Wine Pairing for the People! 

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There’s probably no question I get asked more than what wine pairs with which food. With years of experience in this, repeatedly, I’ve learned more from what doesn’t work than what does. There’s no magic wand that will help you determine what wine and food are a good fit. There are no rules to this, only guidelines. There’s a fair amount of trial and error involved. In my early days, I remember talking to a very prominent sommelier who told me that he once had to pull the corks on over 70 wines for just one dish in one of the fanciest restaurants in Las Vegas. Since then, I’ve been on a quest to simplify these things for my guests, clients, and you, the newsletter’s readers. Here are a few tried and true concepts.

Matching Weight & Intensity 


When pairing food and wine, the first thing to do is match the wine’s weight to the dish—lighter foods pair with lighter wines. Richer foods go better with richer wines. This is the vital first step. 

So what does that mean? Let’s take a look at the cooking method of what you are eating. To me, that determines what style of wine I’m going to choose.  For a lighter style food—something raw such as salad or sushi, or lightly sauteed fish and meats—I will look for a wine prepared similarly. These wines are grape varieties that are typically lighter but are made freshly without any oak aging, using stainless steel tanks that provide brightness and freshness, much like the food counterparts. Examples of this would be a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a mixed green salad. Or sushi with a crisp, bright, dry Riesling from New York State.

For richer foods—pan-seared, charred, or braised foods, whether it’s meat or fish—I look towards wines that have oak aging because the oak aging directly mimics the Maillard Reaction. The Maillard Reaction is the scientific term when food starts to brown and become caramelized. This reaction takes place with everything from baked bread to fried dumplings to seared steaks. For example, if you pan-sear scallops, the best choice for a white wine would be a buttery California Chardonnay that has seen some barrel time. If you like your steak charred, the best bet is a Cabernet Sauvignon that has a fair amount of tannin and ample barrel time to match the flavors of the char.

Consider chicken: it can be boiled, sautéed, roasted, or grilled. The preparation intensity will usually dictate the kind of wine paired—unless the sauce or sides on the plate are more intensely flavored.

Complementary Pairings 

After considering the weight of the wine, the next step is to try to find complementary flavors. Just like a Fred & Ginger! For example, Sauvignon Blanc has bright citrus and green flavors. When pairing food with Sauvignon Blanc, I see green or citric flavors or a crisp vinaigrette. This is a great example of a complementary pairing. Another home run pairing is when you are using cream sauces; these pair well with a buttery Chardonnay. Or take something like Steak Au Poivre with peppercorns. This is perfect with a peppery Syrah from the Rhone Valley in France. These simple complementary concepts will get you started.

Pairing These Two Concepts to Make a Magical Moment – 1 + 1 = 3

One of my secrets and philosophies for food and wine pairing is the idea of 1 + 1 = 3! When you pair the right food with the right wine, you create an entirely new dimension for your dining experience.

Most commonly, people pick their food first and pair the wine with the food. Here is my pro tip for you. The wine is constant. The food is not. What is in the bottle will not change. But how you prepare the food can.

I will give you an example. The late great chef Charlie Trotter would call his sommeliers into the kitchen to ask what the customers were drinking. If they were drinking a lighter wine, he would, on the spot, change the way he prepared the food for them, creating a lighter dish to give his diners that magical experience.

Think about the wine you want to drink first. From there, try to pair the food to go with that wine. I can almost guarantee that you will have a much greater chance of creating that magical food and wine (or should I say “wine and food”) pairing a magical moment, like the Bow on a Tiffany box.

The Sip, Bite, Sip Rule

So what’s the best way to experience the magic moment? The technique is straightforward. I call it Sip, Bite, Sip. 

First, take a small sip of the wine and give it a swish around in your mouth. Allow it to get your palate fully primed, then swallow the wine.

Second, take a bite of the food you are looking to pair. It’s a simple bite of cheese; use just the cheese; if it’s a composed dish, try and get all the elements into one fantastic bite.

