by Bruce Myint | May 01, 2004

When it comes to coupling wine with food, who hasn’t relied on the age-old rule of pairing white wine with fish and red wine with meat? Well, think again. That rule is outdated, according to Kim Fallon, wine steward at the Lodge at Sonoma (Calif.). In fact, she argues, if the food is well-balanced and harmoniously integrated, almost any well-made wine will work.
    This caveat underscores the uncertain and often mysterious process of matching wine with cuisine. While planners usually can rely on trained banquet staff for advice, Fallon (whose skills have helped the Lodge win the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence two years in a row) offers a few tips to keep in mind when planning the perfect meal.
    1. Buy locally when possible. A great way to offer a taste of the meeting destination is to drink from fruit grown in nearby vineyards. “Local wines speak to the area you have chosen for your meeting,” says Fallon. “By choosing a local variety, you can absorb some color from the surrounding community.”
    2. Experiment. The products of lesser-known vintners can be just as impressive as those of big-name wineries. For example, while Fallon tries incorporating “benchmark” wines such as Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages or Robert Young Chardonnay, she also encourages guests to sample from some of the area’s smaller producers, such as the Nicholson Ranch and the Robledo Family Winery.
    3. Watch your numbers. Big groups beware. Small wineries are known to produce only 200 cases of wine each year and sometimes will balk at filling larger orders.