Because of Burgundy’s storied pedigree, Pinot Noir is almost as noble as grapes come. And Pinot Noir in the States is gaining a foothold. Even Burgundian denizens praise Oregon’s Willamette Valley for its great terroir for Pinot production.
The region’s Mecca is often considered to be Shea Vineyard, a 290-acre property in Yamhill County renowned for its sedimentary sandstone soil. Shea dedicates 149 acres to Pinot Noir and six acres to Chardonnay.
Proprietor Dick Shea supplies grand cru-quality grapes to some of the most vaunted and well- known Oregon and California wineries.
Notable Producers: Bergström, Ken Wright Cellars, Shea Wine Cellars, Winderlea
Sure, you know the basics: White wine goes well with fish, red wine with red meat—a perfect rule for the simple week-night dishes you whip up at home. Going out and want something more complicated? You can just ask your waiter, or the restaurant’s sommelier, for suggestions.
But what happens when two culinary worlds collide, and you order out to eat in? You’re probably in that situation a lot lately. (Here’s a statistic for you: in May, DoorDash—the online delivery service that also owns Caviar—reported orders were up 110 percent since the beginning of the year. During lockdown, people were stuck inside, and therefore ordering in more.) It often presents a pairing predicament: what, exactly, goes well with spicy pad thai, Shake Shack, or the sausage pizza you ordered hungover on a Sunday night?
In an act of extremely important service journalism, Vogue asked sommeliers and wine experts from across the country to help us solve this particular quandary. Without further ado, our definitive guide on the best wines to pair with your takeout, from fried chicken to Chinese food.
Pinot Noir. “In today’s time of take-out and eating at home—a personal favorite (and minor guilty pleasure) is pizza and a good bottle of Pinot Noir. If we have classic Margherita or mushroom pizza, a great pairing can be red Burgundy, preferably Gevrey-Cambertin or Nuits-Saint-Georges, as their fruit expression will not overpower the taste of the simple ingredients. If we have pepperoni or pizza with any type of meat or spice, some great pairings would be with Nebbiolo or Sangiovese because of their raspberries, cherries, dried fruit and leather notes, as well as higher tannins that can hold their own when up against that type of food.”
-Marija Mijic, sommelier and beverage director at La Mercerie
Sparkling wine. “Sparkling wine is a great style to have in the fridge because it pairs excellently with many takeout options. It will enlighten a vegetarian dish, cleanse your palate when eating fried food, balance out a spicier dish, and, my personal favorite, will pair beautifully with white pizza.”
-Geneviève Pelletier, partner at Lieu Di
Lambrusco. “Lambrusco and pizza are one of my favorite pairings. It has a little fizz to cut through the melty cheese plus a savory side for the tomato, spices, and pepperoni. Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco is a slightly earthy bottling that is great with mushroom pizza and the nuttiness of parmesan.”
-Amy Racine, beverage director of JF Restaurants
Barolo. “I cooked in Piemonte for two years and naturally ate a lot of pizza and drank a lot of red wine. On pizza nights (or afternoons), Italians didn’t shy away from opening a nice bottle of red wine which always elevated the experience. The dusty fruit and juicy tannins of Nebiollo’s like A. & G. Fantino “Cascina Dardi” Barolo cut through the rich mozzarella and transports me back to Piemonte.”
-Kelly Mariani, culinary director at Scribe Winery and former chef at Chez Panisse
Champagne. “Raw fish and bubbles work really well together. I had this fun pairing last week with Marie-Noelle Ledru Extra-Brut Grand Cru. It’s all about clean fresh flavors and rich textures. This combo feels luxurious and celebratory!”
Riesling. “When it comes to sushi, it depends largely on what type of sauces are used and the way it’s prepared. Riesling—especially semi-sweet to sweet style—is the perfect pairing if there is wasabi or ginger. Riesling’s apple, pear, quince and sometimes even expressive citrus notes, along with the residual sugar and bracingly high acidity, are magically harmonious with spice.”
Assyrtiko. “A colorful and fresh array of sushi calls for an equally fresh and tart wine. Assyrtiko is a Greek grape variety that has a tone of mineral that pairs well to fresh fish and anything briny like the seaweed wrapper on your favorite roll. Sigalas makes a great Assyrtiko from Santorini, where ocean winds are constantly whipping around the grapes. You can taste that saline quality in the wine so it pairs perfectly to any sushi or sashimi.”
Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay. “Sonoma has some excellent Mexican food and I’m often grabbing Mexico City-style street tacos with friends. Alongside tacos, I love drinking crisp and textural white wines, like Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc, especially our friend Joel’s Las Jaras Chenin.”
