Spring has sprung, y’all. Plant them flowers, get your seeds in the ground … maybe take an easier route with some starts for peas or carrots. Now is the time for seasonal produce to prevail! An abundance of locally grown produce is about to appear on grocery shelves, and it won’t stop until October. Consider yourself lucky:We live in an agriculturally prosperous place and we aren’t shy about it.
While you’re busy popping bottles of rosé because the mercury rose past 55 degrees Fahrenheit, remember there is a cornucopia of sippable alternatives that pair with seasonal produce beyond the pink. “Pairing with vegetables” can be a trigger phrase for some but, as in pairing with any dish, vegetables and wine can go together like love and marriage. There are two ways to play it: Choose a wine with similar characteristics as the dish or pick one to contrast the dish. Similarities could be vegetal tones in the wine that match the veg. Contrasting traits could be a high-acid, crisp wine to cut into the lush, fatty veg.
Another variable to consider is how the vegetable is cooked — raw, roasted in oil, sauteed in butter, braised with meat, over a grill? The additional ingredients of a vegetable-forward dish will impact the overall profile, so keep in mind the taste of the dish itself, instead of just the vegetable featured in it.
Because the finished dish is one of the largest deciding factors of how to pair in almost every case, we got specific on the cooking method of these springtime vegetables in order to best pair Northwest wines. Bon appetit!
PAIRING: Shaved Asparagus Salad + Parmesan Vinaigrette with Anne Amie Vineyards 2019 Müller Thurgau
WHY IT WORKS: A little bit of fat (oil and cheese) can change the profile of asparagus completely, which helps it match quite nicely with a very even-keel, light and floral wine. We all know asparagus’ strong flavors tend to win out over anything else, but the added depth and layer of olive oil and Parmesan on the raw vegetable, plus acid from the lemon, provides supplemental pairing prowess that contrasts the wine’s profile of mellow honeysuckle, key lime and yellow apple.
PAIRING: Grilled Spring Leeks with SMAK 2020 Spring Rosé
WHY IT WORKS: Leeks are inherently sweet, buttery and oniony, so while they do exude a distinct flavor, they’re amiable and flexible in what dishes you add them to and what wines they can pair with. Try this Sangiovese rosé from SMAK, slightly tart but mostly full of ripe berry juice and flowers, with enough acid to lift up the palate without taking away from the curvy, bold body. The wine’s minerality allows opportunity to take this leek cookery to a seafood level as well, like with wine-steamed clams.
PAIRING: Sauteed Fava Beans with WT Vintners 2018 Chenin Blanc
WHY IT WORKS: Stop doing your impression of Hannibal Lector and listen up — fava beans might look like the dreaded lima beans of your youth, but they’re less starchy and full of just-sweet nutty flavor that is almost cheese-like. Yes, we said vegetables that almost taste like cheese but — bonus — cheese pairs really well with wine. Butter up those fava beans in a saute pan and pair with this Chenin Blanc, which showcases aromas of cashew cheese, beeswax, honeycomb and tart apricots. The palate brings all the oily goodness Chenin lovers expect, plus that apricot and a supple texture, twinkling with sweetness and a spark of acid in the finish.
PAIRING: Herb-Butter Morels with Johan Vineyards 2019 Pétillant Naturel Pinot Noir
WHY IT WORKS: Because a mushroom and Pinot Noir pairing is as old as time, but this has a texturally compelling twist to it! This naturally sparkling Pinot brings tart raspberry fruit, herbs, lemon zest and baking spices upfront and center, with ever-present acidity and earthiness that could not better complement morels cooked in an herb butter. The palate is more spritzy than it is bubbly, which allows the flavors of the dish to shine. The mushroom on its own offers an earthy, nuttiness that is flawlessly matched with this wine and its mineral-and-tingle finish.
PAIRING: Spice-Roasted Carrots with Idiot’s Grace 2016 Barbera
WHY IT WORKS: Carrot is a rock-band frontman — flavorsome and bright in a sweet, woody and earthy profile — and one of the easier vegetables to pair with. Barbera is an excellent backup guitarist, offering acidity and fruitiness to lift up and accentuate the lead of carrots. This cool-climate Barbera from Idiot’s Grace provides brighter acidity and brighter fruit flavors to a carrot dish, and matching it with veg that’s been laced with spice plates up another dimension.