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Dan Dawson, Dan the Wine Man: Pairing shrimp and wine Is easy — unless It’s not.

Dan Dawson, Dan the Wine Man: Pairing shrimp and wine Is easy — unless It’s not.

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Editor’s note: Each week, Dan Dawson, aka Dan the Wine Man, peruses the story written by Napa Valley Register food writer Ken Morris (published in the Tuesday Food section) and then comes up with ideas for wines that make a match. Find Ken Morris' April 6 column with his recipes at

Good ol’ shrimp and prawns, a wine pairing walk in the park. Sauté shallots and garlic, maybe some bacon, add crustaceans, fresh herbs, white wine, lemon, finish with butter. Serve with an opulent yet perky Chardonnay. Thanks for coming, tip your server.

Unless it’s not that easy. Less challenging than last week’s artichoke pairings, mind you, but with Ken Morris’ list of ingredients as long as the Smiths in a Los Angeles phonebook, there are many considerations. And opportunities. Let’s dig into them.

But first, I’ll see Ken’s Cindy Pawlcyn name drop in Tuesday’s Cooking for Comfort column and raise him a Guy Fieri. Guy, Matt Guyot (long-time BRIX Restaurant event and restaurant manager) and I were dining room captains at The Red Lion Inn of Eureka, California, in the mid-'80s. What did Red Lion captains do? Flambé cooking tableside. That’s right, polyester uniformed, bow tie adorned Guy, Matt and I competed for the tallest alcohol flame as customers sat unknowingly in harms’ way. No lawsuits were filed during our tenure, and Red Lion flambé did not result in Guy’s Heat Mizer hair. That came later.

One of our Red Lion tableside specialties:  Scampi-style Prawns. That’s the recipe for it above, except for the flambé. I mean it when I say a full-bodied Chardonnay, a Napa specialty, is a great match. ZD Chardonnay “50th Anniversary” 2018 ($42) would be just dandy. Make the gorgeous drive up Silverado Trail and buy at ZD.

This Week’s Wine Pairings

Ken’s Cooking for Comfort recipes this week:

• Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Avocado with Cilantro-Caper Mayonnaise

• Kung Pao Shrimp with Cashews

• Ulapalakua Beef and Shrimp Kabobs

Everything about the Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Avocado points to pairing with a crisp, aromatic white wine. The acidic tang is like a citrus splash on the seafood, cuts through the oily mayonnaise and avocado and compliments the seasonings. From a world brimming with crisp aromatic whites, I suggest a wine from Napa’s front yard.

Cave Dog Albariño, Napa Valley 2019 ($35) drinks like a brisk walk along the Pacific coast. Of Spanish origin, the albariño grape has planted its flag on the California wine scene with around 300 acres planted. It loves the cooler coastal areas for its signature bright acid snap. Cave Dog Albariño case in point as it grows south of Napa on the edge of the Carneros. After receiving short shrift in last week’s artichoke column, Cave Dog’s found the perfect pairing in the Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Avocado. You can buy online at but you may find it easier, and more economical, to buy at Back Room Wines in downtown Napa.

Unlikely you’ll go to a wine dinner and be served Kung Pao. Chilies, vinegar, sugar and soy sauce are not thought of as particularly wine-friendly, but these same sweet/spicy ingredients are common in many barbecue recipes, right? We have no problem making enthusiastic wine pairings with barbecue. Ribs and Zin come to mind. I think Kung Pao Shrimp by comparison is a wine pairing breeze.

Try the Dancing Crow Rosé, Lake County 2020 (between $16 & $20/bottle) with Ken’s Kung Pao Shrimp. Made from 83% Syrah, intentionally grown for Rosé, and 17% Sauvignon Blanc, Dancing Crow is peppery, very dry and richly textured. Paired with the Kung Pao the Rosé’s spice adds another layer of flavor. The texture explains how the wine holds up to the richness of the shrimp and cashews. Find Dancing Crow Rosé locally at Whole Foods and Back Room Wines.

The Ulapalakua Beef and Shrimp Kabobs are a wine pairing curveball. Surf & Turf is tricky for obvious reasons. My inclination is to focus on either the beef or the shrimp. The pineapple on the kabob is a challenge probably not worth taking…the cooking method (grilling) is important.

I emailed Oxbow Wine Merchant’s Peter Granoff for rich, medium-body, low tannin, distinctive red wine recommendation. He took me to an island, not recipe-inspired Maui, where both beef and shrimp have been food staples for ages. Let’s go to Sicily!

“Liburna” Nero d’Avola 2019 by Cantine Birgi ($20) comes from the west side of Sicily. Typical of the Nero d’Avola grape, the wine boasts “layered aromas of dark cherry and garrigue…generously offers dark fruit, black raspberry and hints of oak. This is a charming, medium-bodied wine with ripe fruit, subtle spices, and a refreshing finish.” Great match with the grilled New York strip, peppers and onions. Pretty good with the sweet, salty, spicy grilled shrimp. Take a wine break as you include the pineapple in the kabob mélange. Buy from Oxbow Wine Merchant at the Oxbow Public Market. Say hi for me when you do!

Have you tried any of our recipe and wine pairings yet? Send me a note once you do. I love both praise and criticism. Especially the praise. Have fun.


Matt Damon once splurged $3,500 dollars on a special case of red wine to impress Christopher Walken at a house party, according to mutual friend Anthony Mackie.


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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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