The Essentials of Food, Wine Pairing as Taught by Chef Saad

Photo:Cuvee Corner Wine Blog

“If the pairing works, you’ll be in taste heaven.”

Who would like a glass of milk with their pizza? Blecch. Now you get the essence of food and wine pairing. This is the summer for you to experiment with opening your palate.

A few weeks ago, a keynote address given at the Wine Bloggers Conference featured Chef Jeffrey Saad. Chef Saad was the 2009 runner-up on season five of the TV show, “The Next Food Network Star.” He had a few tips about wine and food pairings, and then 300 bloggers converged on tables holding an assortment of new and old world style wines, each with a perfect pairing.

“Think of wine as an additional condiment,” said Chef Saad. French fries with ketchup – the condiment concept – helps you get the sense of what he means. “The whole idea of pairings is the balance of those tastes coming together.”

The ritual Chef Saad recommends to truly appreciate a wine and food pairing are: 1) sip the wine, 2) take a bite of the food, and 3) while the food is still on your tongue, take another sip of the wine. If the pairing works, you’ll be in taste heaven.

A few no-brainer pairing tips are these:

• The protein and fat in meats mean that the tannin in red wines always complement those foods.
• Pairing sweet with sweet always works, such as dessert with dessert wines.

• Aged cheeses go well with red wines, or try a soft creamy cheese with a Beaujolais.

• Red wines and chocolate, particularly dark chocolate. Try pairings with a Zinfandel, a wine from the southern Rhone area or a Grenache, syrah and mourvèdre blend.

• A brilliant pairing is an oloroso style of sherry with marcona almonds. You can find these almonds at Whole Foods. They are a bit pricy, but worth every penny.

• Artichokes and Grüner Veltliner.

• Roasted bell peppers with Cabernet.

• Whole roast pig, served perhaps with a tomatillo salsa? Try a Sangiovese or a Tempranillo.

If in doubt, go with geography. If you are in an Italian restaurant and uncertain, then order an Italian wine. “There’s a reason they grow up together,” Chef Saad says.

What wines can you look to for a palate-opening experience this summer?

Chef Saad gives this list below as an “all time safe no-brainer” list:

• Viognier. Wonderful with practically everything. But not steak.

• Dry Rosé . It has just enough acid, just enough fruit and a bit of a tannic nature.

• Champagne. Particularly off-dry champagne. Try a Prosecco with caviar. It’s a low alcohol wine, so it doesn’t get in the way of salt. And, it has a bit of sweetness.

• Barbera. This is one wine that is off the beaten track and surprising.

• Grüner Veltliner. It can pair with practically anything, so long as it is not a heavy food.

For more on Chef Saad’s food and wine pairings, visit

What do you serve to a discerning group like wine bloggers? Chef Bear of the Marcus Whitman Hotel in Walla Walla, Wash., prepared some wonderful bites, matched with interesting wines suppliled by Winebow. The list:

Kris Pinot Grigio 2009, Tre Venezie, Italy, served with spot prawn salsa with white peach and peppercorn caramel.

Cousino Macul Sauvignon Grist 2009, Maipo Valley, Chile, paired with a chicken skewer with white balsamic vanilla marinade, on chayote slaw with micro cilantro.

Tilia Torrontes 2009, Mendoza, Argentina, paired with Phyllo bouchee with monteillet chevre, pistachio and chestnut honey.

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand, served with gravlox on endive, garnished with crème fraiche, ikura and fried capers.

Clean Slate Riesling 2009, Mosel, Germany, paired with Ahi Poke, and white soy on an apricot namusu.

Rioja Vega Reserva 2004, La Rioja, Spain, served with pork belly and pea vines with saffron scented stock.

There were more. I could go on, but I’m still on the treadmill trying to work off the calories...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in July 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.

Why you should make your alcohol % easy to find

It's a pet peeve of mine. I write a weekly column on wine for the Tahoe Weekly, which might not have the clout of The Pour in the New York Times, but still, lots of people (people with money) read my column and buy wine. I am limited to 600 words, and today I just hit "delete" for reviews of two wines where I couldn't find the alcohol content easily on an internet search. I had plenty of other options for those 600 words; who could be bothered search-search-searching for information that should be readily accessible on a wine?

