There’s only one way to become a wine and food pairing expert: eat and drink a variety of wine and food! You might start with classic, tried-and-true pairings that never fail. But the way to become skilled at this art is by venturing off the beaten path. Consider all of the dimensions of the wine you’d like to pair and allow your curiosity to guide you.

Let’s take one of the most famous grapes in the world as an example. Cabernet Sauvignon has a robust flavor profile of dark fruit, vanilla, smoke, and even chocolate is made bigger by structured tannins and rich acidity. This gives us so many food pairing options.

Your best cut for your best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

When it comes to your cut of meat, the bigger the better! Red meat and fatty meats pair perfectly with the robust tannins found in Cabernet Sauvignon and complement the wine’s intensity.

Dishes like grilled steak are rich in texture and accentuate Cabernet’s oaky notes, bringing an extra char and earthiness to the forefront. Beef stew adds layers of flavor, and smooths out the tannins. Lamb chops are rich enough to cut through the pronounced flavors of Napa Valley Cabernet, and you’ll find that the seasonings you chose for your meat are enhanced.

Rich cheeses for rich Cabernet

With cheese, we can follow the same school of thought: the richest, most dramatic cheese in your selection will be an adventure alongside a glass of Cabernet.

Aged cheddar is a classic, crowd-pleasing cheese with a firm texture and sharp, developed flavors that won’t wash away with Cabernet’s intensity. Smoked gouda has a smoky, salty profile that will enhance Cabernet’s dark fruit, while blue cheese (like Roquefort) is pungent and unforgettable: a perfect choice for a Cabernet with high acidity and jammy fruit.

Grilled vegetables go best

Did you know that Cabernet Sauvignon also pairs perfectly with grilled vegetables? A little bit of char on your veggies gives them a smoky, bold profile that holds up nicely with your favorite red wine.

Eggplant is heavy and rich and holds up nicely with Cabernet. Try it grilled as a side dish to your steak, or try eggplant parmesan. Grilled portobellos have a beautiful umami profile that brings out Cabernet’s earthier flavors, and don’t be afraid to try greener vegetables. Zucchini is irresistible with a char to it, and the brightness of the vegetables enhances Cabernet’s herbaceous character.

Indulge in chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon

Not everyone knows that chocolate, perhaps the most beloved sweet in the world, pairs beautifully with the best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in your cellar. The wine’s tannins and rich fruit balance the bitterness of dark chocolate, so let’s repeat our Cabernet rule here: go big or go home.

Desserts like triple chocolate cake, chocolate molasses cookies, and chocolate espresso truffles will showcase the dark fruit notes in your Cabernet. To bring out even more fruity flavor, try desserts that feature a little bit of fruit like chocolate and fig cake or chocolate raspberry tart.

Elevate Your Pairings

If you think a little bit about the dimensions of the flavor profile of Cabernet: dark fruit, structured tannins, oaky notes like smoke and chocolate, and herbs, you see a world of culinary options open up. Give this a try with your favorite grape. Happy pairing!