Indian Cuisine

A Wine to Go with Everything

Matching wine with ethnic foods can be a real challenge, especially if you're planning to eat something as spicy as the blazing hot Indian food on the fork in the photo here.

However, the wine behind the fork was better than perfect, a match that worked two ways. If your main interest was wine, you could taste every nuance of this one. The spicy food did not kill it. 

If you were more interested in food than wine, you could still appreciate the way it offered cool contrast to the spiciness.

The food on the fork is gobi Manchurian, a spicy cauliflower preparation from the restaurant Banana Leaf LA in Culver City, which specializes in hotly seasoned South Indian food. Gobi Manchurian is an Indo-Chinese dish widely popular in India. 

On the same menu were chicken Chettinad from the South Indian state Tamil Nadu and Hyderabadi fish fry, both laden with spices and chiles.

The wine that could handle all of them was the 2020 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris from Iris Vineyards. What made it a winner was its vibrant acidity, fruitiness and a touch of sweetness. 


Winemaker Aaron Lieberman (above) said, "The density and concentration of this vintage are the best in a generation."  The Pinot Gris' stellar attributes earned it a Double Gold as well as Best in Show and Best White Varietal awards at the 2022 McMinnville Wine & Food Classic in January.

Iris Vineyards (above) is located in a cool climate zone in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Mountain Range. The 36-area vineyard is part of an 870-acre stretch of land. The owners, Oregon natives Pamela Frye and Richard Boyles, are committed to enlarging the forest on their estate, making the property even more lush and beautiful. 

Pinot Noir is major in the Willamette Valley, accounting for 70% of the grapes grown, Lieberman said. Unfortunately, the Iris 2020 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (above, with the Pinot Gris) met a major challenge. Wildfires in September of that year affected grapes with smoke compounds, and this wine had to be given special pre- and post fermentation treatments.

All turned out well though. "It's a little softer, more approachable and easier to drink" than other recent vintages, Lieberman observed. It was also given extended barrel age. 

Light rather than a powerhouse, the 2020 Iris Pinot Noir would be nice with chicken in a delicate sauce or fish, but definitely not with highly spiced food. I paired it with Filipino dishes from the chain Jollibee (above). It did well with crunchy fried chicken, a chicken sandwich and adobo rice, but Jollibee's famous sweet spaghetti was not its best friend.  

As if the smoke damage that affected the Pinot wasn't enough, the vineyard (above) experienced two frost events that will reduce its output this year by 50%, Lieberman said. That's a big cut from normal annual production of 14,000 cases. 

But there's good news too. Iris Vineyards is opening a wine bar in Springfield, Oregon.  In addition to wine, there will be wine-based cocktails, which Lieberman has been working on, cheeses and charcuterie. The opening was set for June 2. The address is 322 Main Street.

About 20 minutes from Eugene, Oregon, Springfield offers plenty to do--restaurants, boutiques, antique shops and even a Simpsons tour, because the Springfield where the famous family lives is based on this one. Click here to learn more. 

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