Tips on How to Wine and Dine

Mission Mountain Winery owner and wine maker Thomas Campbell discusses favorite pairings

There are few better ways to catch up with old friends than sharing a meal. And the quality of that meal only increases when it’s complemented with a nice bottle of wine.

Or maybe a couple bottles of wine.

But how do you match a good wine with a good meal? Mission Mountain Winery owner and head winemaker Thomas Campbell has a few tips.

Campbell, who grew up in Missoula, read a story about winemaking when he was younger that piqued his interest, so he applied to the best winemaking school he could find, the University of California, Davis.

“I thought it would be a really interesting career and it turns out it was,” he said.

Campbell worked at wineries in California and Washington before starting Mission Mountain Winery in Dayton the early 1980s. He says pairing a wine with a meal is “trial and error,” adding that the best way to know if a pairing works is to simply try it.

Most foods fall under one of five categories: sweet, sour, salty, hot, or savory. Campbell said when picking a wine, it’s important to check off a number of those categories. So if you are preparing an Asian dish that is a little salty and a little spicy, it’s best to pick out a sweet wine to complement it.

If you’re cooking a juicy, flavorful steak, Campbell recommends matching it with a heavy cabernet. If you’re having a light fish, match it with a tart and dry white wine. But not all red meat needs a red wine. Campbell said one of his favorite combinations is barbeque and a nice white wine, like Mission Mountain’s Riesling or its Cherryvale, a mix of grape wine and cherry juice. Campbell said the combination is perfect for a warm afternoon on the lake. 

Mission Mountain also offers a number of dessert wines. Campbell said it’s important to pick a dessert wine that is sweeter than the dessert itself. For something like a crème brûlée or cheesecake, he recommends the Nouveaux Riche. Sometimes it’s possible to use the wine as a sauce, like the Cocoa Vin, a chocolate port that can be great on top of vanilla ice cream.

If you’re not sure what to serve with your meal, Campbell offers an easy cheat: just serve champagne.

“It’s a constant palate cleanser,” he said. 

For more information, visit www.missionmountainwinery.com.