You don't have to travel far to find a potential pairing – Washington is the second largest wine producer in the U.S. and home to numerous signature recipe ingredients, such as Walla Walla onions, steelhead trout and those phenomenal Honeycrisp apples. But if you take your pairing prowess to the next level and pair by terrior, you'll not only see old favorites in a new light but also create something close to gustatory euphoria.
Apple Pie and Tawny Port
Few things are as quintessentially American as apple pie, and few pairings are as quintessentially Washingtonian as apple pie and tawny port – yes, tawny port. Although port might not come to mind before a cup of hot coffee or glass of milk does when you sit down for a slice of pie, it will after you try it.
The magic lies in the aroma. With notes of caramel, rich maple syrup and golden raisins, tawny port turns an everyday apple pie into an exquisite caramel apple with hints of fig, raisins and maple syrup.
Washington produces a number of quality tawny ports. Hinzerling Winery's Rainy Day Fine Tawny Port, made in Prosser, and Knipprath Cellars' Positron Tawny Port, made in Spokane, for example, have the candied aromas and rich body you want in an apple-pie pairing.
Walla Walla Onion Soup and Pinot Gris
France might have soupe à l'oignon made with Pink Roscoff onions from Brittany, but Washington has French onion soup made with sweet onions from Walla Walla County, and that makes the pairing a whole new – and local – ballgame.
French onion soup has no secrets. Beef broth, caramelized onions and a delicious crouton draped in molten Gruyère combine to make a little piece of bliss that's hard to improve on – until you make it with Walla Walla onions and pair it with a lighthearted pinot gris made right down the road.
Regional pinot gris include Elk Cove Vineyards' 2013 Pinot Gris, produced in the Willamette Valley, and Mt. Hood Winery's 2013 Pinot Gris, produced in Columbia Gorge.
Poached Steelhead Trout and Riesling
Steelhead trout is a versatile fish – it's delicious roasted, grilled or poached, and pairs with most white wines. But when you pair it with chilled riesling, you create synergy.
Next time you pick up a few still-wriggling steelheads from your neighborhood fish monger with the intention of doing something different, don't – at least not to the fish. A short poach in court bullion is all you need. And instead of reaching for your go-to bottle of chardonnay, reach for an off-dry riesling.
Riesling's sharp acidity and mineral background makes beautiful music with the steelhead's buttery flesh, and you won't have difficulty finding a locally made bottle – Washington is the largest riesling producer in the United States. Chateau Ste. Michelle's Dry Riesling 2013, made in Woodinville, and Charles Smith Wines' Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2013, made in Walla Walla, both give you a sublime steelhead solution.