Perfect Pairings from Livermore Valley

Drive to the eastern edge of San Francisco’s Bay area and you’ll be greeted by a rolling tapestry of vineyards called Livermore Valley. Here, an intriguing array of wines are produced that naturally complement foods and dishes made from regional ingredients.

Published: 6/24/2014

Drive to the eastern edge of San Francisco’s Bay area and you’ll be greeted by a rolling tapestry of vineyards called Livermore Valley. Here, an intriguing array of wines are produced that naturally complement foods and dishes made from regional ingredients. In recent years, the word “pairing” has become a buzzword of sorts, but it’s really not all that complicated. We asked Chef Jon Magnusson, owner of Nonni’s Bistro in Pleasanton and the creator of The Thor (pictured here), for a few simple rules to go by.

“Personally, I usually pick whites with fish dishes: fruitier wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Dry Riesling go with whitefish, shellfish, and fish stews. Sometimes I go with a lighter style Pinot Noir with grilled fish such as salmon or tuna. For me, my smoked salmon screams for a crispy Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.”

Chef Jon also finds that Pinot Noir and some of the Zinfandels go well with pork, chicken, and other lighter fowl, and sausages. “When I eat lamb and beef dishes, I usually pick darker reds, such as Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignons. The darker the meat, the darker the wine,” he says, but adds, “Wine is a very personal choice. It’s about the mood, the weather, and the company you are with.” So learn the rules, and then be ready to throw them out.


2012 Crooked Vine Fumé Blanc
Tasting Notes: 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this lovely Fumé Blanc has aromas of Bartlett pear, white nectarine, cantaloupe, and shortbread cookie, with a burst of refreshing grapefruit and touch of white pepper on the finish. Perfect Pairings: Marinated grilled shrimp, oysters, goat cheese

2011 Darcie Kent De Mayo Chardonnay
Tasting Notes: This is a full-bodied Chardonnay with aromas of tropical fruits, pineapple, citrus, and hints of vanilla. This wine has rich, creamy, and buttery flavors on the palate with a pleasing, full finish. 
Perfect Pairings: Swirl’s Turkey Pesto Panini, fish, white meats 

2012 Murrieta’s Well The Whip, Livermore Valley
Tasting Notes: A tribute to the great white blends of the world, this wine displays full-bodied aromas and flavors of white peach, vanilla, butterscotch, and orange blossom with an extended and balanced finish.
Perfect Pairings: Poultry, fish, pasta, vegetarian dishes, cream sauces

2011 La Rochelle Chardonnay, Rosella’s Vineyard
Tasting Notes: Tropical fruit and citrus flavors abound as does the rounding flavor of freshly baked brioche. Both of these elements are nicely leavened by a deft touch with wood and tannin. The rich entry and mid-palate lead to a great acid line and a very long conclusion.
Perfect Pairings: Croque Monsieur, smoked mozzarella, toasted pecans

2011 Ruby Hill Reserve Chardonnay Livermore Valley
Tasting Notes: Produced in the rich, California style, this oaky, creamy, and full-bodied Chardonnay exhibits aromas of ripe tropical fruit complemented by notes of vanilla and caramel. Hints of citrus and blossom provide an intriguing complexity.
Perfect Pairings: Nonni’s Bistro’s The Thor, lobster, mussels, sea bass, poultry

2012 Wente Riverbank Riesling
Tasting Notes: This Riesling exhibits aromas of honeysuckle, lychee, and grapefruit, with a hint of nutmeg. The taste is crisp and fresh, delivering full, classic Riesling flavors of tropical fruit and citrus. Excellent mouthfeel. 
Perfect Pairings: Fruits, cheeses, light entrees 


2010 Bent Creek Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 
Tasting Notes: Intense fruit aromas blend with a hint of oak. Rich dark fruit flavors of blackberry and black cherry join soft tannins in a velvet finish. 
Perfect Pairings: Grilled tri-tip sandwiches with Roquefort butter, oven-braised red meat, French green beans in caramelized onions 

2009 Concannon Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah
Tasting Notes: This wine is a soft, creamy wine with aromas of nutmeg, clove, and blackberry that lead to a velvety, smoky finish.
Perfect Pairings: Grilled chicken, blue cheese

2011 Cuda Ridge Petit Verdot
Tasting Notes: The dark and inky Petit Verdot has huge mouthfeel with flavors of blueberries, black currant, plum, and earth. It has well-balanced tannins, alcohol, acid, and oak, which makes this wine soft on the palate.
Perfect Pairings: Open fire vegetables with crumbled blue cheese

2008 Garré Merlot
Tasting Notes: This wine is full of complex Livermore terroir, screaming with blueberry and dark fruit, hints of Livermore dust and organic mineral, with a subtle touch of oak.
Perfect Pairings: Grilled chicken with spinach, roasted tomatoes, and mushrooms in carbonara sauce set on linguine

2012 Nottingham Cellars Petite Sirah
Tasting Notes: Hints of freshly baked cinnamon bread, blueberry, and blackberry compote then a rush of cherries and raspberries followed by layers of cinnamon, clove, and dark chocolate, finishing with a lasting flavor of vanilla. Perfect Pairings: Braised short ribs, dark chocolate covered strawberries

As seen in the issue Summer/Fall 2014 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.