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Wine warms your mind, body and soul. Food warms your heart. Friends and family love to gather and share food and drink. Telling stories, having lots of laughs and enjoying a meal is always a favorite pastime. If you want to try something different and have an interesting dining experience, plan a wine pairing dinner. This type of evening is best with a small group of 6 – 10 people. Serving tapas or small plates is the way to go, with a different wine choice for each course. Have some fun with this!

A wine pairing dinner is a meal where every course is paired with a different wine. Wine complements food, enhancing the flavors in the food as well as the subtle hints in the wine. The number of courses and the sequence of food choices must be considered strongly. 5 small plates and then dessert will require 6 different wines, with much thought, some research and time to prepare the food and choose the wine to complement each course. Start light with more delicate flavored wines (and food) and ending with bolder, more intense wines. Research says that our sense of taste becomes more dull over the course of the entire meal, thus why we end with a rich and intense dessert.

First course:

A wine dinner should start with a cheese and/or cold meat presentation. In order to get people’s gustatory juices working, an ideal wine should be something cold with high acidity. A sparkling wine meets these requirements perfectly; dry with light sweetness.


French Baked Brie with Figs and Pistachios

Bake the round of brie coated with a fig jam at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. Prepare a sliced fig and pistachio nut fig jam mixture. Top the warm baked brie with mixture and serve with a fresh artisan French bread, a perfect opening course. Presentation of your food is most important to enhance the appeal of the flavors and aromas paired with a complimentary wine.

I chose a Prosecco poured in our elaborate champagne glasses which we purchased years ago when traveling throughout the beautiful city of Prague. It’s always good to have a story surrounding your meal to share with your guests. The night is young!

Second course:


Grilled Watermelon Feta Stacked Salad

Grill watermelon slices on a hot grill pan for about 10 seconds to get a slight char. Each plate has 2 watermelon slices with a 1/4 inch slice of Imported Greek feta in between. Lightly dress arugula with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and place on top of watermelon stack and drizzle with reduced aged balsamic vinegar. The balsamic has been reduced, by heating in a saucepan to a boil and then simmered until thickened.

I chose a Grenache rose wine from the Languedoc region of France, which complements a fruit and feta cheese dish with its gentle and sweet flavors. Lovely choice!

Wine – Notorious Pink Grenache 2016

Third course:

It’s time to offer something more substantial to eat. I chose a shrimp recipe, that is light yet has some spice and zing to it.


Shrimp guacamole style

Extra large shrimp are best, they shrink down to a nice size. Prepare a mixture of scallions, red onions, cilantro and lime juice, and marinade your shrimp. I would plan on 5-6 shrimp per person. Place in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil and quickly saute shrimp till pink. I added cayenne pepper for a zing and paprika for a rich color to the dish. Plate out the shrimp. 5-6 shrimp per person, with cubed fresh avocado on top and fresh cilantro leaves and a slice of lime to dress the dish. Yummy! You may think that a white wine would be better, but knowing my guests who prefer red wine to white,

I paired this course with a lovely light French red from Southern Rhone, which is a blend of grapes (Shiraz, Grenache & Mourvedre). The ratings on this wine put it among the top 6% of all wines in the world. Not a bad pairing, for our half-way point.

Wine - La Mitre Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007

Fourth course:

I decided it was time again for some starch to absorb the wine. Of course, I had a pitcher of water on the table as well as Pellegrino, so that we all drank water in between sipping our wines. Everyone loves flatbreads. I served a flatbread with roasted cauliflower, vidalia onions and garlic with prosciutto on the side.


I use flatbreads that are packaged in two made by “Brooklyn Bread.” I like their texture, size and light taste. I roasted at 400 degrees cauliflower, vidalia onions, garlic, olive oil and salt & red pepper flakes to taste for about 45 minutes, till browned and onions were carmelized. I placed this mixture on the flatbread, sprinkled some locatelli grating cheese and put back in the oven for about 15 minutes, right before serving. Imported prosciutto was on the plate as well.

I paired this course with a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a Sangiovese wine from Tuscany, Italy. This style of wine is rustic yet soulful, is medium bodied and complements smoked meats.

Wine – Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2013

Fifth course:

Everyone loves pasta. I combined a few recipes to create this dish. It is a cacio e pepe, alfredo and truffle based sauce. The ingredients are grated parmagiano cheese, locatelli cheese, truffle oil, shaved black truffles, light cream, butter, ground pepper, and the salted pasta water. I had purchased the jarred truffles on our trip to Croatia, one of the few countries that truffles are grown. I used a Molfietta pasta, wider than fettucine with a curled edge, served with a chunk of a local fresh Asiago bread. Delizioso!

Now came the best wine for the evening, one of my favorites, a full-bodied Barolo. Pairing a pasta dish with lots of cheese and truffle flavor with a Nebbiolo from the Piedmont region of Italy, is brilliant. We decantered this wine an hour or so before to help the wine breathe; a generous and full nose with fruit and dark cherry aromas and licorice at the back. Wish we had two bottles to share of this wine, it was worth waiting for.

Wine – Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2013

Sixth course:

Dessert was brought by our guests from two local bakeries. An assortment of fine pastries, including a dense chocolate tart, key lime tart, cannolis, and pignoli and amaretto cookies and biscotti. Everyone enjoyed a short glass of an Italian cordial, La Vernia, which topped off this course and the wine pairing dinner quite well.

As a recap, there are three important factors to an enjoyable wine pairing dinner:

  1. Invite guests who are willing to experiment with food and wine and enjoy a different culinary experience. Simpatica!

  2. Choose the food and sequence each course carefully, keeping a nice blend of flavors while not over doing it nor rushing through it.

  3. Do your research. Pairing the right wine with each course is critical to the taste of the food and the ultimate enjoyment of the wine. It’s not always the most expensive bottle that matters; it’s more about choosing a style of wine that enhances the flavors of the food.

Buona fortuna!!!

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