If you’ve been here a while, you know that wine is a constant for my husband and I. Drinking it is a wonderful experience in itself, but when you learn to pair wine with food (or pair food to specific wines), you open yourself up to an entirely new culinary experience.
There will be people who argue that wine pairings alongside food are irrelevant and that you should just drink whatever you like. I’m inclined to say yes, you should drink whatever you like, but… if you thought that our roasted beef tenderloin was stellar, just wait till you try it with Dolcetto! Wine can enhance food, and vice versa. There’s a whole world waiting to be discovered, and as far as I can tell, there’s no downside to becoming more knowledgeable about pairing.
So let’s do this!
Note: I am listing current prices per bottle as I find them online. This information will of course change, so consider it current only at time of publication.
Ari’s Favorite Wines
These are the wines I buy again and again. While they are excellent when paired with food (and often are), they’re totally great drinking wines too. I would bring each and every one of these to friends’ houses, without hesitation.
I have a thing for Provençal rosé. With the exception of Summer In A Bottle (you know this is my favorite rosé ever!), I am always reaching for Provence rosés. They’re light, dry, and crisp.
Think easy summer drinking. Just as delicious to sip on while grilling as they are to enjoy with a light bowl of pasta or charcuterie.
- Wolffer Estate Summer In A Bottle ($26) – Blend of Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc; bright, slightly fruit forward, with great minerality and acidity. This sells out every summer, so we buy a case in April to get us through the season! Recommended for: everything! Pairs with cheese, seafood, pork, steak, and turkey (hello, Thanksgiving wine!).
2. Chateau Miraval ($20) — Made from Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle, and Syrah; elegant, lightly fruity, with a nice acidity. Yes, this is the coveted wine from Brangelina. I didn’t want to like it so much, but I’m obsessed. Recommended for: sipping, charcuterie, light seafood dishes.
3. AIX ($19) – Blend of Grenahce, Carignan, Syrah, and Cinsault; light, dry, and acidic, this is a go-to for us at restaurants because it is so widely available and reasonably priced. In addition to enjoying with seafood, chicken, pastas, anything lighter, we love to pair rosé with bolder, spicy ethnic foods. Serve AIX alongside your favorite Thai, Japanese, Mexican, or Indian takeout!
While I may gravitate towards one specific region when selecting rosé, the same cannot be said for white or red wines. I have a strong preference for white wines that are not sweet (sorry, Sauvignon Blanc lovers), but there is a time and a place for everything… and I generally let the menu dictate the wine pairings as needed.
- Picollo Ernesto Gavi di Gavi ($16) – 100% Cortese grapes; bright, clean crisp, and super easy to drink. This Italian white from Piemonte was first introduced to us at Tavern at Gray Barns in Norwalk, CT. Our favorite bartender recommended it alongside a seafood dish, and I promptly went home and ordered 6 bottles. Serve with: grilled seafood, light pastas, vegetables, white meats, or as an appetizer / sipping wine.
2. Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($15-300) – I’m giving you a whole region to love on! The Russian River Valley is located in California’s Sonoma Valley. There are two wines that excel within the region: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I tend not to like oaky Chardonnays. In fact, for the longest time I thought I didn’t like Chardonnay at all, but it’s turns out I have an extraordinarily strong preference for stainless steel aging versus oak. Lucky for me, Chardonnay grown in the Russian River Valley is much more similar to French wine than California. Hooray!
Refreshing, full-bodied, decent minerality, but not too oaky. The Chardonnays in this region are bright, with fruity notes of green and red apples, lemon, and lime. We love them! Pair with: sushi, shellfish, and other seafood, as well as mild buttery or creamy dishes.
Try this with our slow baked salmon or crispy pan seared salmon with lemon parmesan cream sauce.
3. Sancerre ($10-60) – Located in the Upper Loire Valley of France, Sancerre is a region known for its production of Sauvignon Blanc. The wines from this area are typically bone dry, fuller bodied, have a good amount of acidity, and are highly aromatic.
Why do I prefer Sancerre to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Because they don’t taste like grass or flowers. (Sorry, not sorry!). Enjoy Sancerre with goat cheese — also local from the region! — shellfish, seafood, artichokes, or lighter meats such as chicken or pork, and live your best life!
4. Chenin Blanc ($10-40) – Most notably known for its production in France and South Africa, Chenin Blanc is a true “drink with anything” wine.
Chenin Blanc comes in four varieties: fresh and fruity, oaked, sweet, and blended. I tend to steer clear of sweet dessert Chenins, and rarely come across it in blends (these are popular in Australia), but I very much enjoy and appreciate both the fresh and fruity versions, as well as oaked. Great acidity, lots of minerality, stone-fruit flavors, and honey throughout.
