Wine pairing when dining out can be both fun and a great way to increase enjoyment of our meal. The restaurant’s sommelier, when they find that perfect balance between our personal wine preferences and a wine that brings out the best in our food, can contribute as much to the enjoyment of our dining experience as the chef. One restaurant that overcomes a couple of the challenges of wine pairing over a dinner of several courses is one of my favorite East Bay eateries, Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar in Walnut Creek.
Let’s first review two common challenges to wine pairing. Number one is limiting consumption. If we want to pair wine to each course of a four course meal (e.g. soup/salad, appetizer, main, desert), that’s four glasses of wine – twice the normal amount preferred by most diners. We can overcome that challenge easily if we have a large party by simply ordering the right bottle for each course and splitting it with everyone. Instead of the usual 5 to 6 ounce pour, we’ll cut down to 2 or 3 ounces. But what if everyone orders a different food selection for each course? No, most restaurants won’t let you take opened bottles home if the group doesn’t finish one of the wines. “Alcohol must be consumed on the premises” is a common bar sign or unstated restaurant policy.
The second challenge is finding a wine that goes with more than one course. Unless we’re lucky with what the chef has prepared that day, letting the wine drive our menu selections could limit our options.
So, what’s the solution? Some restaurants, such as Va de Vi, provide a two-pronged approach that goes a long way toward opening up our dining options. The first is a small plate menu offering a wide variety of dishes. A couple dining at Va de Vi can order 5 or 6 menu items as the equivalent of an appetizer and main course, most of which can be easily shared. The second is a wine list that offers flights of 3 glasses per flight with either 3 ounces or 6 ounces per glass.
There are two lists of 24 red wines and 24 white wines. Each 3 glass flight has a catchy name, for example – “Big, Bad, Cabs,” “Everything But The Kitchen Sink,” “French Kiss” and “Identity Crisis.” Here are partial lists and two flights enjoyed during a recent visit.
The “Pinot Grigio – Pinot Gris” flight represents the international flavor of Va de Vi’s overall wine program. Wines in this flight are from Italy, New Zealand and Oregon (items 10, 11 & 12).
“Italian Odyssey” features two wines from Tuscany and a third from Lombardia (aka Lombardy, northern Italy).
Fo more about Va de Vi, visit their web site. Better yet – stop by: Lunch from 11:30am, Dinner from 5:00pm.
Va de Vi 1511 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Walnut Creek, CA 94596 Tel (925) 979-0100