Your Complete Guide to Holiday Food and Wine Pairing and Gifts

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Perhaps you are entertaining this season, or maybe you entertain all year.  A glass of wine at dinner is better when paired appropriately.  A glass of wine with friends is even better.  Maybe you want to give a bottle of something as a gift.  Or perhaps you are curious about great wine.  Great wine doesn’t mean expensive.  The terroir and nuances and enjoyment of wine and the way it plays with food pairings can be found in a bottle of twelve dollar wine.  You just have to know what to look for.

There are five glasses of wine in each bottle.  A standard pour is five to six ounces.  This will help you plan how much to provide at a party.  Serve whites at 55 degrees.  Reds at 65-75 degrees.  Look for wine between ten and twenty dollars.

For appetizers– a sweeter wine that holds up on its own and is quite delightful is RieslingPinot Noir can be paired with anything.  It is the most versatile.  Look for the cherries and chocolate flavors in this milder wine.

If you are serving something with butter or cream- Mushrooms with butter sauce and Parmesan or Linguine Alfredo, let’s say, or a nice salmon with a creamy herb sauce will pair perfect with Chardonnay.  Chardonnay carries the crisp tropical and fresh fruit flavors of white grapes with the toasty cream finish thanks to the oak it matures in.

If you are serving seafood or salad– Shrimp Cocktail, a beautiful main-dish salad with chicken, or pork roast with apples and cabbage.  Anything that has crisp flavors-apples, lettuce, briny seafood- goes best with a Sauvignon Blanc.  It has crisp fruit and mineral flavors, is dry, and is made in stainless steel.  It goes really nicely with food.  If you want to go a tad sweeter with this type of menu, choose a Pinot Grigio.

If you are serving tomato based dishes or beans- Rich chili, thick pastas and savory sauces, olives, or bean soups all go beautifully with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Anything Italian naturally pairs with Sangiovese, Chianti, or Barbera.

If you are serving red meat or barbeque- You just can’t go wrong with a Merlot or a Malbec with a smoky steak or buffalo burgers.

If you are serving dessert- a thick Port with fudge is divine, a glass of Moscato or Ice wine is a sweet way to end the meal.

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A gift to a wine club is a great present to the wine lover on your list.  Some of the smaller wineries offer wine clubs which gives the oenophile on your list some new and exciting small batch wines to enjoy.  Some of the larger wine clubs offer treats from around the world.

Enjoy your festivities this season, my friends.  Cheers!

 

 

The Snobby Homesteader’s Wine (boxed and oddly delicious)

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I do enjoy a glass of wine at dinner.  Sitting in the restaurant that my daughter, Emily, works at enjoying a small pizza and the house wine is enjoyable to me.  I told one of my friends who was there that the wine wasn’t the best, most award winning, but it was quite good, and really quite excellent with food.  I have a reputation for being a wine snob.  I am not proud of this, but I also am not drinking the mass produced style wines.  Concannon or Mondavi?  I’ll pass.

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I wasn’t always this way.  I didn’t start drinking any type of alcoholic beverage until I was twenty-seven years old.  And my first tastes of red wine were enjoyable as long as they were kind of weak.  Then I started tasting nuances that I really enjoyed as we began hanging out at the wine bar with friends more; dried fruit, molasses, vanilla, the taste of hot summer sun in the Andes…I have quite an imagination.  I wanted to know more about these tastes and was fascinated that a bottle of wine will taste different depending on what day you open it.  Terroir became a puzzle, a mystery of place and time,  or wine maker, and harvesters, of weather patterns, of flavor.  A few beginning sommelier classes made me even more obsessed and probably obnoxious to drink with.  Then I became a homesteader a little more seriously.  Which means that gone are the days of my beloved wine club.  No more cases of various wines being delivered up the front walk.  It was an expensive year this year and two hundred dollars being withdrawn every couple of months takes a chunk out of wood, rent, and chicken feed money.

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I passed the boxes in the liquor store on my way to find something else.  I never give boxed wine a second look.  The Black Box brand is pretty good and I have drunk it before, but off hand, I never really consider boxed wine a go-to for dinner.  But there were some new kinds there that had big notifications on their boxes.  “Gold Metal” and “Platinum” and the Pinot Noir touted “45 Gold Metals from Wine Enthusiast”…I backed up and swiveled towards the mystery boxes.  Bota Box was an eco friendly and highly awarded boxed wine.

