The relationship between wine and food is continuously being explored and tested by chefs and diners. From cheese platters and charcuterie to fruits and condiments, there are limitless options for what classifies a good wine and food pairing, but the first step generally starts with a simple question: What goes with red and what goes with white?
In the heart of B.C.’s south Okanagan, Chef Chris Van Hooydonk has developed a unique culinary experience for guests with his Backyard Farm Chef’s Table. He wanted to combine the farm to table approach to food with an intimate wine tasting experience. His motivation was spurred by thoughts that the Okanagan region needed a more informative and engaging connection to the culinary world.
Located on his two-acre orchard in Oliver, the farmhouse, built in 1926, is set amidst hundreds of heritage fruit trees and a variety of garden beds.
“It felt like the perfect place to showcase our beautiful wine region, culinary tourism, and agritourism,” says Hooydonk.
The property serves as endless inspiration for his Chef’s Table, where he can host wine paired multi-course culinary demonstrations for up to 20 guests and a “hands-on” culinary workshops for of groups up to 10 people.
The tailored menu is based on seasonal and local availability, and uses only ethical, sustainable and additive-free meats and poultry, and Ocean Wise certified seafood.
“I never forget that food always brings people together. If there is only one opportunity in a day to communicate with those you care about, often it is over a meal,” says Hooydonk. “Life is too short to not enjoy good company paired with honest food, and great wine.”
Backyard Farm’s menus are developed based on wine pairings brought in by the guests (no corkage fees).
For Hooydonk, when it comes to wine, approachability is much more important than perfection.
“My suggestion to those interested in learning more [about wine] would be to experiment in the kitchen, have fun and try your hand at pairing,” he says. “The only mistake is forgetting that it should be fun and engaging. Mistakes teach us the hard way about what works and what doesn’t.”
Tips for pairing wine and meat
Consider the acidity
For whites, acidity and oak content are certainly at the forefront of pairing. For reds, it is a bit more complicated.
- Acidity needs low acid, like fat (butter, infused oil, duck fat, fatty fish, shellfish), fruit notes (peaches, apricot, nectarine, melon) or honey.
- Chardonnay can be heavily oaked, which really is more “food pairing-friendly.” Typically, pair it with fatty fish, pork belly, smoked char, bacon or smoked sablefish. Think: smoke and oak go very well together.
- Lighter reds such as Pinot Noir or Gamay Noir go well with game birds, like free range turkey (smoked), duck, pheasant, squab, or quail. Wild boar and free range pork work too.
- Big reds equal big red meats. A Cab Sauv is a good choice for dry aged beef, and it’s also great paired with game meats such as bison or elk.
- Syrah and lamb are like a match made in heaven.
- Don’t overthink your choices. Experiment, have fun and talk about what you’re trying with your guests.
- Ask wine shop employees, friend and family what they think, and always remember that the contribution of the wine is only one part of the experience.
Hooydonk’s main advice is to look at wine tasting objectively. Ultimately, you should be asking yourself whether or not you truly enjoy what’s in your glass, and go from there.
Visit backyard-farm.ca for more information on their Chef’s Table.