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WIne Pairing with challenging dinner Menu- Please help

HI All, Would appreciate some help with wine pairing for a small dinner party this Sunday. There will be 5 or 6 people total however 2 of them are not drinkers generally and may only "taste" a wine- literally no more than sips. The hostess does enjoy wine pairing with food as do I. The third wine drinker enjoys mostly red, and the 5th person enjoys mostly white- pinot grigio or pnot gris though she does enjoy a good red from time to time. The 6th person (if there) is a mostly malbec drinker. Fun huh?

The menu planned is this: Starters will be ricotta with carrot jam and roasted grapes, as well as prosciutto wrapped asparagus.

Pasta with homemade pork sausage -- no fennel and not ultra spicy -- with cream and crimini mushrooms over orecchiete.

Followed by roasted beets, pears & blue cheese with arugula for a combo salad/cheese plate.

Dessert will be something chocolate. Like a flourless cake with raspberries and whipped cream.

As all of us are working folk it's unlikely that lots of wine will be gone through, so I'm looking for a few suggestions that might carry through.

I was thinking some kind of white for the starters, then moving to a light red for the pasta course and perhaps a Carmeniere for the dessert.

Price range would be perhaps under $75 for the whole dinner? Any and all suggestions welcome and greatly appreciated.

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  1. I'd do sparkling, brunello (or pinot/burgandy), port. Pinot grigio will taste sour with the ricotta dish.

    You could maybe do a malbec with the sausage dish, since it is not in a tomato base and is not spicy, most reds should go with it. Usually, I hate to pair malbec with anything since they're so big (unless it's a steak).

    1. In reverse order, I am *not* a fan of red wine and chocolate -- I know some people are, but . . . not me. I'd opt for either a 10-Year Tawny Porto (Niepoort or Noval), a Bual or Malmsey Madeira (Henriques & Henriques, Blandy's, or Broadbent), or something like Lustau East India Sherry.

      The pasta course -- something like a Nebbiolo de Langhe or Barbaresco normale (Produttori del Barbaresco), a Nero d'Avola (Valle dell'Acate), or -- if you have access to it -- an aged Chianti Classico Riserva or Brunello. Finish the wine off with the cheese.

      The first course -- asparagus is notoriously finicky when it comes to wines. Prosecco would work, keeping to the Italian theme of the meal, as would perhaps an Arneis (Vietti or Giacosa) . . .

      12 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          Thanks! This really helps give me some guidance. I actually have a Noval tawny port in my collection and the hostess loves tawny port so that would definitely work.

          I'd thought about a light pinot and just wasn't sure so will look at the Nebbiolo de Langhe and Barbaresco as I may have something in those veins in house. I'd also thought about a Nero d'Avola but don't know enough about that type of wine yet to pair. Prosecco is my go to with asparagus and prosciutto but wasn't sure about the ricotta dish. Will also look into the Arneis suggestion as well as I love learning about wines I don't know.

          Thanks so much for the suggestions and help. Whew! I feel more relieved now than when I got the menu. Thanks again!

          1. re: mpcarney

            See if you can find an Arneis from the Roero district.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              Thanks! I will search one out. Hopefully here in LA that won't be too difficult.

              1. re: mpcarney

                Try Roberto over at Wine Expo on Santa Monica Blvd near Stanford in SaMo. Great source for value Italian wines.

              2. re: maria lorraine

                Ay-yi-yi, Maria!
                You always recommend Arneis, a wine I have never learned to like.
                I'm on board for Proseco with the starters although I'd prefer a non-threatening white to finesse the asparagus.
                With the pasta I recommend a Barbaresco (my prefered Italian red always), alternately a Barbera or an Aglianico.
                With dessert sticking close to my home, a Banyuls or a Maury, wines designed for chocolate and red fruit.

                1. re: collioure

                  A Gavi would well work too (cortese grape), in keeping with the Italian theme. Or, off-theme: a white Bordeaux, depending on how much you want to spend. I love the Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, about $70.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    I'm getting excited now about the possibilities- and trying new wines. Several of us will definitely appreciate it!

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Remember the OP said all three wines should total not more than $75.

                    2. re: collioure

                      >>> Ay-yi-yi, Maria!
                      You always recommend Arneis, a wine I have never learned to like. <<<

                      a) *I* am the one who first recommended Arneis; b) not my fault that you "never learned to like" it; c) I *do* like it . . .

                2. re: zin1953

                  I know this is after the fact, but... The only one I disagree with you on is the white.. Asparagus? I think Gruner Veltliner goes better.

                  And Brachetto d'Acqui is literally "made for" chocolate and raspberries (altho I love Porto with chocolate).

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Asparagus alone or with a simple sauce in a non-Italian meal, I'd agree.

