Food and Wine Pairing Guide

When food and wine really complement each other, it elevates both. But how can you tell which wines will complement what you are dishing up? There are some easy, tried and true ways to find great food and wine pairings. Looking for recipes? The small, family wineries we feature in our wine clubs often share their favorite family recipes to pair with their wines. 
Our favorite food and wine pairing tips shared with us by artisan winemakers: 
  • Match hearty foods with hearty wines, and lighter fare with light bodied wines. Learn about Wine Varietals.
  • Rich dishes can benefit from either the contrast of a high acid wine that cleanses the palate, like Pinot Noir, or a rich, buttery Chardonnay the complements the flavors. 
  • Spicy dishes shine with fruitier, sweeter wines. The spicier your meal is, the colder and sweeter your wine should be.
  • Starchy potato, rice and pasta dishes call for high acid wines, like Barbera.
  • Beef and other rich meats, like duck, love high tannin wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Tannat.
  • Lighter meats, like Pork or even Tuna, are complemented by Pinot Noir.
  • Acidic foods, like goat cheese, pair well with acidic wines, like Sauvignon Blanc
  • Serving a wide variety of foods?  Sparkling wine, dry Rosé, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Merlot, dry Riesling, unoaked Chardonnay, Viognier and dry Gewurztraminer are all food-friendly wines that will enhance many dishes. 
  • Sweet desserts pair best with sweet wines or dessert wines.
These suggestions may help you discover food and wine pairings that you love, but don’t be afraid to experiment. You may find a new pairing that delights your palate. 
Firing up the grill? Use this handy wine pairing guide for to discover the perfect match for whatever you are cooking. 
  • BBQ Chicken: Spicy Zinfandel or an off-dry Riesling will complement all the spicy and sweet flavors in the sauce.
  • Grilled Chicken: A crisp Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc is the way to go.
  • Grilled Steaks: Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic match for red meat. A full-bodied Red Blend is a great choice too.
  • Portabella Mushroom Burgers: Juicy Syrah will show off this veggie favorite.
  • Grilled Salmon or Tuna: Pair these rich fish with a Pinot Noir.
  • BBQ Pork Ribs: Rich Syrah or fruity Zinfandel will stand up to the meaty goodness.
  • Bacon Cheese Burgers: Zinfandel or a rich Merlot will make this favorite a standout.
  • Grilled Lobsters: Buttery Chardonnay adds to the lusciousness.
There are many fish in the sea, lakes and rivers. The old rule that "white wine pairs with fish" does work in many cases. It is hard to go wrong pairing lighter fish with crisp, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc that adds zing like a squeeze of lemon does. But we also recommend you try pairing heavier fish with food-friendly red wines including a well aged Cabernet, Pinot Noir or a Nebbiolo for a new wine pairing experience. Use our handy fish and wine pairing guide to find great pairings. 
  • Shellfish that you dip in butter: Wonderful with a buttery Chardonnay
  • Shellfish that you squeeze lemon on: This calls for a high acidity, citrusy wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc
  • Sardines: A dry Rosé is an amazing wine pairing with a sardine pasta dish.
  • Lean, flaky, mild-flavored fish such as sea bass, flounder, sole and tilapia: Light calls for light--pair these fish with light, crisp white wines including Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay.
  • Medium textured, flaky-but-firm fish including trout, red snapper, grouper, cod, or halibut: These are delightful when paired with wines with a bit more oomph, like oaked Chardonnay, dry Chenin Blanc, finely aged Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir.
  • Meaty fish including salmon, swordfish and tuna: These hearty fish pair perfectly with wines with a medium body, such as Viognier, Pinot Noir or an oaked Chardonnay.
  • Strongly flavored fish like anchovies, herring and mackerel: These intense fish need wines that cut through the richness. Reach for Sparkling wine, dry Rosé, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, or a dry Riesling.

See our perfect wine and fish pairing chart. 


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How to pick the perfect match? Here are a few hints from the experts at Le Vigne Winery in Paso Robles and Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes, Sonoma County.
  1. Match like with like. So bold wine + bold cheese or mild wine + mild cheese.  As an example, Brie will do well with Chardonnay or Sparkling wine, while Aged Cheddar and Aged Gouda make better matches with Cabernet Sauvignon.
  2. Watch out for funky, blue-veined cheeses! These tend to be strong, and pair best with dessert wines, ports and sparklers.
  3. Just don’t know? Try a nutty, mild cheese like Swiss or Jarlsberg with just about anything.  These friendly cheeses pair with most wines.
Cheese and Wine Pairing Guide
Tip: Cabernet Sauvignon may not be the best choice for pairing with Brie. The cheese’s high butterfat content and slick texture are not a good match with this bold wine, and the cheese’s rind may give the wine a metallic flavor. 
If you are not serving up a multi-course meal, you can still enjoy a tasty pairing.
  • Peanuts, Pretzels & regular Potato Chips: A crisp, light white wine like an un-oaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will match up well to the salt.
  • BBQ Potato Chips: A red Zinfandel makes a lively combination!
  • Tortilla chips with salsa: Skip the beer or margarita and instead reach for a tart Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sparkling wine or Sauvignon Blanc!
  • Red grapes: A delicious twist with Viognier.
  • Popcorn: Enjoy a bowlful with a lightly oaked Chardonnay or Sparkling Wine.
  • French fries: Nearly anything goes! The subtle flavor of the potato does well with Merlot and Pinot Noir, and the salt and oil match nicely to light and crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio.
  • Apples and cheese: Easy to find a wine pairing favorite if you remember this: hard, flavorful cheeses need a darker, heavier wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon and lighter cheeses need a nice light white like Pinot Grigio, Riesling. Apples like a Fuji or Delicious are well, just delicious!
  • Hummus: A healthy snack deserving of a light red, like Pinot Noir or Sangiovese.
  • Twinkies: Sweet foods need sweet wines, try a German Riesling or Muscat.
  • Ice cream: Try a late-harvest wine, or fruit infused dessert wine... pour right over the top! Or, soak walnuts in a fine, full-bodied, fruity Merlot for a day or two, then use them to top your ice cream.  Yum!
  • Cookies: Chocolate Chip cookies need a Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, Oatmeal and Raisin cookies are yummy with either a Pinot Noir or Viognier. Gingersnaps are great fun with a peppery Zinfandel.
  • Carrots and celery with Ranch dip: Enjoy the crunch and tang alongside a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.
  • Beef Hamburgers: Try any of these: Syrah, Cabernet, Zinfandel or Cabernet Franc. The juices from a burger will cut through the tannins of a bigger red wine.
  • Pepperoni Pizza: Tangy pizza sauce and spicy Pepperoni go great with Zinfandel. A Friday-night must!
  • White chocolate: Sparkling Wine. The finer, the better!
  • Dark chocolate: Buy the most luxurious dark chocolate that you can find, and pair it with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Malbec. Heaven.
  • Wine with Mexican Food: Our go-to red wine for pairing with Mexican food is Pinot Noir or a lighter Red Blend. If you prefer a heavier red, or are enjoying a beef dish, try a Tempranillo. Verde sauces and chicken or fish dishes work well with Sauvignon Blanc or a bone-dry Rosé. If the meal is very spicy, go with a sweeter wine like a Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Rosé.
So reach for a glass of wine with your favorite snack and reap the rewards of wine's health benefits, plus create a taste sensation. For more food and wine pairing tips, check out our recipes page.  We share mouth-watering recipes that we have received from artisan wineries plus wines that make delectable matches.