A Symphony of Flavors: Unconventional Food and Wine Pairings in California’s Napa Valley

As a master sommelier and food writer, I have the pleasure of exploring the vast world of flavors that Napa Valley has to offer. Beyond the classic wine and cheese pairings, there are countless innovative and delightful combinations that will entice your palate and inspire your next dinner party or night out. Here are some unique food and wine pairings you can find in Napa Valley, as well as a few general guidelines to help you create your own culinary masterpieces.

Complementary Food and Wine Pairings

At Romeo Vineyards & Cellars in Calistoga, you’ll find a wine margarita pizza made with a cabernet sauvignon tomato sauce and topped with fresh mozzarella and basil. This pizza harmonizes beautifully with a glass of Romeo’s Napa Valley cabernet. (Pizzas are available seasonally, Friday-Sunday from 11:00 AM-1:30 PM.)

Another favorite tasting spot downtown, Olabisi Wines, partners with one of Calistoga’s most popular restaurants, Evangeline, Friday-Sunday to offer a charcuterie assortment or cheese “box” paired with the winery’s classic tasting or cabernet flight.

For a uniquely Calistoga food and wine pairing, visit Tamber Bey Vineyards, known for its savory cookie pairing that can be added to any tasting.

If you’re looking for a sweet treat, August Briggs offers a chocolate and wine pairing, so you can learn how wine complements and accentuates the unique flavors of chocolate while simultaneously sweetening your day.

To experience a one-of-a-kind Napa Valley experience, consider taking a seat at Brasswood of Napa Valley‘s communal table for a unique sensory tasting of Brasswood’s boutique ultra-premium wines paired with seasonal dishes from the Brasswood Bar + Kitchen.

Need more inspiration? Here’s a food and wine pairing recommendation with a recipe, courtesy of Stacey at Coquerel Wines. Recommended pairing with Coquerel Wines 2017 verdelho.

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche

Recipe courtesy of Avocados from Mexico

  • 1/2 lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed and halved (21-25 per lb.)
  • 1/2 lb. sea scallops, quartered
  • 1 – 1/2 cups lime juice (fresh juice from 6-8 limes)
  • 1/2 cup white or red onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. orange juice, fresh
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 avocado from Mexico halved, pitted, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium red tomato, diced
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro or celery leaves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds and veins removed, finely diced, optional


  1. Combine lime juice, shrimp, scallops, and onion in a medium glass bowl. Toss to combine, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to marinate for 3 hours or until the shrimp and scallops are white in color.
  2. Drain the liquid from the shrimp-scallop-onion mixture, but do not rinse.
  3. In a large glass bowl whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, and salt.
  4. Add the avocado, tomato, cilantro, jalapeño pepper, and marinated seafood. Toss gently to combine, and serve immediately.

Contrasting Food and Wine Pairings

Offsetting a spicy dish with a riesling such as LOLA Wines Monterey dry riesling (a hint of sweet) works well. The “fruitiness” of most rieslings tames the heat of spicy foods. Alternatively, if you’re a rosé fan, try pairing the Madelynne rosé from Trujillo Wines with Mexican, Thai, or Indian cuisine.

Un-oaked white wines pair well with anything you can squeeze a lemon or lime on, such as salmon or other fish dishes. Seafood and butter are classic chardonnay pairings, but for something a little different, the sauvignon blanc from Picayune Cellars offers a bright and lively palate and citrusy notes, a great example of a wine that will work with more acidic flavors.

Most cheeses pair well with a dry rosé. The Lava Vine North Coast rosé will, no doubt, serve a worthy accent to certain cheeses. But if you want a sure bet, you’ll want to reserve a spot on the Connoisseur’s Cave Tour at Clos Pegase Winery. The tour includes a cheese and charcuterie plate, an in-depth winery tour, and a sit-down tasting in the cave. If you’re lucky, you may even get to compare how the estate rosé pairs with cheese.

Champagne and dry sparkling wines that tend to have a touch of sweetness will contrast well with salty foods. Think Schramsberg Vineyards extra brut with an antipasto platter of prosciutto, sopressetta, pecorino, and olives.

Rich, red wines pair well with rich, red meats. Hold on to that bottle of cabernet sauvignon from your visit to Chateau Montelena. You’ll want to open it with your next steak and burger BBQ. Better yet, purchase a few bottles and save one to enjoy with the hearty beef stew you’ll prepare this winter.

Ultimately, the most important rule when considering food and wine pairings is to trust your taste buds. There are no wrong rules as long as you enjoy it! If you need guidance, however, you can always turn to one of our local Calistoga wineries for assistance and take the “guesswork” out of the equation. So go forth and savor the symphony of flavors that Napa Valley has to offer!