Napa Sonoma magazine, Spring/Summer 2010

Napa Sonoma Spring/Summer 2010 Cover Wine 101

“You are holding in your hands possibly the first-ever food and wine pairing book decidedly not written for food and wine geeks,” writes Jill Silverman Hough in the opening line of “100 Perfect Pairings.”

It’s true. The Napa culinary instructor’s first cookbook is a fail-proof pairing guide for even the newest of newbies. Small-plates recipes (such as chicken sandwichettes with raisin jam and pickled onions, pictured) are organized into chapters by wine type—so you just pick a recipe, make it, and pour a glass of the corresponding wine. If you crave more detail, there are fine-tuning and nuance notes in each chapter. Plus, Hough generally recommends only easy-to-find wines. We asked her to share her best tips.

1. Wine experts might talk about fruit flavors, grassy aromas, and other subtleties, but most important in food and wine pairing are broad characteristics such as crispness, tannins, weight, and intensity. Learn those for the wine varieties you like, and work from there.

2. You’ll almost never go wrong pairing like with like: Bright foods with bright wines (for example, salad with bright or acidic dressing, such as vinaigrette, and typically acidic Sauvignon Blanc), heavy foods with heavy wines (steak and Cabernet Sauvignon), slightly sweet foods with slightly sweet, or off-dry, wines (sweet-and-sour pork with off-dry Riesling).

3. Most important, eat and drink what makes you happy. A perfect pairing is your call.

“100 Perfect Pairings” (John Wiley & Sons, $16.95) is available at bookstores on April 19. LeeAnne Jones