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Time to Break the Rules

Who doesn’t love to break some rules? Red wine with meat and white wine with seafood is a classic wine pairing rule, but sometimes rules are made to be broken. There are some fantastic pairings to be had if this rule is broken, as one can definitely enjoy rich red wines with fish, vegetables, and even cheeses. A good starting point is to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food; richer seafood and grilled, roasted, or stewed vegetables, and cheese (strict vegetarians can look for rennet-free options) can all be wonderful accompaniments to delicious red wines.

One of the true modern food and wine pairings is an Oregon Pinot Noir with Copper River Salmon. Master Sommelier Larry Stone created this seasonal pairing when he worked in Seattle decades ago, and it’s now legendary. The richness of the salmon holds its own with a Pinot Noir that is richer in style, expressive with cherry and raspberry fruit and smooth tannins. Salmon from other runs can also work well - the real key is to use the freshest salmon when it is in season. Grilled tuna or swordfish, both rich-fleshed fish like salmon, can also pair beautifully with Pinot Noir, perhaps even Cru Beaujolais. Pick a wine that has lower tannins, expressive fruit, and enough acid to cut through the seafood’s richness.

Roasted, grilled, or stewed vegetables often show umami flavors that are a wonderful counterpoint to the richer Pinots mentioned above, and even heavier reds from other parts of the world. A rich tomato sauce-based pasta (or pizza!) and a Sangiovese from Chianti or Brunello is a classic and amazing pairing. The acid in the Sangiovese matches the acidity in the tomato sauce; again, the weight of the dish matches the weight of the wine. Mushrooms - roasted, grilled, or slow-cooked - also make a wonderful umami-rich pairing that finds friends in most rich, earthy red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Tempranillo, Merlot, and so many more. Make a mushroom risotto, perhaps top it with truffles, and crack open a Barolo… heavenly! Roasted eggplant, grilled cauliflower steak, and ratatouille are even more ideas to explore for pairing with red wines. . .

Speaking of umami, cheese has it in spades which therefore makes it a great foil for red wine. The salty richness in many cheeses helps to tame the tannins in bolder red wines. A cloth-wrapped cheddar with a Bordeaux red is an epic pairing. Brie, Camembert, aged goat, and Gruyère can be beautiful pairings for a Burgundian Pinot Noir. Spanish Cabrales or Manchego with a Rioja. Aged, blue, or stinky cheeses with a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot from the New World or Bordeaux. Aged cheese or gouda with Syrah, especially an Hermitage, can be a meal in itself!

The key to pairing bold reds with vegetarian or pescatarian dishes is again to match the weight of the dish with the weight of the wine. Richer preparations that bring out the umami in the dish, seasoning with salt to tame the tannins, and thinking of the dishes (and cheeses) from the region of the wines will give you vast ideas to explore. Pairings mentioned above are only the tip of the iceberg.

Pinot Noir producers to look for from Oregon are Lingua Franca, Domaine Serene, Domaine Drouhin, and Patricia Green. When searching out French wines, Nicole Chanrion’s Côte-de-Brouilly, Diochon’s Moulin-a-Vent, and Château Thivin’s Brouilly are beautiful Cru Beaujolais selections, while Jaboulet and Chapoutier are reliable Rhone wines. Pahlmeyer, Mayacamas, and Pepperbridge are domestic Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. Lopez de Heredia, La Rioja Alta, Bodegas Ontanon, and Remelluri are wonderful Rioja examples. Bordeaux - Haut Brion, Margaux, and Reserve de La Comtesse de Lalande are wonderful examples.

Grab a favorite from your cellar and ask Mariano to source any of the wines mentioned for you and Happy New Year!

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Mariano J Doble
Mariano J Doble
Jan 01, 2022

Ooops, you did it again Beth Ann! One of our members (Karen V.) asked for ideas on wine pairing with vegetarian and/or pescatarian meals and this blog just nailed it! Thanks for your thoughtfulness, passion, and love - it all comes across in your blogs and we love it. Definitely my favorite time of the month. Happy New Year!!

Jan 03, 2022
Replying to

Thank you, Mariano! A huge thank you as well to Karen V. for the great idea, it was a joy to write! Topic suggestions are so very welcome, bring them on! Happy New Year!

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