How to Pair Cabernet Sauvignon with Vegetarian Dishes

Public Service Announcement: Red wine isn’t just for red meat pairings!

While yes, traditionally, Cabernet Sauvignon has been reserved for rich and meaty food pairings, it’s 2022! Vegan and vegetarian diets are very much part of the norm, and wine is wonderfully adaptable. At Sequoia Grove, we like to think outside the box when it comes to wine and food pairings. If you ask us, every bottle of our award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon pairs just as well with a juicy steak as it does with a flame-grilled exotic mushroom. Here are some selected recipes and our top tips on how to pair the king of the wine grapes with a bounty of creative and delicious meat-free dishes. Let’s dig in!

The How-Tos of Vegetables and Cab Sauvignon 

Don’t let the red wine pairing norms curb your creativity. Use our top tips below to create your own winning vegetable and Cabernet Sauvignon pairings:

#1: Think of Wine as an Ingredient in your Dish

To create excellent vegetarian wine pairings, you need to first understand Cabernet Sauvignon’s flavor profile. It is a bold and structured with a complex fruit profile wine that needs to be paired with ingredients that complement it. Think of wine as an ingredient that’s added to your dish instead of just something on the side. The flavors need to work together and not overpower one another. It’s a pairing, a true partnership of flavor. So our top tip is to pick your wine first, and then select a dish around the wine. 

#2: Keep the Balance

In life and in pairings, balance is key. Aim to use the basic flavor components of Cabernet Sauvignon and match them with complementary food flavors as follows: 

Fat balances acidity

Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly not as zesty as a Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s still considered to have a relatively high acidity level. Pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with dishes that are also somewhat acidic can soften both the dish and the wine. But if you choose an acidic dish, make sure you counterbalance it with some fat. A lemon risotto or lemony roasted vegetable bake are both surprisingly great pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Umami, protein, and fat balance tannins 

Cabernet Sauvignon is high in tannin. Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and fruit skins. It is what adds bitterness, astringency, and complexity to the wine. Tannins also brush proteins off your tongue, which can make your mouth feel dry. That’s why you need to make sure that your dishes have enough proteins and fat to counterbalance that mouth-puckering feeling. Rich and fatty dishes like macaroni and cheese work well. Umami ingredients like tomatoes, mushrooms, or kimchi will also tame the pow-factor of the Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Go Big, or Go Home 

The more intense flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon need an equally or even bolder dish. Heartier and richer dishes (stews, bakes, curries) will help cut through the wine’s big flavor. When you pair this kind of red wine with a lighter dish, Cabernet Sauvignon will overwhelm the delicate flavors of the food, and the dish will be lost to the wine.  

#3: Choose your Ingredients with Care
Now that you’re armed with the facts, all that’s left to do is to match your Cabernet Sauvignon with protein-rich, fatty, and umami-flavored plant-based ingredients such as: 

Proteins

Vegetable proteins on their own might not stand up to the bolder flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon. Use plant-based proteins like tofu, lentils, freekeh, tempeh, quinoa, and beans in combination with the ingredients below to ‘beef’ up your dish. 

Fat and umami ingredients

Create wholesome and nutritious dishes by adding these to your protein base: mushrooms, vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, dried wild mushrooms, nuts, oils, kimchi, and aged cheese (gouda, cheddar, or parmesan).

Spices

Seasoning will add welcome intensity to your dish. Don’t be shy! Choose from the likes of this flavorsome line-up: onion powder, pepper, cumin, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, smoked paprika, allspice, cinnamon, and nutritional yeast.

Our Top Three Recipes

Not sure where to start? Our very own Winery Chef Britny Maureze has created the following selection of delicious vegetarian recipes that pair perfectly with any of our top-rated Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignons:

1) Ricotta Gnocchi with Roasted Root Vegetables and Brown Butter

This dish, with its slightly sweet caramelized root vegetables and nutty browned butter, has just the right amount of fat and protein you need to soften the tannins in your commanding Cab. A perfect complement to the cocoa, black tea, and rich berry flavors of the 2019 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2) Vegetable Bolognese Over Polenta

To match the layered flavors of the 2016 Tonella Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, you need an equally layered dish. This creamy polenta bowl tames the tannins in the wine, while the mushrooms, eggplant, and herbs mimic its earthy undertones. Sweet carrots, umami tomatoes, and salty capers bring out the vibrancy of the fruity wine flavors. 

3) Caramelized Onion and Black Garlic Dip

Bring out the chips and serve this creamy dip with our energetic 2017 Lamoreaux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The umami flavor of the black garlic softens the bold tannins in the wine. A little sweet, a little salty, and a little acidic – balanced deliciousness all wrapped into one. 

Looking for a little more inspiration?
Some other tasty vegetable dishes that pair perfectly with Cabernet Sauvignon include:

Veggie burgers

Mushroom risotto

Vegetable enchiladas

Baked potatoes

Ratatouille

Experiment with our pairing tips and recipes and celebrate the bold and big flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon in your own way. Good luck, chef!