Third, take the bite and chew until you are about to swallow the food, then TASTE the wine a second time. 

Fourth, let the pairing guide your sense of taste and texture. If you do sip, bite, sip, you will know immediately if you’re pairing worked perfectly or needs more work. If you’re smiling, then it works! If not, consider it an experiment not to be repeated!


In the last newsletter sign up here, we explained everything you needed to know about Organic Wines. While “organic” will always be a buzzword for food, wine, clothing, etc., another certification takes a bit of imagination to understand, called biodynamics. If you are a wine geek reading this newsletter, you most likely know about biodynamics and the quality that these wines possess. If you’re not familiar, here’s the wacky story behind these amazing wines. 

What Does Biodynamic Mean?

Merriam-Webster defines biodynamic as “of or relating to a farming system that follows a sustainable, holistic approach that uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem, and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles.”

The concept of biodynamics started in the 1920s with an Austrian philosopher named Rudolph Steiner. Steiner looked at the way the Greek, Egyptian and American settlers raised crops. The Farmer’s Almanac was always a reference that crop growers used to consider things such as the weather, the lunar cycles, and a system of soil treatments based on these variables. 

The general idea is to create an ecosystem that sustains life. 

What Makes is Biodynamic Farming Practices Worth Checking Out?

Scientists have been reticent to take biodynamic farming seriously. Putting time into studying lunar cycles and crops may seem like a luxury. However, a study in the Journal of Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems noted that biodynamic farming positively impacts biodiversity, soil quality, and yield. It concluded that biodynamic farming used less energy and was more efficient than more common farming techniques. Another study revealed that biodynamic soils helped suppress disease more than non-organic soils.

Is Biodynamic Wine Organic?

No. Biodynamic and organic are similar, as they don’t use chemical fertilizers. Biodynamic wine relies on farming techniques using the lunar calendar and turning the vineyard into it’ own self-sustaining ecosystem. The growth cycle is augmented by using all-natural composts.

Now for the Wacky, Wild Stuff

To become certified “Biodynamic,” the viticulture requires a special series of nine different compost preparations stuffed into cow horns and buried in the soil. (You read that right. Cow horns.) Later, the cow horns are dug up and reused, and the “stuffing” is distributed throughout the vineyard. 

These include everything from manure to yarrow blossoms, chamomile, dandelion, valerian, and stinging nettles. There is no scientific evidence on whether cow horns are truly necessary for creating a dedicated organic gardening process. But science hasn’t proven that it’s not necessary, amirite!


Note: Biodynamic soils have been tested against non-organic soils, and they showed an overall higher quality of grape material. 

Why Should You Be Looking for Biodynamic Wines?

Biodynamic winemakers are fanatical about the quality of wine that they are producing. The passion and labor that goes into biodynamic farming translate into great wines. From experiencing the majority of biodynamic wines that I have, you can feel the energy and nurturing that goes into each bottle of these painstakingly-made wines. There are Biodynamic wines made in nearly every wine-growing country in the world! 

Finding Biodynamic Wines

Here are the two best resources to find Biodynamic Producers!

There are just over 600 biodynamic wine producers in the world. Have fun checking them out! 

This is the app to get for Drinking on the Right Days.

Sorting Out Organic Grapes vs. Organic Wine!

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Suflites in Organic Wines

Suflites in Organic Wines

What is Organic Wine?

I am frequently asked what it means when a wine is “organic.” Here’s a fundamental way to understand what it means. There is a difference between “organically grown” grapes and wines that are “organically made.” This is a huge distinction!

Organically Made

If you label a wine organic, it means the wine cannot have sulfites added to prolong its shelf life; they must be certified to contain no more than ten parts per million of naturally occurring sulfites. 

Made from Organic Grapes

If a wine comes from organic grapes, it must say, “made from organic grapes.” Wines made with organically grown grapes come from vineyards that follow the guidelines set by Organic Certifications, which can vary by country. They have no non-organic crop protection materials in them. 

