While I definitely enjoy cooking with wine, I enjoy dining with wine even more. Food and wine, in my opinion, just belong together. Which food and which wine, of course, has been the topic of debate, argument, books, countless articles, and several television shows. I have no intention of attempting to solve this dilemma for anyone, but I do have some thoughts about food and wine that I believe are worth sharing.
At the same time, I am proceeding here with some trepidation. Many of you reading this already know more about wine than I do. Most of you have your favorites – just as I do. Then there are those for whom wine is not a preferred beverage – for any number of reasons. So to address my trepidation if nothing else, let me state at the outset that my purpose here is to attempt to add to your knowledge of food and wine and not to change anyone’s opinions or habits.
Four of my favorite Fenn Valley wines – produced entirely with Michigan-grown grapes.
My introduction to wine came at a very early age. It was either homemade, or it was what we now call “jug wine.” I remember treasuring my small glass of red wine with my plate of pasta and meatballs. It didn’t happen often, but when it did (usually when there were guests for dinner) it was a very special event for me.
Clearly I came late to the game. The first evidence of humans consuming beverages fermented from grapes dates back to China circa 7,000 - 6,600 B.C. Today, wine is produced throughout the world. Italy, France, and Spain are the largest producers (in that order). The United States follows in fourth place. I was surprised to learn (from where else but Wikipedia.com) that wine is produced in all 50 states! California produces the most (88%), while South Dakota is last with 0.003% (less than 3 ounces per person “living” there). I have tasted wines in several states, and from even more. My overall reaction was something of a surprise to me: California is not the only state making really good wines, and many wineries in the other 49 states (except maybe South Dakota) have the awards to prove it.
Two of my favorites are Debonné Vineyards in Madison, Ohio (where we once lived) and Fenn Valley Vineyards and Wine Cellar in Fennville, Michigan (near where we currently live. We were among the very first customers at Chalet Debonné when it opened in 1972, and we have been enjoying Fenn Valley (established in 1973) for over a decade. Sadly, neither of these wines is available in the other state. Federal and state regulations, and limited production volumes, make interstate sales uneconomical for all but the largest wineries, which are located primarily in California, New York, Washington, and Oregon – the top four producing states.
The good news for all of us, regardless of where we live (although I’m still not sure about South Dakota), is that there are plenty of intrastate wines available for us to try. If you haven’t already discovered the wines from your home state, I hope you will find an opportunity to do so. If nothing else, you’ll have the fun experience of trying something new, you’ll be supporting your local economy, and you just may discover something special to share with your next dinner guests. I certainly know I have seldom been disappointed with locally produced wines. My long-term friend, Wes, said it first and best: “There’s no such thing as a bad wine, but some are better than others!”
Armed with that sage advice, perhaps a bottle or two from your local vineyard, and your favorite recipe, you could soon be writing your own “rules” for pairing food and wine.
P.S. You might note that I have caught the social media “bug” and have added Facebook Like and Share icons to all the pages on this site. This is a non-commercial site and I receive no compensation for Likes or Clicks, but if you do see something you enjoy I will appreciate knowing it. (As a personal aside, I’ve always thought there also should be a Dislike icon! Since there isn’t, if you see something here that needs improvement, please so advise me using the Comment icon. Mille grazie.)