Antipasta & Barbera

Grab an assortment of Italian meats and cheeses and a bottle of Barbera (bar-BEH-rah) and you’ve just created a perfect menu for any casual get together. Barbera is one of my go-to pizza wines, I always keep a few bottles in the house for take-out night.  Barbera is a grape varietal from the Piedmont region of Italy and tends to have vibrant fruit characteristics of mixed berries, cherry and plum with floral notes of violet, high acidity and mellow tannins.  Many red wines from this region tend to boast high tannins, but Barbera has more of a laid back personality which makes it a versatile wine that generally drinks best when young and pairs beautifully with an array of menu items from eggplant parmesan to pizza to pasta carbonara! Barbera also tends to be one of the best values at your local Italian eatery. If you can’t find a Barbera, opt for a Chianti Classico or Vino Nobile.

Recommended Producers 

Damilano Barbera d’Asti (SRP: $16)
Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $20)
La Spinetta 2011 Barbera d’Asti Ca Di Pian (SRP: $22)

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus & Prosecco

Looking for an easy to make, low-carb appetizer for your next dinner party? Prosciutto wrapped asparagus is a great choice! My favorite pairings for this snack include Prosecco, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. The saltiness of the prosciutto brings out the fruit flavors in the wine and the vibrant, crisp, citrus and mineral driven nature of these styles work well with the herbaceousness of the asparagus.

In general, asparagus and cabbage can be two of the trickiest veggies to pair with wine because of their sulphur containing molecules. I tend to stay away from anything oaked and gravitate towards unoaked wines that are clean, crisp and refreshing. If you prefer red wine, an herbaceous Cabernet Franc is an excellent choice with this dish.



Tropical Salsa & Rosado

Tropical salsa with pineapple, mango, avocado, black beans, cilantro and fresh squeezed lime juice served with crunchy, salty tortilla chips and a chilled glass of Rosado makes for an awesome summer afternoon or tailgate snack. While many people tend to grab a beer with their chips & salsa, I encourage you to drink outside the box and try a glass of vino. Rosado is the Spanish term for rosé. These wines are a great value and incredibly versatile. Spain and Portugal are both producing some of the best wine values in the world right now.  Contrary to popular belief, many rosés are actually dry and make a great companion for many foods from picnic fare to salads to salsas.

The Muga Rosado from Rioja is a great choice at a great price. The wine is made from the Garnacha, Viuda and Tempranillo Rosado_Muga2012grapes. Here are my tasting notes from the 2012 vintage. Note: Rosados should be consumed within 1-3 years to preserve the vibrant fruit flavors.

Cherry, juicy apple, apricot, pineapple, white blossoms & fennel aromas give way to a medium bodied wine with notes of fresh baked croissants. (Tasted October 2013) 


Caprese Salad & Soave

Caprese salad is always a crowd pleaser. Not only is it easy to make, but can be incredibly scrumptious and satisfying when using top notch ingredients like fresh buffalo mozzarella, sweet, earthy summer-ripened tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden. Whether you are making bocconcini and cherry tomatoes as part of an antipasta platter or large pieces of silky cheese layered with slices of juicy heirloom tomatoes, all you need to do is pair this dish with a great glass of vino and some crusty bread and dinner is served in a matter of minutes.

So, now the big question – which wine should I serve?  You could actually go with a crisp white or earthy red option with this dish. On a hot summer day, I prefer a crisp Soave from the Veneto area in Northeast Italy. Soave is predominately made from the Garganega grape and is an excellent alternative to Pinot Grigio.  One of my favorite producers is Pieropan. The family has been making wine since the 1860’s and have created a solid reputation for producing top quality Soave’s and other varietals. Try the Pieropan Soave Classico with your next Italian feast. This is also a fantastic pairing with fried or sautéed calamari. If red is more your style, grab a fresh, fruity Barbera from the Piedmont area of Italy.

Recommended Producer

Guacamole & Vinho Verde

A big bowl of homemade guacomole paired with a glass of Vinho Verde is a perfect snack for a hot summer afternoon or just about anytime! Let’s be honest, there’s just something sinfully delicious about creamy, decadent avocados slathered on a crunchy, salty tortilla chip. There are a handful of wines that pair well with guacamole, but one of the best pairings is Vinho Verde. This pairing is the epitome of summer.

