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Pairing Food with Oregon & Washington Wines
Oct 03, 2018

With the world's ever growing enthusiasm for wine, I’m also witnessing a tsunami of food and wine pairing advertisements, columns, and social media exchanges.
The thirst is real, and so is our hunger to learn more, taste more, and experience more when it comes to wine.
Food pairings can be subjective, so although I can tell you partnering an asparagus and goat cheese flan might be better suited to a Sauvignon Blanc than to your go-to Cabernet Sauvignon, your personal pleasure is going to dictate your final choice. After all, wine should be relaxing and convivial; there shouldn't be a test at the beginning of the bottle, and especially not at the end.

However, if you’re looking for guidance when popping the top off your favourite wines from Oregon and Washington, I’m here to assist.


Several years ago, Washington State Wine embarked on uncommon and tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign. It was called The Reccomendeur.
The buttoned-up, seemingly snobbish, yet brashly entertaining Reccomendeur was skillfully played by actor and comedian Greg Proops.
Among a series of videos produced, once caught my eye—Food Pairing.

In the video, Proops (as The Reccomendeur) suggests solid classic pairings of oysters with Washington State Sauvignon Blanc,
lamb chops with Washington State Yakima Syrah and rib-eye with Washington State Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

All excellent partnerships.

I would like to add to his reccomendations with suggestions for the most important varieties grown in WA:

  • Lobster macaroni and cheese with a Washington State Chardonnay
  • Roast chicken with a Washington State Chardonnay
  • Vegetarian Moroccan saffron rice with pistachios and dried apricots with a Washington State Viognier
  • A warm and gooey cheese fondue with Washington State Syrah
  • Pork schnitzel with a bright Washington State Riesling
  • Vegetarian spring risotto with asparagus and or fiddleheads with a Washington State Sauvignon Blanc
  • Charcuterie with Washington State Riesling
  • Bucatini pasta topped in a rich and hearty morel and beef ragu with a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Thick juicy burgers (vegetarian or beef) with Washington State Merlot
  • Venison, or if you can get it, Kangaroo, with Washington State Syrah.
  • Bean chili with a fruity Washington State Merlot (especially good if you toss some of the Merlot into the chili as it cooks)


If there is one thing I must underline about Oregon, Portland and the nearby Willamette Valley, is they have a superb food scene; wines from Oregon play an enormous role in that landscape.
Without doubt, Pinot Noir plays the key role for the 500 wineries in the Willamette—it's recognized and revered world wide for this variety.
After that, Pinot Gris and to a lesser extent Chardonnay (in third place) follow; a smattering of aromatic white varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewuztraminer round out the vineyard plantings.

Stylistically, there are multiple options with Pinot Noir. They can be old skool fresh and lean or more modern fruit forward versions.
However, the one consistent in Pinot is, at the core, an earthy character.
Therefore, earthy flavours pair wonderfully but there is a red fruit juiciness and bright acidity as well.
Likewise, Pinot Gris tends to have that grounded demeanor, underneath orchard fruit (often yellow apples, pear and guava), floral and honey notes.

Some of my Recommendations:
  • Pork Loin with pomegranate sauce (especially Oregon Pinot Noir)
  • Cedar planked salmon (Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris)
  • Vegetarian mushroom wellington (wrapped in puff pastry)
  • Turkey with cranberry sauce and sage infused stuffing (Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris)
  • Duck breast with bluberry glaze (Oregon Pinot Noir)
  • Roast chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce (Oregon Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir)
  • Pumpkin ravioli in sage butter (Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris)
  • Roasted beet salad with fresh goat cheese (Oregon Pinot Noir)
  • Grilled halibut (especially Oregon Pinot Gris and Chardonnay)
  • Pork belly glazed in birch syrup (Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris)
  • Smoked tofu in a sweet tamari and Pinot Noir reduction (Oregon Pinot Noir)
  • Smoked salmon flaked into linguini with a creamy taleggio sauce (especially Oregon Pinot Gris)
  • Spaghetti Carbonara (especially Oregon Pinot Gris)
  • Chicken salad (especially Oregon Chardonnay)
  • Creamy clam chowder or vegetarian corn chowder (especially Oregon Chardonnay)

~Daenna Van Mulligen

Article sponsored by the USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service

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