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Pinot Noir - Food Pairing [from General Topics]

I need some help with figuring out what kind of food to pair with Pinot Noir. Does steak pair well?

I ask because a good friend of mine recently spent some time roaming the Willamette Valley and picked up a bunch of different bottles of Pinot Noir. He's coming to my house so we can taste. In trade, I have to cook him dinner. If I prepare steak (filet, ny, or porterhouse), will it pair well?

There's a butcher near my house that supplies great prime beef. That's one reason I'm trying to cook steaks. The other is that I'm most competent on the grill and I won't have to jump through very many hoops to prepare a good meal.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. You might have better luck on the wine board - those guys love to play the pairing game. Personally, I think steak is too much for pinot...but I do love it with a simple roast duck.

    1. Pinot will pair well with beef, sword fish, ceasar salad et al.

      1. Pinot Noir is my red of choice so I pair it with just about everything! I think it goes well with beef. I also enjoy it with salmon and rack of lamb.

        1. The beef will be great - especially since you do so well with it! Avoid anything too acidic or sweet that might interfere with the focus of the wine. Choose cheese to begin or end the meal to spotlight the wines.

          Sounds like a wonderful meal.

          1. Some of the more effective pairings I've had with Pinot Noir - mushrooms, truffles (a truffle fondue was awesome), duck, squab, veal sweetbreads

            1. Steak would be ok, but a really fantastic, by-the-book classic would be plank-smoked salmon. Really a very nice combo.

              I agree with wahooty. The wine nerds always have some interesting suggestions, so a cross post to the wine board might behoove you.

              1. To some extent, it depends on the wine's style. Grilled steak is about the only thing I'd serve with some of the New World "I can't believe it's not Syrah" PNs. PNs done in less heavy, more Burgundian style (and Oregon makes plenty) pair well with a wide range of foods: grilled salmon, seared tuna, roasted or stewed fowl, roasted or stewed beef or veal. In your shoes, since the point of your exercise is to taste through a range of wines, I'd probably look for something rich but not too assertive that'd be a good foil for various styles. For example, if you went the beef route (a good choice, since beef and PN often amplify each other), a prime rib or tenderloin roast.

                1 Reply
                1. re: carswell

                  I agree completely. Were the PN's from the Santa Rita Hills, or nearby, I'd have given a thumbs up to grilling the beef. With the more Burgundian styles, likely to be served here, I'd cheat a bit with most other beef dishes and include a similar PN in the prep.

                  As other have mentioned, WA PN's pair well with almost any prep of salmon. Cannot imagine why I failed to make mention of that, but others had already covered that base well.


                2. I'm confused with the logistics.
                  You mention "a bunch of different bottles".
                  Let's say you have a steak and, say, 6 different bottles. How're you going to pair?

                  A possible more workable scenario I'd try:
                  a) a cheese course, a flight of 2
                  b) a fish course, or fowl, or whatever, another 2
                  c) a meat course, another 2

                  Always leaving the prior flight on the table, just in case you want to go back.
                  Also: go by increasing values of Alc / vol

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RicRios

                    i'm sorry. i never like the idea of starting with cheese. it deadens the palate.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Ending with cheese sounds good to me. Epoisses would be great with most burgundies.

                  2. depends on the pinot since some can be very extracted. although that's more typical of california pinots than those from willamette. more traditionally it would pair very well with duck or game birds and also salmon.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      While I am sure that some Willamette Valley producers are doing the heavily extracted technique, a la Santa Rita/Santa Barbara, most are lighter and more earthy with hints of Burgundian "barnyard." While it would depend on the exact producers, I'd *expect* these to be lighter.

                      With the exception of the order of the cheese-course (as per your suggestion), I agree with RicRios. Still, one could easily substitute a mushroom appetizer dish and place the cheese at the end of the meal.


                    2. I have a broad range of Oregon Pinots, I pair them with everything. For a big grilled rib-eye I would probably go with a big New World type PN. Maybe a Ken Wright, Shea or Arcus, probably an 06 big wine rather than a 07.

                      I use the old world PN's for lighter duck, salmon etc. A place for all of them and they are for the most part wonderful.

                      1. If beef, a simply grilled filet would pair nicely; anything fattier i.e. rib-eye, strip, etc. would be too overpowering for pinot to my taste buds.

                        Seared ahi tuna is a favorite as is roast chicken, lamb and as already mentioned, duck and salmon.

                        Something with mushrooms is always a good side dish; I've made a savory mushroom bread pudding that was great at a pinot tasting.

                        1. in addition to some of the other suggestions, I like to pair PN with grilled salmon

                          1. steak + mushrooms

                            mushrooms do good with pinot noir

                            1. I have no problem pairing it with steak, but some purists might. I think pinot noir is more fllexible than some people give it credit for being. The classic pairing is with chicken or other fowl. About the only real no-no I can think of is a high acid red sauce, like spaghetti sauce.

