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Friday, October 21, 2011

An Evening of Networking, Cake, and Wine

This week I took part in a networking reception for wedding professionals and vendors.  The event was hosted by my lovely friend Chef Marney White of Marneycakes Inc., and my goal for the night was to choose several wines to pair with cheeses and four of Marney’s cakes.  However, I had a couple of other goals - to learn a bit about the guests’ wine preferences, and then to encourage them to step out of their wine “comfort zones” and try something different.

The cheeses I selected were fresh goat cheese, brie, cheddar, and bleu cheese, and the wines for the cheese pairing were the 2010 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay, 2009 d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre, and 2008 Edge Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  Most people I know outside of the wine industry tend to lean toward Sauvignon Blanc as their white wine of choice, and I find it interesting how many of them shy away from Chardonnay.  So I decided on both a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay that I consider dependable and reasonably priced.
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a bright, crisp white with both tropical fruit and herbal characteristics that we’d expect of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, was already a favorite of many of the guests.  But I explained that they’d like the Chardonnay because it’s an unoaked white that shows a lot of clean citrus, orchard fruit, and chalky notes and consequently is a bright, clean Chardonnay instead of having heavy, baked, overoaked characteristics that have turned them away from Chardonnay.  And sure enough, I poured more Chardonnay than Sauvignon Blanc.  I hope that the guests will reconsider Chardonnay when wine shopping or ordering a white wine in a restaurant after realizing that not all Chardonnays are the oaky kind - in fact many are not.
Several guests also told me they are not red wine drinkers.  I actually love when someone tells me a thing like that, because it gives me a chance to try and persuade the person to try a red.  And I did just that - for the regular red wine drinkers, there was no problem having them try both the d’Arenberg The Stump Jump (a last minute addition to the lineup and interestingly one of the favorites of the evening) and the Edge Cabernet.  But for the non-red drinkers, I asked them to taste the d’Arenberg, explaining that it’s a blend that’s not particularly heavy and has fascinating characteristics of red and dark fruit, spice, and earthiness - a good quality wine from a dependable producer at a very reasonable price (here in New York it’s about $12).  I was so happy to hear their reactions to the wine - “it’s not a harsh red,” “it’s a red I can drink,” “it’s only $12?”  I do hope these guests continue to find red wines that they enjoy.  As for the regular red drinkers, aside from enjoying the d’Arenberg, I was happy to introduce them to Edge Cabernet, as none of them had ever tried this Napa red before.  Big and bold with characteristics of dark fruit, spice, and vanilla oak, it’s one of my favorite California Cabernets around $25, and I was not at all surprised at how well it was received by guests.

Marney served her delicious cakes - the lighter cakes were a vanilla cake with blood orange liqueur, and a spice cake with pear brandy and cinnamon-vanilla filling, and the darker cakes were a chocolate cake with apricot and Grand Marnier, and a chocolate gluten-free cake with chocolate ganache.  For the lighter cakes, I chose the 2009 Dr. Hans Von Muller Auslese Mosel Riesling, with characteristics of peach, apricot, and pineapple, and I explained that while many of our guests are familiar with dry Rieslings, this Riesling was on the sweeter side as the grapes are picked later (and I’d say this wine was the favorite of the evening).  For the chocolate cakes, I chose the 2004 Pindar Vineyards Cabernet Port from right here on Long Island.  The wine is a smooth, fortified wine with characteristics of cooked fruit and berries, a hint of caramel, raisin, and a bit of earthiness, and paired perfectly with both the chocolate cakes, and the truffles provided by Afresh Approach.  Most of the guests were familiar with the wines from Long Island wineries, but few had tasted this dessert wine before, and it was very well received.
I was so happy to have an opportunity to pair wines with Marney’s amazing cakes, and I was also really pleased that the guests kept an open mind with all of the wines and enjoyed them as much as they did.

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