A guide to pairing wines with food in Chicago

Wine Pairings Chicago

Dining out in Chicago is quite the experience especially when you have many options to choose from. The ambiance, the flavors and presentation of the food, and of course pairing wines will enhance your overall experience. Well-established seafood and steakhouses in Chicago rely on a pretty extensive wine list to accompany their dining menus. It is important to really zone in on what wine will pair well with your entrée of your choice. Servers have a great wealth of knowledge in regards to this. In addition, here are a few pointers to get you started…..

wine pairing Chicago - red

Red Wines:

Cabernet Sauvignon

-full bodied, dark-fruited wine, gets better with age

-black currant, cedar, blackberries with strong tannins

Pairs well with….

Hearty and fatty proteins, slowly braised meat or vegetables.

Did you know…

Some vintages can be enjoyed the day of as others may need time to age and mellow out.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Pair the Ribeye 16 oz. bone in French cut – demi-glace – portabella mushrooms with Ca’ Momi, Napa Valley, CA, 2019


-popular choice amongst Americans

-softer and rounded out a bit more than a cabernet

-plums, blackberries, cedar, tobacco, and chocolate

Pairs well with….

Meaty fish like halibut, tuna, and swordfish

Tenderloin, mushrooms, and assorted grilled meats, vegetables, and seafood

Did you know…

Try a merlot from Washington state it exhibits elements of a cabernet yet subtle features of a merlot.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Rodney Strong, Sonoma , CA, 2018 and Alaskan Halibut Filet-Pan Seared – Panko – Asiago – Parmesan – onions – heirloom tomatoes – cannellinis beans – white wine – garlic – lemon – parsley 

Pinot Noir

-light bodied, with silky texture

-red berries, cloves, cinnamon, smoky

Pairs well with….

Lamb, duck, pork, and seafood with Asian flavors

Cheese, lentils, and rich custardy desserts

Did you know…

Pinot Noirs vary based on the regions they are from. French Pinot Noirs tend to be earthy while Californian and Oregon Pinots are fruit centered.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Hendry, Napa Valley, CA, 2018 and Szechwan Scallops, scallions, peppers, shiitake mushrooms, chive potsticker 


-medium bodied, with an earthy tone

-red berries, oak, smoky, herbs and bacon flavors

Pairs well with….

Grilled meats, peppered vegetables or sides, stews, or barbecue

Did you know…

Cooler climate syrah tend to be dark and earthy while warmer climates bring out the fruity flavors.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Syrah and Mixed Grill, Grilled 4oz lobster tail, shrimp skewer, grilled salmon, beurre blanc


-very popular choice in America

-Intense berry flavor with hints of chocolate and black pepper

Pairs well with….

Burgers, pizza, barbecue, and Mexican and Asian flavored dishes.

Did you know…

In warmer climates, the zinfandel grape produces higher alcohol levels and more of an intense fruit flavor.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Saldo by Orin Swift, Zinfandel, Oakville, CA and Pad Thai, Chicken – shrimp or short rib – rice noodle – sprouts – peanuts – egg – tofu – peppers

Chicago wine pairing

White Wines:


-Rich, complex with a creamy texture

-apple, pear, lemon, butterscotch, and vanilla flavors

Pairs well with….

Shellfish and seafood, pastas, and butter sauces

Did you know…

Wine makers in California have slowly been changing over from Oak barrels to stainless steel tanks to develop a crisper overall flavor.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Stags Leap, Napa Valley, CA, 2020 and Alaskan King Crab Legs with Drawn butter

Sauvignon Blanc

-Tart and crisp

-Tropical fruits and grapefruit, with hints of herbs

Pairs well with….

Herbaceous dishes, green vegetables, salads

Did you know…

Sauvignon Blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, and California.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Mohua, Marlborough, New Zealand 2021 and Hawaiian Poke Bowl Yellowfin tuna – cilantro lime rice or mixed lettuce – seaweed – avocado – edamame – radish – cucumber – carrots – sriracha aioli

Sparkling Wine

-bubbly lemon, cherry, pear, strawberry flavors

-pleasant acidity and minerality

Pairs well with….

Pretty much everything from freshly grilled seafood to deep fried foods

Did you know…

Traditionally, sparkling wine uses the champagne method of producing bubbles in individual bottles.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Sofia, Brut Rose, Monterey County, CA and Atlantic Salmon – Grilled – cucumbers – shallots – lemon dill sauce


-Crispy and aromatic

-peach, lime, and apricot flavors

Pairs well with….

Grilled seafood, fresh salads, and Asian dishes

Did you know…

There is dry and sweet varieties available to choose from.

Wine pairings recommendation:

Dr. Heyden, Riesling Spatlese, Germany, 2020 and Roasted Beet salad – Mixed lettuce – candied pecans – pears – dried cranberries – feta – balsamic Dijon vinaigrette

Catch 35 located in downtown Naperville and Chicago’s theater district, is the perfect venue to experiment your wine pairing knowledge. Catch 35’s menu features the best seafood in Chicago + Naperville and from the farm dishes. The menu is updated with a celebration of each season’s flavors. Our extensive wine list features a wide variety of vintages from the California, Washington, Oregon, German, and French wine regions.  Cheers to you, we look forward to your next dining experience at Catch 35!