Pinot Noir. “A hearty burrito with a spicy salsa calls for a juicy, but low tannin red wine so it doesn’t amplify the spice (in a bad way). Willamette Valley makes excellent Pinot Noirs in Oregon that fit the bill perfectly. Ken Wright makes a style that has a smokey tone for the beans and char on the tortilla. It’s fruitiness comes by way of plum and blackberry flavors, which are especially great for a beefy carne asada burrito.”
Champagne. “Champagne can be sweet and toasty, but a Gronget Blanc de Blancs Brut is bright, citrusy, and savory. It’s my go-to for anything spicy and smokey. Mexican flavors just seem to be the perfect match.”
-Christine Collado, general manager at Parcelle Wines
Pet’Nat. “I eat Mexican food about three times a week because there is a good place across the street from work. I usually get a crispy fish taco, guacamole and chips and then build from there. The Texan in me always wants a Mexican beer to wash it all down, but for a wine substitute, Pet’Nat gets the job done. It’s a little more raw and extremely expressive. Those ingredients work well with a lift of acidic bite and bubbles make every bite brighter.”
-Zwann Grays, Wine Director at Olmsted
Rosé. “A dry rosé is great with fried chicken. You need something really dry and tart to be refreshing between those crunchy bites of chicken. Plus, if it’s a well-seasoned fried chicken or has a little spice/hot sauce, the fruit from rosé cools you off and gets you ready for the next piece. La Fête du Rosé is one of my favorites from Saint-Tropez—it’s dry, crisp, and refreshing.”
Chardonnay. “Chardonnay from Burgundy can take any chicken dish and make it fancy. Even if it’s from Chick-Fil-A.”
Chablis. “Chablis and Crab Rangoon are a knockout. The region of Chablis in France only works with Chardonnay, but doesn’t use new oak, so it isn’t too heavy or buttery. It just has a creamy texture to it which echoes the filling of the Rangoon. The flavors of the wine are slightly nutty, like blanched almond, which pairs to that flakey wonton wrapper.”
Rosé. “When I’m not drinking Scribe rosé I’m drinking Domaine Tempier thanks to my years in the kitchen at Chez Panisse. Tempier’s Matriarch Lulu just passed, giving us yet another reason to raise a glass of this delicious wine. This iconic rosé is refreshing and rich enough to compliment the myriad of flavors and complexities of Chinese cuisine.”
Riesling or Pinot Noir. “Our favorite wines to drink with Thai food are either an off-dry Riesling or Pinot Noir. The sweetness of the riesling goes well with the mouth watering spiciness, and a lighter pinot noir complements the full flavors of the food.”
-Bobby Leonardo, bartender at Wayla
Rosso Sicilia. “Have this delicious Sicilian red with a chill. Pair it with noddles or a curry. It’s great.”
Nouveau or Beaujolais. “Nouveau is our first glimpse into this year’s harvest and we’re bottling our 2020 vintage this week. Alongside a burger, I want to drink a chilled, crushable red wine from California or Beaujolais in France with enough body to stand up to the juicy meat and smokey char.”
Australian Grenache. “The only thing to order from In-n-Out is the Double-Double with cheese, and the only thing to drink with it is Australian Grenache. Because burgers are primarily defined by grease and heaviness, they call for wines that are big on flavor, body, and alcohol so they don’t get buried in the starch-and-fat groundswell. This down-under twist on the classically European grape is thick and dense, making for a heavy hitter combo of high tannin and alcohol that washes away any lingering grease from the meat and cheese. If you ask for your burger ‘animal-style,’ you’ll get it with mustard fried into each patty, plus pickles, chopped grilled onions and an extra helping of In-N-Out’s famous sauce (think Thousand Island Dressing). They all blend beautifully into the spiced plum, new leather, stewed berries and dried herbs that typify hot-climate Aussie Grenache.”
-Vanessa Price, author of Big Macs & Burgundy
Article by Michael Alberty | For The Oregonian/OregonLive
In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her family journeyed to Carlton, Oregon, to render a verdict on Willamette Valley pinot noir. It was a unanimous decision: delightful as charged.
In the wake of Ginsburg’s death last Friday, mourners celebrated her life and a legal career spent championing equal rights. Close friends also found time to remember Ginsburg’s more private pursuits. Opera singer and friend Joseph Calleja posted on Instagram: “Her love of food and wine only confirms that she was a perfect being.”
In September 2008, Ginsburg traveled to the Willamette University College of Law in Salem for the Oregon Civic Justice Center’s dedication ceremony. Despite a busy schedule of activities, Ginsburg found time for a secret mission: a visit to Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton.
News that Ginsburg wanted to meet with him was a bolt from the blue for winemaker Ken Wright.
“We only heard about it a week in advance. Then her security team called two days before she arrived to nail down every little detail, including the route we’d be taking to visit McCrone Vineyard,” Wright said.
