A Surprising Secret About Wine Dinners

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - October 15, 2008
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Are you looking for a good deal on food and wine? I always am. Well, have you been to a wine dinner lately? You know, those wine dinners that restaurants host in conjunction with a winery. I have lost count of how many wine dinners I have attended and hosted. There are so many reasons why wine dinners held by restaurants are events you should make it a point to attend.

This is a great opportunity to meet wine lovers who share the same likes as you. Wine is the ultimate social lubricant and guests always get to talking to their neighbors. More often than not you will share the same level of appreciation for the wines that are being poured. Or, better yet, you can learn from or share some of your knowledge with those around you. I am always learning myself, so I love to hear what guests think about the wines and how they pair with the food.

Often there will be a representative from the winery who can tell you more than you already know and share his or her stories behind the wines. Many of the wineries also welcome attendees of these dinners to their winery as well, which always makes for a memorable visit. And guess what? They often bring special items directly from the winery like “cellar selections,” older vintages or wines usually only available at the winery. It would be practically impossible for you to obtain some of these wines. I personally love to see a winery bring several vintages of the same wine (called a “vertical” tasting) to see how the wine has evolved and in most cases improved. It gives you a good barometer as to how long to keep the wine you’ve already purchased, as well as to see if there are some you would be interested in purchasing (if possible).

The wineries are not the only ones that want to impress you at these dinners. The chef usually does some very special dishes you would never find on the restaurant’s daily menu. Chefs are apt to use special seasonal ingredients that are hard to keep on a regular basis, such as truffles, stone crab claws from Florida, or bonito from Japan, just to name a few. It is much easier for restaurants to purchase high-ticket (read expensive) items for a smaller amount of people than as a daily item on the menu. This adds yet another significant premium to the dinner.

And here is a secret about wine dinners. It is actually a great deal. Any restaurant will tell you that it usually does not have the same mark up on the wines or the food for these dedicated wine dinners. They see it as a promotional tool to invite new guests to their tables and hopefully have those impressed at the level of cuisine and service going away to tell their family and friends. If you actually tried to tally up the wine and food costs, you will realize that you are paying way below what you normally would if you tried to go out to dinner and do the same thing on your own.

I’ll bet if you listed some of your favorite restaurants, they are probably planning or already have wine dinners scheduled right now. These are terrific opportunities for you to drink and eat better than usual without having to break the bank. They are well worth it.

This week’s recommendations:

2006 Cono Sur Riesling, Chile ($9) Wow, this is some terrific value! It has a super nose of tropical fruit with a dry palate and long flavors. Slurp up this one. Made from organically grown grapes. 2005 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge, Paso Robles ($36) This is a decadent blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah. Deep black and raspberry flavors abound with note of earth. I recommend decanting for optimal enjoyment. Made from organically grown grapes.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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