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Eighteen dollars.  Now, I spend around $14 on one bottle.  I am not always home at dinner time, I do not like vinegary wine, and I am the only one who partakes in a nice glass at dinner in our home (Doug’s more a beer man.) so that last glass in there often goes to waste.  Well, not to waste but into the red wine vinegar mother (click here to see how to make your own red wine vinegar) and then I need another $14 bottle of wine for the next week.  The boxed wine has four bottles in it, all sealed up nice and protected from oxygen, which is what turns it into vinegar, and will last up to four weeks.  Huh.  Funny the things homesteading with little cash will inspire you to try.

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“Look at the Franzia, it’s cheaper,” says my ever cost conscience non-wine connoisseur.

“Oh, heck no.  I am not drinking Franzia.”  Who the heck does he think I am?

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I chose an award winning boxed wine and imagine it to be like the demijohns of red wine that the Italians fill up at the local winery and took it home.

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Again, I rarely find that “Oh My Gosh, this is awesome wine!!!” and it is always a treat when I do but I want a good wine that goes well with food or on its own with a good book.  The Pinot Noir, the Sauvignon Blanc, and the Merlot have all delivered on that.  I am impressed.  The boxed wine is affordable, more eco-friendly, and good?  This is a win, win, win situation.

A few nights ago I cut through the restaurant kitchen with Emily to help her load the baby into the car after she got off work.  I looked up to see their house wine.  Franzia.  I had to just shake my head and laugh.

 

 

Wine 200

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We bartered for a class each.  I would teach her beginning herbalism and she would teach me beginning wine.  She reminded me of my ballet teacher in college or my sixth grade teacher.  She kept snapping at me.  She said, “What do you smell?”  Then just as quickly, “YOU ARE TAKING TOO LONG!”  “Uh,” I replied with a squeak, “I smell…red.”

I then took a set of sommelier wine classes from a teacher that taught for a rather big wine school and now works for a winery in Napa.  Much better.  Among giggly, well traveled, interested people, I learned more, and more about how I learn.  We were to smell upwards of forty different wine glasses filled with everything from dirt to ammonia, from lemon to grass, and memorize scents.  Smelling the wine is a way of tasting it and a lot can be determined by the sniff.  One can tell if oxygen got in (vinegar).  How the wine maker prepared it.  Whether he chose Sur Lis (placed on yeast to sit and create a creamy taste), more tannins (that pucker taste) means longer with the skins,  and what kind of oak was used.  Whether it grew in limestone or in a rural area.

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In a comfortable atmosphere I breathed in deeply from the glass of wine and closed my eyes.  I could smell cinnamon, and figs, currents, and sunshine….touch of vanilla.  I smell sunny days and atmospheres, like France, and a later harvest.  It is not right or wrong.  I am not going to be a sommelier for a living.  I can smell Autumn in Tuscany along with fruits and spices and Slovenian oak and not get scoffed at.  It so increases my enjoyment of the wine, isn’t that what wine is for?

Choosing a wine for food can be daunting.  But it is simple.  Think of common tastes.

A creamy sauce might want cream from the oak of Chardonnay balanced with its tropical fruit to cut the richness.

However Chardonnay will make a salad taste metallic, better to drink a crisp Pinot Grigio to bring out the freshness.

One wouldn’t want to mix a bold, knock your socks off, Tempranillo with say….a light broth because you would lose the taste of the broth!  Better to mix it with a flavorful marinara sauce or barbecue.

On the same note, one wouldn’t want to drink a Moscato, in all its sweet glory, with a big bowl of stew because you would lose the wine.  It would taste like sweet water.

So choosing wines that are the same “strength” as your dish helps balance the flavors.

Those that prefer red wine but are drinking a “white” dish could opt for a Pinot Noir.  It is more subtle than Cabs and has lovely earth and cherry flavors that work well with nearly everything including spicy foods.

Ideas:

Oyster mushrooms with butter and Parmesan over linguine and Chardonnay

Mushrooms in a thick sauce with seafood and tomatoes loves Nebbiolo

Dessert loves Champagne

Chef salad and Pinot Grigio

Potato Cheese soup with Chives and a red blend

Flourless dark chocolate cake…not too sweet…with Moscato

Tomato soup and Merlot

Spicy mole sauce over trout and Pinot Noir

Fruit Salad and Sauvignon Blanc

Root vegetable stew and Cabernet Sauvignon

In the end….drink what you love!

Toast to life!  Cheers!

Click here too read Wine 101.