30 perfect food & wine pairings

The right wine (and we’ve tried a shocking number) takes fresh flavors to an all new level

Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce and Cabernet Franc

Photo by James Carrier

Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce + Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is a very aromatic cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon. One of the five Bordeaux grapes, it has almost always been blended in with one or more of the others ― until now. Coming on strong on its own in the West, it has an exotic combination of florals and spices that make a great foil for Moroccan flavors and pungent lamb.

Recipe:  Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce

Baja Fried-Fish Tacos

Dan Goldberg

Baja Fried Fish Tacos + Dry Riesling

If you remember Riesling as a syrupy-sweet starter wine in the 70s, give it another try now!

Crisper and drier, it’s an incredibly interesting food wine ― cutting through fried foods like our favorite fish tacos and bringing enough citrus to the match to act like a spritz of lime.

Recipe:  Baja Fried-Fish Tacos


James Carrier

Classic Western Burgers + Zinfandel

A juicy burger deserves a juicy wine: Zinfandel’s your bottle. And its sweet, ripe fruit seldom comes with hefty tannins, so it can handle all the tangy, spicy condiments you care to pile on the patty.

Recipe:  Classic Western Burgers

Thai Green Curry Fish and Sauvignon Blanc

James Carrier

Thai Green Curry Fish + Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect wine to take on fresh green herbs in a dish.

And many are aromatic with white blossoms and faint tropical notes, a profile we love with coconut milk and Thai green curries.

Recipe:  Thai Green Curry Fish

Halibut Salad Sandwiches and Unoaked Chardonnay

James Carrier

Halibut Salad Sandwiches + Unoaked Chardonnay

When it’s not fermented or aged in oak barrels, Chardonnay shows off its bright, lively apple, pear, citrus, and/or tropical fruit flavors big-time.

One of the many versions out now that ditched the oak would be a fresh sip with this unusual sandwich.

Recipe:  Halibut Salad Sandwiches

Halibut with Watercress Pesto

James Carrier

Halibut with Watercress Pesto + Sauvignon Blanc

With its natural grassiness, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best partners for herbs and green veggies. The peppery watercress pesto on this halibut creates an exciting match.

Recipe:  Halibut with Watercress Pesto

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Sweet Onions and Peppers

Lisa Romerein

Grilled Chicken Thighs + Merlot

Red wine with red meat is safe, but who wants to be safe all the time?

The smooth cherry-and-chocolate personality of Merlot serves meaty chicken thighs well, especially if you add sweet peppers and fresh herbs.

Recipe:  Grilled Chicken Thighs with Sweet Onions and Peppers 

Tequila-Marinated Chicken Fajitas

James Carrier

Tequila-Marinated Chicken Fajitas + Chardonnay

Set out fajitas, and people might be thinking Corona or margaritas.

Shock them instead with a good Chardonnay, with enough crisp citrus to handle orange- and lime-marinated chicken with lots of onions and sweet peppers.

Recipe:  Tequila-Marinated Chicken Fajitas 

Double Salmon Burgers

James Carrier

Double Salmon Burgers + Pinot Noir

Pinot loves salmon, no matter what form it takes. Put the fish in a burger, and the wine’s juicy berries still set it off.

And since many Pinots have an earthy, smoky edge, a salmon burger from the grill has an even better chance of being the perfect Western partner.

Recipe:  Double Salmon Burgers

Chinese chicken salad

Thomas J. Story

Best-Ever Chinese Chicken Salad + White Meritage (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Blend)

In France’s Bordeaux region, a white wine is a mix of mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon ― two grapes that balance each other well, the Sauv. Blanc bringing tart citrus and earthy minerals to the table, the Semillon rounding them out with a little creaminess and sweet pear.

As it turns out, the result tastes great with many Chinese dishes, including our favorite chicken salad.

Recipe:  Best-Ever Chicken Salad

Yellow Squash and Split Pea Soup with Shrimp and Chardonnay

James Carrier

Yellow Squash and Split Pea Soup with Shrimp + Chardonnay

With its creamy citrus and buttery side, Chardonnay has an uncanny affinity for squash (both summer and winter). It’s also often a great texture match for legumes. We capitalize on all of that here ― plus its partiality for sweet seafood ― in a summer soup made for Chard.

