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Dan the Wine Man

Dan Dawson, Dan the Wine Man: Kale and wine? Why not?

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Dan Dawson

Dan Dawson 

“Kale and wine? Wow.”

That was the reaction of Sasha Paulsen, the Register’s features editor, when I turned in this column. Child’s play … excluding the alcohol.

To set the tone, you should know that my household is very pro-kale. Kale chips, coated in oil and slow-roasted with salt and pepper. Braised kale added to mash potatoes. Cooked down in a pot of Rancho Gordo beans. Bring it on, and make enough for seconds. So if you’re doubting the voracity of my wine and kale pairings, rest assured my energy is high, and not because of the kale juice shot I had this morning.

Ken Morris’s kale recipes are as diverse as an urban elementary school and that makes my wine pairing job a whole lot of fun. Very different recipes — very different wines. That said, my suggestions, two blends and a Riesling, all boast a gentle earthy/herbal flavor that complements the kale.

Looking beyond Ken’s recipes today, if you’re looking for the perfect pairing for kale and such leafy greens, look to the grapes that typically have an earthy/herbal edge. Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Sangiovese, Barbera and Cabernet Franc are worthy candidates. Many Cabernet Sauvignons too…look for ones under 14% alcohol in this case. And generally speaking wines from Chile, both white and red, have green herbal flavors that match nicely with leafy greens like kale.

And I’d be remiss to not mention Kale Wines! Napa’s Kale Anderson produces small lots of Rhone-style wines (Syrah and Grenache primarily). His parents love kale so much so they named their son after it. For the ideal Instagram kale and wine pairing, get the Kale Syrah “Hyde Vineyard” 2017 ($80), an intensely spicy wine from the Carneros. Kale chips dusted with smoky paprika and RG Eye Of The Goat beans with kale and caramelized onions are dreamy matches. Buy from The Wine Thief in the Oxbow District or at

My wine suggestions with this week’s “Cooking For Comfort” recipes

Massican “Annia” Napa Valley White Wine 2020 with Kale Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing

($30 at Massican Winery)

The Italian-inspired Massican “Annia” White, Napa Valley 2020 is a blend of Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla (grapes of Friuli, northeast Italy, origin), and Chardonnay. To my taste, it’s a glorious wine regardless of what’s next to it. Both crisp and sturdy, Annia’s food-matching capabilities range from raw oysters to carnitas. Taco truck to French Laundry. I’m drawn to “Annia” with the Kale Salad & Carrot Ginger Dressing because there’s a heck of a lot going on in the dish (sweet/salty/earthy/aromatic/rich) and it requires an exceptionally versatile white. Massican “Annia” is it: rocky, taut, penetrating and persistent.

Purchase from owner/winemaker Dan Petroski at and choose “I prefer to pick up.” I stopped writing to buy a couple of bottles. Can’t get enough of this wine.

Smith Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District 2017 with Thai Coconut Soup with Sweet Potato and Kale

($34, at Smith Madrone Winery)

Riesling is a natural with Thai dishes, especially where coconut milk is involved. Add on the kale sweet potato, lime, mushrooms, and aromatic herbs for a great Riesling match. I feel like sticking close to home with my Riesling pick today.

Smith Madrone’s 9 acres of dry-farmed Riesling vines on Spring Mountain make wonderful wine. First impressions include yellow grapefruit and honeysuckle, then with time comes citrus zest, bay leaves, orchard fruits, and “mountain flavors” for lack of a better descriptor. That’s where the earth comes from…a kale wine. Buy Smith Madrone Riesling 2017 at and choose “I prefer to pick up my order.”

Farella Vineyard “Snap” Napa Valley 2020 with Quinoa Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Tuscan Kale

($24 at Outland Wines)

A crazy dish like Quinoa Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Kale calls for a crazy wine. Farella Vineyard winemaker Ryan Pass put Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc together and “Snap” was born. I agree with his snappy description “poppy, playful and incredibly crushable.” Ryan would probably agree with me that it’s outstanding with quinoa meatballs because…why not?

“Snap” is a light red wine with low alcohol, very low tannin and wake-up acidity. Give it a slight chill and take it to your next pool party or Monday Night Football get-together. (Will you bring the Quinoa Meatballs too?) The savory herbal character of Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot nail the kale in the recipe. If you’re like me and think cooking, eating and drinking is an adventure we get to take every day of our lives, then this pairing is for you. Tell me how it goes.

Buy Farella Vineyard “Snap” 2020 from their tasting room and retail store, Outland Wines, in Downtown Napa. Or buy it online at And while you’re there, buy the Farella Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($26) and Merlot ($45), both absolute stunners.

I leave you with the tale of my daughter’s letter to my wife and me when she was 6. She’s a great eater, not picky — always been the case. So we were surprised to find a note taped to the refrigerator one morning. It read, “Please Mommy and Daddy, don’t make me eat quinoa ever again. Love, Talia.” I might substitute ground turkey.

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Dan Dawson is a former Napa Valley wine merchant and sommelier. These days he helps small California wineries connect with folks who want their wine but don’t know it yet. You can reach Dan via his website, and @dawsonwineadvisor on Facebook and Instagram.

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