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Entertaining With Wine

Just a little wine related humor…this one is making the rounds on the net:
Dear friends,
I just read an article on the dangers of heavy drinking….
Scared the shit out of me.
So that’s it!
After today, no more reading.

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Here we are… Spring has arrived here in New Jersey, trees are blooming, flowers are popping and yes, pollen is agitating the allergies. Oh well, the beauty of spring far out weighs some allergy symptoms. Anyway summer is just around the corner, and this time of year brings forth so many possibilties for entertaining with wine. The whites and Rose wines full of spring scents such as citrus and flower. Crisp fresh flavors like the newness of the season emerge from the wine as they are emerging in nature. Although some folks are strictly white or Rose wine drinkers year round, I find a lot of folks who associate the chilled wines with spring and summer only. I am one of those folks. We have already started stocking up on some of our favorites, a few Rose, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have been filling up the cellar. It might be time for an all white wine tasting party soon. While reading a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine I came across a recipe for a nice spring salad that would pair well with a nice chilled white. I might suggest a bolder white like a Chardonnay to stand up to the flavors in the salad. It sounds like a great start for a dinner party. Mango-Radicchio caprese with basil vinaigrette. In this salad Mangos take the place of tomatoes so you don’t have to wait for summer for this much loved salad and the mangos give it a new twist. You will need 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil plus 8 whole large basil leaves, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, 8 radicchio leaves-thick ends trimmed, 2 large mangos peeled halved and thinly sliced, 8 1/4 inch thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Blend basil, oil, and vinegar in mini processor until most of basil is pureed. Season with salt and pepper. Overlap radicchio, mangos, cheese and basil leaves on plates, drizzle with vinaigrette and serve. Enjoy! Stop back soon for more summer recipes and fun ideas.

Entertaining with wine! That statement opens a huge door. There is fear as some folks are apprehensive thinking, what if I serve the wrong wine with the wrong food? Well, we are here to tell you it should be all about fun! Good food, good wine, good friends=a good time! Some experts will disagree, but we always try to say there is no wrong, it is all about what you enjoy.
We’d like to share an idea for a wine tasting party that we have hosted. First off, make it easy. Especially if you are an apprehensive host, this will serve as a good start to entertaining with wine. Invite a few friends, we had 5 couples to our event.
Our theory was simple, each couple was to bring 2 bottles of wine and thier favorite appetizer to compliment the wine they had chosen. How is that for making it easy on the host? You only need to supply the glasses, the house and your own wine with food selection. The rule was you must bring your wine in an unmarked brown paper bottle bag. (We picked up some extra bags to have on hand, as you know there is always one that walks through the door with no bag.) Our party was to be a blind tasting, so naturally you’d want to hide the label. Our requirement for the wine you brought was it had to be between $10-$20 retail and the label of the bottle had to have the color red on it. Any form of red, the lettering, the picture, it didn’t matter.
We did have one wise guy that took a red marker to the label and wrote “red”…hey, that’s fair….it met the requirement. As most of our friends are red lovers, the majority of the wine at the end of the night turned out to be red, with only 1 white wine.
We selected a label color to make the wine shopping fun for our guests and to leave the door open for future wine tasting parties. I think my next party will be themed “a bottle of red, a bottle of white”, requiring each couple to bring one of each wine. Back to our event, we went shopping for prizes for our trivia contest, anything from openers, to pourers and stoppers, some wine BBQ sauce, wine related cocktail napkins, etc. Our trivia questions we gathered from the internet. Now, keep in mind most people are not going to know how many bottles or barrels an acre of grapes will yield, but that’s okay, we picked the closest guess. It was educational and fun for our guests, they won prizes and learned wine facts. For the actual tasting we numbered the paper bags, gave each guest a home made sheet where they recorded the number of the wine being poured and we asked them to tell us what varietal grape they thought they were tasting, the wine region, what rating they gave it (1-10), and a section for comments. At the end of the contest, we had additional prizes for the taster who correctly guessed the most wine varietals and the grand prize was a bottle of wine (approx $20 retail) for the couple who brought the wine voted with the highest rating. Initially we only put wine crackers and water to cleanse the palate between tastings, then after each of the wines was tasted once, we introduced the foods our guests had brought. Eventually we revealed all the wines and folks were free to pour additonal tastings of those they liked or go back and resample a wine they weren’t so sure they liked the first time around. We only ended up with 1 duplicate, not bad. Sound like a good time? A way to discover some new wines?
Give it a try, the theme possibilties are endless from colors of labels to wine regions, to countries of origin, varietal, the list could go on and on.

Wine pairing suggestion
While the leaves are all changing color here in the Northeast, it is time for some hearty, homestyle cooking. If you are like most Americans, you love those types of meals, but don’t look forward to the added calories those types of meals can pack on. Well, this recipe along with a paired wine suggestion is straight out of the October issue of Cooking Light Magazine! We are featuring Slow Cooked Tuscan Pork with White Beans paired with Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Zinfandel 2005, Sonoma County. The wine first, it is around $20 and is described as a powerhouse of a wine that pairs beautifully with the recipe provided below, as well as many other fall meals. The texture is thick and soft, the flavors are dense blueberry and cherry laced with vanilla. Now on to the meal…and the best part is you can use a slow cooker instead of a convential oven, just follow the below prep instructions and cook on high for eight hours instead of oven cooking for the recommended 4 hours.

2 cups dried navy beans
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
8 garlic cloves, minced and divided
2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
4 cups water
2 bay leaves

Step 1- Sort and wash navy beans, and place in a large dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans, cover and let stand for 8 hours. Drain beans after soaking time has elapsed.
Step 2- Preheat oven temp to 275.
Step 3- Combine 2 teaspoons of the sage, 1 teaspoon of the salt, all of the 1 teaspoon of ground fennel seed, and 3 of the 8 minced garlic cloves. Rub mixture over pork. Place pork, navy beans, remaining sage, salt, and garlic, along with the water, and bay leaves in Dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Cover and bake at 275 degrees for 4 hours or until pork is tender. Discard bay leaves. Pull pork apart into chunks, and serve with bean mixture. Yield: 8 servings, serving size about 3 ounces pork and 1 cup bean mixture.
How is that for easy entertaining?? You can prepare the meal well in advance of your guests arriving. Maybe you want to serve with a side salad? Yes, entertaining with wine can be easy!! Enjoy! Check back for more exciting fall recipes soon.

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