How to Create the Perfect Cabernet Pairing

At Silver Oak, we make food-friendly Cabernets. This means our wines are not only delicious but can also enhance what you eat. We asked Winery Chef Dominic Orsini to break down the process of creating a dish that pairs well with our Cabernets.

“First, I consider the body of the wine,” he says. “The bigger the wine, the bigger the protein.” So, for a fuller bodied wine—like our Cabernets—Dominic chooses a heavier protein. Think: meat or poultry.

But proteins can also come from grains, legumes or dairy. The goal is to match the weight of your dish to the relative weight of the wine. In this context, ingredients such as mushrooms or soy sauce (umami)—not commonly thought of as proteins—can have a protein-like weight.

Then, you want to consider (and balance!) these three elements in the dish:

  1. Fat
    Fat provides a mouthcoating that acts as a barrier against tannin. Tannin in wine is what causes that dry mouthfeel—a tactile sensation, not a taste.

  2. Acidity
    “Acidity is a chef’s secret weapon,” Chef Orsini says. Acid is what contrasts and cuts the fat so you can still taste the wine. It makes the wine sing.

    For example, lemon is a common and easy way to incorporate acid into a dish. Tip: “If you think your wine is too big for the dish in front of you, add a dash of lemon. It can help soften the wine.”

  3. Salt
    Salt amplifies flavor. It combats the numbing effect that alcohol can have on your taste buds. Simply put, salt makes bland foods taste better. But beware: Too much salt can overpower the food and, in turn, ruin the wine.


Striking a balance among fat, acidity and salt is important in any dish. For more information, check out more of Chef Orsini’s pairing basics and his recipes.

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