Pairings Portland is a six-month-old wine shop in NE Portland started by Jeffrey Weissler. His experience runs deep in the wine business but one thing he always found lacking no matter where he traveled, was the very basic fundamentals of pairing wine with food. After running an educational business called Conscious Wines that focused on LIVE-certified, organic, biodynamic and Demeter wines for the last five years, he decided to plant roots here and open Pairings Portland.
Just hearing the name Pairings Portland, one inherently knows this is not your average wine shop. Tucked across the street from the new strand of micro-restaurants called “The Ocean,” Weissler’s mission is to ensure that the wine you buy pairs perfectly with your dinner. In fact, the entire shop is set up based on which wines go well with which foods.
A giant chalkboard wall greets everyone who enters the wine shop, with the basic principles of how best to pair wine with food.
#1 Match the weight– simply find wines that match the weight of the meal. If you’re planning to make gourmet hamburgers, you should look for a heavier, fuller-bodied red wine that can stand up to those burgers. Likewise, a light-bodied white wine will complement a summer salad.
#2 Explore the elements– delves a little deeper into the components of your dish. Consider the Fat, Acid, Salt & Sweet of the meal you’re preparing. The key is to find the balance between the food and the wine, and because everyone has slightly different preferences, the trick is finding yours and those of your dinner guests.
#3 Play with flavors- get creative with your wine pairings in order to learn what you enjoy most with spicy, fruity or earthy dishes.
This is when Weissler’s Pairings Basics class comes in handy. Offered regularly, Pairings Basics is just that, a great class for both wine experts and amateurs looking for more information on how to pair wines with food. To begin, Weissler enthusiastically encourages participants to taste a wine and determine where it falls on a scale of 1-10. An eight or above means you like the wine, seven to four are within a neutral zone and a three or below goes from uncertainty of whether you want to finish the bottle to downright yuck!
After deciding where the wine falls on this scale, class attendees then try the wine after sucking on a lemon, which brings in an acid component, then with olive oil, the fatty factor, then with a dab of fleur de sel for a salty element and lastly, with a slice of yellow pepper, bringing the sweet portion into the discussion.
Weissler describes acidity as being akin to an arrow, cutting right through both wine and food, and fat as a catcher’s mitt, an element that marries food and wine.
“Imagine you find a key and, once you find the door with the right lock, you can step inside a whole new room. That’s what happens when you find the right food and wine pairings,” says Weissler.
One phrase often repeated during class is “like goes with like and opposites attract.” Once you’ve matched the weight of the dish with the wine, Weissler suggests that you begin to play with the different components of your meal. If you’re eating a dish with wild mushrooms, pair it with a wine that has an earthiness to it, like an Oregon Pinot noir. Opposites attract becomes even more fun in terms of pairing a spicy meal with a sweeter wine. The sweetness balances the spiciness of the dish in an almost magical way.
The class pairings become slightly more sophisticated and evolve into amusing discussions over who preferred which pairings with the wines. The best part is you leave with a better understanding of your tastes and a firsthand glimpse of the different combinations of favorites, proving that every palate is unique.
For Weissler, these basics are merely guidelines to get you started; his hope is that your journey has only just begun. He’s happy to act as tour guide and it’s practically guaranteed that once you visit, you’ll be back for more of charismatic Weissler’s wine wisdom.
455 NE 24th Ave
Portland, OR 97232