Chenin Blanc from South Africa is generally meant to be consumed young and has more tropical fruit flavors. Pair lighter wines with lighter food, while the medium-dry styles can be paired with heavier, creamier dishes.
- Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir ($20) – 100% Pinot Noir; quite rich for a Pinot Noir, with notes of black cherries and sweet spices. Hailing from the Russian River Valley in California, it’s no surprise we are crazy about this, as we love most wines from the region.
I’m just going to say it: this is my favorite Pinot Noir. I think it’s stellar. It’s both soft and luscious, yet has a smooth, long finish. It’s the epitome of what I look for in a Pinot. I have a terribly hard time sourcing it, so if you find it, grab every bottle in sight! Pair with: literally everything (except a big fat, juicy steak — buy a big Napa Cab for that!).
2. Mandorlo Dolcetto D’alba (2018 or 2019, $25) – 100% Dolcetto; aged in stainless steel, dry, full-bodied, and fruit forward (blackberry, I’m talkin’ to you!). It’s got high-tannin and low-acidity. This elegant wine has quickly become one of our favorites! Recommended pairing: heavier, rich meat dishes, roast chicken, eggplant, roasted vegetables, cheesy pastas.
3. Languedoc (average price $15-40 – 80% of the wines from the Languedoc region (located in Southern France) are red blends, consisting mainly of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Cairgnan. They tend to be fruit driven and full-bodied. Enjoy larger Languedoc reds with: roasted meats, game, and chocolate. Pair medium-body reds with salads, ratatouille, or seafood.
Given the bang for your buck (wines from Languedoc are extremely budget-friendly) we drank a lot of Langudeoc in our 20s when we lived in NYC…
4. Nebbiolo ($25-40) – 100% Nebbiolo; intensely fruit flavored (cherry and raspberry), medium to heavy-bodied, with robust tannins and high acidity. Subtle, yet bold. This wine, hailing from Northern Italy’s Piedmont region, looks like a Pinot Noir, but drinks more like its big brothers, Barolo and Barbaresco (but at a much lower price point!). We often order Nebbiolo while dining out, as it’s another budget-friendly wine that packs a punch. A seriously great value!
Recommended for: hearty meat dishes, higher acid foods, dishes with fat, butter, and olive oil. Also delicious with Asian cuisine. Avoid dishes that are too lean.
Try this with our braised beef pappardelle.
Special Occasion Wines
Would I recommend bringing any of the above wines for a special gathering. Yes, 100%! They’re all fabulous. But sometimes you want to bust out something truly next level, whether it’s for Thanksgiving dinner, a milestone anniversary, or to celebrate some momentous achievement. These are pricier, but so damn worth it.
- Anything from Cakebread Cellars ($25-300) – I truly mean this — you can buy almost any wine from Cakebread and be blown away. They are the epitome of high quality and elegance. Specifically we love their Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. These are my go-to bottles for Thanksgiving! Definitely more than I typically spend on wine, but worth a little indulgence during the holidays.
I even love their Sauvignon Blanc, and that is saying something! In my eyes, Cakebread wines can do no wrong.
2. Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) – Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, an Petit Verdot; intensely flavored with notes of black fruit, chocolate, and hints of pepper, earthy, yet subtle and sweet, with a long finish. A truly elegant Cab! Recommended alongside: hearty red meats, roasts, buttery carbs, fatty cheeses. Basically, all the good things in life!
Try this with our roast rack of lamb or a simple grilled ribeye.
3. Stag’s Leap ($45-300) – Located in the Napa Valley, Stag’s Leap is credited with putting Napa Cabernet Sauvignon on the map. And for good reason! A bottle will set you back anywhere from the mid $40’s to a few hundred dollars. Their reds are intense, rich, and fruity. Pair with classic meat dishes, such as steak, lamb, roasts, duck, pork, ribs, etc.
Try this with our drunken braised short ribs or your favorite grilled meats.
There is no way I could possibly fit in one post all the various wines my husband and I have come to love and appreciate, but I hope you’ll find this starter list helpful as you explore the world of pairing.
The goal is to add to this (or create new posts, sharing additional wines as we discover them) over time, but for the sake of not being too overwhelming (hah! your head is exploding, isn’t it?!), let’s stop here.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you thank you! and cheers to truly delicious food and wine. It makes me a better wife, mom, friend, and human to have something so joyful in my life!
And if you’re reading this during the holiday season, don’t forget to check out our Thanksgiving recipe round-up to see some of our favorite holiday recipes over the years!
*Note: All images were taken from official vineyard and winery websites, when possible. None of the photos were taken by me. To see original images, click on the specific vineyard links.