B : Gathering, B : Lifestyle

How to pick the right food and wine pairing for your next special dinner and know its good before you serve it.

I don’t drink wine with dinner, there I said it. I’m sure based on all of my posts that you’ve seen, I may have given the impression that I do often, but that’s just not the case. That’s actually why a lot of my food pics don’t include wine glasses 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, I drink wine with dinner when we go out to eat, have friends over, or other special occasions but on a regular night, I just don’t. That being said, sometimes when I want to pair a meal with wine for a special dinner or when we have people over, I might not already have something in mind since my meals are typically served in absence of wine. Sometimes I need to get creative and that’s what I want to share with you here, in case you enjoy wine and food pairings as much as I do, here are some ideas on keeping up on tasting and pairings outside of everyday dinners.

So why don’t I drink wine with dinner? The honest truth is, I just can’t relax with a 3 year old and 1 year old running the show. Then, even if I did relax, going through the kids bedtime routine after a nice glass of wine just doesn’t sound like any fun. I don’t know about your kids but mine on many occasions during the week, actually take almost 2 hours to finally stop leaving the room or stop calling for us, and then fall asleep. My favorite new thing that Asher does, is coming out to tell us he’s had a nightmare when he hasn’t even fallen asleep yet. Ha ha, nice try kid. When I want a glass of wine, it’s a part of my me time. It’s my wind down and it deserves proper uninterrupted attention 😉 Life ebbs and flows, and there was a time when I had earlier glasses of wine, but that’s just not where I’m at today. Life has a way of telling you what’s up and while I appreciate its opinion that drinking and kids don’t always mix, this momma still enjoys a good glass of wine at the end of the day on various nights of the week. Take that life; me = 1, you = 0.

Pairing wine really elevates the food experience, and vice versa if you have the right combination. If you have the right lighting, dinner, wine, music, company or none, location and more, you can turn a typical night into a magical night. I’m a huge advocate for overthinking every moment of life and turning each experience into an experiment. Don’t get me wrong, being in the moment is still my pursuit, but I love to put lots of thoughts into the details before I get to those moments. To be honest, there are also many times when I become overwhelmed with life, times when my senses go into overdrive and I have to under plan everything I do just to slow down, and give my nervous system a break. As I said before, there are always ebbs and flows in life, and I’m learning to try to go with them rather than work against them. When I’m feeling fueled, I really do enjoy creating, and experiences are my favorite to muster up. The ex event planner in me is always trying to come out. That’s why I love pairing wine with food, it’s so EXCITING when a dish I’ve created tastes even a smidge bit better and the wine I am drinking suddenly comes alive bursting with berries that I’ve never noticed before! Even if you don’t get that same excitement, it’s always good to know what wine and food goes together for the future. You might have friends over and need to know what to pull out, or maybe you have a romantic dinner in, and need to know what to have with that salmon. You don’t want to spoil a meal with the wrong wine and it could totally happen!

Image by ONEHOPE Wine

Here are some tips on how to find great food and wine pairings for your next special occasion:

  1. Google – Just google the dish you are making for your guests ahead of time and get your wine pairing that way. Keep it simple and type in the main flavors or the title of the dish and then “best wine pairing” after it.
  2. A trick I use for sharing with you some of my favorite pairings is lunch time tastings! Don’t worry, I’m not having lunch time drinks, although I won’t judge you if you are 😉 I’m just pulling out last nights open bottle, and trying it with another nights dinner. One or two sips to see how they pair and then done!
  3. Sister to that suggestion, if you know you are opening a bottle of wine tonight that goes well with dinner, just try it together – one sip or one ounce – and then move on with your night. The wine will have time to be open and breathe a little, which is just perfect!
  4. Try having a smaller dinner and make some fun popcorn recipes and pair that! This is for when you want a pairing now and don’t want to wait for a fancy dinner. You’ll get the experience and a tasty late night snack. Simple and satisfying, and it makes your weeknight favorite show watching more of an event! Go ahead, spice up that Tuesday night – Try some of these fun popcorn recipes from ONEHOPE Wine Blog: Click here.
  5. Have a brunch or happy hour with a few close friends. This gives you the chance to open multiple wines at a time and try it with different foods. You could do it potluck style or buy pre made meals to keep it simple or you could go all out and slave away for some fun in the kitchen. Use the google option above as a guide and then pick what you think is best and try it. If it’s a brunch or even happy hour, you might assume less drinks per person, you know your crowd, but for 6 people – 3 bottles of wine and 4 – 5 different food options is probably enough. Remember, people have to drive after 😉

Keep these things in mind when trying wines at home:

  1. Always remember, your surroundings and taste buds (I know, duh right?) have so much to do with your pairing experience. If it’s loud, bright, and stressful around you, your taste buds are not going to pick up on the finest details and differences. Also, if you load up on fried salty foods before dinner, your taste buds will be on overload and not ready to pick up subtle differences. A relaxed environment and a simple starter is always best before tasting.
  2. The experts are experts, we’re just seeing what’s different and better. Just because you can’t point out the boysenberry notes specifically, doesn’t mean you didn’t detect a new fruit flavor different from the aromatics you smelled in from the glass. Just have fun with tasting, see what it is for you and become an expert if you want to.
  3. The experts say that most wines are only good for a couple days after opening. You can use this graph from Wine Folly if you would like to stick to the rules. While this may be true to the pickiest taste buds, most of us, if we seal our bottles well, can get away with having our wine open for maybe 5 days, or if it’s a white in the fridge possibly stretch to 7. It won’t taste as good as the first sip but hey, I can’t finish a bottle of wine in a night, so it’s good to know I have time to finish it.
  4. Try a vacuum seal or this Champagne Stopper to get more life out of your bottle. I’ve found the Champagne stopper is great for 3 or 4 days later, however it’s only good to be closed and re opened again 1 time in my experience.
  5. Once you’ve found pairings that you like, mark them down somewhere, especially your favorite ones. I like to keep a section in my notes on my iphone specifically dedicated to my favorite meals and pairings. Although, the best ones never seem to slip my mind!

Hopefully you’ve found some helpful hints! Happy tastings and Cheers!!

XOXO – Jess

Image by ONEHOPE Wine