Red wine and red meat, as well as white wine and fish, has served as the holy grail of wine/food pairings for decades. Well, it’s not your mama’s kitchen anymore!

The best advice anyone can offer on wine and food pairing is simply to drink what you like. But as wine aficionados get more into wine, it becomes inevitable the not-so-precise science of wine and food pairing becomes more interesting, challenging, and exciting.

“I’ve always been a big proponent of pairing rich seafood with light bodied reds (besides Pinot Noir) like our Mourvedre, Grenache and even Rhone blends,” said Terry Brady, Clautiere Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA.

“We produced the Mourvedre for several years as part of our blends,” Brady explained. “We saw the potential to do a single variety from the Mourvedre and began to make it in 2004. Stylistically, we wanted a food compatible wine, not a big fruit bomb – we picked our grapes at maturity and ripeness, but not overripe. Our Mourvedre often has the lowest alcohol of all of our wines, coming in at the low 13 percent levels.

“We like to say we make French style wine with California grapes. It became one of my personal favorites due to its distinct structure, smooth tannins and great earthy flavors. It pairs well with many different foods and I’ve enjoyed it with salmon as well as beef, lamb and spicy pastas. “

Brady poured his wine for a group of visiting wine journalists at a Paso Robles’ Italian restaurant in October. The Mourvedre was paired with a Chilean Sea Bass in lobster sauce. It was a gorgeous pairing and my first time for “fish and red wine.”

While you might not find Clautiere wines easily in the Midwest, there are plenty of the Rhone wines available in better wine shops and liquor stores with a nice wine selection.

Brady got into the wine business after building a Santa Monica restaurant. So he knows a thing or two about pairing wine and food.

“In researching a place to plant a tree nursery, we talked to a Realtor in Santa Margarita about some land and we were told there wasn’t sufficient ground water to grow there and we should look in Paso Robles – ‘where they grow vineyards!” It was an existing vineyard of about 33 acres that had been planted in 1989 with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cabernet – amazing enough, the owner had planted some very advanced and unique Rhone varietals for that time. Other wineries were making wine from this vineyard and so we were able to taste the wines produced and we realized that this was a special piece of land for growing these varieties. “

Personal experience suggests trying a Mourvedre or Grenache, especially a wine with a lower alcohol level, with lighter foods. If that scares you, go with the tried and true combination of salmon on the grill with a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. But don’t be afraid to try new things. The Clautiere Winery and tasting room is all about fun. Brady’s medium-bodied Paso Robles wines, like others from the region, really pair beautifully with food.

The food-friendly Paso Robles wines are often as rich in flavor as any from California. They are usually about half the price. Brady’s Rhone blends are $25. You can find great Mourvedre and Grenache under $15 in many locations.

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