Grilled filet mignon with braised garden greens and Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon.
(c) Megan Steffen

(StatePoint) One of the most important aspects of entertaining is sometimes overlooked — proper pairing of the food and wine. Even if you have a bottle of top quality wine and an amazing chef-inspired dish, without considering how the food and drink combine, you can ruin the taste of both, say experts.

One commonly mismatched wine is Cabernet Sauvignon.

“I have a simple goal with food and wine pairings: don’t mess with the taste of the wine,” says Dean Busquaert, a wine educator at Sequoia Grove Winery, a pioneering Cabernet Sauvignon producer in the heart of Rutherford in Napa Valley.

Bold, full-flavored reds like Cabernet Sauvignon will overpower light dishes, but are excellent when served with rich meats like a roast, making them perfect for big, hearty meals. Busquaert, who often shares his pairing wisdom at the Sequoia Grove tasting room, offers some invaluable pairing tips for home cooks planning to serve a Cabernet Sauvignon at their festivities.

• The number one thing to avoid pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon is sugar, which will throw off the tannin balance of the wine and make it seem astringent and bitter. For example, many people think chocolates pair well with red wine, however, they don`t — unless it is a port which has residual sugar.

Sugar content, whether it comes from fruits like grapes or apples, or honey and chocolate, is simply not a good choice for Cabernet Sauvignon.

• To make a Cabernet Sauvignon taste more velvety, pair it to dishes high in acidity. For example, adding a splash of lemon to a dish can smooth out a big and structured Cabernet Sauvignon.

• Don’t be fooled by conventional wisdom. Some rules do not apply across the board.

“Most people think red wine always goes with red meat, only to discover a dish like beef teriyaki, which contains sugar, can make a beautiful Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon seem undrinkable,” says Busquaert.

• Use salt liberally to bring out the full flavor in foods, without throwing off the flavors of your wine.

• A great meal deserves a great wine, and the Napa Valley has come to define great Cabernet Sauvignon in America. Look for established and trusted producers, such as Sequoia Grove Winery, with a history of making quality balanced and food-friendly wines.

Knowledge is crucial to the appreciation and enjoyment of fine wine.  Join Busquaert for his “A Taste for Cabernet” seminar at the winery and learn for yourself how to best match food with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Visit for more information.

Food pairings are an essential ingredient to a successful dinner party. Don’t overlook this important element when planning your menu.