Still trying to find the perfect bottle of wine to serve at your holiday party? Or perhaps just a great bottle to sip with friends and family over a long, chilly weekend? Whatever the occasion, Wendy Keefer, the director at the Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room in downtown Charleston is here to help. The center was created by Mira Winery, a California winery that produces a limited amount of single vineyard wines from the Napa Valley, specifically Stags Leap District and Los Carneros. At the center, they provide unique access to Mira Winery and the wine industry through educational and tasting programs like interactive displays, private EduTastings, wine flights and a series of classes. In a nutshell, Wendy helps wine lovers find wines they love. Wendy, a Certified Wine Expert, has a few tips for selecting wine for all of us holiday wine drinkers.
TLP: What are the basic guidelines for pairing food and wine? What do you take into consideration when pairing food and wine?
Pairing food and wine is as much an art as a science, as it depends on individual preferences. There are certain “rules” that are often repeated, like whites with poultry and fish and reds with red meat, but wine is not simple and simple pairing rules – though a great starting point – fail to take into account personal preference and preparation. Whether the dish has a sauce or side dish that has strong flavored ingredients can alter what someone might prefer to drink with it. I do tend to pair wines more with a sauce or spice than the underlying protein. That all being said,
I like to think of pairing rules like I think of all rules. Whether you view it as rebellious, rules are made to be broken, or the more scientific view that exceptions prove the rule, there are few hard and fast rules. While in Napa recently with a friend, I did note, with humor, that she chose a red wine with her fish and I chose a white with my beef. The real rule is choose what you like.
TLP: What is a good wine variety to choose that will pair well with most food? A wine to select for a table of people having different dishes?
In terms of selecting a wine to satisfy an entire table ordering different dishes, I tend to lean toward lighter reds or heavier whites, a kind of middle ground. But if you have guests who don’t like red or don’t like white, this doesn’t work. And, some wines can either be lost under the strong flavors of the meal or if the wine is heavy or strong, can overpower a delicate food dish. The one rule I always live by in wine pairing though is to pick a wine I like. I will never pick a wine that isn’t my style just because someone somewhere said it was the perfect pairing for food or would satisfy most guests.
TLP: What is a good wine for white wine drinkers who want to move into red wines?
Rather than pick a white wine that might transition someone into reds, I like to look for easier drinking reds, ones with a lower tannin levels and a more fruit forward character. Interestingly, Mira’s Syrah has proven to be the perfect wine for this despite its full body. I tell people to just dive right in – we all know it is easier to jump in the pool than to try to ease in slowly. I also like to use roses for this purpose. Explaining to people that our Rose of Pinot Noir is made from a red grape helps them get over that psychological hurdle that they don’t like reds.
TLP: What wines will you be serving over the holidays?
The holidays are fun for me in terms of wine. I always serve Pinot Noir with turkey and have for years. But I will serve several different wines throughout the season. I typically start with bubbles – the one thing Mira doesn’t make, but I will follow that with two of our most recent releases: Hyde Chardonnay and Hyde Pinot Noir. I can’t wait to share these wines with my friends and family.