The Perfect Pairing

Two experts from Grapes & Grains walk us through pairing a meal with the perfect beverage


Christin Aarons is the Wine Buyer and Sales Manager, and Justin Garrison is the Beer and Spirits Sales Manager at Grapes & Grains in Barrington. We talked about local vineyards, regional food pairings and stocking a home bar.

Christin, what is one underappreciated or perhaps under-the-radar wine growing region that you think people should learn more about?
I wish that our customers were more enthusiastic about trying wines produced in the Northeast. With such an incredible farm-to-table movement happening all over the US and especially in Rhode Island, it would be nice to see more of our customers seeking out locally made wines to pair with their locally inspired dishes. I am continually surprised by the increased quality and depth to wines produced in New England and NewYork. Crisp whites and light reds are just the thing to pair with all of our fresh local seafood.

I know you offer a lot of advice on wine pairings. Let’s do a lighting round – I’m going to throw some localfavorite dishes at you and you tell me what to pair with them. First up, clam cakes and chowder? 
Let’s keep it local for this one: Rhode Island or Massachusetts grown Vidal Blanc produced in a dry style is the perfect match to the salty and briny notes. I am particularly fond of Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard Dry Vidal Blanc. Fried calamari? There’s nothing like a glass of bubbles with fried food: it’s a classic pairing. It’s easy to keep the price point casual with the Mercat Brut Nature Cava from Spain. It’s lean and bright and yeasty from being produced in the Champagne method, but a total steal at just $15 a bottle. 

Portuguese kale soup? 
Slightly peppery and utterly delightful – the Domaine JC Girard-Madoux Mondeuse from the Savoie region of France. Its soft berry fruit and spice would be the perfect complement to
potatoes, kale and sausage.

Lobster ravioli? 
I would choose a crisp and dry Rosé. The acidity in the Rosé has the effortless ability of cutting through the richness of cream based sauces while complementing the delicate flavors of the lobster meat. I am a really big fan of the Loire Valley and Cabernet Franc, so I am going to suggest the Chinon Rosé from Domaine Sourdais. 

Grilled margherita pizza? 
Just about any balanced table wine from Italy would do the trick for this one, but I am partial to Barbera from Piedmont with tomato-based dishes. There’s something about the acidity in Barbera that plays famously with tomatoes. Try the Luli Umberta Barbera
produced in Monferatto, Italy. 

Justin, most people know simple wine pairings, but they aren’t as familiar with pairing food and beer. What are some basic guidelines? 
I generally like to pair beers like kölsch and hefeweizen with lighter foods like salads, seafood and sushi. Pale ales pair well with a wide range of foods, but especially meat pies and burgers. IPAs are known for their bitterness and strong flavor, which make them perfect for strong, spicy dishes such as Indian and Thai food. Stouts are fantastic with oysters and/or chocolate.

If I want to throw together a home bar for a cocktail party, what are the basics I need to have? 
If I had to make a list of spirits that would give the most bang for thbuck I would probably go with Tito’s Vodka, Farmer’s Botanical Gin, Four Roses Bourbon, Angostura bitters and both Dolin sweet and dry vermouth. These will offer a versatile selection capable of creating a ton of awesome cocktails. If you add a few household items like sugar, soda water and lemons and limes, then the possibilities are endless.

And what’s one interesting or unusual choice you would throw in just for fun?
I like to throw in a bottle of Marie Duffau Bas Armagnac because it makes a fantastic Sidecar, is equally great when sipped neat and it won’t break the bank.

Grapes & Grains
24 Bosworth Street