I always include alcohol percentages in my wine reviews; that's my own personal policy and my way of encouraging responsible wine drinking. So, perhaps I should have paid more attention and taken more thorough notes while I was tasting those 12 wines at the charity event. But it was a warm summer day, the appetizers appealed, the string quartet was sweet and the sailboats were gliding on the lake. I took some notes, yes, but I figured I could use the internet to fill in the technical info gaps.


Search search search, snooth,, wine-searcher, KL etc.... I could find no notes of alcohol content for two of the ten wines. So, bye bye. Tough luck.

I don't mean to cheat my readers out of information on a good wine. However, I write under deadline and I have lots of other stuff going on in my life (like research for my book on Moutain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills, publ date April 2011 by the way). I am not going to chase this information for more than five minutes. When in doubt, as the old English professor said, leave it out.

If you are a winery, winemaker or wine sales rep, and your internet search on your wine does not easily yield information on its alcohol level, you are missing the mark. More and more consumers are concerned about what they drink and what they serve to guests.

California Highway Patrol gives a lot of citations for DUI's on Lake Tahoe's meandering roads every winter. Summer too. So help me, the time-pressed writer, out. But beyond that ... it's important information for consumers. Make it readily available. Just do it.


Wine Blog 101 for Old Media Readers

Dear Newspaper Reader: If you’ve had enough time to read to the bottom of my weekly wine columns in the past, you’ve noticed that I always mention my wine blog. So in late June 2010, I found myself at the Wine Bloggers Conference with 300 other folks who do “postings” on wine blogs, living and blogging from their homes in Spain, Argentina, South Africa, the United States, Canada, France, China -- you name it – there’s a wine blogger in every nook and cranny of the world. And pay attention: Vlogs are about to explode on the internet: short videos posted on blogs.

Blogging is a part of the internet-age communications genre referred to as “social media”. A blog is a short-hand term for “web log”, and it is a type of on-line journaling. (Remember journaling, or keeping a diary?) Blogs cost nothing but time to create and they are easy to maintain. This year’s Wine Bloggers Conference, the third annual, was held in Walla Walla, WA, which is an up and coming wine grape growing and winery area. Not long ago, there were only a few hundred wineries in the state of Washington; now there are almost 650.

An observer at the conference was Dr. Alex Ramirez, who teaches in the Information Systems program at the Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Alex is involved in the analysis of why bloggers blog, a study which has implications for communications trends of the future, for the sociology of community organization, and for marketing on the internet. In an age where your teenage and twenty-somethings spend more time in front of a computer or smartphone or digital-game screen than in-person visits with friends and family, blogging plays a huge role. It’s how this generation builds their knowledge base via trusted information outlets.

You might not be as computer-oriented as the youngsters in your life, but we’ve all come to the point that we turn to the internet for instant information. In my columns, I’ll often give the URL (that’s the www…. address) so you can get more detail on a wine or a product or an industry issue. Huh? URL? Oh that’s a Uniform Record Locator. It’s kind of like a library card, but for the internet.

So what wine blogs, in addition to of course, should you follow if you want to delve into the wine world more thoroughly. That is to say: which of the 13,000 wine blogs are worth your time? The list below is highly subjective and cut-to-the-bone for this column. I follow 50-60 wine blogs, and it is a rotating and constantly changing list. Even bloggers burn out!

The Pour. (Eric Asimov, New York Times)


Dr. Vino

Steve Heimhoff’s Blog


Alice Feiring’s Blog


Jamie Goode’s Wine Blog

Reign of Terroir

1 Wine Dude

Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz

Good Grape

That’s a start for you. Blogs are repositories of wine reviews, information about winemaking techniques, the ‘buzz’ in the industry which often indicates what winery will succeed or not with a new vintage or new facility or under a new owner, what regions are emerging as significant wine regions, which star winemakers are working with what winery, deals, details and divas.

