Vino Escapes: CIA Wine and Food Pairing Course, Napa, California

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I've officially escaped! As you are reading this, I am in the Napa Valley attending a wine educator's conference.

One element of today's schedule was a food and wine pairing lecture at the Williams Center for flavor discovery at Greystone. In addition to trying a multiple of pairings ourselves (which was quite fun), we also discussed a system that can help anyone achieve a great pairing in six simple steps.

Read how below the jump: 1. Buy a bottle of wine you want to drink and assess the principal flavors of this wine. For example, if it were Cabernet it would likely have dark black fruit, tannin and caramel or vanilla flavors.

2. Determine the "weight" of that wine. Is it light or heavy? Thick or thin? Meaty? What makes this wine unique?

3. Decide on a base ingredient: Pork, Chicken, Beef, Veggies, whatever you want your main course to be.

4. Choose a cooking method for your main ingredient: steaming, poaching, grilling, smoking, roasting, frying, etc... A lighter wine, like Pinot Grigio, would benefit from a lighter cooking method, whereas a heavier wine can stand up to heavier methods like smoking or roasting.

5. Identify bridge ingredients to tie the two together. If the main course is beef and the wine is Cabernet, one could bridge the two courses together with a mushroom sauce for example. The mushrooms having an umami flavor that will bring out the earthiness in the wine and tone down the iron in the meat.

(Of course, there are thousands of bridge ingredients, it all depends on your personal style and taste. You just want something that complements both the food and the wine in a meaningful way.)

6. In the last step balance the flavors with seasonings. The basic principles of all flavors are sweet, sour, salty & bitter. A little lemon and salt can really help a dish out!

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