After so much analyzing, preparing, cooking, pairing, getting the table ready, and opening the wines, it is 7:00 pm on Saturday and our guests arrive on time.
Karen: "Barrie give them a glass of wine before we start the tasting." How can I? The wines are all designated to a certain food. If I use the first prepared white wine, it will throw off the pairing. Plan B. We have a few bottles of Sauvignon Blanc lightly chilled. That's what I served while Karen finished in the kitchen. Always have a Plan B when you have friends over and the cook is still in the kitchen!
My first observation: it was a great party. Some of our friends stayed until after 1:00 am. We enjoyed the evening as much as they did!
Second observation: the next tasting will be even better! Research should be less, as we can draw on what we learned from this very specific pairing event.
The Results According to our guests:
Top 3 Favorite Foods
- Egg Pie With Smoked Trout - This is a substantial dish, and Karen has a great recipe. The original recipe came from her Norwegian co-workers when she worked with NCL and called for caviar. She substituted the caviar for the smoked trout - a winner all the way around, One of our guests asked for the recipe and, suggested smoked salmon instead of trout would be good. I agree. You still get that slight oily character, but less pungent. Pairs well with white or red (Chardonnay or Cab).
- Sourdough Crostini With White Beans, Black Olives & Champagne Vinegar - This dish pairs well with a fruit forward wine. We had recommended pairing this with a Pinot Grigio, but the guests liked it better with Chardonnay and one even liked it with a red wine. Remember - if you like it, then it is right for you. Don't be held to convention!
- Risotto Cooked In Beef Broth With Caramelized Onions & Mushrooms - This was a hit all the way around. The richness of the beef broth and the sweetness of the caramelized onions paired nicely with a Cab based wine. Our pairing recommendation had been a Chianti, but the proof is in the tasting and the Claret was the crowd favorite with this dish! Try this one at your house!
- All around favorite was Picket Fence Russian River Chardonnay 2013. This paired perfectly with the Egg Pie With Smoked Trout! Even those who don't usually like Chardonnays, liked the Picket Fence. You can sometimes buy it for under $12. The most expensive I have seen was $16. It is widely available in Florida, both in wine stores and restaurants. We have tasted it many times this year and it is always reliable.
- As you know from our previous blog, the 2014 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is a favorite of ours. $12-$16 depending on where you buy it. This SB is best when served VERY chilled. A slightly chilled presentation totally changes the flavor of this wine. It was acceptable, but not exceptional. Chill it to 38 degrees Fahrenheit or less before serving. You will be glad you did. Great refreshing treat for whatever is left of summer! And what did it pair best with? Dessert! The Ginger Pumpkin Tart!
- DAOU Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2012, at $25 was a great buy when we acquired it two years ago, however this vintage is hard to find. Our palettes are all different, but if you like this wine I can tell you it is one of the best red wines I have had this year. Fabulous with Crostini with tomato, Serrano ham and Manchego cheese.
- Merryvale Napa Valley Cabernet 2010 was my personal favorite. Not all our guests tried it, but those who did enjoyed it. This was the most expensive wine of the evening ($60) and was sensational with the Gouda cheese with truffles (available at Costco). It was also one of the oldest wines we had. If you are building a cellar, this should be included. 2010, 2011 and 2012 are worth purchasing.
- Coppola Diamond Collection Claret is widely available. $14 - $20 depending upon where you buy it. We had the the 2012 vintage Claret, (or Clairet - the term used by French wine growers for light wines). This wine went best with the fat-based foods on the table: cheese, salami, Medjool dates stuffed with bleu cheese and celery stuffed with cashew butter. Why? Fat works like a blotter on our tongues to soak up the tannins. If you are a red wine drinker, give it a try.
One of our friends who joined us for the tasting had sent Karen the following email prior to our party:
". . .you absolutely can't overthink food and wine! The menu/selection/planning is the part that's so much fun. You can be creative, traditional or wild, try new combinations. Or not. And whatever you do, your guests will be delighted as it's not just about the wine and the food. It's about the love that you put into this tasting. That's the flavor that comes through the most. . .
She was so right! The best pairing of the evening? The sound of laughter paired with good conversation.
Click here for our "Perfect Pairing" tasting chart for the evening. Let us know if you want any recipes. Karen is happy to share.
Buena comida, buen vino y buenos amigos .