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Archive for the ‘Wine Education’ Category

How to Organize a Wine Dinner

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

What could be more fun than organizing a wine dinner?

Sometimes we might have in mind the wines we’d like to enjoy; while other times, it’s might be all about the food and then finding the best wines to pair with your dinner. You’ll come up with most of the wines, but be prepared. If you’re having a wine dinner, your friends might also be bringing their own bottles of wine to your party.

If those wines honestly don’t pair well with any of your foods, don’t be afraid to just put the wine away for now, and use it as a springboard for another event. Just invite the friend who brought the bottle, and explain that the wine was deserving of its own event… That will also keep your friendship intact.

 

Friends love to gather in a warm and freindly kitchen

Friends love to gather in a warm and freindly kitchen

Something to also consider is this:  are you showcasing the wines for your event? You can downplay your foods a bit. If it’s your foods that you’re showcasing, don’t make your wines so memorable that no one will even notice your foods.

APPETIZERS: Begin with a wine hour and light appetizers. Wines with lower alcohol levels have a much better acidity, and so they pair better with your lighter fare. Good examples are Brut sparkling wines, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chablis-style Chardonnays. The less expensive Chards seem to fit this bill perfectly. (More expensive ones have been barrel fermented, perhaps have stayed longer on their lees, and have a creamier style. This type of Chardonnay pairs better with entrée-type foods.) If you’re going to be serving a red wine, go with Beaujolais or a light Pinot Noir. Again, lower alcohol wines will pair perfectly with a brie, for instance.

Moving to your MEAL: Most people will serve a white and red wine, which considers everyone’s preferences at the table. But, what if you want to start with one and then move to the other? If that’s the case, begin with the white wine. In wine tasting, it is always best to start with the lightest wines and move toward the bigger, bolder flavors. Also, start with the driest wines and move toward any wines that might have some residual sugar in them. These sweeter wines fit into the late harvest category and are generally served with desserts.

SALADS: There’s an exception to the sweet wine category, and it will be a tremendous hit at your dinner party. If and when you’re serving a salad with an oil and vinegar based dressing, find a wine with only a bit of residual sugar. A delicious Gewurztraminer, Riesling, or a Symphony wine are great complements to any salad with an oil and vinegar-type dressing. (The Symphony grape is a crossing of the Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris grape. This was done by Dr. Harold Olmo of UC Davis, when he was alive and working at UC Davis.)  Just make sure that you use a bit of your wine in your dressing, too, to make it a tasty and seamless experience. Add some mandarin orange slices, because they superbly pull the entire effort together, and your guests will be wowed.

Moving to a heavier entree will now have everyone ready for that red wine. If it’s a fish dish, you can stay with white wines, or opt for lighter reds. If it’s a hearty meat dish, go bold with a Merlot, Cabernet (Franc or Sauvignon), Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, or Syrah. Go hog wild and find a Portuguese Alicante Bouchet, or serve a blended red, like our Roulé Rogue. Having some fun before your party will translate into a really memorable evening, as you talk about your wine choices and your food pairing. This way, everything is the focus.

DESSERT: Time for those sweeter wines to pair well with your sweeter dishes; the late harvests and Ports… They’ll linger on your palate and have conversations becoming quite fascinating and colorful, worthy of your wines.

How much wine per person? You can get five to six glasses of wine per bottle. If you’re going to have wine with each course, you need at least one bottle per person. Remember, if you’re doing appetizers, a salad, an entree, and a dessert, that’s four glasses of wine per person easily, headed toward a bottle for each person.

SERVING SIX PEOPLE, to make sure you don’t run out, six (6) bottles:

  • Appetizers, get at least two (2) bottles, because this is an hour event. (Bubbly + a dry white).
  • Soup or salad, get (1) bottle. (Off dry wines: Gewurztraminer, Riesling, or Symphony.)
  • Entree, get two (2) bottles, people linger here. (Any wine that will match your fare, maybe two different ones, just for variety.)
  • Dessert: One (1) bottle will do, even though it’s only a 375 millimeter bottle. Pours are very small for this one.

Have fun with your party.

Is it going to have a theme, is it a celebration of someone’s life or accomplishments, or is it just for fun to enjoy with your friends? Whatever it is, choosing the right wines is half of the fun, if you are a wine lover.

Removing a Cork Is a Piece of Cake, Honest!

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

People struggle all the time, including nervous waitservers, when removing corks from a bottle, whether we’re alone or with a group of friends.

Why is pulling  a little tiny cork out of a bottle so darn intimidating?

Because very few of us in our American culture were raised on wine; so we don’t know how easy it is, unless you’re some kind of a pro who opens 20 bottles a day.

Waiters' Corkscrew

Waiters' Corkscrew

As we’re on stage when it’s our turn to remove the cork, our palms begin to sweat as we begin to insert the corkscrew’s sharp, little point. Moisture begins to gather around our hair line, as we turn the corkscrew in a clockwise motion. Then, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen next. Will we get it out, as the corkscrew descends further into the bottle? Again, it’s anyone’s guess…

Well, that used to be the case for me. Once I began to work in the wine business and that cork had to come out (because people were standing before me eager to taste the wine I was about to pour), I learned how to do it so quickly and smoothly that I surprised even myself.

Here’s how you, too, can look like you’ve opened enough corks to fill that wine barrel table you’ve created that’s full of corks. Yes, I have one; although I have to admit that 95 percent of the corks come from wineries where I worked and collected corks at the end of the day. (This makes it very easy to fill a 60 gallon wine barrel.)

1. Securely grab your corkscrew in one hand and your bottle of wine in the other.

2. Use absolute straight down aim at that tiny cork (you’re so much bigger than that cork, so you’ve got to win this battle, and you will).

3. In the absolute dead center of the cork, insert the corkscrew tip in a straight downward motion with a good little push to insert it. (Don’t angle this procedure, as that’s the REAL trick in all of this.)

4. As the corkscrew enters the cork, use that bit of pressure to make sure that the corkscrew and cork are united in harmony.

5. Without any angling of what you’re doing, begin to twist the corkscrew while simultaneously pressing downward, until all the “screw” part of it is inserted into the cork.

6. With a smooth, gentle force (you don’t want any splashing onto what you’re wearing), pull the cork straight out of the bottle. It’s all in the wrist pulling in an upward motion, too.

This is guaranteed to make you look like a pro, and the sweat will never bead up on your brow, again. (Three) Cheers!

And, welcome to Removing the Cork 102, where many producers are sadly switching to screw caps!