Some things are meant to come in pairs. Sand and ocean, salt and pepper, pen and paper. Wine and food has definitely become the adult version of the pairing of peanut butter and jelly. In fact, I would say it even trumps old favorites such as needle and thread. What exactly are the rules for pairing food with wine? Especially in Portland, where there are hundreds of restaurants and wines to choose from.
We’re fortunate in Oregon to be in the heart of some of the best vineyards in the country. Areas like California and Washington have more heat-driven climates, so that leaves Oregon as an ideal location because of our cooler climate and coastal influence. With local favorites such as Le Communard Fausse Piste, Oregon Pinot Noir and Rose of Gamat-how can you go wrong when drinking wine in Portland?
Over the last several years, it seems that Pinot Noir has taken over Oregon as one of the most popular and sought after wines. While Pinot Noir is known for its usually dry and oak flavor, its savory aftertaste can be best matched with homey dishes like pizzas and pastas. A common ingredient that seems to go well with many Pinots are mushrooms.
Some great combinations as a general rule of thumb when dining out can be categorized depending on which wine you fancy. For white wines, chicken, soups, and spaghetti dishes are common. For red wines, duck, lamb, asparagus and pork chops. Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio can often be found served with fish dishes because of the way the wine brings out the deep flavor of the seafood.
Let us not forget about wine and cheese, our favorite couple since the beginning of time. Pinots pair nicely with mountain cheese or alpine flavors because of the bright cheery taste. Sauvignon Blanc is a popular wine to pair with goat cheese because of how the acidic wine balances out the rich flavor of the cheese. With lower alcohol percentage and more fruit friendly wines, they can be enjoyed with mostly any kind of cheese. The evolution of wine with cheese has been rapidly growing over the years. Even just within Portland, there are a handful of restaurants that focus on just the elements of wine and cheese, such as Cheese Bar on Southeast Belmont. And let’s face it, what kind of party is it if you have wine without cheese?
It’s certainly a skill chefs have seemed to perfect, how to know what foods pair well with each wine they serve. Some tips that I have learned from local chefs involve elements such as: acid and freshness, texture, bitterness and salt. Each element should be balanced out in equal proportions. Most chefs have the ability to choose the best wine out of a selection of a couple hundred bottles they have in their restaurants.
Another great way to enhance your knowledge on wines is to set up a wine tasting at many of the restaurants here in Portland that specializes specifically in wine and snacks to accompany. Experts from local vineyards can typically be found working in the restaurant industry, and local vendors are always more than happy to divulge some of their secrets in what they enjoy pairing with their own wines.
Whether you’re looking to spend an evening dining out in the city, or entertaining guests at your own get together, you can never go wrong when adding wine to a meal. Oregonians are fortunate enough to have some of the best wine and best food in the country, so perhaps we have the best of both worlds in our city of roses.