Vinho Verde wines come from the coastal northwest region of Portugal and are perhaps one of the best white wine values out there. You can literally pick up a pretty good bottle for under $10! Most of these wines aren’t necessarily thought provoking or super complex, but they are perfect with simple salads, shellfish and guacamole or just grab a glass and enjoy it as your summer sipper. Go easy on the spice when pairing food with this wine.

Vinho Verde is made with a variety of grapes including Alvarinho, Avesso, Loureiro, Pedernã and Trajadura.  The style will reflect which varieties are used in the final blend.  The hallmark for this type of wine is characterized by its high acidity due to the climate in which its grown. Many of these wines also have a slight effervescence that is wonderfully refreshing with lots of citrus fruit.

While a broad range of easy drinking Vinho Verde can be found for under $10, there are more serious, complex wines out there that fall under the name Vinho Verde and the quality level and price tag reflects this.  It’s always fun to grab a couple bottles at two different price points and see for yourself if you can taste the difference.

One of my favorites right now is the Monte Cascas.  This wine boasts aromas of fresh squeezed key lime juice, honeydew melon & agave nectar tantalize your senses. This a light, dry & crisp summer wine with piercing acidity. It’s the perfect accompaniment to an array of fresh Mexican dishes especially Guacamole with lime infused tortilla chips.


Herb Crusted Goat Cheese & Rosé

Herb crusted goat cheese with short bread cookies paired with an off-dry rosé is the perfect pairing for a relaxing summer afternoon and it all comes together in less than 5 minutes!

When it comes to goat cheese, Sauvignon Blanc is always a perfect match, but I assure you a rosé can be just as tantalizing!

It’s hard to explain, but something magical happens on your palate when you combine the tangy goat cheese with the lovely floral notes of lavender in the Herbs de Provence, a touch of sweetness from the short bread cookies and the sweet succulent strawberry flavors and crisp acidity of the rosé. Yes, you could certainly use regular old crackers, but the short bread really takes this pairing to a whole new level.

For this pairing, I chose the Caves De L’Angevine Rosé d’Anjou. It’s a luscious off-dry rose made from the Cabernet Franc in the Anjou area of the Loire Valley. Aromas of sweet summer strawberries and ripe watermelon leave you salivating for that first sip. The palate boasts juicy red berries and melon flavors with a touch of minerality, refreshing acidity and a kiss of sweetness. Rosé’s from this area tend to be a touch sweeter than its counterparts from Provence.

The preparation is super simple. Take a log of plain goat cheese, roll the cheese in ¼ cup of Herbs de Provence (dried). Make sure all sides are well coated and serve on a platter with short bread cookies. Add some fresh fruit on the side and you have a beautiful snack to share with friends.

The wine was purchased from Whole Foods and retails for $10 a bottle! At this value, it’s a great wine to buy by the case for your summer picnics and barbecues. Cheers!



Hummus w/Crudités & Sauvignon Blanc

In general, veggies can be quite challenging to pair with wine. However; the crisp, clean and refreshing nature of a Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most reliable pairings with an array of raw and cooked vegetables.  Although, there are some variations on the flavor profile of the varietal depending on where it comes from, stylistically speaking. Sauvignon Blancs have abundant citrus notes of grapefruit with lemon and lime, lots of fresh cut grassy aromas and vibrant acidity that make it a perfect companion with green salads, mild guacamole and hummus with crudités.  The New Zealand and Chilean style are going to be a little more assertive with the citrus fruit. Sancerre’s are a little more restrained with lots of minerality and more acidity and many Napa Sauvignon Blancs boast a little more tropical fruit aromas in addition to the citrus fruit as a result of the warmer microclimate.

Here are a few of the Sauvignon Blanc producers at varying price points that I recommend. Chile is producing some of the best values today.

Not a Sauvignon Blanc fan? Check out an Albarino, Pinot Grigio or Vinho Verde as an alternative pairing. Store bought hummus is an easy way to go, but if you are looking for a paleo friendly option, try this delicious zucchini hummus recipe.

Recipe: Zucchini Hummus 


3/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 large zucchini (peeled & chopped)
1 meyer lemon (zest & juice)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (plus more for garnish)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
paprika (garnish)


In a food processor add tahini, lemon zest & juice and garlic. Pulse for about 30 seconds until well combined. Add zucchini, pulse for another 30 seconds. Add pine nuts, salt, pepper & olive oil and pulse until well combines.  Makes 2 cups.  Transfer to serving bowl, add toasted pine nuts, drizzle of olive oil and paprika for garnish. Serve with fresh veggies.