Pairing wine with cuisine is an art form that seeks to enhance the dining experience by harmonizing flavors and textures. This thesis explores the modifications necessary to the classic chicken gyro wrap to create a sublime pairing with a Coombsville Merlot. The Coombsville AVA, nestled in the cooler foothills of Napa Valley, produces Merlot wines known for their soft tannins, moderate acidity, and complex flavors of dark fruits, earth, and subtle oak. Traditional chicken gyro, while delicious, typically leans on bright, tangy, and herby flavors, which may not immediately seem complementary to the rich and nuanced profile of Coombsville Merlot. However, with thoughtful adjustments, the chicken gyro can be elevated to match the wine's elegance, creating a pairing that is both unexpected and delightful.

Coombsville Merlot Profile

A bottle of Blue Oak Vineyard 2021 Merlot Estate Reserve was used as a reference in this exercise.

Coombsville Merlot is characterized by its balance of fruit, acidity, and tannins, presenting layers of black cherry, plum, and sometimes blueberry, with undercurrents of earth and spice. The cooler climate of Coombsville allows for a slower ripening of grapes, resulting in wines with a refined structure, integrating both fruit and savory notes. The Merlots from this region can range from medium to full-bodied and often feature a silky texture that makes them exceptionally food-friendly.

Chicken Gyro: A Flavorful Foundation

The chicken gyro wrap, a beloved staple of Greek cuisine, combines marinated chicken with fresh vegetables, tzatziki sauce, and sometimes fries, all wrapped in a soft pita bread. The marinade typically includes lemon, garlic, and herbs such as oregano and thyme, which impart vibrant flavors to the chicken. To align this dish with the Coombsville Merlot, modifications will focus on enhancing the gyro's savory elements while maintaining its characteristic freshness.

Chicken Gyro and Coombsville Merlot

Proposed Modifications to the Chicken Gyro Wrap

1. Marination Transformation

Adjust the chicken marinade to complement the Merlot's flavor profile by incorporating more earthy and rich spices, such as smoked paprika and a hint of cinnamon. These additions can mirror the spicy and earthy tones in the wine. Incorporating a small amount of pomegranate molasses into the marinade can also introduce a subtle sweetness and acidity, bridging the gap between the wine's fruit notes and the savory chicken.

2. Vegetable Selection

Opt for grilled vegetables within the wrap, such as red onions and bell peppers, to add a smoky depth that echoes the wine's complexity. The sweetness of caramelized onions can enhance the dark fruit characteristics of the Merlot, while the peppers add a soft, roasted flavor that complements the wine's earthiness.

3. Tzatziki with a Twist

Modify the traditional tzatziki sauce by incorporating roasted garlic instead of raw and adding a touch of smoked sea salt. This version of tzatziki will better complement the wine's profile, with the roasted garlic mimicking the subtle oak nuances and the smoked sea salt enhancing the Merlot's inherent complexity.

4. The Role of Feta

Choose a milder feta cheese or a lightly smoked version to sprinkle over the gyro. The creaminess of the cheese will interact beautifully with the Merlot's velvety tannins, while the smokiness will align with the wine's spice notes, adding an additional layer of flavor harmony.


Through specific modifications to the traditional chicken gyro wrap, including a revised marinade, the selection of grilled vegetables, an enhanced tzatziki sauce, and the careful choice of feta cheese, this beloved dish can be transformed into an exquisite companion to Coombsville Merlot. This pairing transcends the conventional, highlighting how the right adjustments in the culinary approach can elevate the pairing experience. By embracing these changes, the chicken gyro wrap and Coombsville Merlot together achieve a balance of flavors that is both sophisticated and deeply satisfying, proving that with thoughtful consideration, even the most traditional dishes can be reimagined to create perfect harmony with a glass of fine wine.

Chicken Gyro and Coombsville Merlot