What goes better with a farmers’ market-fresh salad than cucumber water or an iced green tea? A chilled glass of wine, obviously.
But when it comes to specifics—chardonnay or pinot grigio? Napa or Sonoma?—things get a bit more muddled. (Not to mention that when we’re cooking at home, there’s no sommelier to tap for suggestions.)
To help demystify the process of pairing wines with your go-to healthy dishes, we enlisted Kathryn Coker, wine director of Los Angeles’ farm-to-table Rustic Canyon restaurant family (which includes buzzy new Santa Monica wine bar and shop Esters and adjoining Southeast Asian-inspired restaurant Cassia), to pop the cork on some recommendations.
And since it’s currently harvest season in California wine country, we asked her to focus specifically on vineyards within Golden State lines—preferably organic ones.
“I’m a big proponent of honest wines from producers that respect the land and take a minimalist approach to winemaking,” she says. “California is home to so many, and I’m lucky to know them personally, visit them, and see their practices firsthand.” We’ll toast to that. —Erin Magner
Best for: Kale salad
2014 Robert Sinskey “Vin Gris of Pinot Noir,” Los Carneros ($28)
“This is my favorite domestic rosé—pale pink in color, and completely dry and refreshing. It’s the perfect pairing for a crisp salad. This is 100 percent pinot noir from organic and biodynamic vineyards in the southernmost part of Napa Valley.”
Best for: Veggie and grain bowl
2013 Preston Vineyards “Madam Preston” Viognier/Roussane, Dry Creek Valley ($30)
“This gorgeous chardonnay alternative is aromatic and rich, and pairs beautifully with starchy and sweet fall vegetables. The Preston family runs a big organic (and practicing biodynamic) farm outside of Healdsburg where they grow grapes, olives, and vegetables, and also raise chickens, sheep, and pigs.”
“This is an elegant, lighter-style zinfandel that complements a light, spicy red sauce. Right in the middle of Napa Valley, Frog’s Leap has been a pioneer in the organic, biodynamic, and dry-farming viticulture in California.”
Best for: Grass-fed beef
2013 Broc Cellars “Cassia” Grenache, Mendocino ($32)
“Chris Brockway sources the grapes from old Grenache Gris and Grenache Noir vines from an organic vineyard in Mendocino. With minimal intervention, and very little sulphur, he blends these two varieties to make a fruit-forward, dry red that pairs beautifully with steak. It’s one of my favorite wines on our menu at Cassia!”
“Scribe is a beautiful winery started by the Mariani brothers on the border of Sonoma and Napa. Sylvaner (a variety native to Alsace and Germany) was planted on their property back in the 1800s, so they decided to replant it on the estate and farm organically. The incredibly racy acidity of this wine is amazing with raw seafood—it takes the place of a fresh squeeze of lemon.”