                              1. In my opinion, the perfect dish for Pinot Noir is duck breast with
                                a raspberry sauce.

                                1. I am a bit less a fan of PN's with beef, than some here. However, it does depend on the prep. If one wants to enhance the pairing, then either a PN reduction, marinade or sauce would work in that direction. Think Beef Bourgogne.

                                  Now, if one is doing almost anything from veal to all but the lightest whitefish, PN is my choice of wines.

                                  Especially with most Burgs and WA PN's, I think earthy mushrooms. Most also show an affinity for anise and fennel.



                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    you keep mentioning washington state. the willamette valley is in oregon.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Just a brain cramp on my part. Maybe I was tasting too much wine, as I was typing. I've started typing earlier tonight!

                                      Thanks for being gentle with my faux pas.


                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        lol. i've been known to tipsy-type on occasion too. ;)

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          You are too kind. Thanks for the pass. Someday, I'll pay you back!


                                  2. I haven't read others' comments yet so as to keep my thoughts fresh... Though I will read all the comments and then add as necessary:

                                    No. I would not pair Oregon PN with steak. And if I did, itwould be with a Filet Mignon. I thnk a strip or ribeye would be too much for an *ideal* pairing.

                                    That is the short answer. Steak in general is an ok match for Pinot, but certainly not one of the best. Lamb, veal, pork, duck, Ahi, salmon are all better than beef, *GENERALLY* for Pinot. Beef braised in red wine, however, can be a *great* match.

                                    If you are most competant on the grill I would suggest a butterflied leg of lamb or else veal chops. If your butcher has great beef he very well also might have great veal. Veal chops (preferably rib) rubbed with a little EVOO, salt, cracked black pepper, garlic, and rosemary, are amonst my favorite foods in the world, and would pair much better with Pinot than any steak. A butteflied leg of lamb, marinated for only 5 minutes in rosemary, mint, EVOO, garlic, salt pepper, and lemon juice then grilled can also provide an amazing pairing (at a fraction of the cost, I might add).

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: whiner


                                      I agree competely. PN can work with the right cut and prep, but too many beef preps are likely to over power it, even the bigger, more extracted, versions.

                                      Too many better mains to pair.


                                    2. Some of the better pairings of "Pinot" are the swine with wine dinners.Charlie Palmer and others do a series if dinners annually pairing various cuts etc of pig with Pinot.
                                      Most menu groups of duck or pig with Pinot are spot on.EVEN WHEN NOT my first choice
                                      If beef is the final choice ,maybe think about menu weight at every stop.Pinots,even New World ones are easily over shadowed by rich STRONG flavors.Beef menued with care is my first choice.(not the easiest)

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: lcool

                                        I agree completely with the swine, but hold off a bit on duck. Depending on the prep, I usually go for a FR Syrah, as soon as I order most duck. Maybe it's just me.


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Some of the funky older Burgundy and many of the well balanced pinots from Oregon work well with "plain" duck (well done).Problem for me is I only like duck overcooked and crispy or the reverse;edging on bloody.And I do agree for these Pinot does not work.Duck;medium rare with most sides is most definately a GSM pairing.There of course exceptions.Most of which come into play after time and experience and some cellaring of "your own wine" practice.
                                          The nose,to unctious,umami is so ??? personal,and with the same tastes and "descipters" can be so differant for each individual

                                          1. re: lcool

                                            i served duck confit with a pomegranate molasses sauce along with a santenay. my beer-loving b/f had his first wine epiphany with that meal. it was knock-out menu.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              A fine example of well done duck.Congratulations on the convert at the table.You found an excellent way to do it.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                I can well imagine, as I find pomegranate to be a complemetary flavor to many PN's. When someone says pomegranate, I first think of Pinot Meunier, then Pinot Noir.

                                                Maybe I need to try more PN's with duck, as I usually reach for the Old World Syrahs first - out of habit.


                                        2. Pinot noir is generally considered one (if not THE) of the most food friendly red wines.

                                          That said, I think that steak is not its forté. Duck, Roast chicken, lamb, salmon, all come more quickly to mind. Filet is its best beef companion, imho. other than the classic stuff (boeuf Bourguignon).

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                            I really enjoy a nice, not too salty Ham with Pinot Noir . Thanks for the suggestion about serving it with Roast Chicken. As soon as I drink down my cellar enough to justify buying more wine, I'll give it a try.

                                            1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                              Also, give it a go with all but the lightest of fish dishes, so long as you do not use any heavy cream sauces.


                                            2. re: ChefJune

                                              I agree about the versitility of PN's. It's not until the beef gets grilled, or with a heavy prep, that I reach for something with more body and tannins.

                                              If I had but one red wine, I'd probably go with PN and have many bases covered. Fortuntely, I have more than one, but PN still has a prominent place in my vinous arsenal.


                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Hi from Portland.
                                                Bill I'll forgive you for the repeated references to my being in WA.
                                                Pinot tasting has been known to inspire my share of indiscretions!

