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one green planet
vegan wine pairing

As promised in my earlier article, we’re taking a look at a recipe and how it can be paired with wine. This simple, creamy pesto with added arugula and sundried tomato crumbles (recipe below), topped with garlic mushrooms could be a tough one to match. Lots of big flavors, creaminess and that peppery arugula make it hard to narrow the field of choices. To test the thought process of pairing wine with food, we opened two bottles: one white and one red, both from Washington State to keep the playing field fair.

The Contenders are:

The white we chose was the 2008 Magician from Sleight of Hand Cellars. ($25.00)

The red we chose was a 2007 Sineann Pinot Noir from Washington State. This happened to be a bottle labeled for a Cleveland restaurant called the Greenhouse Tavern, but any Sineann Pinot would be comparable. ($30.00)

First, let’s take a look at the High School Approach which consists of compare and contrast by discussing what each wine brings to the table.

The pesto was creamy.  The white wine was fairly acidic and soft in structure. The light fruit flavors (peach, white grape) were too light for the strength of the pesto. The acids bounced nicely against the dish.

The red wine was just the opposite. The depth of flavor held up against the bold flavors of this dish. With darker fruits (such as bing cherry), it also had an earthy green undertone that worked well with the pesto. The silky feel of the pinot noir was wonderful on its own, but with the lower acids, it just didn’t resonate with the dish.

Now, to explore the Rule of Three line of thinking.  Let’s talk about the weight, intensity and texture components (WIT).

Weight: Both wines were medium-bodied, which would suit this dish well.

Intensity: The white flavors were not intense enough to match the dish. The red takes this one.

Texture: Both wines had wonderful textures, but neither was a perfect fit for this dish. Acidity -wise, the white would win here.

In referring back to the wine pairing basics, we would next consider the location angle.  While this would have been a great way to go, vegan Italian wines are some of the hardest for us to confirm. Prosecco, which is often vegan (and is from Italy) would probably have been steamrolled by the bold flavors in this dish. However, it would have been a terrific starter wine. If you have access to Super Tuscans, one of those would be a good choice. These blends work outside of the traditional method of varietal specific labeling (quite legally) by labeling under this recently developed category for less conventional blends.

And the winner is:

These wines were nearly opposite in how they worked with the dinner. Ideally,  we would have loved the acid  in the white which worked so well with the arugula combined with the fantastic flavors of the pinot was perfect with the creamy dish. So the best way to go would be to combine the two wines in your glass. (Kidding!).  Please don’t do that. Interestingly,  I preferred the white with this, while my husband preferred the red. This is unusual in our home, as my tastes generally run to the red wines while Jim prefers white wines more than I do. While we can analyze and discuss wines until we’re blue in the face, it all comes down to your own reaction to the wines. Taste is very subjective. It takes us back to the first rule of wine pairing, just have fun!

Creamy Pesto Pasta

Yield: 4 servings


  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 scallions
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons light miso
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1 pound penne rigate, or other pasta of choice
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 5 ounces baby arugula


In a high speed blender, combine the basil through (and including) the black pepper until smooth.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water per package directions. Drain. Return the pasta to the cooking pot (off the heat) and add the butter, arugula and sauce. Stir to coat, taste and adjust the seasonings. Top with Sundried Toasty Crumbs, if desired.

Sundried Toasty Crumbs

Yield: 3/4 cup


  • 8 moist (but not oil-packed), sundried tomato halves
  • 2 slices toast
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Combine the tomatoes and the toast in food processor. Pulse until it resembles crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Image Source: Michelle Tribe

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