Pantry Pairings: Pro Edition

A couple of weeks ago, Alexandra Cherniavsky, noted Sommelier and PA Wines ambassador invited PA Wine Land Post readers into her kitchen (virtually, of course). As she sipped a seasonally-appropriate rosé (made from the Carmine grape), Alex flexed her somm superpowers by rapid-fire pairing a (very!) wide variety of reader’s culinary creations from spicy Indian curry to peanut butter cookies and every delicious thing in between. If you missed the event, you can view it here or reference the list below to take advantage of Alex’s pairing prowess.

Fresh Flavors

The weather is warming up and veggie gardens are starting to bear crops, so it’s no surprise that our readers are whipping up some fresh salads, light stir-fries, and bright sauces. While a crisp white is the typical go-to for lighter fare, Alex mixed it up a bit and shared some surprising red pairing options to complement the bounty of spring flavors.

Tomato-based vegetable stew with carrot, celeriac, onion, garlic, beans, and parmesan
(from Katie of Doylestown, PA)
Alex suggested: Barbera or Nebbiolo
Because: Italian wines are a natural pairing for tomato-based dishes and can be found in PA due to the similarity in our climate and terroir to European grape growing regions.

Foraged ramp pesto over pasta
(from Lee of upstate New York)
Alex suggested: Grüner Veltliner (her favorite grape!)
Because: Grüner is a prime pairing for anything green (and what’s greener than pesto?!). It can be compared to a grassy version of Sauvignon Blanc or Dry Riesling.

Fresh entrée salads like Niçoise
(from Staci of Kennett Square, PA)
Alex suggested: Grüner Veltliner, Dry Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc
Because: All three recommendations boast grassy, green notes that provide a complementary flavor profile to a crisp salad. An easy way to remember this when pairing on your own? Grüner = Green!

Asian style stir fry with veggies and tofu
(from Gina of Philadelphia, PA)
Alex suggested: Chambourcin, an oaky, juicy Carmine, a lighter Merlot, Cabernet Franc, an Italian blend or – for the white wine drinker – a Riesling
Because: All of these wines provide a light, juicy complement to the umami flavors of the soy in an Asian dish.

Vegetable lasagna
Alex suggested: Grüner Veltliner or an unoaked Chardonnay if using a white sauce; Italian varieties like Barbera, Nebbiolo, Saperavi, or Teroldego if using a red sauce
Because: Italian varieties are a natural match for an Italian dish.

Pasta with tuna and capers
(from Sarah of Lambertville, NJ)
Alex suggested: Cabernet Franc or Grüner Veltliner
Because: Tuna’s umami richness works well with a fruity red. Grüner will play off of the capers’ green, sour, briny notes.

Lemon Chicken with Spaghetti al Limone and a side salad with lemon vinaigrette
(from Nick of Edina, MN)
Alex suggested:  Oaked Chardonnay or a crisp-style Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, or Pinot Gris
Because: All of these suggestions have notes of lemon that will fit right in with this citrusy meal. Alex suggests looking for a more austere expression of the varietals she named that aren’t too ripe.

Spice it Up

Some like it hot – and our readers are no exception! Global fare with a kick took center stage during the event and Alex deftly matched spicy dishes with wines that complemented or cut the heat.

Spicy Cauliflower Curry
(from Katie of Doylestown, PA)
Alex suggested: Gewürtztraminer
Because: Its lychee and tropical notes and slight sweetness will balance out the spice.

Fish Tacos with Poblano and Corn
(from Staci of Kennett Square, PA)
Alex suggested: Riesling, Traminette, or Gewürtztraminer
Because: A semi-sweet wine will cut through the heat AND will complement the sweetness of the corn.

Pineapple Pad Thai with lots of veggies + a kick from jalapeños
(from Kaleen of Philadelphia, PA)
Alex suggested: A sparkling Riesling with a little sugar to it
Because: The sweetness and fizz will both play off the pineapple and soften that jalapeño kick. Traminette came in a close second, as it boasts tropical notes that would meld with the pineapple in the dish.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
(from Zach of Philadelphia, PA)
Alex suggested: Cabernet Franc or Chambourcin
Because: A juicy red will always work well with red sauce with a bit of spice. Alternatively, she suggested going the traditional route by pairing an Italian red varietal with some oak to it like a Barbera.