                                                I did yet another tour last week. Here were the favorites:
                                                Carlo & Julian 2007 Estate
                                                Beran 2006 Estate & 2005 Estate Pommard Clone
                                                Willakenzie 2006 Pierre Leon
                                                Patton Valley 2001 Cherrywood Cellars
                                                Patton Valley 2006 De-Classified

                                                1. re: Leonardo

                                                  Thank you. I have gotten flack, and deservedly so, for my geographic indiscretions. Sorry about that.

                                                  Thanks for the references. Other than the Wilakenzie, I am not familiar with any of these, but am always on the lookout for great WA (er-r-r OR) PN's. Unfortunately, in PHX we do not see a lot of great wines. One usually must seek out smaller producers, and then often have to order these in, via the distributors. It's not just OR producers, but many from smaller wineries in CA too. For so large a city, and with a pretty high degree of sophistication in many respects, we seem to be way down the list of great wines.




                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Beran, for example, makes less than 1000 cases a year. So yes, we're talking small. And he's a great guy! While I loved the aforementioned, the Dijon clone is a little spicy for my taste.

                                                    Sorry, I have no idea what makes it to places such as NY or PHX. Posters always ask these questions and I have no answers. I need to stop taking for granted that I can visit the winery or have local shops.
                                                    So that's how you do it, through distributors, and not directly? Thanks for the feedback.

                                                    1. re: Leonardo

                                                      Thank you for the info. I'm with you, when it comes to smaller producers. If I do not know the distribution network, or the location of a poster, I shy away from some of my favs., as they may never reach them - or me, unless I travel to, and purchase from, these smaller wineries.

                                                      Our chapter of the International Wine & Food Society is planning a trip to OR, and I WILL take your list with me. My hope is that we can manage to get "off the beaten track," and search out many of these folk.

                                                      I don't need small, only good. However, for most of us, small, and good can often only be accessed by being in proximity to these producers.



                                            3. I love lamb with Pinot -- I also like duck, quail, squab, and rabbit - mushroons are a magical pairing with pinot. I am huge Merry Edwards fan and she often gives suggested pairings for each wine she makes -- all of which are superb.
                                              As for Wilmette Pinots - we have been loving on the Auteur (hope I spelled that right) Pinots lately...bon appetite!!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: truefoodie

                                                Their Willamette [sic] Pinot is known as Shea Vineyards, I think.

                                                This evening I made out of my farmers' market haul sauted shiitake & maitake with leek, pea shoots, and garlic greens, sprinkled with toasted organic hazelnuts grown in Pinot country. Went beautifully with Beran 2006 Estate mentioned above.

                                                1. re: truefoodie


                                                  You have great taste in wine! I like Auteur very much and Merry's Pinots (esp. the Klopp) are just spectacular!

                                                  1. re: whiner

                                                    while i like and respect ms edwards very much, i find her pinots way too over the top -- too fruity, too sweet. too heavy. they completely lack the finesse and elegance i love in red burgundies. she does make a very delicious sauvignon blanc.

                                                2. Hey, I'm only 5 years late replying here, but last night I ordered a steak at our local Capital Grille (no, I don't go there more than once a millennium) and was set to order a cab from the wine-by-the-glass list but whined to the waiter that it seemed awfully young (2011). He guided me instead to the 2003 PN on the list. I questioned whether it would be big enough (I don't usually pair PN with grilled beef) and he assure me it was a big, bold one. He was right. Did I have the presence of mind to record or remember its name? Nah. But the point is that most pinot noirs will be overwhelmed by steak, but if you have a big-ass one, go for it.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: howardtheduck4

                                                    surprising that a pinot with 11 years in the bottle could still hold up to a grilled steak. glad you enjoyed.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      I thought it was very surprising indeed, but my guess is that it began life with enough tannin (not often noticeable in most pinots) to remain vital beyond a decade. When I'm confronted with a by-the-glass wine list, I often don't know the individual wines and I rely on the sommelier or waiter. This guy seemed confident in his recommendation, so I took it. He also brought me a taste of the 2011 cab on the list (which I worried was too young) and it was surprisingly ready to drink. Just goes to show you how much variation there can be from label to label. Collieur says he/she likes Zin for steak, and I agree -- when I'm in doubt, and when I have the option, I'd have no hesitation in ordering Zin to go with just about anything.

                                                  2. Generally with steaks and prime rib you want a bigger wine that serves as the sauce - Zinfandel (my preference esp since I won't bring it back in my luggage), Cabernet, Syrah, or an Italian biggie like Barolo.

                                                    Pinot Noir IMO pairs better with braised beef dishes such as Beef Bourguignon.

                                                    1. I don't want to start a grassfed/cornfed debate here but since I switched to eating entirely grassfed, local beef, I have come to prefer PN as an ideal pairing. To be clear, I do not mean overly lean or tough beef, I mean buttery beef with plenty of marbling but it's certainly 'beefier' and less greasy than it's corn fed counterpart and I've enjoyed PN from both Burgundy as well as from Oregon. I even found a couple from the Finger Lakes that were lovely with a rare grass-fed strip. With a corn-fed porterhouse from say, Peter Luger's I might reach for a bigger wine but not so with the beef I cook at home.