They can only contain organically approved materials for pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and bactericides (some synthetic materials are allowed). This is good, in theory, because you are not affecting the grapes. It can be troublesome, though, because you are not protecting the grapes; you are letting whatever happens to the grapes naturally happen, good or bad. Grape juice has sugar. Sugar attracts bugs, disease, and all kinds of other things that can destroy the grape juice on it’s way to becoming wine. Adding sulfites provides the grape with a protective blanket of sorts that can keep those unwarranted influences away from the grapes.

So What Should I Drink?

In theory, wines made with organic grapes should be better wines because they are made with a higher quality of fruit. But it depends on who’s making the wine. In the right hands, it’s terrific. In a lesser winemaker’s hands, the word “organic” won’t save the wine. I learned this from my good friend, Robert Sinskey. He’s been making wine from organic grapes since the 1980s. When Sinskey looked first around at his soil in Napa Valley, it was dead. There were no birds, no worms; there was no ecosystem. Nothing was living in this soil, so how can the grapes live? Sinskey made the conversion to organic grapes and never looked back, but it’s his skilled winemaking that brings the quality of those grapes to fruition in the bottle. 

Organic winemaking may sound sexy, but it requires stringent measures that may require the wine not to be made organically or labeled organic. Doing the minimal amount necessary to protect the grapes will still not meet the standards of being labeled “organic.” So though a wine like Sinskey’s is made from organic grapes and not labeled organic, you will be getting a high-quality wine that has taken great care to grow the grapes organically and protect them with as minimal treatment as possible to preserve their value and quality all the way to your glass.

Below are a few of the standard Organic icons you can look for on a bottle of wine in your journey to find Organically Farmed wines. 

Organic Certifications

Organic Certifications

Six Tips for Crushing Your E-Commerce Wine Purchasing in 2021 on!

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More people than ever bought their wine online in 2020. As someone who hosts many Virtual Wine Tastings and needs to get wines to people all over the US, has been an easy way for people around the country to share the same wines. Here are a few quick hacks on how to get the most out of They have the widest and most diverse selection with the best pricing.

1. Buy the free shipping – StewardShip

Why? Because it’s the best $50 you’ll spend all year. If you want to try something that you can’t find at your local store, it will get delivered to your front door, and eliminating the shipping will wipe out the highest extra cost. They will also offer special one-time deals for members.

2. Use the Rating & Price Slider

The Rating & Price Slider is everything. Sort by the grape, region, or style you like (Red, White, Sparkling, etc…), slide it to the price you want, and see what you discover. For example, start with wines $25 and under and go on a little adventure. 

3. Sort by Most Interesting 

Everybody wants to be popular, but in reality, everybody wants to be more interesting. And so it goes with wine. Interesting wines are more fun. Everyone wants to be their friend. They get invited back to the next party. Sort this way, and you will get past the popular stuff and go straight to the wine you absolutely want to hang out with, meeting new friends easily along the way.

4. Use the Chat Box 

There are actually certified sommeliers and wine experts on the other end who can help! Tell them what you like, your price point, and where you live, then let them make some suggestions. I’ve used this function, and there are some great pros on the other side! 

5. Read the reviews at the bottom of each wine.

Wine writers actually do an outstanding job. Don’t just look at the score. Read their thoughts and compare. Wines are more than just a number. Reading reviews will help you develop a vocabulary of your own. I would even suggest printing them out, get the wine, and play along as you drink it to see if you agree with the review. You’ll be surprised at how much you can intuitively learn about wine by doing this.

6. Participate

Jump in the game. When you taste something, put down a few words on the screen and rate it on the site. An excellent way to do this is to download the app. Take a photo of your bottle and give it a simple rating, and it will help you keep track of what you’ve tasted, bought, and like/don’t like. But it will also help you become part of a community where you can find new friends and new wines to drink. Let wine become more than just a drink, but a vehicle for new adventures.

Enjoy your new find freedom in finding fun new wines! 

