How to Match Wine and Food with John Terlato

The North Shore isn’t known for its wine, but maybe it should be, because the company behind familiar wines such as Rutherford Hill, Chimney Rock and Terlato Family Vineyards is headquartered in Bannockburn.

Recently, Vice Chairman John Terlato and HGTV designer Monica Pedersen invited Make It Better to a wine tasting. Afterward, Terlato shared a few tips for readers planning a wine tasting.

How should people go about selecting wines for a tasting?

Look for a wine that goes with a broad range of foods. I might serve something like Rutherford Hill Merlot because it’s a full body Merlot, but it’s still subtle and elegant enough that it will appeal to a broad mix of consumers.

How many types of wine do you recommend serving?

Two or three of each varietal is the most that I would do. I’d probably serve two or three Chardonnays and two or three Merlots.

What do you tell people who say wine intimidates them?

Don’t over think it. Trust your palette. If you go to a restaurant and order a cheeseburger or a great piece of fish, there’s almost an instant, visceral response: I like it, I love it or I wouldn’t order it again. If you like it, that’s what counts.

Does pairing wine with cheese or other hors d’oeuvres make things more complicated?

Pairing is all about harmony. I suggest people taste the wine first, then the food and then the wine again. If there exists very little or no change, there’s a good chance that there’s harmony between the two. Trust your judgment and palette. The first thing we look at when we’re hosting a party is the food.

How can we put the food and wine on the table together in a way that 1 + 1 = 3? So both taste better than they would alone?

That’s exactly what happens. When this is done well, the wine actually tastes the wine taste better and the cheese actually makes the wine taste better.

When should hosts open the wine?

It depends on the wine. A Rutherford Hill Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc—you can open those wines as guests arrive. But with wines that we make for aging, I’ll open 24 hours in advance to really give them a chance to open up and breathe.

What else should hosts consider?

I caution people about the temperature of wine. I generally like to serve both reds and whites at cellar temperature, which is 56 or 57 degrees. Some people think that’s a little bit cool for red wine, but when red wines warm up, the very first thing that evaporates is alcohol, so that’s what people smell first. Here we are as winemakers toiling in the vineyards trying to extract the best from the soil and trying to make it taste fresh, fruity and complex, and much of the work is masked by the evaporation of the alcohol!

  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate