Wine Scene: Love of food pairs well with love of wine

Born and raised in Yakima, JJ Compeau discovered his passion for food and wine at an early age.

Compeau got his start in wine as a server at Johnny’s restaurant in Yakima during the early 1980s. The restaurant focused on training staff to know and understand wine, a training that has lived with him throughout his career.

“The trainings were my first exposure to wine,” Compeau says. “I really appreciated and picked up on the concept of pairing food and wine.”

While studying marketing at Central Washington University, Compeau was hired to sell wine at the Selah Red Apple market. It was during this time that he developed a love affair with pairings.

“To this day, when I smell a new wine I automatically think of food,” Compeau says.

During his tenure at Red Apple, he developed a strong clientele of wine lovers by offering education and awareness of how a well-paired food-and-wine dish can enhance the flavors of both. His approach proved successful. He was recognized as the top retail sales outlet on the West Coast for several wineries due to his innovative sales approach.

“I do love getting people excited about wine and integrating it into their lifestyle,” he says. “I want my wine to be on your dinner table every night and be the wine of choice for special occasions.”

In order to do that, Compeau created two quality brands, each with a specific niche.

His primary winery, Narratif, is his way of telling the story of Washington wines.

“My plan in the next 10 years is to produce wines from as many Washington AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) as I can, to allow consumers to learn the flavor profiles from different regions,” Compeau says.

His second label, NW Wine Collaborative, is his opportunity to create project wines specifically made to pair with food. The wines are well-balanced with a focus on fruit.

“I wanted to create a brand for the restaurants,” he says. “That’s the part of the market I love. These wines will allow me the opportunity to work with winemakers and growers to produce wines that are specifically made to be served with food.”

Some pairings:

2016 NW Wine Collaborative Cabernet Sauvignon, $24:

  • This is a wonderful blend of black currant, boysenberry and raspberry with savory herbal notes and a rich mouthfeel with hints of mocha and vanilla. Recommended pairings: filet mignon with blue cheese butter, rack of lamb, hamburger.

2016 NW Wine Collaborative Malbec, $24:

  • Aromas of red and black fruit come through on the palate with hints of vanilla; soft tannins and a lingering finish. Recommended pairings: barbecued ribs, pulled pork, savory beef stew, carne asada tacos, game meats.

2016 Narratif, red wine, DuBrul Vineyard, $40:

  • Aromas of blackberry and licorice. Red fruit flavors on the palate. A rich mouthfeel with soft balanced tannins and acidity make this a wonderful food wine. Recommended pairings: lamb burgers, pizza, veal chops, pasta with Bolognese sauce.

Compeau plans to open a Yakima Valley tasting room in the future, but for now he’s keeping with his love of restaurants. His wines are available at E.Z Tiger, Birchfield Manor, Carousel, Crafted and WaterFire Restaurant and Bar, or via the website www.nwwinecollaborative.com.

Watch for one-day pop-up tastings this summer; to learn when and where, join the NW Wine Collaborative mailing list on the website.

• Barbara Glover is executive director of Wine Yakima Valley, an industry group representing member wineries.

Reach Pat Muir at pmuir@yakimaherald.com.

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