Disclosure: The Hess Collection provided wine. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.
I was eleven the first time I traveled from Florida to the Napa Valley. My Uncle was an accountant in the wine industry, so my Grandma decided to start a tradition to take my brother and I for a visit the year we turned 11. I visited with my whole family at 16 and then the summer after my Freshman year in college I lived with my Uncle in Yountville for part of the summer, and worked in the PR department of a winery right in the valley.
Later in my early 20s I visited again to help decide where I might live and work, and while I ended up choosing Los Angeles, I often traveled up to NoCal, spending time with my family and soaking in the wine life as much as I could. It was a very different culture than the one I was used to, with wine gloriously served at lunch and dinner, without hesitation. Tannins, complex flavors and body a regular topic of conversation. Shortly after meeting him, I dragged John along on one of those visits (OK, maybe not dragged) and he easily fell for the lure and love of wine as well. We’ve been back a few times since then with my Grandma (before she passed) for my Uncle’s wedding in 2005, for Christmas in 2006 and even when Ronin was little. I think it’s way past time to go back, maybe without the kids!
But for those of us not living inside the world of wine, always knowing what to drink and how to pair it can feel pretty complicated. So I thought I’d share a few ideas, especially with the holidays here. Some very simple and easy to create wine and food pairings that you’ll not only enjoy, but will impress your friends. 😉
Of course there are a lot of variations based on wine variety, but there are a couple of general ideas when it comes to dinner entrees that will usually make sense to the palette.
- Thinking very broadly, red wines tend to go better with more flavorful food, while whites tend to match better with lighter, more delicate dishes.
- Serve red wines with red or heavier meats. Serve white wines with lighter chicken and fish dishes.
- Do you want to serve wine with pasta? Serve red sauce with reds. Serve cream or light sauce with whites.
- But honestly it’s up to you to sample and discover what you enjoy. There is no right or wrong answer, only delicious taste tests.
My Uncle (who actually is a wine expert) agrees. I asked him his thoughts on the topic and he had many suggestions for what foods go with what vine varieties, but he also told me: “Experimentation is the key. That way, people learn their own taste preferences. There is no need to be knowledgeable to enjoy wine. One should remember what they like and generally how it tastes, just like remembering different foods and different restaurant dishes, so that you know what to order or not order next time. Experimentation with this can be fun, and no one should be embarrassed to discuss wines without being an expert.”
For this pairings discussion, I was thinking of cheese and other “cocktail bites.” I put together my appetizer tray on a large bamboo cutting board to pair with the Hess Collection wines we had this weekend. My mom is in town from Florida and my brother and his family came over for dinner. (Please excuse our very messy refrigerator! Real life with kids, eh?!)
Simple Wine Pairings
For these bites, which are absolutely perfect and simple to recreate for holiday parties and events, we enjoyed Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Treo “Winemaker’s Blend” and Sauvignon Blanc.
The Cabernet and Treo reds perfectly pair with sweet pepper and blue cheese so I created a simple appetizer with delicious red and golden peppadew peppers and aged blue cheese (recipe below.) I also really enjoyed it with aged white cheddar and gouda. The mushrooms were lovely with both too. All easily found at your local grocery.
The Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and fresh. We loved it with the cashews, havarti and goat cheese. For more of a sweet dessert style bite, we went with decadent chocolate Nutella and raspberries. I just love a sweeter white wine with dessert, and Nutella always brings back great memories of our Honeymoon in Bora Bora. (John and I couldn’t afford to eat out every meal so we ate it with crackers and plantains one meal a day.) So yum.
Blue Cheese Stuffed Peppadew Peppers
To make the Blue Cheese Stuffed Peppadew, pick up some marinated peppadew at your local grocery or you can find the red peppadew and golden peppadew here. I found mine at Fred Meyer in the salad buffet section (the spot where you find marinated mushrooms, peppers and more.) The red are sweet piquante peppers that are slightly spicy. The golden peppadew are just sweet. They’re also called goldew peppers. I think it’s nice to have both for balance. I picked up crumbled aged blue cheese for this dish. To create these decadent bites, simply stuff a bit of blue cheese inside the hole of the peppers. They are absolutely delicious and perfect with the reds.
If you haven’t been, I highly recommend a visit to the Napa Valley when you have the chance (without the kids!) You deserve a lovely holiday with girlfriends or your spouse. It’s an incredible experience that I know you’ll remember forever. Let me know if you need any tips!
Do you include wine in your holiday celebrations?
What’s your favorite varietal?
Pin me for later!
Also, enjoy my other holiday entertaining ideas when you have kids!
This post includes affiliate links.