Wine Tasting Dinner

I have really come to enjoy wine.

I love reading about it, learning about it, and of course… drinking it.

Within limits, of course.

Fortunately for me, I have a very good friend who collects wine and will share a few choice bottles with me (and my boys) when we schedule a wine-tasting dinner. I do the cooking and we spend an evening tasting, eating and having great conversation. And we just did that the other night!

Now ordinarily my budget only includes some pretty inexpensive wines. So one of my favorite things to do on a Friday evening is go to Trader Joe’s for their weekly tasting. You get a little plastic cough-syrup type cup for 25 cents and you can compare two or three kinds on the spot. And they do have a pretty good selection.

So when my friend, BB, drops off wines for our dinners, I am excited. He brings them ahead of time so I can look them up and figure out what food to pair with them. Not only that, they are always much more expensive bottles than I would ever buy. He’s certainly no Mr. Rockefeller, but he does collect some wines as a hobby and is very generous in sharing them.

wine tastingAt our latest dinner we started with a Chenin Blanc, a white wine that is just a bit milder than a chardonnay. Traditionally it came from France, but wineries all over the world are now growing it. This one came from Arizona and sold for about $50 a bottle.

I took one sip and was in heaven… for some reason the whites are always my favorite.

Then we played our little guessing game… son Bill said he tasted pear. BB said apple. Brad just said he liked it and I was lost in a dream of buttery deliciousness. But I had looked up the tasting notes, which said: “like walking through an apple orchard; nice acidity with a long pleasant finish…

Well, the truth is we aren’t all that fussy or snobby but we did congratulate BB for naming apple!

I looked over at the bottle and noticed… with four tastes already poured, only half of it was left. And I had to act fast if I wanted to scarf up most of the rest of it myself. (Besides, they all seem to like the reds best.)

“Hey, guys,” I asked innocently, “Why don’t you open the Rosé to have with your salad?”

They did and I bustled off to the kitchen to get those salads out pronto.

When I returned they dug in to the chopped salads and moved on with the Rosé. I knew the rest of that Chenin Blanc was mine-all-mine!

All I had to do at that point was let them finish their salad and put out the main course… lasagna.

Now let me tell you, I’ve been perfecting my lasagna recipe for over 40 years. And I’ve got it pretty down pat.

First I use tomatoes I canned from my own garden last summer.

And for the meat I use a mix of ground chuck and sweet Italian sausage. I add basil, oregano, garlic and onion – all chopped fresh.

Then I simmer it for a couple hours. This is the traditional “Sunday Gravy” every real Italian credits their Nonna with making!

I also make a ricotta filling with egg, parsley, fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan.

When you put this lasagna together in a baking dish it not only weighs a ton and a half, it is a thing of beauty.

I set that steaming monster of a dish on the kitchen island and called everyone to come fill their plates family style… more salad, more bread and heaping helpings of lasagna. We had our buzz on and just hummed through the meal.

And we were on to the red wine… a dry red 2011 Aglianico which was a limited edition. If you can find an available bottle it will probably set you back at least 80 bucks. I even found one guy trying to scalp it online for $325.

Thanks to BB, we enjoyed it with a great plate of pasta.

And I have to say… I absolutely ADORE the fragrance of red wine!

Oh, geez… pour it in a glass and let me sniff! Besides bacon, it is one of greatest smells of the world!

It rushes up my nose and floods me with the aromas of dark fruit. Intensified. Suddenly I am picturing bing cherries… or raspberries… or blackberries… and I am salivating. I just know that a taste of a dry red will make a fatty rib-eye steak into the most wonderful pleasure on earth!

keep-calm-and-drink-prosecco-40Still, my heart belongs to the white. It doesn’t smell near as intoxicating but it sits on my tongue just right. And my all-time favorite is Prosecco. Hands down. The Italians know what they’re doing.

Give me an acidic white wine… and add bubbles… and you have me forever. This little slogan pretty much says it all…

Tasting wine is a fun hobby. As pretentious as it sounds it really isn’t. Fine wine is really just another form of fine food. It is meant to make you happy. And growing it is such an art you can never learn all about it.


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