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Jun 3, 2008 04:11 PM

Need help with wine pairings

I am hosting a dinner party on Saturday evening and would like to get some suggestions for pairings before I make my wine run! I'm going to start the evening with a cheese plate which will include a brie, a blue, a gouda, and probably manchego. I'll serve that with crackers, breadsticks, etc. I'm also going to do a charcuterie... pate, cornichons, grainy mustard, and radishes. Next I'll serve the salad which is going to be Frisee, Endive, and Watercress with Roquefort and Pear. Main is going to be Roasted Asparagus served with Roasted Halibut with Chive Butter and Caviar (assuming I can find caviar). For dessert, chocolate espresso cremes. I thought that maybe I could start with pear bellinis for something kind of fun, but I'm not even remotely sure if that goes with any of the cheeses or charcuterie. Of the six invited, I know that 2 prefer red and the other 4 like both red and white. I do have a budget so I can't go too crazy... hopefully less than $15/bottle. I'm in PA. I am completely open to any and all suggestions! Thanks for the help!

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  1. As you may know, it's rather difficult to recommend wines to folks who live in Pennsylvania because of the charming Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

    It is possible to search the PLCB database for wines under $20, and then focus on the wines, say from $12 to $15. But it's rather difficult for any of us to take the time required to wade through the 20 pages of both plonk and good wines they offer at that price

    Have you gone through the threads on this Wine Board that focus on great bottles of wines under $15, and checked those against the PLCB list? That's a good start. You can download the PLCB list.

    Your have a white-wine menu for the most part, if that concerns you. If your guests are mainly red wine drinkers, you may want to rethink your courses so that some or most of your courses pair with red wines. Or maybe not. I'd be tempted to create a red wine entree, instead of the halibut you have. You may want to consider serving the cheeses after the meal, so that your guests don't get too full with your cheeses and appetizers before the salad and entree. Another consideration: you have two blue cheeses on this menu, and may want to eliminate one.

    So, I've thrown out some ideas here, in an attempt to help you. If you'd like to do a little digging into the wines already recommended on this board that are within your budget and check them against the PLCB, and then ask specific questions about those wines, please do so. Maybe a little menu tweaking also.

    Another good suggestion is to take your menu to one of the PLCB stores, and ask for someone to pair wines within your budget. That usually works really well.

    Good luck to you. I hope your Saturday night dinner party works out well.

    1. Here's how to do it...

      START with your main dish, the Halibut, Asparagus, Butter & Caviar... this is "chardonnay all the way".

      THEN: The chardcuterie.... Riesling will work real fine here.

      NOW, you have Chardonnay and Riesling. Work backwards to determine the appropriate cheeses: Chevre, Gruyere, and Emmental. The starter cheese course is done, serve the cheeses along with a glass of Chardonnay and a glass of Riesling and just keep them on the table through the main course, everything will match up deliciously.

      SALAD of greens, roquefort, and pears. There's really not one wine that's going to match all 3 of these flavor notes very well. I'd suggest dropping the greens and turning this into a "palate-refreshing" fruit course AFTER the Halibut. So you do Pears and Roquefort and serve it with the obvious wine... Sauternes. A little higher than your budget, but get a non-trophy bottle, your friends will have had several wines already so they won't care too much, give them a smaller "taster" pour of the Sauternes to sip alongside the roquefort and pears while you bring out the dessert piece d'resistance...

      CHOCOLATE/Espresso Cremes. Go with a delicious but inexpensive frizzy here... Moscato d'Asti. OR you could go with a heavier California dessert muscat. Add at least a hint of ginger and cinnamon to really marry the dessert to the wine.

      Enjoy and please report back.

      1. All around $15; don't know about availability in Pennsylvania state stores. Nothing red. Time to educate your guests to get over "the first rule of wine is to be red" thinking.

        Aperitif before food -- Bellinis
        Cheese plate -- something off-dry like Champalou Vouvray
        Charcuterie -- Alsace, perhaps Trimbach Riesling or Sparr "One"
        Salad -- Leftover wines from the first two courses
        Halibut -- Chardonnay, but not too heavy; wines from the Macon region would work well and be in the budget you've set

        An alternative to the halibut course is sparkling wine. In your price range, Gruet Blanc de Noirs (from New Mexico), if it is available.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Brad Ballinger

          So I went to DE (b/c as Maria stated perfectly I'd have to deal with the charming PLCB) with my menu in hand and your suggestions and asked for some help. Here's what I ended up with.... prosecco for bellinis to sip before dinner, then with dinner Chateau de la Tour de L'Ange pinot noir and (I'm copying exactly what the label says) Patrick Javillier Bourgogne Cuvee des Forgets. I'm a novice so we'll see how it goes. Thanks so much for the suggestions and I'll report back!