This post was made in partnership with Sonoma-Cutrer Wine. Recipe and ideas are my own.
No one wants to show up at a party this holiday season to find their host has given up on life and left just one type of appetizer out for everyone. But it happens. Don’t be that person.
Instead, cater to the 4 types of appetizer people. Yes folks, there are 4 types: classic appetizer person, fun appetizer person, bold appetizer person, and casual appetizer person.
Please don’t give me the side-eye when I say you should make 4 separate appetizers! See that bounty of food? Looks good doesn’t it? Looks like someone slaved away in a kitchen all day planning the perfect party bites to serve with their wine. But what if I told you all these dishes could be made in 30 minutes or less for YOUR Holiday Wine Pairing Party? Maybe you’d say, Elana, giiiiirrrrlll that couldn’t possibly be true. Or maybe, Elana, SIGN ME UP LET’S DO THIS.
I like your style friend. Let’s talk about a 30 minute or less Holiday Wine Pairing Party.
Today we’re in the kitchen with Sonoma-Cutrer pairing their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Les Pierres Chardonnay with these four different kinds of appetizers. Before you begin to pair some food with the wine, it’s helpful to know your wine. Have a few sips. What do you taste here?
Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: blackberries, jam, vanilla and tobacco aromas with a silky, round flavor of spices and tart cherry fruit flavors.
Les Pierres Chardonnay: bright lemon aroma and subtle spicy aromas bursting with citrus flavors, spice and mineral notes.
Both of these wines are super food friendly, but for the perfect bites, I’m going to help you pair the right foods with them. However, let’s start with YOU first. What type of appetizer person are you?
Classic (pairs with the Chardonnay): you’re wearing a sport coat or a LBD to this holiday party. And you like your appetizers to sound like an appetizer, but elevated. Smoked trout? Herbed cheese? It’s familiar yet different, and you’ll take 6.
Casual (pairs with the Pinot Noir): you’re not wearing a tie and 7pm start time is just a suggestion. A spoonful of marinated mushrooms to walk around and nibble on that only took 5 minutes to make? Sure, that’s cool.
Bold (pairs with the Chardonnay): so you went skydiving this morning and wore white after Labor Day. You need a savory twist with the world’s hottest pepper cheese to snack on and then tell your friends about.
Fun (pairs with the Pinot Noir): sparkly yoga pants are totally party pants and ugly holiday sweaters are the only appropriate sweater to wear this time of year. Just don’t double dip your Pigs in a Blanket in the cranberry mustard sauce or it’s a party foul for you.
Now you can help your guests choose which appetizer they are AND you’ll have a wine ready for them to drink it with. Ready to get cooking? Crack open some wine first and let’s go!
Smoked Trout with Dill and Chive Cream Cheese on Crackers
Yields about 25 crackers
1 8 ounce packet cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp minced dill
1 8 ounce package smoked trout, shredded
crackers to serve, I prefer some with a little heft for this like oat crackers Chives and Black Salt for garnish
Mix together softened cream cheese, lemon juice, salt, pepper, chives and dill. Set aside. Build your appetizer by spreading about 1-1/2 teaspoons of cream cheese mixture onto the cracker. Top with shredded trout. Garnish with chopped chives and a big flake of black salt.
Pigs in a Blanket with Cranberry Mustard Sauce
1 pack little sausages
1 container crescent rolls
1 tsp dried thyme
1 10 ounce package cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp water
½ cup dijon mustard
To make the Pigs in a Blanket: Preheat oven to 375°. Lay out crescent rolls and sprinkle thyme over dough, lightly pressing thyme into the dough. Cut crescent rolls in thirds. Wrap around sausages, gently pinching the dough ends together. Lay Pigs in a Blanket seam side down on a sheet pan covered in parchment. Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown. While Pigs are cooking, make the cranberry mustard.
To make the Cranberry Mustard Sauce: Combine cranberries, brown sugar, water and salt in a medium-high saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Lower heat to medium and continue to stir until cranberries release water and pop open, about 6-8 minutes, continue to stir until sauce has thickened slightly, another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in dijon mustard. Transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated up to one month.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
Dust your counter or cutting board with 1/4 cup of cheese. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry over top of cheese. Top with another 1/4 cup of cheese.
Roll out to 1/8-inch thick. Fold the pastry in half. Top with another 1/4 cup of cheese. Roll out again to 1/8-inch thick. I roll mine out about the size of a sheet pan.
Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into long strips roughly 1-inch wide. Twist strips and gently stick ends onto parchment to prevent un-twisting. Repeat with next sheet.
Chill for at least 10 minutes or up to an hour (if you have time!).
Bake 15 to 25 minutes. Begin checking shorter straws after about 15 minutes, and longer straws after 20 minutes. Remove from the oven once they are puffed and crispy, feel dry to the touch, and are deep golden.
Cool briefly on the baking sheet and transfer them to a cooling rack or serving plate.
Serve warm or room temperature. Puff pastry straws are best served the same day they are made.
Simple Marinated Mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces small button mushrooms (if you want to make it fancier, use mixed wild mushrooms)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add in mushrooms when oil is warm and sauté 5-8 minutes. Remove mushrooms from heat and set aside.
In an airtight, nonreactive container (I like Pyrex bowls for this), whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, maple syrup, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, dill and kosher salt. Add warm mushrooms into the bowl and toss with the marinade, covering the mushrooms. Let stand 15 minutes and serve. Mushrooms will develop more flavor the longer they sit and are even better the next day if you have the time!
You’ve got options for Valentine’s Day folks. Sexy, sexy wine options.
Robin Watts is back this month and he’s gone and picked an impressive line up of wines for your weekend. Pop open a few of these for a loved one, or do what I did: get thirsty reading these descriptions and finish them yourself. It’s going to be hard to pick just one…
When I set out to pick a few wines for the impending Valentine’s Day weekend I thought I would end up going a possibly cliche route and selecting only French or Italian wines. So “romantic” and European! Truth be told, I was seduced by some domestic stuff as well and I think you, and maybe someone else in your life, might be too.
2014 Broc Cellars Love White California Retails apx. $20
This is a California white that I would recommend to any white drinker who doesn’t usually, or won’t, drink California white wine. This blend of Marsanne (85%), Roussanne (12%), and Viogner (3%) has some very distinctly European sensibilities about it. Aromatic and floral with overtones of pear and bit of honey I think that this wine works well as a starter or even accompanying an entree of lighter fair. And lets be honest, this holiday places a lot on aesthetics and this is nice looking bottle with a couple hearts on it. It’s called Love White!!! This wine will help you fit in with the cliche and trite parts of the holiday while its corked but surprise you and spoil you once it’s uncorked.
2014 Gragnano from Poggio delle Bacanti Italy Retails apx. $15
There is not a lot of information to be found on this wine but for around $15, and sometimes less, you’ll be drinking this so fast you probably won’t care. Mildly effervescent, it pours and froths like a lambrusco but drinks relatively still (and dry!). I prefer it with a decent chill on it and think its versatility lend it to any day part but, if pairing it with food, go heartier. Being from Napoli, and for some reason very mysterious, I have to assume this is Aglianico and Piedirosso which explains the earthy, leathery quality. There is something satisfyingly vegetal about this, almost as if an olive and a cranberry had a baby but it was raised by a beet and an eggplant. I recommend finishing this savory dry surprise the day you open it but I doubt that should be a difficult task.
L’Unique Gaz de Schiste France Retails apx. $24
Just go buy this. I should just say that and tell you to trust me. Pink? Check. Bubbly? Check. Delicious? Check. Seems perfect for Valentine’s Day. I think its perfect for any time, any place, and probably any person. 50% Grenache/50% Mourvedre and six month of bottle maturation make for one elegant bottle of bubbly. A little bit sweet, this sparkler is a tart, minerally, grapefruit-y, creamy treat. At first, it smells like you’ve opened the most exquisite bag of gummy worms (I mean that in the best, most respectful way) and the first sip conjures up images of the most impressive fruit trifle and leaves you with a macadamia kiss. Yeah. I’m not even a little bit embarrassed to say any of that. This stuff is that good and functions perfectly as an aperitif or dessert. Get a bottle for someone you love, especially if that person is yourself.