The internet has tremendous storage capacity. Blog entries are archived and “tagged” by many bloggers so you can find content quickly. And most have a search capability. Go to and search for Tahoe Weekly. You’ll find every column I’ve ever written, and a few postings that are blog-worthy but perhaps not everyday reading.

Enjoy! All Hail to Social Media!

(This primer appeared in my weekly wine column "It's Grape" in The Tahoe Weekly Newspaper, July 7, 2010)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.

Summer Barbeque Wine Recommendations from Lake Tahoe Wine Shop Experts

Thinking about that summer barbeque and wondering what wines to bring to the neighborhood soiree or serve in your own backyard? Here are some ideas from the experts, some savvy wine shop owners.

Will Clark, owner of 49WINES in Downieville had these thoughts while looking over his wine selections. He thinks that Pinot Noir could jump to the front of everyone’s shopping list. Pinot, a very versatile and food friendly wine, will work with whatever is on the grill, from hamburgers to salmon.

He recommends two wines: “Bogle Vineyards 2008 California Pinot Noir at $11 is an excellent value. This is a delicate, aromatic wine with clean cherry and berry fruitiness. Fresh and smooth. Another outstanding choice is Drytown Cellars "RED ON RED" blend. At $10, this blend of Zinfandel, Cab Franc and Syrah is perfect for barbeque meats of any kind. Alan Kreutzer, the winemaker, is well known for his blending skills which this wine shows off admirably.”

Will also cheers for the All-American hot dog, grilled not boiled. “It’s a summer barbeque must. Enjoy it with a glass of chilled Pacific Rim Riesling. At $10 a bottle, these are solid, very well crafted wines everyone will enjoy.”

Kali Kopley, owner of Uncorked, the wonderful wine shop & wine bar in the Village at Squaw, has recommendations for wines that are light, refreshing and perfect with BBQ. “That is how we like our summer wines, simple and delicious,” she says.

First is the Lioco 2009 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma. “A delicious slimmed-down Pinot Noir—one that you can leave in the ice bucket all afternoon. It was fermented in stainless steel using a native yeast. Aromas of sour red cherries, watermelon rind, and quince spin out of the glass. Tastes like wild strawberries and blood oranges. Enjoy with a bowl of summer Gazpacho and ample sunshine.” $15 a bottle.

Next, the Calera 2008 Chardonnay, Central Coast. “Josh Jensen's winemaker mentors in Burgundy were adamant that pinot noir and chardonnay must be grown in limestone rich soils to make great wines. Whatever his secret, we love Calera wines! This 2008 Central Coast Chardonnay offers generous aromas of ripe pineapple, honeysuckle, apple and succulent lime zest. At first, the taste is reminiscent of vanilla custard and lemon chiffon, at the same time possessing a soft, fun citrus zing. It continues on with a touch of toasty oak and a full, round texture. Delicious with grilled veggies and hawaiian style grilled chicken.” $20 a bottle.

Scott Willers, wine buyer for Obexer's General Store at 5300 West Lake Blvd, Homewood, recommends the Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon. “It’s made from fruit grown in the Red Hills of Lake County,” he says. “This is a full bodied wine with a beautiful, ruby red color. Deep rich black fruit flavors with boysenberry, leather and herbal notes. Hints of cedar and cigar box add to the complexity. The full flavors stick around for a long and lingering finish. Great with barbequed filets or big juicy beef ribs.” 13.9% alcohol content. $16.99 a bottle.

Debby Bullentini, owner of the L'uva Bella Wine Gallery located in the Summit Sierra shopping center, Reno, recommends Elyse Howell Mountain Zinfandel to pair with a great steak or hamburger for the 4th of July. “ The Howell Mountain Zinfandel is dark ruby colored, with aromas of white pepper, blackberries, and cedar along with hints of bay, madrone and wild brush; true to the Howell Mountain terroir. The palate is elegant and restrained. Wild plums and blackberries mingle with cola and sassafras. This wine is seamless with great fruit purity, soft tannins and a complexity that draws you in for another taste.” $34.99 a bottle.
For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in June 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing.