sweetness or fruitiness – try a late harvest wine, Ice wine, Moscato d’Asti, which has a slight effervescence, or for something fruity try a newer vintage Shiraz or Petite Sirah, these will probably be best for those dark chocolate pairings.

My ultimate advice is to acknowledge and embrace your individual tasting preferences. If you want Chardonnay with your steak and your friend prefers Cabernet Sauvignon…congratulations, you have both nailed your pairing!

~Drink what you like, like what you drink!~

What Is On My Cork?!

Have you ever opened a bottle of wine and discovered tiny pieces of sparkly grit on the top of the cork or in the bottle? Either way, I hope you did not toss the wine thinking it was bad. It was anything but…maybe even better quality because of it.

That grit is Tartrate. Many in the wine industry affectionately refer to this as “wine crystals” or “wine diamonds.” Tartrate is natural and completely harmless. It occurs when potassium and tartaric acid bind together and solidify when wine reaches near freezing temperatures. A little bonus trivia, the scientific name for tartrate is potassium bitartrate known in culinary circles as cream of tartar.

Many wines are cold stabilized to prevent wine crystals from forming. Cold stabilization is the process of chilling wine for several days to let the tartrates form then filter out before bottling. By performing this process in the winery, you, the consumer, will not have to worry about the crystals forming when you chill that bottle of white wine in the refrigerator a day or two before your dinner party. The downside of cold stabilization is, if performed at too low a temperature, the aromas and flavors of the wine will be less outstanding. Thankfully, many producers are careful to maintain the aromatics of the grapes.

The next time you open a bottle and see sparkly grit on the cork, be pleased knowing the wine maker chose a delicate approach to the production process and appreciate the beauty of the “wine diamonds” then simply wipe them away before serving your guests. If the crystals are in the bottle, decant the wine stopping at the point of the sediment to avoid any particles falling into the decanter then enjoy your wine as usual.

Farewell Summer Whites


How can it be that summer is over! Kids are well into school, the days are shorter…and white wines are once again forgotten until next spring.

I have little prejudice when it comes to wine but I tend to drink white wine mostly during the warm months when the sun is shining and a chilled, crisp white is the perfect patio sipper.

So goodbye Chardonnay – I realize you’re the world’s most popular white grape variety but you can be fairly neutral. I mean you’re sometimes used as a blending grape! Time to move on from your apple, lemon, pineapple, starfruit and mango aromas even though you can be deliciously full bodied with buttery nuances and toasty notes when aged in oak barrels.

So long Sauvignon Blanc – Let’s face it, some people have never really cared for your aromas of grass and green pepper. I will remember you more for your grapefruit, melon and gooseberry. Oh, and the fact that you pair so well with so many foods.

Farewell Riesling – I’m guessing not as many people drink you even though I think you ROCK…and pair perfectly with spicy food. Your aromas of lime, apple, peach, apricot, honeycomb and jasmine will be missed.

Arrivederci Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris – I know, I know, your name means gray and it seems appropriate for you to be around for the impending gray skies but the weather will be too cold to enjoy your delicate, light bodied character. We’ve had enough of your aromas of apple, lemon, nectarine and saline (for the Pinot Grigio hanging out around the coasts of Italy). And you’re just too confusing being the same grape variety from different origins.

WAIT! There is no way I can go on hiatus until spring to enjoy these beauties again. In fact, I’m grabbing a Riesling at my favorite Thai restaurant tonight!

Well Hello Kiona Lemberger!


It was a great day when the subdivision welcome committee came to our home a few weeks after we moved to the Pacific Northwest for three reasons: (1) the “committee” was a lovely couple who quickly became our friends; (2) they showed up with Camano Island Coffee (seriously good coffee); and (3) they told us about Kiona Vineyards Lemberger (seriously good wine).

Kiona Vineyards and Winery was established in 1975 in the Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) of Washington and has over 200 acres of vineyards. Kiona (pronounced Kigh-Oh-Na, meaning brown hills) produces approximately 30,000 cases of wine annually utilizing “environmental stewardship” in both the vineyards and cellar.

Lemberger (not to be confused with Limburger, the stinky cheese) is an obscure varietal hailing from Austria where it is known as “blaufränkisch.” Kiona Vineyards led the way in determining this varietal to be well suited to Washington’s climate and produced the first Lemberger wine in the United States in 1980. The Lemberger grape produces a delightful, medium bodied wine exhibiting red fruit, especially red cherry, with a good balance of earthiness and spice. Kiona refers to their Lemberger as “Pinot Noir on steroids” which is a great description because it has more guts than Pinot Noir, can be enjoyed by itself and has the ability of a Barbera or a blend to pair with a ton of different foods.

Kiona Vineyards has received numerous accolades for its wine and in particular, Lemberger. Wine Enthusiast gave Kiona’s 2012 Lemberger 90 points stating it’s flavor is “built upon chocolate and cherries with dusty tannins.” I have yet to try a Kiona wine I don’t like. In fact, I’ve been known to buy their wine by the case and their Lemberger is a staple in my home.  I’m not a spokesperson for them, I  just want you to drink good wine!  Look for Kiona in your local wine shop or order online, you will not be disappointed.

What A Lovely Figure!



Have you ever wondered about the shapes of wine bottles? Are they shaped differently for a reason or is it just random artistry? As is often the case in wine, tradition is the major player for the different bottle shapes. I touched on this subject a few years ago in my blog with a graphic but let’s look at it with a bit more detail.  There are four main types:

Bordeaux bottles have high shoulders with straight sides for wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. The high shoulders were created to help trap sediment due to prominent tannins in most of these wines.  These bottles are made of thick glass with a high punt (the punt is the indentation on the bottom of the bottle).

