Recently I had the privilege of holding a wine tasting event sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, Star of the Sea Council in Bethany Beach, Delaware to raise money and awareness for the National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk. The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal organization that promotes charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism, and they host this type of fundraising event annually. While planning the event with the Knights, we decided to go with a world tour of wine that involved tasting wines from different countries and pairing them primarily with cheese. The event was attended by 50 people…at least half were novices, whereas the other half was more advanced…and we talked about wine for about 3 hours. What made this tasting so much fun was interacting with the group who kept me on my toes as I made sure not to bore the more-knowledgeable participants while not confusing those who were new to wine.
We began the night with a beautiful Prosecco from Italy, the Riondo Spago Nero. I placed a nice big strawberry on the rim of the glass and passed the wine to the guests as they arrived. This prosecco was perfectly fruity with a nice light body. It made the perfect aperitif, with terrific floral notes, crisp, clean finish, and persistent effervescence.
Then we took a trip to New Zealand for one of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc, the Nobilo Icon. This wine came from a cooler vintage, which allowed the fruit to stay on the vines a little longer providing generous fruit flavors and minerality. The rich and full bodied characteristics of the wine allowed it to be paired perfectly with goat cheese. On a side note, serving goat cheese with wine tends to be challenging because the softness of the cheese makes it harder to serve. I put the cheese into the freezer for about 20 minutes to make it firm and then sliced it into coin-sized pieces.
After New Zealand we traveled back to Italy for the Ruffino Lumina, Pinot Grigio. The Lumina Pinot Grigio offers wonderful golden apple, pear and citrus notes. This medium-bodied wine is lively and clean with a touch of minerality and perfectly balanced crisp acidity. It is this acidity that makes this wine so versatile. We paired this wine with a wonderful Swiss cheese and the acidity in the wine complemented the salty-bitterness of the cheese perfectly.
No world tour of wines would be complete without a trip to France. We decided to go to the beautiful rolling hills of Burgundy. Louis Jadot is a legend in Burgundy so, for us it was a no brainer to choose the Macon-Village Chardonnay. Unlike most California Chardonnays, this wine is vivified in stainless steel tanks in order to extract the maximum floral and fruity aromas and freshness. The limestone soil of the area gives these wines a full body with a nice creamy feel. There are very few white wines that can stand up to the pungent smell and taste of asiago cheese, but the Jadot’s rich creaminess paired amazingly with the asiago. Few in the crowd were skeptical of having a white wine with asiago cheese; however, after one taste of each, they realized immediately the difference of a true white Burgundy versus a California oaked chardonnay.
After the Chardonnay, we moved on to the red wines and took a quick trip to Spain where the El Burro Garnacha awaited our arrival. The wine is actually called El Burro Kick-Ass Garnacha, and let me tell you, it lived up to his name. Vivid purple color gives way to pleasing raspberry, cherry and violet aromas. Tasting this wine gives you a mouthful of raspberries, mocha and a touch of spice. There was no other cheese I could think of pairing with this wine than the wonderful nutty flavored Parmesan. The sharpness of the cheese pulled out the spice in the wine.
No wine tour would be complete without a visit to California. So we headed up to Napa/Sonoma for the Ghost Pines Cabernet Sauvignon. I love this wine because it is very non-offensive. The blending of grapes from Napa and Sonoma make this wine balanced and easy to drink. The wine opens up to dark fruit flavors, currant, vanilla and a savory finish that appeals to lovers of big heavy wines, as well as to those who prefer something a little softer. We paired this wine with a sharp Vermont white cheddar. The cheese stood up to the wine and complimented the earthy tones in the cabernet.
For years, I have been pairing red wine with chocolate & dessert. When I started, many people thought I was nuts, but I was able to bring them to the dark (chocolate) side. Now it seems this trend has caught on and it makes me proud. We ended our tour in the Land Down Under with the Stump Jump Shiraz. This is truly one of those wines that has a dual personality. The spices and pepper flavors beg for a nice juicy steak, while the fresh fruit flavors make it a wonderful dessert wine. The palate is fresh with ripe raspberry, plum, cherry and chocolate flavors. The absolute best pairing of the night was the Stump Jump and Brookside Dark Chocolate with Goji and Raspberry flavors. I played my favorite game with the attendees… Sip the wine, talk about it, tell me how this is the best wine for steak… eat some chocolate…now taste the wine. I love the pleasantly surprised, wide-eyed reaction this gets from my guests. If you have never played this game, I suggest you try it.
It was a wonderful night with the Knights of Columbus. We met some great people, drank some amazing wines, and raised over $5000 for a very worthy charity.