Pesto in winter? Of course, and here are wines that match the richness

Feb 08, 2018
  • By Michael Austin
  • Chicago Tribune
Bill Hogan/TNS
Parsley and walnuts, with a hit of lemon, make a wintry version of pesto. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

This rich pasta dish calls for bright and lively wines that will either complement the richness, cut through it or, in an ideal pairing, both. Any of these three wines— a Champagne, a gruner veltliner from Austria or a sauvignon blanc from California — will do the job nicely. 




 With the food processor running, drop 3 cloves garlic down the chute, one by one, buzzing garlic to bits. Add 2 cups (loosely packed) parsley leaves and tender stems, 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Pulse a few times. With motor running, drizzle in 1/3 cup olive oil, swirling into a thick sauce. Tumble in 1 cup toasted walnuts. Pulse a few times, leaving pesto chunky. Toss the pesto in a serving bowl with 1 pound cooked spaghetti. Makes: 6 first course servings 

 Recipe by Leah Eskin 

 Pairings by sommelier Rachael Lowe of Spiaggia, as told to Michael Austin: 

 Delamotte Brut, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, France: This nonvintage sparkler has aromas of green apple, golden pear, almond skin and a hint of chamomile, which will work beautifully with the richness of the walnuts. The dish’s olive oil and herbal component will be balanced by the wine’s fine bubbles and bright acidity. 

 2016 Ziata Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California: Fermented in small, neutral barrels as well as stainless steel tanks, this wine is bright and aromatic. Intense aromas of lemongrass, under-ripe pineapple, lemon pith, orange rind and lime zest will add a citrus element to this already-vivid dish, while also balancing the rich cheese and olive oil.