Burgundy bottles are tall and wide with sloping shoulders for wines like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Chablis and Pinot Gris. Much like Bordeaux bottles, these are made of thick glass. Purportedly, Burgundy bottles were the first to be created and the sloping shoulders made for easy stacking as well as achievability for glass blowers.

Champagne bottles are wide with low shoulders for wines like Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco. These bottles were created out of necessity due to the pressure inside the bottles (roughly 70-90 psi). They are made of thick glass, have a high punt and low shoulders to contain the immense pressure inside the bottles. By the way, the thick corks and cages securing them are no mistake either.

German/Alsatian bottles are narrow and tall with gentle sloping shoulders for wines like Riesling and Gewürztraminer.   The slender shape and lighter weight of these bottles were made for convenient stowing on ships during their voyage along trade routes in the early years.

This may just be extra wine knowledge fodder in your head but it may make it easier to spot the type of wine you’re looking for in the wine shop.  As I mentioned a few years ago when I first wrote about the subject, that could mean scoring that last bottle of prize vintage Bordeaux.

Barbera – Joining The Popular Crowd

I’ve been noticing an appealing trend on wine shelves lately – more and more Barbera. This lovely wine is easy to drink and easy to pair with food. Because it is so “quaffable,” Barbera is also a safe bet when selecting wine to take to a dinner party.

My admiration for Barbera began in 2007 when I moved to Italy for 3 years and became a big fan of the wine and food of Bella Italia. More recently, I visited friends who are grape growers in California and rekindled my fondness of Barbera as I tasted various styles throughout Amador and El Dorado Counties.

Barbera’s origins come from the Piedmont region in Italy and is the most widely planted grape of that region. Barbera, a high acid, low tannin grape was generally reduced to use as a “filler.” It wasn’t until the 1980’s, when Barbera was treated to barrel aging, that its virtues emerged, and it became a stand-alone wine. By barrel aging, tannins increase and the wine becomes fuller bodied. Barbera varies greatly but usually showcases red fruit (cherry, currant, raspberry) and can have nuances of chocolate, licorice, fig, dried herbs and tar.

The three Italian DOC’s (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) of Barbera are Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d’Alba and Barbera del Monferrato. The Barbera from Asti and Alba are probably the best known versions. Barbera is also widely grown in California, specifically booming in the Sierra Foothills region.

Keep a watchful eye on Barbera; it may soon be the “it girl” in the popular crowd.

Barbera to Try ~

Cooper Vineyards Barbera, Amador, County $29

Sobon Estate Barbera, Amador County, $15

Renato Ratti Barbera d’Asti, $18

Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba, $20

Scarpetta Barbera del Monferrato, $22

Vietti Barbera d’Alba Tre Vigne, $26

Understanding Wine Vintage


You know wine vintage is a year but exactly what year is it referring to? The year the wine grapes were picked? The year the wine was bottled? The year the wine was put on the retail shelves?

Big reveal: the vintage of a wine refers to the year the grapes for the wine were harvested. For example, grapes harvested this year, 2016, will have a vintage of 2016 even though the wine may require 3 years of aging and you will not see it on the retail shelves until 2019. The vintage date is not required by law to be on the label; however, most wineries include it either on the front or back of the label. Still wines almost always come from a single vintage.

Fortified and sparkling wines, like Champagne, usually tend to be non-vintage meaning the grapes are blended from more than one vintage to keep the wine a consistent “house style.” There are exceptions to this however, on the rare occasion when there is an extraordinary year, and the wine is bottled as a single vintage. This happens maybe three to five times a decade.

Besides knowing the meaning of vintage, why is it important to pay attention to wine vintage? The answer lies in the weather. The weather plays an important role from one vintage to another. What the weather condition is during the year will greatly affect the outcome of a wine – how much rain, cloud coverage, sunlight, fog, etc.   Poor weather conditions are not ideal for a vintage but a good winemaker can take those grapes and turn them into great wine. Excellent weather is a winemaker’s dream and can produce outstanding wine vintages (you will notice this in the price). By paying attention to very good vintages, you can reap the benefit by enjoying very good wine.

The Dish On Decanting

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetWhat does it mean to decant wine? Simply put, it means to transfer wine from the bottle to another container to make it taste better. Not all wine needs decanted, in fact, most doesn’t but the reasons for decanting are worth considering.

Inexpensive wine can have an off smell due to sulphur dioxide when you first open the bottle. Decanting will take away the smell.

Expensive wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo, or Syrah may need tamed. Decanting the wine and letting it rest in the decanter for an hour or more will smooth tannins and round out the wine.

Young wine can benefit from decanting by exposing it to air and coaxing out aromas. Quickly splash the wine into the decanter to move it around. You will immediately notice the wine opening up. Letting it rest in the decanter for an hour or more will release even more aromas and flavors.

Aged wine can benefit from decanting due to the sediment inevitably found in the bottle. Decanting allows the sediment to be separated from the wine. Set the bottle upright for several hours to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom. Completely remove the foil capsule to make sure you can see through the neck of the bottle. Carefully remove the cork. With the decanter in one hand and the bottle in the other, slowly pour the wine from the bottle into the decanter. It is important not to splash the wine while pouring so you do not loose the delicate aromas and flavors that have developed with the age of the wine. Once you start to see the sediment in the neck of the bottle, stop pouring. Those delicate aromas and flavors tend to dissipate quickly with older vintages so enjoy your aged beauty immediately after decanting.

There’s Always Instagram!

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Well Hello!  Not sure how you landed here but welcome!  Although is not currently an active website, I invite you to browse past posts (dig deep, there’s some good stuff) and most definitely check out my instagram account @deepredcellar – I’m on there pretty much everyday.

Maybe, hopefully, this website will be back with an updated look (I know, it needs some TLC) and great content someday soon. Thank you for stopping by!