Why to Think Regionally When It Comes To Wine

March 22, 2016

We paired up with Joel Gott Wines to celebrate the bounty of California and Oregon, welcome spring produce to the scene, and find out why we should rely on the phrase: If it grows together, it goes together.

Cooking with and eating local ingredients is the equivalent to using secret sauce: It adds a little something to your dish that evokes a place, or the person cooking. And when it comes to enjoying a glass or two with that dinner, it's helpful to remember that regionality applies not only to food, but also to wine.

"When I'm stuck on which wine to order, a good rule of thumb I use is 'if it grows together, it goes together,'" says Tamara Lover, sommelier and co-founder of Bottle Rush.

Photo by James Ransom

While it may not be surprising to you that soil, topography, and climate all have an effect on food and wine separately (terroir, anyone?), it takes a turn of mind, a step back, to think about how those end products affect each other. They all go hand in hand in influencing the vines and produce of a specific land, Tamara explains. The same nutrients and minerals go into everything that's grown in a region, both food and grapes, and it's all exposed to the same weather and topographical patterns—the amount of sun they get, whether the area is hilly or non-hilly, dry or rainy, and so on. "These impact the profile of the wine and often result in flavors that match the local cuisine," Tamara says.

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If you're traveling, or just committed to eating locally when you can, what's available in your area will dictate the types of meals you cook—and if you're looking to drink wine alongside them, a grape varietal that grows from the same ground will harmoniously enhance whatever you are eating.

And while the U.S. has several wine-producing regions, two of the best known are California and Oregon, where a variety of delicious grapes grow, and grow well. It's an area of the country that's also known for the breadth of ingredients harvested there—not a surprise when you consider the land. That swath of the West Coast has a lot going for it in the looks department, emerald green with lakes and oceans and rivers and mountains everywhere you look. It's a magical landscape—giant, towering redwoods, misty-eyed coastlines, and fields upon fields of vineyards soaking up the alternating rain showers and delicious sun. It's easy to see why these traits positively influence both the food and wine grown there.

I tapped Madeline Puckette, content director at Wine Folly, for her thoughts on what varietals to drink when cooking with the high-quality, local products and produce from these areas—whether you're living in these regions or just visiting. Here are some pointers to follow:

Reds to drink...

If you've got your hands on some goat cheese or soft cow's milk cheese like Brie, Pinot Noir is a good bet. Its light, yet complex and bright fruit flavors are good for a solo glass or with lots of green things and earthy vegetables proliferating at this time of year—think sunchokes, ramps, radishes, morels, leeks, and herb sauces. If cheddar-topped burgers are on deck for a cool evening, try a local Cabernet Sauvignon. You can bet that Zinfandel would be a good match for an order of pork with fruit or a slightly sweet glaze or marinade.

...and meals to make for them.

Whites to sip on...

If you're at a loss but know you like white, lightweight Pinot Gris goes with just about anything. But if you've made something rich, like fried seafood or buttery chicken, or a dessert like sponge cake or Eton Mess, it should be the go-to.

When tackling something citrus- and herb-driven (like the combination of chicken, tarragon, and lemon, or even pasta with a pesto of very seasonal stinging nettles), Chardonnay is the ticket.

Tacos of all sorts, from carne asada and carnitas to fried avocado and fish, take to Sauvignon Blanc.

...and food to accompany them.

We're eager for the new round of produce hitting farmers markets soon, so we paired up with Joel Gott Wines to explore why it makes sense to drink from the same land you eat from.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I love oysters and unfussy sandwiches.

1 Comment

Jennifer March 22, 2016
Okay, I'm ready for article on drinking/eating local in the Finger Lakes region of NY (and if you need someone to write it, just let me know).