Recipe:  Yellow Squash and Split Pea Soup with Shrimp

Pepper Steaks with Balsamic Onions and Cabernet Sauvignon

Leigh Beisch

Pepper Steaks with Balsamic Onions + Cabernet Sauvignon

Sometimes you just have to give in to a cliché: What could be better than a good steak and a glass of Cab? Only a good steak coated with crunchy-hot pepper and loaded up with tangy balsamic onions.

Recipe:  Multicolored-Pepper Steaks with Balsamic Onions

Tandoori Shrimp in Green Marinade

James Carrier

Tandoori Shrimp in Green Marinade + Riesling

Few wines go with as many foods as crisp, aromatic Riesling does.

The pungent herbs, garlic, chiles, and Indian spices here would intimidate most other varieties. Not a slightly off-dry Riesling, though, with delicate peach and apricot flavors and exotic floral aromas.

Recipe:  Tandoori Shrimp in Green Marinade

Halibut Tostadas with Yogurt-Lime Sauce

James Carrier

Halibut Tostadas with Yogurt-Lime Sauce + Pinot Gris

Creamy-textured Pinot Gris loves meaty fish like halibut, but it also has a crisp acidity that is a great counterpoint to fried foods like tortillas.

That citrus zing keeps up with the marinade and spices in these tostadas too (consider it a lemon wedge on the side).

Recipe:  Halibut Tostadas with Yogurt-Lime Sauce

Prosciutto-Wrapped Turkey Breast with Fontina and Sage and Syrah

James Carrier

Prosciutto-Wrapped Turkey Breast with Fontina and Sage + Syrah

Think outside the box ― red wine can be just the thing with white meat.

On the face of it, turkey might seem an odd match for a hearty Syrah, but the prosciutto in our recipe brings out its meaty, baconlike quality, and the grill flavors accentuate the wine’s smoky, earthy side.

Recipe:  Prosciutto-wrapped Turkey Breast with Fontina and Sage

Grilled rib-eye steaks with miso butter

Dan Goldberg

Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Miso Butter + Nebbiolo

Big, tannic, red Nebbiolo needs a cut of beef that’s both flavorful and marbled with fat. Rib-eye’s your steak for this one. And the miso butter on ours adds a remarkable savory bridge to the wine.

Recipe:  Grilled Rib-eye Steaks with Miso Butter

Meyer Lemon–Crab Salad and Chardonnay

Annabelle Breakey

Meyer Lemon–Crab Salad + Chardonnay

Dungeness crab and Chardonnay are a perennial treat. The sweet fruit flavors a Chard offers keep step with the sweet shellfish, and the wine’s typical butteriness ― which can get in the way for some foods ― is an asset with crab.

Choose a Chardonnay with a bright lemon profile to echo the Meyer lemon juice in this salad. And if you find one with a hint of tropical fruit, you’ll have a link to the sesame oil in the dish too.

Recipe:  Meyer Lemon-Crab Salad

Herb-rubbed Baby Back Ribs

Lisa Romerein

Herb-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs + Zinfandel

Pork ribs and Zinfandel are one of summer’s best pairings ― and an all-American one, since Zin is as close to a native grape as we have: While it traces its roots to eastern Europe, no one in the world does Zin like California winemakers.

We’ve shamelessly spiked our homemade barbecue sauce here with the wine to lock in the match.

Recipe:  Herb-rubbed Baby Back Ribs

Chicken and corn summer chowder

Leo Gong (Food Styling: Randy Mon)

Chicken and Corn Summer Chowder + Chardonnay

Corn and Chardonnay are such an inspired pair, they can get you through the whole summer.

Find a Chard that’s bright with lemon flavors and crisp enough to work well with the other veggies in our chowder yet buttery and rich enough to thrive with the bacon.

Recipe:  Chicken and Corn Summer Chowder

Warm Steak Salad with Marinara Sauce and Cabernet Sauvignon

Leo Gong; Styling: Dan Brecker

Warm Steak Salad with Marinara Sauce + Cabernet Sauvignon

What’s not to like about Cab and steak?

We’ve dressed this steak down for summer with sauce and greens, so find a Cabernet that’s not so ripe that it’s lost its natural acidity (so it can handle the tomato) and one that has an herbal layer as well, to offer a bridge to the arugula.

Recipe:  Warm Steak Salad with Marinara Sauce

Shrimp and Pasta with Creamy Pesto and Pinot Gris

James Carrier

Shrimp and Pasta with Creamy Pesto + Pinot Gris

A good Pinot Gris ― with crisp layers of lemon, herbs, and minerals over a creamy mouthfeel ― is a great foil for pasta laced with basil and cream. Our version can be on your table in just 15 minutes. 

Recipe:  Shrimp and Pasta with Creamy Pesto

Frito Pie with Red Chili and Petite Sirah

Frito Pie with Red Chili + Petite Sirah

In spite of its name, Petite Sirah isn’t little, and it’s not Syrah. A hearty wine, often with big textures (it can have tannin in spades) and deep fruit, it’s a match for casual, big-flavored foods.

We love it with retro ground-beef chili piled onto Fritos, with all the fixings. 

Recipe:  Frito Pie with Red Chili

Sunset Classic Barbecued Ribs and Zinfandel

Sunset Classic Barbecued Ribs + Zinfandel

The juicy dark berries and black pepper in Zinfandel make it the perfect rib wine.

Rub some spices on those ribs and baste them with a homemade barbecue sauce, and a summer Saturday couldn’t get better. 

Recipe:  Sunset Classic Barbecued Ribs

Tangy Lemon-Cucumber Chicken Salad Croissants and Sauvignon Blanc

Tangy Lemon-Cucumber Chicken Salad Croissants + Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is one of those wines that makes you want a glass in the middle of a hot summer day, so a sandwich is called for to match.

Our croissants filled with chicken salad seasoned with plenty of lemon and herbs make the most of Sauvignon Blanc’s green herb and citrus personality. 

Recipe:  Tangy Lemon-Cucumber Chicken Salad Croissants

Grapefruit-Rosemary Shrimp and Sauvignon Blanc

Grapefruit-Rosemary Shrimp + Sauvignon Blanc

One of Sauvignon Blancs classic flavors is grapefruit, so you can’t go wrong in a pairing by mixing some of the juice with seafood.

The double citrus on this shrimp goes an extra mile to pick up on the refreshing tartness in the wine. 

Recipe:  Grapefruit-Rosemary Shrimp

Grilled Pork Noodles and Viognier

Grilled Pork Noodles + Viognier

A wine dripping with exotic, honeyed orange blossoms and stone fruit flavors calls for an exotic food match.

Try our skewers of meaty pork loin smothered in a Vietnamese marinade of lemon grass, hoisin, and honey. It works on all fronts. 

Recipe:  Grilled Pork Noodles

Plum Creek Cellars Grilled Tenderloin and Merlot

Plum Creek Cellars Grilled Tenderloin + Merlot

A tenderloin is so, well, tender that a massive Cabernet Sauvignon can overpower it.

Wrap those same dark cassis, cherry, mint, chocolate, and cedar flavors in the softer tannins of Merlot ― gentler cousin to Cabernet ― and you have an inspired match. 

Recipe:  Plum Creek Cellars Grilled Tenderloin

French Tomato Tart and Dry Rose

French Tomato Tart + Dry Rosé

The only possible downside to fresh tomatoes in the summer is that there aren’t many wines that are happy in the marriage.

Good news, though: Dry rosé is on a roll in the West. With the earthy, spicy, fruitiness of a red wine and the crispness of a white, it sets off sweet, zippy tomatoes in every way. 

Recipe:  French Tomato Tart

Orange-Soy Skirt Steaks and Cabernet Sauvignon

Orange-Soy Skirt Steaks + Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet often has hints of soy sauce lurking in its flavor cabinet, along with earthy eucalyptus and minty, briary berries.

All of the above bring out the savory soy in these skirt steak skewers off the grill.

Recipe:  Orange-Soy Skirt Steaks

Spiced Short Ribs + Petite Sirah

Annabelle Breakey

Spiced Short Ribs + Petite Sirah

Don’t be fooled by the name. First, Petite Sirah is anything but little. It’s a deep, dark bruiser of a wine—a stain-your-teeth-purple kind of wine. Petite Sirah is no cocktail wine—it needs hearty food alongside. Pull out a deeply flavored dish, like these Spiced Short Ribs, with enough protein and fat to coat those tannins, and you’ll taste what all the excitement is about.

Recipe: Spiced Short Ribs with Roasted Baby Carrots and Cipollini Onions

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