2014 Bow & Arrow Gamay Oregon Retails apx. $24
Bow & Arrow knows what they’re doing. This Willamette Valley Gamay is soft, luscious, velvety, and just the slightest bit dirty, but in a good way. A very good way. Valentine’s Day appropriate for multiple reasons, the label, covered in tiny arrows, will help you play up holiday Cupid motifs while impressing your sweetheart with a wine that is reminiscent of a dark chocolate bar filled with cherries and almonds. Perfect for someone who thinks they’re afraid of tannins, though be warned, they are there, this wine just gets better as it opens up. Halfway through your first bottle I’d suggest opening a second if for no other reason than to smell that luscious mulberry aroma one more time. Great acidity makes this a lovely food wine but its just as satisfying by itself. This is a wine you can proudly pour with confidence in hopes to impress a special someone new or remind a longtime partner that you can still enjoy the good stuff without breaking the bank.
This time of year there is a golden quality to the light that I just love. I always associate it with the end of Fall, even if winter is still a few weeks away. It reminds me of gilded tables and pies and the anticipation of family gatherings. Thanksgiving is this week and as you plan your final meal details, let’s help you check off which wines to get.
Robin Watts is back with your wine picks for this week’s feast of feasts. If you’re looking for not only some tasty wines, but some BOLD graphic bottles to grace your table… here you go.
Thanksgiving is coming and that means another opportunity for drinking! Y’know, among other things. My favorite holiday, and meal, of the year can bring as much excitement as it can anxiety. One thing I’ve always found at large group meal functions is that finding a wine everyone can agree on is near impossible. There is always the one person who ONLY drinks this or the other guy who NEVER drinks that. This is why I’ve tried to pick four wines that at least offer something unique enough that they will appeal to someone and maybe even convert a few skeptics.
2014 POPULIS WHITE California Retails apx. $20-24
Coming from just outside Napa this fuller bodied white is great for Chardonnay drinkers and non Chardonnay drinkers alike. Roughly 75% Chardonnay to 25% Colombard this wine stays big but with a brighter more crisp and refreshing acidity than just your average California Chardonnay. Done in neutral oak it isn’t big and oaky but rather heavier on the melon notes and honey notes that are quickly followed by something much more interesting. This is why I love it. Its kind of funky. Those bright notes are quickly followed by more savory flavors. Artichoke, Brussels sprouts, damp hay, hint of pear, and in all honesty, fried chicken. I was initially caught off guard by this wine and couldn’t stop drinking it because each sip revealed something unexpected. It was like having a savory sorbet. Any “sweetness” that you get is like that from caramelized onions rather than juicy fruit. This wine is great with food but can easily be enjoyed before anything substantial is finished cooking.
2014 LA CLARINE “JAMBALAIA ROUGE” California Retails apx. $20-24
This is another great versatile wine that I think acts as a great transition from white to red. While predominately Mourvedre and Grenache this wine is 14% Marsanne with a smidge of Fiano and Arneis thrown in. Red AND white. This wine drinks like a rose’s juicy baritone cousin. Think berries but smokey berries. This isn’t to say that the 48% Mourvedre doesn’t provide fantastic structure and soft tannins. You’ll find that out on the finish which is why I think this wine could appeal to people who say they like only reds and people who say they don’t like tannic wine. It is a softer tannic finish than, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon, think more like that of a Nebiolo. (Note: this doesn’t taste like a Nebbiolo!) If you find yourself enjoying Rhone blends maybe have a glass of this first. This is great wine to serve to people who may not know what they want. A versatile crowd pleaser that drinks well chilled or at room temperature this wine could be a great red for those afraid to leave the easy drinking safety of their whites.
2014 SAN ESTEBAN “LA PERRA GORDA” Spain Retails apx. $15
Just so we aren’t exclusively drinking domestic wines I think Spain is a great consideration for this fall. Less prestige than that associated with French, and to a certain extent Italian wines, with Spanish wine there are some real bargains to be had. This is a great example. At $15 this wine drinks like a much more expensive and impressive wine. While this is the biggest wine of the group, this inky curious blend of grapes gives you all the leather, black currant, and white pepper you’d want from a bigger wine but does it with a lighter softer touch. Incredibly dry finishing these grippy tannins are preceded by a soft round mouthfeel. A great red for your “I only drink red wine” guests on Thanksgiving that won’t overshadow or overpower any dish on the table. As an added bonus on the conversation starter front, the name of this wine has at least one translation that, given the working knowledge of Spanish many Americans have, can seem a little cheeky and fun on a holiday centered around eating.