Cheers! 🥂

The Eyes Have It! Laser Focus Wine Sight

As someone that has led thousands of tastings, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people close their eyes as they taste wine, expecting that it will heighten the sense of taste. Let me propose that you open your eyes and give the wine a good look. Understanding the wine’s primary color is the first step towards understanding the aromas and flavors. I use these cues and clues as a detective would solve a puzzle. Let’s get started on my three basic white concepts and three basic red concepts.

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Photos by James Wade Photography

Cheers! 🍷

Pale Straw: This is a wine that you can see through; it has lots of silver and green tones. The wine should be fresh, bright, clean, and have lots of energy.

Flavors: Greenish flavors—green apple, lemon, and lime, with some herbal and mineral notes.

Wines: Mosel Riesling, Muscadet, SancerreVinho Verde, Lighter Grüner Veltliner

Pale Straw White Wine

Pale Straw White Wine

Pale Yellow: This a wine with a slight advance in color. The pale yellow color tells me that the wine is richer than Pale Straw in the medium-bodied camp.

Flavors: Yellowish flavors—yellow apple, lemon, pineapple, and peach, with some floral and herbal notes.

Wines: Chablis, Unoaked Chardonnay’s, California Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño

Medium Yellow White

Medium Yellow White

Yellow Gold: The yellow straw color indicates some evolution moving the fruits into the yellow, oaked, oxidative zone. The color tells me to look for a slightly fuller white wine with a richer mouthfeel.

Flavors: ripe/baked apple/pear, ripe lemon, tangerine, tropical fruits, honeysuckle, with touches of oak notes such as vanilla and baking spices. 

Wines: Oaked Chardonnay, Alsace Pinot Gris, Viognier 

Yellow Gold White

Yellow Gold White

Pale Ruby: This color indicates a lighter-skinned red variety from a cooler climate. A bright and transparent rim shows a youthful wine with loads of freshness.

Flavors: Tart and fresh fruits such as raspberry, cherry, cranberry, and possibly red flowers. Probably no oak flavors here. 

Wines: Pinot Noir, Trousseau, Rioja Crianza

Ruby Red

Ruby Red Wine

Deep Purple: This color shows a wine of high pigmentation and extraction. A dark, nearly opaque rim shows the wine’s youth and power. The wine should be full-bodied with mouth-filling tannins. 

Flavors: Ripe, jammy black fruits such as blueberry, blackberry, plum, and purple flowers. Look for possible baking spices such as vanilla, chocolate, and nutmeg from oak aging.

Wines: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec 

Deep Purple Red

Deep Purple Red

Ruby Garnet: Garnet indicates a wine evolving with the fruit changing into dried fruits, dried flowers, tobacco, leather, and citrus peel. The brickish-orangish color at the rim shows a wine that has spent 5-10 years in the bottle. Garnet indicates a wine evolving with the fruit changing into dried fruits, dried flowers, tobacco, leather, and citrus peel.

Flavors: Dried berry fruits, dried flowers, leather, and tobacco,

Wines: Barolo & Barbaresco, Rioja Gran Reserva, Aged Red Burgundy, Aged Brunello di Montalcino

Deep Ruby Garnet

Boyz II Men are one of the top-selling musical artists of ALL TIME!

They’ve sold millions of records, topped the Billboard Charts, have won multiple Grammy’s, and now have joined the wine business with Harmony by Boyz II Men.

I recently sat down with the Boyz; Shawn, Wanya, and Nate to taste through the wines, their journey in the music industry, the partnership with Château Auguste, and winemaker Damien Landouar!

Click here to jump to the YOUTUBE vid! They were all so gracious with their time! 

Tasting w/ Boyz II Men!

There are three colors in the mix, white, rosé, and red. 

The rosé and red are 100% Organically Farmed and have music and sounds called Genodics played to the vines daily, which help their overall balance, health, and harmony! 

Harmony by Boyz II Men

The interview is in-depth, but we couldn’t edit it for the world!

