We can not wait another minute to share today’s post with you! If you remember back a bit ago, we introduced you to our talented foodie friend, Kelli Nakagama of Random Acts of Kelliness. Kelli is a well known food blogger with exceptional taste and an expanded palate for incredible food. Today, Kelli shares with us information about a recent wine and cheese party she and I collaborated on. I have to tell you guys, this event was truly one of the best parties I’ve had to opportunity to be a part of. Nothing better than great wine, amazing friends and a unique learning opportunity!
We were so lucky to have had Laurin Sundquist of Veritas Funding, as our sponsor and hostess. Laurin and her team have seriously done the loans of half of my family and a I can NOT rave more about her services, professionalism and knowledge of the business. Laurin graciously lent us her gorgeous office to host our fete and we could not have asked for a better sponsor. Thank you Laurin! But what would be a party with out photos to share with you all? Sarah Knight Photography captured the fun perfectly! We are ecstatic with the result and thank her for her time and out-of-this-world talent!!
So without further ado, I give you Kelli Nakagama with her brilliant insight…….
From Kelli…….Wine and cheese are a duo as iconic as bread and butter, Bonnie and Clyde, black and white. They complement each other so well that one practically begs to be with the other. And in my opinion, there’s no better way to spend time with friends than to do so while sipping on wine, munching on cheese and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Wine and cheese parties are the perfect way to combine all of those things and, with the thousands of varieties of wine and cheese available, the possibilities for pairings are truly endless.
Amanda and I threw a wine and cheese party focused on sparkling wine from different regions, dubbed Sparkling Wines Around the World. Amanda provided her incredible talents with the decor, set up and design aspects of the party, Mollie supplied her graphic design expertise on our information card/menus, while I covered the wine, pairings and research and the lovely Sarah Knight was there to capture it all in photographic form. The event was sponsored and hosted by Laurin of Veritas Funding at their beautiful office space in Sugarhouse.
The first thing about planning a wine and cheese party, like any party, is picking the theme. Start with the wine and build your theme around what you want to drink. There are a million possibilities, but some are ideas are: a regional tasting (a wide range like “wines of Italy” or specific like “wines of Sonoma”), variety (different brands and prices of the same type of wine), New World vs. Old World (like Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs vs. Burgundy Pinot Noirs), linear tasting (different years of the same exact wine), winery-specific (the different types of wine from the same winery) or have everyone bring their favorite bottle.
I wanted to explore how sparkling wine (commonly and incorrectly referred to as “Champagne”) is called something different depending on where it’s made and see how the taste differs from region to region. We tasted five wines: an Italian Prosecco (2013 Adami Garbel Prosecco Brut), Spanish Cava (2009 Raventós i Blanc L’Hereu Reserva Brut), a Tasmanian rosé sparkling wine (non-vintage Jansz Premium Brut Rosé), a Sonoma sparkling wine (non-vintage J Cuvée 20 Sparkling Wine) and a French Crémant (non-vintage Lucien Albrecht Crémant D’Alsace).
Tip: To determine how much wine you’ll need, a good rule is about 1/2 bottle per person. You’ll only pour about 1/2 of a glass of each wine per person, so for 8 people you’ll need about five bottles.
The second thing was picking the pairings. The easiest way to pair food with any wine is to remember that region goes with region, which was the exact point of our party! I enlisted the help of my friend Jess who works for Beehive Cheese(and has a Master’s in cheese chemistry) for our pairings, but if you aren’t lucky enough to know Jess, the people at Liberty Heights Fresh, Caputo’s Market or Whole Foods can help you. I’ve even taken a bottle of wine to the cheese counter at Caputo’s and asked for help with a pairing. (Bringing tasting notes also works.) Keep in mind that a lot of things besides cheese pair with wine, too, so get your imagination going!
Sticking with our Sparkling Wine Around the World theme, Jess and I paired our Prosecco with a creamy La Tur cheese from Piedmonte, Italy (served on baguette), a buttery Manchego from Spain with our cava, 1655 cave-aged Gruyere from Switzerland with our Tasmanian rosé (we strayed regionally with this one but this pairing was one our favorites!), a deliciously rich Mt. Tam Triple Cream from Northern California with our Sonoma sparkling wine (also on baguette) and for our final pairing with French Crémant, fruit tarts. We also had artichoke and sun dried tomato dips, pretzels, grapes and strawberries, figs and salami to munch on.
Tip : The point of the party is not to get drunk, it’s to explore the pairings, so make sure your guests have plenty to eat!
Next, I researched, researched, researched! I wanted to provide my friends with some take-away knowledge of what we were eating and drinking, so I looked up information on each wine region, winery and cheese and had Mollie print out a fact sheet. Most importantly, I wanted them to know what they were eating/drinking, how much it was, what it was made out of (grape breakdown for wine, milk composition for cheese) and where it was from. Of course this is optional but always appreciated if you’re friends are really into food and wine.
Tip: When printing fact sheets or tasting notes, make sure to leave room for guests to write down their own notes.
For the decor, Amanda kept everything very rustic and earthy, focusing on the worldwide aspect of our libations with flags and maps. Taking advantage of the natural beauty of food, most of the props she used were edible. Even the wine bottles doubled as focal pieces. This keeps cost down and clean up easy–after all, by the end of the party, most of the decor will be gone!
Tip: You’ll want at least two wine glasses per person so you can compare and contrast different wines at once. If you have more, even better! We had three each and it was awesome to go back to try previous wines.
Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated by the whole idea of a wine and cheese party. The whole idea is to have fun! While some pairings are better than others, bad pairings aren’t usually gross and the point of the party is to enjoy food and drinks and time with friends.
Thank you to all our sponsors and a BIG thank you Kelli Nakagama for sharing her knowledge and friendship!