This piece is part of our FTWtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.
If you like to drink wine with dinner, this one’s for you. As part of Drink Up Week, we’re diving into the process of pairing wine and food to enhance the dining experience. We talked to two wine experts at The Magnolia Wine Bar to better understand the fundamentals of how components like sweet, sour, spice, bitter, and fat go together.
We asked sommelier Mikey Riojas and former bar manager Barton Fluker their takes on wine pairing, the local wine scene, and what high-quality, but reasonably priced, wines they recommend from the supermarket.
How did you first get into wine?
Mikey: I worked at GRACE downtown and when you’re surrounded by something with so much history you should learn about it. I hit the books and read The Wine Bible, Windows on the World, and the theory on wine to understand the discourse. Learning about wine really taught me to have empathy for other people’s experiences.
If you could give a James Beard award to anyone else in Fort Worth, who would it be and why?
Mikey: Blaine Staniford, head chef at GRACE (specifically for the fresh pasta bolognese), and Adam Jones, owner and operator of GRACE and Little Red Wasp. Adam is getting ready to open his new concept, 61 Osteria downtown in the First on 7th tower.
A Fort Worthian comes in and asks for a recommendation. What do you give them?
Mikey: Based on the current heat, light red, Spectral Cellars Gamay Noir (a cousin of Pinot Noir). It has a lot of flavor without being heavy with notes of cracked black pepper on the back end, light fruits, and cherry rosemary.
What do you wish Fort Worthians knew about wine?
Mikey: I think one of the biggest things is learning new wines as you go + be open-minded to trying new ones. There is always the right glass for the right occasion. I would encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and try new things.
People need to be more conscious of what a wine is doing to their palate — it’s part of the enjoyment of wine.
We’re moving to Mars. You can only choose one other local business to bring with you — which one is it and why?
Barton: Juice Junkies. They offer plant-based food, smoothies, and juices.
Mikey: Hop Fusion Ale Works. Because beer is food.
What do you think Fort Worth business owners have in common?
Mikey: We’re really good at pulling together a cultural identity. Businesses in Fort Worth seem to have more openness about who they are and what they do. Business owners are working with neighborhoods throughout the city to create friendliness, openness, and authenticity. It can make the city feel small, l but I like it.
Do you have pro tips for pairing wine?
Mikey: Food is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. A burger has fat, meat, cheese + toppings that complement the experience. Wine and food pairings are the same way. Complementary pairings act as a single harmony + contrasting pairings help the wine stand out more.
A wine pairing breakdown:
Chicken: Salt and fat go well with wines that have a higher acidity — like Champagne and fried chicken.
Steak: Bold Cabernet and steak go well together because the higher tannins (rather than higher acids) can dry out the mouth to pick up the fat from the steak.
Seafood: High acid pairs well with oysters and shellfish because the salt and fat bring down the acidity, kind of like oil, vinegar, and spice can cleanse your palate — wine can do the same thing.
Pasta: Creamy sauces can take lighter styles of Pinot Noir. Tomate sauces pair well with Sangioveses because it helps deliver the strength from the umami of tomatoes.
What’s your recommendation for a budget-friendly wine?
Barton: For a bottle between $30-$60, I’d recommend Josh + Chateau St. Michelle at the grocery store.
Mikey: For $12 you can buy a bottle of Gruet Blanco De Noir or the Gamay Noir from France for a nice chilled wine.
For people who are just getting into wine, what’s your recommendation for a beginner’s bottle?
Root One Cabernet from Chile — it’s cheap but showcases what Cabernet is for a good price.
Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay — it’s a buttery and creamy blend.
Do you have a recommendation for an alcohol-free wine?
Ariel offers an alcohol-free Chardonnay and a Cabernet that drink like they are supposed to without the effects.
Bonus: Leon Bridges said his favorite winery is The Magnolia Wine Bar. What does he get to drink?
Barton — who previously worked with Leon as a travel booking agent — said he enjoys sparkling beverages like rosė, Riva-rosė, and Turbullent.