When planning a menu for a wine country party, be sure to choose foods that you know your guests will enjoy and that will complement the wines selected. For a blind tasting, select a nice array of cheeses. Your local organic or health food grocery store will have a wonderful cheese selection, and the staff will often have an excellent knowledge of pairing wines and cheeses.
For a larger party, choose finger foods that will reflect the evening. Fresh fruits, fancy kabobs, cheeses and chocolates are excellent choices for wine country parties. For a dinner party, choose one wine for each course. If you have a menu in mind, ask the expert at your local wine shop (stay away from the big box stores) for optimal pairings. Or select the wines yourself and ask your wine shop expert what foods he would pair with it.
People often get hung up on pairing foods with wine. The most important rule is to drink what you like. If you like sweet wines, then don’t torture yourself with a dry wine you'll dislike. That being said, foods and wines are both enhanced when paired properly. As a general rule of thumb, these wines pair well with the following foods, according to Wine Country Party and Events in Northern California:
- Champagne: halibut, smoked salmon, halibut, ahi tuna, shrimp, calamari, quail, cheese and desserts
- Riesling: sausage, turkey, quail, pheasant, crab, scallops, trout, snapper and sea bass
- Sauvignon Blanc: chicken, prawns, oysters, caviar, clams, mussels, ahi tuna and halibut
- Chardonnay: swordfish, salmon, crab, prawns, scallops, escargot, lobster, rabbit, quail, chicken, quail, game hen and sweetbreads.
- Merlot: beef, pork, veal, rabbit, quail, pheasant and pastas
- Syrah: beef, duck, venison, squab, chicken and duck
- Pinot Noir: salmon, tuna squab, pheasant, chicken, veal, lamb, pork, venison and duck
- Zinfandel: squab, game hen, venison, chicken, pork, veal, swordfish, beef and lamb
- Cabernet Sauvignon: beef, venison, goose, duck, lamb, veal and pork
The folks at RayLen Vineyards have two rules for hosting a wine party. First, always include at least one bottle of local wine -- support the local industry! Second, don’t take any of this too seriously. Know that you’re going to have hits and misses, but that’s what makes a wine country party so much fun.