Winter Food And Wine Parings – Forbes

Restaurant News

Cooler weather is in the air and food choices are going to get a bit heavier. Yes, do bring out that crockpot and braise those short ribs. You can still enjoy white wines and rosés, but you might want to focus on the bigger, and more corpulent, versions of them.

California wine country is always a great place to start for lesser-known pairings, as so much of the innovation in local stores and restaurants near the Bay comes from small wineries and chefs who are in love with the region’s indigenous ingredients.

I recently chatted with Paul Vern Lakusta, general manager of Hotel E in Santa Rosa, which just opened this July, and he shared some suggested pairings for fall and winter dishes.

All responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Liza B. Zimmerman: What kinds of wines do you pair with winter foods?

Paul Vern Lakusta (PVL): I am partial to the French Rhône grape varietals, as they pair well with so many different dishes and cuisines. When I think of fall, I envision braised meats and stews and savoring a glass—or two—of Grenache, Syrah, or Mourvèdre.

LBZ: What kinds of pairing synergies do they have?

PLV: They offer great synergies with a diverse range of food—the wines are typically medium bodied—but can be full bodied as well—and softer in style and are often the ideal complement to a hearty, home-cooked fall dinner or just to sip and savor in front of a fire.

LBZ: What types of wines go with what meats? What are good pairings for polenta and potatoes?

PLV: To me, the fall it is all about Pinot—both Noir and Pinot Gris.

Both of these wines can be enjoyed before, during, and after dinner. A crisp, Pinot Gris is quite versatile at the dinner table and has the acidity to pair with many dishes, while that subtle earthiness often found in Pinot Noir can hold up to a nice cut of beef or salmon dish. Not forgetting about those delectable sides, try adding some sautéed mushrooms on top of your polenta and your glass of Pinot Noir will be taken to another level.

LBZ: What are some of the easier fall veggies to pair wines with and why?

PLV: When I think fall harvest and veggies, I envision an array of roasted, root vegetables: such as carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and squash. The bold flavors of these veggies pair well with the earthiness of the Pinot Noir and bring out the best in it. 

LBZ: What kinds of added flavors—such as cheeses and sauces—can be introduced to a dish to make a flavor bridge for wine pairings?

PLV: I like to take the “less is best” approach, letting the natural flavors of the dish and the wine complement each other. With that said, wine and cheese are a natural pairing and the addition of cheese to a dish will only further enhance it and if you want add a sauce, incorporate your wine into the dish in a reduction.

LBZ: How do you deal with vinegar in salads in terms of wine pairing?

PLV: I bring out the bubbles! When undecided, I find that a sparkling rosé will hold its own, but if you want to pair a still wine, then a Sauvignon Blanc is in the way to go. Balancing the acidity from the dressing with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc will enhance the tropical fruit flavors of your wine.

LBZ: Do you change up your wine list for the winter, and if so, how?

PLV: I generally do not, as I think every wine has a time and place and don’t like to place “barriers” on what wine to drink in what season. I believe every day is a good day for a good glass of wine—it just depends on what you are in the mood for!

LBZ: Are there any general guidelines you could give guests for rich, winter food pairings with wine?

Don’t over think your pairings. If you like it, drink it! It is all about what you like, and if it works for you, then that’s all that matters.

I couldn’t agree with him more.


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