The arrival of Ginsburg, her family, and Secret Service agents in black vehicles with tinted windows was not an everyday occurrence in the sleepy little wine town of Carlton.
“It was pretty funny with all those suits in sunglasses running around. It was also quite a scene when everyone packed into my winery office,” Wright said.
Ginsburg’s visit was exploratory in nature. According to Wright, “She was just getting into pinot noir, and she wanted to know why the Willamette Valley was so special. She wanted to know why this grape worked so well here.”
To tell the Willamette Valley’s story, Wright packed Ginsburg, her husband Martin “Marty” Ginsburg, and her daughter Jane C. Ginsburg off to McCrone Vineyard. The vineyard, owned by Don and Carole McCrone, is located just north of Carlton, in the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area.
“The vineyard sits on a ridgeline with a view that allows you to see everything from the Coastal Mountains to the Eola-Amity Hills. It’s a nice spot to explain things,” Wright said.
Wright’s family joined the group along with the McCrones and Mr. and Mrs. Michael Bennett from Willamette University. It was a warm day, so a tent was constructed, and as much water was poured as wine.
Wright remembers the Ginsburg family being knowledgeable about wine, with a wine vocabulary to describe what they liked and didn’t like.
“The words freshness, texture and purity came up a lot as they talked about Willamette Valley pinot noir. Especially purity,” Wright said. Oregon’s signature grape had a new set of fans.
The Ginsburg family left just as much of an impression on Wright.
“It was a super enjoyable two hours. Justice Ginsburg was an amazing, open person. We didn’t talk a lot about politics. We discussed wine and other mutual interests we enjoyed. She was definitely a thoughtful, critical thinker,” Wright said.
When the vineyard session concluded, the convoy traveled back to the winery, where Wright set up Justice Ginsburg with an assortment of wines based on their vineyard discussions. “Then ‘poof,’ she was gone,” Wright said. Wright returned to harvest preparation.
A few days later, Wright received another bolt from the blue: an envelope from Washington, D.C.
“It was just the most beautiful ‘thank-you’ note from Justice Ginsburg. Her family loved wine for all the right reasons,” Wright said.
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Photos of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Visit to Ken Wright Cellars & McCrone Vineyard
Just checking in with everyone to let you know that our families and our teams are safe both regarding COVID-19 and the fires in Oregon. We are extremely grateful to have been spared from fires and smoke damage. Our hearts go out to so many in the west coast wine communities that are still battling.
Our team is not unfamiliar with battling fires and emergencies across Oregon. Ken has been serving as the board treasurer for the new Carlton Fire District for 15 years. Mark Gould, our lead vineyard manager, has been serving as a Carlton volunteer fire fighter for years. In fact, Aaron, our Winery Ambassador Ivory’s husband, is still in Southern Oregon near the California border battling the Slater fire. Our thoughts are with the firefighters and first responders who continue to serve and protect.
The recent fires have spurred industry concern over smoke taint. With rumors swirling in the Willamette Valley, literally like smoke, it is very important to get the facts out. Smoke taint occurs in grapes when a vineyard is in near proximity to a fire or directly downwind from an active fire. The volatiles that create issues are ephemeral, over a fairly short period of time they break down. Which is why we are not concerned about “old smoke”.
It is a common occurrence in Oregon in the fall for there to be an east wind. Which is the opposite of the onshore flow that we normally experience throughout the year. When there are fires in the dry high desert of eastern Oregon, those east winds can bring smoke to the Willamette Valley. We have experienced this numerous times before. In a number of years, we have had smoke cover in the Valley for as long as 10 days. In none of these occasions have we had a wine that had an issue with smoke taint. We credit the lack of affectation to the fact that this is “old smoke” from quite a distance away.
As of today, we have tasted all of the fruit from every site that we farm or source from in the valley, 13 in total. We have yet to see affectation to this point of any kind. It is true that we have had a couple of regional fires, one near Hagg Lake in Washington County and one on the north side of the Chehalem Mountains. These fires were contained very quickly. A vineyard neighboring these fires would have a realistic cause for concern. Vineyards that are miles away should not be concerned.
Over the last week, emotions seem to be driving decisions more than science regarding smoke taint with some of our industry members. They are reacting in fear instead of with critical judgement. Perhaps with the combination of the pandemic and the smoke, it is causing knee-jerk reactions. Scientific testing of smoke taint in a laboratory looks for free guaiacols (smoke markers). There are no laboratory tests that have been done that show we have an issue regionally.
Critics agree that 2017 produced a lush and remarkable vintage from the Willamette Valley. In that year, we experienced 10 straight days of smoke from the eastern and northern fires, much longer than we have experienced this year.
Do not be faint of heart, we are going to make great wine this year.
Photos of Ken Wright & Seth Miller Sampling at Hirschy Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA