|When looking for the perfect combination of food and wine, the most important thing to consider is the spices and the sauces used with the meat, says Paula Woolsey, vice president for the Verde Valley Wine Consortium. Woolsey says this is even more important than choosing the type of meat. VVN/Jon Pelletier|
|Peggy Fuller, executive chef at The Horn restaurant in Camp Verde, says that pairing wine with food works as easily for vegetarians as it does for meat-eaters. Pictured, The Hornís garden house salad with a cabernet vinaigrette dressing, served with a glass of Arizona Stronghold Tazi wine. VVN/Bill Helm|
VERDE VALLEY - A bottle of white?
A bottle of red?
Perhaps a bottle of rose instead?
As Billy Joel first sang those words in 1977, he wasn't giving Brenda and Eddie tips on how to pair wine with food.
Or was he?
Pairing wine with food, Kathy Chambers says, is simple.
"The best wine is the wine you like the best," says Chambers, owner of Vintages Grille in Rimrock. "It's all about enjoyment. Everyone's palette is different. It's about the beauty of the wine, how the nose takes it in. It all factors in."
Recently, Vintages Grille added a wine pairing plate to its varied menu. The appetizer includes fresh apple slices, frozen grapes, dried figs, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, flatbread, a mix of chopped olives, grilled focaccia and potted cheese, a blend of white cheddar cheese, spices and red wine.
Though Chambers suggests pairing this plate of hors d'oeuvres with a Cabernet, such as Man Vintners, the choice "really depends on the guest's tastes. Most items on this plate would work well with a variety of reds and whites."
When it comes to pairing wine with food, there are "no absolute rules," says Steve Goetting, owner of The Horn restaurant in Camp Verde. "We recommend that you drink what you like. If something appeals to you and matches what your taste buds want, then go for it."
With servers well versed in pairing, restaurants such as Vintages Grille and The Horn endeavor to provide a dining experience that is the ideal marriage of wine and food. Oftentimes, Goetting says, the rule about drinking red wines with dark meat and white wines with lighter meats "gets to be overdone."
"Don't let red-red, white-white limit you," Goetting says. "There's no food police here. Drink what you like. Pairing is about the experience of enjoying what you are eating and drinking. We hope our customers are looking at the entire dining experience, that their taste buds are excited throughout the meal."
Goetting also suggests drinking wine from the same region as the food you eat.
"If you're eating Italian food, drink Italian wine," he says.
When looking for the perfect combination of food and wine, the most important thing to consider is the spices and the sauces used with the protein, says Paula Woolsey, vice president for the Verde Valley Wine Consortium and general manager of sales and marketing operations for Cellar Door Unhinged, wine industry consultants located in Cottonwood. Woolsey says this is even more important than choosing the type of protein.
"Consider the overall end dish," Woolsey says. "Is it a spicy Thai dish? In this case, you want a wine that will contrast, not conflict with the heat of the spices, like a Riesling. Now consider a creamy, buttery, cheesy sauce like Alfredo atop a pile of fettuccini. With or without chicken, you would pair a wine that has a higher acid content, like a Tempranillo if you wanted a red, or a Sauvignon Blanc if you are in the mood for a white wine. Both have enough natural acid content to cut through the fat in the cream, cheese and the butter in the sauce. The effect will be a pleasant palate cleansing with every bite.
"Tomato-based sauces pair well with red or white wines, depends on what mood you are in," Woolsey also says. "Chicken Parmesan goes great with red or white wine."
Typically, discussions of pairing wine with food are based on meat. But Peggy Fuller, executive chef at The Horn says that pairing can be just as important for meatless meals.
For example, when eating a garden salad, Fuller recommends a white wine, such as a glass of Arizona Stronghold Tazi wine.
"Serving the salad with a white wine, light, fruitful, balanced, not too sweet, not too sour," Fuller said. "You still taste your salad. If you drank a glass of red wine with the salad, you would not taste your salad as well."
When pairing wine with vegetables, Woolsey says to consider the seasonings used.
"When you have vegetables with distinct earthy flavors, like mushrooms or beets, I like to pair lighter styles of red wines," Woolsey says. "Try [a] Pinot Noir or Gamay Beaujolais. For more bitter vegetables, like kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli or asparagus, use fruitier wines to contrast the bitterness. Try [an] unoaked Chardonnay or a Pinot Grigio with steamed kale seasoned with lemon juice and garlic. Delicious!"
When looking for the best wines to pair with dessert, Fuller first thinks of a Zinfandel or a Sangiovese, which is a wine made of grapes grown in central Italy.
Fuller even offers a few tips for pairing wine with chocolate.
"With milk chocolate, try a dry wine, such as a Merlot," she says. Since white chocolate is "mostly fat," Fuller suggests pairing with champagne or Prosecco, which is a sparkling white Italian wine.
With dark chocolate, Fuller says she likes "fruit forward reds," such as a Cabernet or Pinot Noir.
With good wine paired with good food, dining is "supposed to be a complete experience," Chambers says. "We offer good food. We want to provide a good meal at a fair price. And we price our wines so people can afford to drink them."
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42 and Instagram @VerdeValleyNews