Red Wine & Fresh Tomatoes: What’s The Answer?

Red Wine and Fresh Tomatoes. It’s a conundrum, there’s just no getting around it. Separately, they can be oh so very wondrous.

But together? Very, very tough. All that warm, luxurious viscosity of a supple and inviting red wine, up against all the fresh, piquant succulence and explosive crispness of a fresh tomato. Oil and Water, my friends. Oil and Water.

So what’s to be done? Well, there’s the obvious. Cook ’em down! 8 hours on a warm stove, and bam! Pairing heaven. But it’s not particularly imaginative. Delicious, but not imaginative. And I’m into imagination today. So, I want to hear suggestions for IMAGINATIVE ways to prepare tomatoes such that they pair brilliantly with red wine. And of course, not just any red wine. Ridge red wine. Pick a Ridge, and send a recipe. Enquiring minds want to know!

Now, I know there will be naysayers. And don’t get me wrong. I love Caprese. Love it!

Just looking at this picture is making me hungry. Fresh basil and tomatoes?  Garlic? Fresh mozzarella and olive oil? Oh yes! Oh very much yes!

But, with what wine? Visit, and take a look. It’s all whites and rosés for Caprese. From, you get the following:

The Caprese is a well-balanced salad with creamy mozzarella that tames the high acidity in the tomatoes. A salad like this calls for an equally well-balanced wine — one that’s not too tart and not too creamy, and one that won’t get in the way of unadorned natural flavors of the salad. Pinot Grigio fits the bill, as does Sauvignon Blanc, which also has flavors that will complement the basil.

Again, white wine. One exception? An article from The Washington Post on pairing wine and salad that suggests, somewhat dismissively, the possibility of Beaujolais. The exact quote was:

The rule of thumb when matching wine with salads? Acid loves acid. Tradition honors safe bets such as sauvignon blanc, rosés or — if you insist on a red — Beaujolais. A crisp 2005 Bollini Pinot Grigio Trentino ($14) delightfully offsets a Caprese salad of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.

Now, of course I realize Caprese is not the only way fresh tomatoes are served. But the dish serves as a good metaphor for the problem at large, which is what to do with fresh tomatoes and red wine? The answer, it seems, is to cook the tomatoes. Cook ’em! But how?

So again, my quest. IMAGINATIVE ways to prepare tomatoes such that they pair excellently with a Ridge red.

To launch the search, I will nominate an ASTONISHING dish I had the great privilege of tasting yesterday. Roasted red tomato and fennel. Oh good lord, it was delicious, and it paired perfectly with our wine. Oh man, it was really, really, really good … Oh man, fennel, I love you.

I won’t divulge the mad scientist who slayed me with this delectable offering just yet, but they’ll get their well-deserved credit in due time. In the interim, however, I want to see what else is out there.

So bring it!

By the way, the wines?


Categories: Food & Wine Pairing, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine Tales

Tags: , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. Boil 1 lb whole wheat penne pasta until done. While it cooks, in a large frying pan, saute 1/2c finely chopped onion & 4 cloves minced garlic in a small amount of olive oil. When softened, add 1c snapped green beans + 1 c zucchini (cored & then chopped) plus a small amount of water & cover; cook for 4-5 min. Then add 1c sliced snap peas, 1c pitted and halved kalamata olives, and 1/4c chopped basil. Stir & cook for 1-2 min. Add in 1-2c halved cherry tomatoes, stir, and cook until tomatoes are warmed through.

    Stir 3/4c parmesan into the hot drained pasta, then stir in the vegetable mixture. Serve with more parmesan, toasted sliced almonds, and a Ridge Red (we like the Grenache with this).

    • Wow, brilliant! So much in here to commend:
      -LOVE whole wheat penne!
      -Snapped green peas, wouldn’t have thought of that, nice touch!
      -Have to rememebr to core zucchini, nice tip!
      -Anytime kalamata olives and basil are in the same sentence, I’m a happy, happy person!
      -MMMMM, sliced toasted almonds …
      -The grenache, eh? We’re actually pouring the new 2004 Lytton Estate Grenache at our First Friday event this evening; I may have to bring a bottle home and have a go at this.

      Thanks so much!


      • It’s critical to not forget the toasted sliced almonds. Put 1/2c in a microwave-safe bowl & cook on high for 1-2 minutes or until light brown, stirring every minute. Sprinkled on top, they add a fantastic crunch to the dish!

        Also, on the zucchini – I like to cut them into big matchsticks, about 1″ x .3″ x .5″. And then I usually chop up the core & add it too. I just like the way it looks this way.

        And finally… I’ve found it necessary to prep everything before starting to cook. Otherwise the veggies end up cooking too long while I chop.

      • All great reminders, thank you!


  2. I think that the problems isn’t that it is hard to pair your delicious wine with fresh tomato dishes. The problem is that the culinary press and talking heads have bought into this overly simplistic formula of how to pair wine and food.

    At least we have moved beyond the very simple but overly restrictive meme of white wine with white meats (including fish) and red wines with red meats.

    These rules are usually as useless and unreliable as finding a mate based on your Zodiac signs.

    Your 2004 Monte Bello Cab was fantastic with Caprese, and I won’t let you or any website tell me otherwise.

    • I love it! Stand up and shout it! Let me get an amen! Seriously, good on ya for sticking to your guns. And of course I’m THRILLED that you enjoyed the ’04 CMB with your Caprese. I think I’ll have to go test that myself, just to see what’s going on. Thanks so much for your comment! Amd for what it’s worth, I agree there is a lot of outdated convention out there about wine and food pairing that simply needs to be discarded. But that said, I still find fresh tomatoes and red wine a challenging pairing. But I look forward to more thoughts on the matter!


      • Give me a call! I would be happy to try it again (For the sake of science of course!)

        Tell you what; You bring the wine, I’ll bring the Caprese.

      • You know, you just may have a deal there! Let’s see, you’re in Belmont, is that correct? That’s not too far a jaunt to Monte Bello, maybe you’d be interested in doing a little wine and food tasting up here? Good be good fodder for our respective blogs … Let me know your thoughts, and let me ruminate on it a bit, and we’ll see what we can do …


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