Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

What Wines to Bring to Dinner Parties?

March 25, 2015

Here is a dilemma for all of us. You are invited to friends for dinner and say you will bring wine.

But what do you bring?

Well, before I answer that, you need to answer a couple of other questions first!

First off…how close are you? This is the most important question because if you are close friends, you may already know what they like or – more importantly – if they are “wine dweebs” or not (more on that below). If it is more casual, it can be less of an issue (although you never want to bring bad wine, of course!).

Second – are they wine dweebs? If not, see above. But if they are, you face a bigger challenge. Do you try to bring something that impresses them? Or something that you know they like (because you have had it there before)? I would go with the latter…many people say they don’t like to bring wine to our place because they know I am a wine dweeb and may judge them. But if they know what I like – Rhone wines, for example – they can’t go wrong, no matter how much they spend on the bottle.

The third question may seem a bit esoteric, but it is important if you are a wine dweeb like me. And it is – do you expect the wine you bring to be drunk that evening?

For me, this is often the toughest question! I have lots of great wine in my cellar, and I love the chance to share it with friends, even casual friends. But what can drive me crazy is bringing a wine that I was looking forward to tasting, only to have the friends say “wow, thanks!” and then put it away for use later.

I deal with this question in two ways. If they are close friends, I will actually ask what to bring! I couch it around “what is for dinner? What will go best?” That way, I find out right up front whether it will be drunk or not. If I don’t know them that well, I tend to shy away from really good wine – or mature wine – as I don’t know when it may be drunk.

Having answered these questions, then, back to the first one…what do you bring?

Well, I have a couple of safe bets for “casual” friends. For reds, try an un-oaked Argentine Malbec or Cotes du Rhone. They are almost always fruity but a little complex, not full of wood (from the oak) and you can find lots of choices in the $15 – $20 range. And for whites, try Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or B.C. They are fruity (but not too ripe), have just a bit of oak, and there are a fair number in the same price range as the reds above.

For special friends that you know well? Well, if you have a cellar, that is the time to bring something that is mature. A Chateauneuf du Pape or Chianti Classico Riserva that is 8 – 10 years old, for example. If they are really good friends, try a Barolo or Barbaresco that is 10 – 15 years old. If you don’t have a cellar, go for a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Mondavi, Beringer, Caymus…there are lots of big names that have wines in the $40 – $50 range, and the great thing is they drink well on release, so you don’t have to worry about tannins.

And for special whites? Chablis Premier Cru is a great choice, or Alsatian Rielsing or Gewurztraminer. These can be from your cellar (if you are lucky enough to have them) or right off the shelf, as they also drink well young and can be found in the $40 range. Cali Chardonnay is another great idea as long as you know they like oaky, buttery Chardonnays.

So the next time you are asked to bring wine to dinner, think about these simple rules. Follow them, and you can’t go wrong!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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LESSONS FROM A SUMMER WINE PARTY

August 6, 2014

Okay, after pontificating last week about “how to have a summer wine party”, I now need to report back on some serious lessons learned.

Trust me…if you heed these, you will avoid a whole bunch of pain (physical and emotional).

First off, try not to hold your party when it is stinking hot out! I had (while it was still light out…more on that later) only white, rose and sparkling wines to serve (as per my blog recommendations), but it was almost impossible to keep them all cold enough. Regardless, people still drank them, mostly because everyone was parched from the heat! I’m not sure they showed their best as a result, although everyone sure loved them.

Lesson number two is don’t serve too much food (again, when it is hot out). Our party was a pot luck, with us providing the protein and everyone else salads. Given the heat, the salads went like crazy…and we were left with lots of tandoori chicken and sausage. Fortunately, we like both, because we ate them as leftovers for two days. And since it was still hot, that meant no cooking…hey, maybe this is a positive thing!

The third lesson is be careful if kids are attending! Much wine was consumed by the adults, and while nobody was falling down drunk, everyone was pretty happy, to say the least. For the younger teenagers (13/14), they just ignored us and played in the yard or watched movies. But the 16 year olds were quite fascinated – and embarrassed – so much so that they used their smart phones to film their parents singing and dancing! I am sure some of us will be embarrassed by those videos some day on important occasions!

The fourth lesson is don’t hold the party too close to your wine cellar (if you have one). We were outside, and the cellar is just inside the basement door…as the evening progressed, it became way too easy to pop into the cellar for Port, Sauternes, etc…They were great, but it added to the overall state of many of the parents…
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Fifth, if you are going to hold the wine party outside – and your neighbours are around – give them a heads up (or invite them). We ended up singing rock and roll songs till about midnight, which didn’t go over too well with neighbours on one side.

Finally, my one wine lesson of the night. After having enough (more than enough?) to drink, resist the temptation to go to the cellar for “that last bottle”! In my case it was the 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve Sixtine Cuvee de Vatican. A great wine I am sure…but I can’t even remember what it tasted like!

So there you go…it was a great evening, and we will definitely do it again. But a few lessons to help manage “the day after the night before”!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

DIFFERENT WAYS TO PUT “WINE” INTO YOUR HOLIDAYS!

June 25, 2014

I am going to try and take most of the next couple of weeks off, which got me thinking about all the ways I could make “wine” part of my holiday, especially since we won’t be spending a lot of time away from home.

The first and most obvious one – for those who have a wine cellar – is to drink more of those special wines during vacation! Usually that is reserved only for weekends, but if you have enough (or enough interest), then a special wine every night can really add to your time off. And, if you are not going away (like us, for the most part), it can even make you feel like you are somewhere else, especially if you pair the wine with a special meal.

Even if you don’t have a wine cellar, however, you can still make this part of your ‘staycation’. Take the time to go to your local wine store and buy a few wines that you wouldn’t normally purchase. Whether it is the price level, style or even quantity, just the purchase alone will make it feel like you are on holidays!

And what if you are going away somewhere?

Well, if you are eating in restaurants, you can apply the same principle as above. And it doesn’t have to be expensive, either! You can focus on wines from the place you are visiting, for example. We were in Seattle earlier this year, and found a restaurant which not only had great Washington wines, they were also 20% off by the bottle! Wines by the glass are another option (albeit with the caveats from last week’s blog). Have a white with your appetizer, a red with your main, maybe a sweet wine with dessert…you can probably do all of that for the price of a whole bottle!

Another way to treat yourself is to have a glass of wine at lunch! This is a great way to fit into the local culture – if you are in France or Spain, for example, everybody does it – and in the heat, there is nothing like a glass of cold Rose to quench the thirst. It can also be a great way to experience a highly rated restaurant economically. Often it is hard to get reservations, and too expensive, to eat in the best places for dinner. But lunch? Same food, cheaper prices, and same wine list. It can be a really luxurious way to spend part of an afternoon.

So there you go – lots of ways to make wine part of your vacation, whether you are staying home or going some place wonderful!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com