Dishes that go well with popular California wines

grilled ribeye beef steak with red wine herbs and spices

The number of California wine varieties has exploded in the last 10 years. While this is certainly welcome news for food and wine lovers, it makes food pairings a tad more challenging.

Wine experts say there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to food and wine pairings. As a general rule of thumb, though, wine and food weights must be equal. Neither should have a flavor that’s richer than the other. And because California wine is typically bold in taste, the dishes that work well with it must have the same boldness.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular California wines and the dishes that can be perfectly paired with each one:

  1. Sauvignon blanc
    Also known as fumé blanc, this wine gives off a variety of tastes, from citrusy to fruity, with descriptors that include green apple, pineapple, fig, and others.
  2. Among the foods that go well with sauvignon blanc are:

    • Most beef and lamb dishes
    • Grilled chicken
    • Grilled fish
    • Seafood
    • Mildly spiced dishes
    • Feta cheese and chevre
    • Asparagus
    • Citrus fruit
  3. Chardonnay
    Considered the queen of whites, chardonnay is the most popular wine and the most widely grown wine grape in the US. Chardonnay is known to have a complex aroma, high acidity, and a fruity flavor ranging from green apple to citrus. It is often aged in oak barrels, leaving a toasty and buttery undertone, but the best wines are those that have not been over-oaked.
  4. Perfect food pairings for chardonnay include:

    • Grilled lobsters, shrimp and salmon
    • Pork loin
    • Chicken white meat
    • Mushrooms
    • Potatoes
    • Spices like rosemary, tarragon, and sesame
    • Havarti and asiago cheese
  5. Cabernet sauvignon
    The undisputed “king of reds” is the second most popular wine in the US, next to chardonnay. The grape variety originated in France, and the most acclaimed cabernet sauvignon wines were bottled in Bordeaux. In 1976, the California cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley beat out its Bordeaux counterparts in a blind taste test, drawing worldwide recognition to California wines for the first time.

    Among the common descriptors for California Cabernet Sauvignon are berry, bell pepper, toasty oak, cassis, and cherries. The wine is best consumed with food, as the taste can be overwhelming when taken alone.

  6. Some of the best food pairings for cabernet sauvignon are:

    • Grilled steaks
    • Roasted veal and beef ribs
    • Caramelized onions
    • Dark beans
    • Mint
    • Rosemary, ginger, lavender, and sesame
    • Swordfish and snappers
    • Aged cheddars
  7. Red zinfandel
    A wine that’s truly synonymous with California, zinfandel is America’s most unique contribution to the global wine scene. It was believed that zinfandel was an indigenous American grape variety, but it was recently found that it originated in Croatia and made its way to California during the Gold Rush. The state’s climate, as well as its cultivation and winemaking methods, has given the California variety a unique flavor profile and the highest alcohol content of any commercial red wine. While a red grape variety, zinfandel is also used to produce rosé wine known as white zinfandel. The taste of zinfandel has been likened to blackberry, raspberry, cherry, cloves and herbs.
  8. Excellent food pairings for red zinfandel include:

    • Barbecue pork ribs
    • Chicken and other poultry like turkey and duck
    • Grilled sausage and beef
    • Cheeseburgers
    • Grilled peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes
    • Aged cheeses
    • Nutmeg

As part of California’s Wine Country, Temecula Valley is an excellent place to sample world-famous California wines paired with the perfect dishes. If you want to explore your real estate options in Temecula Valley, give us a call at 951-719-0355 or email us at