Fall Wine Pairing

Travis Hawkes – October 24 2017

Pairing wines is an ability that, once learned on even the most basic of levels, can be one of the keys to having a social life that’s actually worth sharing on social media.

You can throw better parties, give better gifts, go on better dates and most of all, have better meals.

I interviewed Ellyn Cook, who landed the Event Sales Manager position here at Northern Fork through her sincere passion for wines. Taking country-wide trips to vineyards, speaking with Sommeliers and eventually working alongside them, she’s garnered not only a crazy amount of knowledge about wines, but has developed a genuinely beautiful perspective on why pairing a wine with a meal is such a compelling perspective to have.

“They taught me the nuances of what cuisine really means to our culture and society.”

“Wine is more than a drink but a history of a place.”

“It’s a beautiful thing to recreate what people felt like eating and drinking over hundreds of years. A step into other people’s lives. A look at their history and daily life. Maybe this is too deep for a glass of wine, but it’s also a beautiful thought.”

Give one of the following Ellyn-approved setups a go from the following list of wines and see if you don’t end up sitting back from the table and muttering to yourself, “I crushed this…”

Here goes… You’re welcome.


Lambrusco is red, frizzy and delightful – The “I only wanted to bring one wine” wine, Ellyn said. White and red drinkers will come together and bring the celebration to life with this red, fruity bubbly drink. With just the smallest amount of sugar, bright acidity, and rich fruity flavors (and lower alcohol – keep it flowing) this is a wine pairing dream. Coming from Emilia-Romagna, Italy’s premier food region, cured meats, parmesan, game, chicken, and dried fruits all work very well with this kind of a wine. Think slightly salty and slightly dried, but because of it’s sweetness, it also makes for an enjoyable dessert wine.

On the Northern Fork Menu – Start the night with a smattering of bronzed toast, antipasto and our multifarious cheeseboard. For dinner, we start things out with our spinach salad and move to the roast chicken with cranberries. Beginning with greens, we toss in walnuts, figs, pears and drizzle things with our Raspberry Vinaigrette, and rice pilaf makes for a nice addition to the main course. Another choice that we offer that would go well with the Lambrusco is our salmon with our truffle orzo and Parmesan. Orzo, in case you didn’t know, is a short-cut pasta that is typically used to accompany meals like rice would. It’s versatile and gives our Northern Fork chefs the chance to mix things up. Feel free to choose one or the other, but know you can do both the chicken or salmon from our kitchen with this wine.

Another great paring with the Lambrusco is our Grilled Pear Crostini. Check out our recipe below!

Oregon Pinot Noir/German Riesling

Oregon Pinot Noirs are an iconoclastic wine, with an almost radical combination of spice and berries. Bright side the low color extraction won’t stain your teeth in all the Holiday photos. It’s a fantastic red wine and both the spice and fruitiness meld well to be paired up for this flavorful ham.

Maybe you are more of a white wine drinker. Try a German Riesling with a small amount of sweetness. Roaming the aisles, look for the words “off-dry” or “semisweet” on label… or “kabinett,” which is a German translation that denotes lightness and fully ripened grapes.

…It also means “cabinet” in English, and with all of those fun facts, you’ll be a hit at the holiday party with either one of these wines, which pair well with…

On the Northern Fork Holiday Menu – The maple honey glazed ham is one of our mouthwatering favorites here at Northern Fork, and it’s a meat that, with the saltiness and rich acidity, pairs well with both of these wines. The Oregon Pinot is a fantastic red wine and both the spice and fruitiness meld well to be paired up for this flavorful ham. The Riesling’s subtle sweetness goes hand-in-hand with the honey glaze. Can’t go wrong with either one!

Sparkling – Jumbo Crab Cakes

Ask almost any Sommelier what they want to eat with fried or baked food and most will lean towards something decadent, like champagne. Add a mayo-based sauce of some kind and it’s a match made in heaven. If it’s an opportunity to bring it, it’s gotta be a celebration and champagne is the only way to do it.

On the Northern Fork Events Menu – With our jumbo crab cakes, showing up with both a platter and a bottle of bubbly means you’ll guarantee an invite to every New Year’s Eve party from here on out. The brioche notes of champagne along with the crisp acidity will complement and help cut through the oil at the same time. It’s a bold move, and if you’re not looking to make such a splash, a bottle of Spanish Cava with our jumbo crab cakes works quite well with our in-house remoulade sauce!


A true classic with true class, a glass of Chianti is like drinking in a timeless black-&-white movie. It’s always a bold choice but doesn’t always need to be paired with bold meals. Chianti is made from Sangiovese, so the label might not necessarily say Chianti. Many people think big tannic wines like Chianti need to be paired with steak, and yes, that works. Red wines pair with red meats – that’s wine 101. Not every steak is the same, though, and certain wines can be placed in even better scenarios than just picking a random red to pair with steak.

On the Northern Fork Menu – The leaner filet mignon doesn’t need huge tannins to cut through the fat. A velvety Chianti with well-integrated tannins will do just the trick. The dusty cherry flavors won’t overpower the earthy quality to this dish and besides, it’s red & red: you’ve got this. If you can splurge go for a Chianti Classico but a nice Super Tuscan will do the trick.