                    But with prosciutto, the depth of its flavor and the fat changes the pairing, and GV is too lean a wine, to my palate.

                    Also, I believe some of us were trying to stick to Italian varietals to keep the Italian theme going. The menu changed, but that was the intent.

                3. Starter: Pick one: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot gris. They all match ricotta, carrot, and asparagus pretty well. Of the 3, chardonnay is more likely to also match the creamy/mushroomy pasta...

                  Pasta: I'm liking a red with this, then the cream appears :(
                  I'd go with a soft red (valpolicella ripassa), a chardonnay should still work here given the "cream and cremini" if the sausage is not particularly spiced so I'd leave it on the table for this course.

                  Salad cheese plate: easiest call of your courses... make it opulent with luscious pears, abundant roquefort and pecans... serve with their dream wine pairing (Sauternes)... will be quite memorable.

                  Then top it off with.... Flourless chocolate cake with raspberries: Sweet Muscat or Moscato d'Asti. very easy choice for "chocolate and fruit" for me.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                    Thanks! I'm really enjoying al the options.

                    I've been going through my small collection and able to cover a couple of these. And also checked out K&L which has some of the interesting different wines suggested and in keeping with my budget. I'm likely to try some of the ones I've never had just to expand my own knowledge and bring something "comfortable" from my cellar for those not as adventurous as the hostess and I am.

                  2. Keeping it all Italian, with a nod to a few regions south of Rome:
                    First course,Falanghina from Campania, Ciro bianco (greco) from Calabria, dry Malvasia from Puglia.
                    Second, I'd avoid nebbiolo/brunello, given pricing among other reasons, for, as has been mentioned, a Nero d'Avola or a Frappato from Sicily, a Rosso Conero from le Marche (montepulciano-sangiovese, and yes, not really south of Rome), a not too old Aglianico from Campania or Basilicata, an Uva di Troia from Puglia, or a Monica from Sardinia.
                    Third course: keep drinking reds, and more falanghina.
                    Dessert: pass, here, though a very rich Maury or Banyuls could work, tho pricey.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: bob96

                      Maury or Banyuls should not be expensive for you. Anyhow no one drinks very much of it.
                      Like your red wine choices.
                      Still toying with Friulano myself for openers. My favorite with anitpasti.

                      1. re: bob96

                        why would I keep drinking reds with pears and blue cheese?

                        1. re: TombstoneShadow

                          Why not? Or switch to your first course white. No big deal.

                          1. re: bob96

                            My first course whites were chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot gris, with preference for chardonnay... wouldn't serve any of those with roquefort or pears.

                            My favorite red wine with roquefort is zinfandel... it's a passable pairing to my palate... but I sure wouldn't serve it with pears...

                            and none of those holds a candle to the way Sauternes "pairs with pears" and especially Roquefort... hence the rec for Sauternes

                            ... but to each his own.

                      2. Thank you again to all who responded. The menu changed slightly at the last minute due to the hostess work schedule. But not enough to seriously change the wines.

                        Menu: Antipasti - cheese board with selection of semi soft cheeses, burrata with roasted grape shallot topping etc, blanched asparagus spears, selection of meats- prosciutto, braceola, mild salami, artichoke hearts (plain cooked w/stem), roasted pine nuts, kalamata and nicoise olives, cherry toms, selection of crackers and small toast slices.
                        Paired it with a choice of either 2012 La Sibilla Campi Flegrei Falanghina or a 2012 Ermacora Friulano Colli Orientali del Friuli. While everyone liked both whites, the Friuli was the favorite of the two.

                        I also provided a 2009 Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria which got opened by the red drinkers and that carried into the pasta course as well.

                        The main course was the pasta with mild sausage which had been soaked in a cream sauce, combined with minced cremini mushrooms and all cooked together. Don't recall the spices but it was combined with orrechiette pasta.

                        Added a 2012 Ettore Germano Nebbiolo Langhe with the pasta which was perfect! Made a point of tasting it before the pasta and it had a bit of a bite. But after a bite of the pasta the wine smoothed out and was terrific. Hostess was extremely happy as was I and the rest of the group enjoyed it (even Mr. Malbec liked both reds- and didn't open his malbec that he had brought just in case!)

                        Dessert changed as well - to a rasberry clafouti with home made lemon sorbet. By that time everyone was drinking coffee or water so there was no additional wine needed or paired with that.

                        It was a lovely evening, wines were terrific and thanks again for all the guidance. Several of these I'd have again- and also want to try some of the other suggestions that I was unfamiliar with!

                        Grazie! Grazie!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mpcarney

                          Thanks for reporting back. Ettore Germano makes beautiful wines. Gland you enjoyed it!

                        2. Friulano (formerly Tocai) !!! Yippee!! I love that wine and can't ever find it. I just wasn't sure it would go with the first course.