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Wine Tasting Party: Blind Tasting
"Tasting blind" means hiding labelsand sometimes even using paraphernalia like blindfolds and black wineglassesso guests have no visual clues about a wine's identity and have to figure it out solely by sniffing and sipping. For the blind wine tasting party here, guests can try the different wines and attempt to guess the grape varietal; for extra credit, they can attempt to distinguish the less expensive bottles from the pricier ones.
Chardonnay 2008 A to Z ($15) Aging in stainless steel tanks instead of costly oak barrels means lots of citrusy flavor at a low price.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Owen Roe Sharecropper's ($15) These winemakers use very little oak. The result: an easy-drinking, berry-rich Cab that's accessible now.
Zinfandel 2008 Bogle Old Vine ($11) Sourcing grapes from a couple of California vineyards keeps the price low and quality high (vintage in, vintage out) for this Zinfandel full of raspberry and black pepper aromas.
Wines for Splurging
Chardonnay 2007 Domaine Serene Côte Sud Vineyard ($45) New oak gives the wine a rich texture and warm spice notesand ups the price.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Long Shadows Feather ($60) This Cab is aged in mostly new oak. Nuanced in flavor, with firm tannins, it will get even better over time.
Zinfandel 2007 Outpost Howell Mountain ($45) Outpost uses fruit from its high-altitude Napa vineyards (which grow some of California's priciest grapes) for this complex Zin with dense blackberry notes.
3 Ways to Taste Wine Blind
1. Black glasses "Palais Black" crystal glasses from Noritake. $27 each; noritake.com.
Blindfolds "Diamond Gem" silk sleep mask from Bona Notti. $20; bonanotti.com.
Brown bags Brown-paper lunch bags tied with twine.
Wine Tasting Party: Perfect Pairings
Here, three fabulous wine-friendly hors d'oeuvres from F&W 's Marcia Kieselspicy hummus, mushroom crostini and sardine toaststhat begin with the best new ingredients.
Perfect Pairings: #1
Buy: Darling Spuds Perfectly crisp sea-salt potato chips. $1.50 for 40 gm; at select Starbucks.
Make: Hummus with Hot Peppers Puree 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas in a food processor with minced garlic and fresh lemon juice. With the machine on, add extra-virgin olive oil until creamy; add a little water if necessary. Season with salt. In a serving bowl, stir in a swirl of seeded and minced jarred hot cherry peppers. Serve with potato chips.
Drink: Sparkling wine The fruity 2006 Marques de Gelida Brut Exclusive Reserva Cava ($15) is a good match for potato chips and other fried snacks.
Perfect Pairings: #2
Buy: Bellwether Farms Ricotta Made with whole milk from Jersey cows. $30 for 3.5 lb; bellwetherfarms.com.
Make: Ricotta-and-Mushroom Crostini Mix ricotta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt. In a skillet, sauté sliced cremini mushrooms and sliced shallots in extra-virgin olive oil until softened. Add a splash of red wine and a touch of ketchup. Stir in fresh thyme and season to taste. Spread ricotta cheese on toasts and top with the mushrooms.
Drink: Sangiovese Poggerino's 2007 Chianti Classico ($24) has rustic, earthy notesterrific with mushrooms.
Perfect Pairings: #3
Buy: Wild Planet Sardines These sardines in olive oil are plump and sustainable. $3.50 for 4.38 oz; wildplanetfoods.com.
Make: Sardine Toasts with Onion-Dill Relish In a bowl, toss thinly sliced red onion with fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt; let stand until softened. Add a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, chopped dill and finely grated lemon zest; season with salt. Place halved sardines on buttered and toasted brioche rectangles. Top with the onion-dill relish and serve.
Drink: Unoaked Chardonnay The clean, minerally 2008 Christian Moreau Chablis ($25) pairs well with oily fish like sardines.
Wine Tasting Party: Aroma Party
When someone compares the scent of Pinot Noir to cherries, what does that really mean? At an aroma party, guests can make sense of wine lingo by sniffing everything from fruit to seashells to peppercorns alongside the wine varietal with the matching scent.