Each Saturday Greens offers a prix-fixe dinner with amazing wine pairings from our wine sommelier, Mike Hale. Mike has been a somm for over three decades. He’s owned and operated (with his wife Carole) two San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 restaurants in the past 20 years and has been the wine director at Greens for the past eight years. He also makes wine at several acclaimed Sonoma wineries and has lived on an 80-acre ranch in Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg for over 20 years.
Mike explains that while wine pairing is more commonly thought of in terms of what to drink with different meat proteins… paring wine with vegetables isn’t too different. He looks at the spices, temperatures and minerality of the foods and works from there. Beyond that, he notes that most wine pairings are either trying to match the flavor profile of the food or conversely, to balance the food with wine…for example pairing a dry, clean wine with rich food.
While Mike leans toward the balancing method, he says one of his favorite ways of pairing wine and food merely by looking at areas where the food comes from and knowing that area probably develops the right wines for those foods. He offers the examples of the coast of Italy having fantastic seafood and great white wines. Or the Alsace region of France, known for its rich cuisines and the white wines there that stand up to that richness.
Some good examples of his careful thought processes can be seen on the current Saturday night Prixe Fixe menu. For the Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Chanterelle Mushrooms, sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, savoy spinach, spring onions, pine nuts, herb butter and grana padano Mike has chosen a 2010 Anthill Farms Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. He says the mushrooms immediately guided his choice. “Mushrooms are the duck of vegetables,” he notes. “They have a very earthy, “forest floor” flavor and therefore do well with a lighter-bodied red wine like a Pinot Noir. While the pine nuts and tomatoes give the dish a richness the pinot has enough body to stand up to that.
For the Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Salad with Green Gulch lettuce, shaved pecorino fiore sardo and grilled jalapeno vinaigrette Mike chose a 2014 Petrichor Rose from Sonoma County. “This dry rose is refreshing like a white wine which is ideal for the lettuce but has the body of a red to stand up to the jalapeno vinaigrette.”
Many more notes on pairing wine with vegetables can be found in the Greens Cookbooks, available here.