Food & Wine Pairing

I have had, on a number of occasions of late, the rather exquisite opportunity to experiment with, and subsequently present, taste, and enjoy, Ridge wines in a variety of food pairing constructs, and I thought I’d share some of the pairings I was particularly fond of.

To begin, my absolute favorite pairing for our chardonnays in general, and the 2006 Monte Bello Chardonnay in particular …

… is the one and only Haig’s Hummus.

If you’re a reader of this blog, then you’ve certainly heard me wax beautific about Haig’s before, and if you’ve tasted wines with me in a wine and food pairing situation, then you’ve probably heard some variation on my feelings for this hummus; that either it, or all other hummus, needs  a name change, because Haig’s is simply so much better that it is accordingly a linguistic disservice to both to link the two.

Moving on from Chardonnay, I usually like to pour one of our single-vineyard zinfandels, and preferably, one of the more elegant, subtle, and less weightier offerings; a zinfandel that expresses herb, spice, and acidity over muscularity of structure and opulence of fruit. The 2008 Geserville is just such a wine …


… and I recently took a bit of a gamble, and paired this with bruschetta topped with a dollop of chevre, and served with crostini …


I say “gamble,” by the way, because I actually  find fresh tomato dishes somewhat challenging to pair with red wines (you can see more on this here), but in this case, the pairing was delicious!

Moving on, were we to consider this a proper tasting flight, I would probably go with another zinfandel, something with a tad more muscularity, and perhaps a wine that introduces a touch of rusticity, earthiness, even shades of umami savoriness. One particular pairing caught my palate recently, the 2007 Carmichael Zinfandel (also Alexander Valley in origin, but a very limited-production, winery-only offering) paired with a delicious spread composed primarily of eggplant, garlic, and fefferoni peppers …


I quite like the combination of ingredients in this dish; the eggplant adds just a hint of smokiness, without being oppressive, the garlic brings a bit of bite, while the peppers add a nice blend of sweetness & spice; perfect with an Alexander Valley zin!

From here I would traditionally make a turn towards the Rhone; I’ve been pouring our 2008 Buchignani Ranch Carginane in the #4 spot quite often lately, and a particularly favorite pairing of mine for this wine is chevre topped with a sprinkle of dried basil and a drizzle of olive oil …


… I find that the acidity of the Carignane is a nice counter-balance to the fatter, fleshier side of the chevre’s flavor profile (enhanced by the olive oil), while the herb & spice component of the wine blends nicely with the chevre’s tanginess, and the dried basil draws just a touch of rusticity from the wine.

In the tasting room, I find I am often deploying the Buchignani Carignane as a set-up for the 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Cabernet/Merlot; something about these two wines in this order seems to really serve both well.

So, as to a food pairing, one of my favorite pairings for our Cabs is one of our truly favorite cheeses around here, Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog, a goat’s milk cheese with a washed rind and an ash thread …


This is truly a magic pairing; funky, fruitful, lascivious and luscious!

The #6 spot in a 6-wine flight invariably goes to something with some huskiness, muscle, and depth, and in this case, I’m going to mention another of my favorite pairings, our 2004 Lytton Estate Syrah (co-fermented with viognier, and winery-blended with two small blocks of old-vine grenache), with an olive tapenade …


This pairing is all about dark, deep, rustic, earthy, fleshy flavors, and a great way to end a flight crafted to achieve a trajectorial experience in which the movement from lighter to heartier flavors is the key architectural determinant.

So there you go, a small sampling of some of my favorite recent pairings. How about you? Any particular pairings for Ridge wines that you’re particularly fond of? I’d love to hear about them!

Categories: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Chardonnay, Food & Wine Pairing, Geyserville, Grenache, Merlot, Rhone varietals, Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, Syrah, Tasting Flights, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends, Wine Tales, Zinfandel

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5 replies

  1. do you have a recipe for the eggplant spread?

  2. We paired the 2001 Monte Bello with braised beef short ribs and carrot mascarpone agnolotti with great success. Bold flavors both with the beef and the pasta… but the MB was so delicious, textured, with layers and layers of flavors and aromas that wash over you, it seemed to elevate the food to places food alone can’t go.

    I think that 06 MB Chard would be uber-deece with raw oysters.

  3. OK, guys, I have just finished a bottle of 1999 Geyserville. Yes, I am happy, as it went rather well with a pan seared, line caught Tuna steak. The accompanying pesto was home made. Home grown basil, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Served with home grown runner beans, some edamame beans – out of the pod – and sautéed potatoes.

    Mind you, this has been a Ridge week for me. Yesterday I had to suffer a half of Geyserville 1997 by myself. It went rather well with a gammon steak, gently grilled over charcoal.

    And then last Sunday, I had to suffer a DUO of Ridge. 1995 Geyserville and Lytton Springs were placed before me and I had to work out which I liked more. The geyservill shaded it, being up fromnt and fully on song. The Lytton was still austere – if such can ever be said of it.

    To come on Saturday, a 1998 Chardonnay. Suffer!

  4. Oh boy…The Monte Bello Chard with any halibut dish. We usually pan-fry the halibut with some panko on one side. Serve with a arugula salad or some bitter greens. AMAZING with the MB Chard.

    As for the Geyserville – or, frankly, any of the amazing Ridge Zins – I don’t think you can beat a T-bone or rib eye right off the charcoal grill. Seasoned simply with salt and pepper, served with a simple garlic bread or bruschetta. That combo of grilled meat and RIdge Zin…HEAVEN.

    For the Cabs, I like your idea of tapenades…we love the Cabs with Penne Puttanesca (that tapenade taste right there), or a French-inspired roasted chicken with olives; or simply roasted with Herbes de Provance.

    Now I’m hungry!!!

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