DOMAINE SEAILLES “PRESTO” COTES DE GASCOGNE
France Retails apx. $13
Years of waiting tables and bar tending has taught me that people love to drink wine but don’t necessarily love to be bogged down by knowing more than a few varietals. White drinkers, more often than not, automatically ask for one of three varietals with sauvignon blanc leading the pack. Why not serve a wine that satisfies that crisp, clean, bright white craving but exceeds the expectations of your casual sauvignon blanc drinker? This 50/50 sauvignon blanc/sauvignon gris gives you that great melon and white peach flavor on the front end with subtler notes of lime, lemongrass, and green apple on the back end. This is an acidic, and organic, crowd pleaser that is perfect to drink while preparing your thanksgiving feast. A welcome cool down in the heat of the kitchen for under $15.
Well folks, we are fully into summer now and the outdoor parties/concerts/star gazing/stoop sitting events are going strong. With all these gatherings I’ve started to realize that, while cocktails are fine and dandy, many of my friends (and their friends) also want a glass of wine when they’re out and about. And sometimes I do too. This week I’m introducing a new quarterly column on here with my pal and wine lover Robin.
Robin loves wine. And he thinks you’ll love these wines. Why? Because these wines are made for cocktail lovers. They’re unique and flavorful and best of all… cheap. Time to stock up! But first, here’s Robin with a little intro about himself and the Summer Wine Report!
I am a freelance illustrator and wine hoarder living and working out of Los Angeles. I fell in love with wine right around the time I turned 21. The restaurant I worked in had a separate wine bar and I was able to start attending tastings and winemaker events. Having access to great wine at such an early age spoiled me. Having a small budget at that same age made me get resourceful. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to befriend some really fantastic wine makers, shop owners, and sommeliers that have helped me further my wine education. Cooking and gardening have always played an integral role in my life and I have found that few things can enhance a good meal/afternoon/evening/morning/camping trip/barn raising/what have you like a nice bottle of wine. I love sharing my latest wine finds over a good meal and love even more finding a way to remove the pretense and intimidation from the experience for the people in my life. With some many great (and affordable!) wines out there there is no excuse for drinking bad wine and I am looking forward to sharing some of my favorite picks with the Stir & Strain audience each season.
La Boutanche Gamay
Retails apx. $17
This gamay is funky but that funkiness lends itself to some real versatility. It has a blackberry shrub meets cauliflower meets smoked meat thing happening on the nose that gives way to a surprisingly light and tart taste that could easily be enjoyed with tacos, Asian foods, seafood, or really anything grilled. Its not too heavy for seafood but the cherry/chorizo notes and soft, subtle tannic element on the finish would make it appropriate for meatier fare. I would say this affordably priced liter with a twist off cap would be welcome at any table, picnic, or cookout this summer. On a side note, I recommend throwing a little chill on it.
Folk Machine Tocai Friulano
Retails apx. $13
Summertime is perfect for drinking light crisp wines and I’d be hard pressed to find another bottle that epitomizes that more this season than Folk Machine’s Tocai Friulano. Subtle citrus elements like lemon and grapefruit play a harmonious second fiddle to the striking minerality this wine presents. You can almost taste the crisp salt air of Mendocino where these 40 year old Friulano vines grow. Super lean and only 11% alc this is a wine you can, and will want to, drink all day.
Red Car Rosé
Retails apx. $28
I am a sucker for a dry rosé. This rosé of 100% pinot noir is more than that. The first time I had this wine I was shocked it wasn’t from Provence. Incredibly dry and elegant this true vin gris is what I imagine wine made from the palest pink grapefruits might taste like. Steely and just the tiniest hint of cherry make this rosé the perfect start to a summer afternoon with friends or companion for a sunset. Or brunch. Or a beach day. Any time, really. Share a bottle with someone important and they’ll know it. Or just keep it as a treat for yourself.
Retails apx. $6/can
I cannot think of a more seasonally appropriate wine than this for multiple reasons. Who doesn’t want a light, crisp refreshing wine with notes of watermelon, strawberry, and just a bit of peach on a hot summer day? Who doesn’t want that at the beach, a picnic, or by the pool? This wine is perfect for all those things and IT COMES IN A CAN. No broken glass by the pool, no heavy bottles to lug out of your campsite, and small enough to fit in your pocket at the movies. Yeah. Some of the aromatics are lost drinking from the can but you can always transfer it to a glass. This little Oregon treat is delicious and travels well and is exactly half a bottle. What more could you ask for from a summertime wine?