Please enjoy this conversation with these legendary hitmakers.

Pour the Wine, Light the Fire!

It’s Harmony Time!

Cheers! 🤘🍷❤️🌈

Fred Dex, MS

Mourvèdre “Lower East,” Gramercy Cellars, 2017, Columbia Valley

Texture: Dark and dense, with chewy tannins and pepper acidity.

Over the last decade, the state of Washington has been producing some of the most incredible wines in the world. At one point, there were just a handful of wineries. Now, there are over 1,000. The opportunities to produce great wines in Washington are limitless.

My friend and fellow master sommelier, Greg Harrington, quit his cushy NYC beverage director job a decade ago and moved to Walla Walla, Washington, a place smaller than a small town. Armed with the knowledge of buying thousands of wines a year, he took his incredible palate on an adventure to the Pacific Northwest to create Gramercy Cellars. His winemaking evolution has been extraordinary. Never one to follow the rules, this bullish wine made from the unique grape Mourvèdre showcases his vision for wines of Washington in the future.

What You’ll Taste: Dark cherries, fruit leather, peppercorn, cured meats, violets, and touches of green spices 

Food Pairing: Red wine-braised short ribs with herb-roasted root veggies

Price: $28:00

Get it here:

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Chenin Blanc, “Ernesto Wickenden,” Foxen, 2018, Santa Maria Valley

Texture: Medium-plus bodied, sumptuous, with a ripping finish 

Did you know that Chenin Blanc was a more widely planted grape at one point than Chardonnay?

Did you know that Chenin Blanc was a more widely planted grape at one point than Chardonnay? It’s like classic Hollywood—gone but not forgotten. One of the last great Chenin Blancs of a classic era—more Lauren Bacall than Marilyn Monroe—Chenin Blanc is sleek, sophisticated, and unapologetic. This vineyard is a piece of California viticultural history. The folks at Foxen have preserved the integrity of this great grape variety, as well, as Turner Movie Classics has kept the great films of yesteryear alive and available for generations to come. Except this wine takes things from technicolor to digital.

What You’ll Taste: Meyer lemon, bartlett pear, dried yellow flowers, almond skin, and touches of salty minerals 

Food Pairing: Ginger-soy Asian steamed fish and jasmine rice

Price: $27.00

Get it here: 

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Côtes-du-Rhône, “Reserve”, Cellier des Dauphins, 2018, France

Texture: Medium-plus bodied, round, juicy with spicy tannins.

Côtes-du-Rhône is the Gene Hackman of wines. They are every man of French wine, but they offer a performance that blows away everything around it when they enter the scene. Typically in Côtes-du-Rhône, Grenache takes the leading role of the blend, with a supporting cast of amazing grapes that brings complexity in every bottle. Don’t be fooled by glossier competitors. These wines bring authenticity and depth at an everyday value. 

What You’ll Taste: Spiced red and blackberry fruits, dried herbs, cracked pepper, lavender, and a touch of sweet vanilla.

Food Pairing: Five-spiced duck breast with sautéed mushrooms.

Price: $13.99

Get it here:

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Verdejo, Marqués de Cáceres, Rueda, 2019, Spain

Texture: Medium-bodied, easy-drinking and vibrant

For all you white wine drinkers stuck drinking the same old Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, this wine is a portal to a whole new world called Verdejo. You may have never heard of this grape variety, but it’s time to pick up a book in a new genre. This grape from Rueda (wine region) in Spain has all the aforementioned whites’ character traits with a little bit of a plot twist when it hits your palate. Verdejo’s offering is a little sassier with tropical fruits and a touch of naughty adventure. For $9.99, it’s cheaper than a page-turner paperback and twice as fun.

What You’ll Taste: Mandarin orange, grapefruit peel, white peaches, and touches of yellow flowers.

Food Pairing: Light cheeses, fresh garden green salad with a citrus vinaigrette, sushi, OR all of them!  

Price: $9.99

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