Nachos
(from Alex C on FB Live)
Alex suggested: Off-dry Riesling or Traminette
Because: Riesling’s subtle sweetness makes it a go-to pairing for anything spicy, and Traminette is another off-dry wine that is versatile in its pairing possibilities.

Sweet heat salsa dish
(from Diane on FB Live)
Alex suggested: Albariño, Gewürtztraminer, or Traminette
Because: Albariño is a nice afternoon, sipping wine to pair with this tasty snack, and the tropical fruit notes in Gewürtztraminer and Traminette would provide a fresh complement to any tropical fruits in the salsa like pineapple or mango.

Romaine taco boats with walnut/mushroom meat
Alex suggested: Pinot Noir or Riesling
Because: Pinot Noir is a classic pairing for mushroom dishes. Riesling pairs well with the romaine’s green notes and crisp snap and has an acidity and slight sweetness that will play off the spice of the dish. 

Breakfast burritos
(from Dan from Chester County, PA)
Alex suggested: Sparkling Riesling
Because: If you’re drinking early in the day, something with a little bit of bubble is the way to go! Riesling’s residual sugar will play off the spice of the burrito.

Just Like Mom Used To Make

Comfort foods never go out of season and pairing your go-to feel-good dish with a just-right wine ups the coziness factor by about a billion.

DIY Pepperoni Pizza
(from Jordan of Philadelphia, PA)
Alex suggested: Italian grape blends like Barbera or Nebbiolo, Chambourcin, or a lighter-bodied Cabernet Franc
Because: Italian varietals like Barbera and Nebbiolo are a natural match for pizza, and Chambourcin and Cab Franc have a red-fruited spice that would complement the salty, spicy pepperoni.

Vegetarian mushroom shepherds pie
(from Kaleen of Philadelphia, PA)
Alex Suggested: Pinot Noir, a lighter-bodied red like Chambourcin or Cabernet Franc

Homemade Challah
(from Leslie Jo from FB Live)
Alex suggested: Rosé, a buttery Chardonnay, or jammy red like Chambourcin, Barbera, Carmine, or Merlot
Because: Challah’s butteriness makes it pairable with a great variety of wines with buttery notes (like Chardonnay) or a jammy red to mimic a jam on bread snack.

Pappardelle with mushrooms in a wine-based sauce
(from Jarred of Wilmington, DE)
Alex suggested: Italian-style red blend or Pinot Noir
Because: Pinot and mushrooms are a classic pairing

Lobster Ravioli
(from Claudette of Philadephia, PA)
Alex suggested: Oaked Chardonnay or a lighter-bodied red like Chambourcin or Cabernet Franc

Sweet Tooth

Whether it’s the cherry (cheesecake) on the top of a savory meal or a guilty-pleasure snack during the day, a nibble of something sweet is a soul-pleasing indulgence that gets even better with the right wine pairing. As luck would have it, PA has a certain prowess for producing dessert, ice, and sweet wines that are perfect for the job.

Cookies – Alex assumed they were peanut butter, as they are her favorite!
(from Brooke of Minneapolis, MN)
Alex suggested: Concord or dessert wines
Because: PA shines when it comes to great dessert wines and what could be better than a grown-up PB&J?!

Cheesecake
Alex suggested: Concord or other red fruit-based dessert wine
Because: It’s like the best version of a fruit topping on a cheesecake! The sweetness of the wine will cut through the creaminess of the cheesecake.

Banana Bread
(Sharon via FB Live)
Alex suggested: Something sparkling; a Riesling, Traminette, or Vidal Blanc-based dessert wine; Albariño
Because: Sweet and dessert wines complement the sweetness of the banana bread, while the peach and apricot flavors in an Albariño will play off the banana flavors.