When it comes to finding a wine you like, you’ve really only got a few methods to choose from.
- you can take a recommendation from a friend or an expert,
- you can take a wild guess based on the prettiness of the label and / or the floweriness of the wording on the bottle as you stand scratching your head in the aisle
- or… you can taste it.
Of those three methods, only tasting is foolproof. Friends and experts may have different palates, and we all know better than to judge a wine by its cover, don’t we? And even once you’ve chosen a wine, there’s the work of figuring out what wine goes with what.
Enter, the wine dinner. This growing trend helps experienced and budding wine connoisseurs make sense of it all. If you haven’t had the chance to go to a wine dinner yet, lemme ‘splain what you’re missing out on.
What is a Wine Dinner?
A wine dinner is multi-course meal, typically hosted by a restaurant, a winery or a combination of the two. Each course of the meal comes along with a wine that has been selected to complement the dish being served.
What’s So Great about Wine Dinners?
You get to relax – unlike wine tastings and tours where you’re sort of shuffled along between tastings, at a wine dinner you’re comfortably seated. You can even kick your shoes off if you want, I won’t tell.
You get a serious wine education – during the wine dinner, either the restaurant’s sommelier or a representative from the vineyard will provide notes on the wines you taste that you simply won’t get anywhere else. Plus, if you happen to attend a wine dinner with other ‘cork dorks’, you’ll learn even more from the conversation.
You get to eat some really great food – most of the restaurants hosting wine dinners are pretty top-notch. Often, they’ll feature special dishes for the wine dinner that aren’t on their regular menu.
You save money – during a wine dinner you’ll typically taste a minimum of four dishes, along with equal servings of wine for a much lower price than you would if you were to purchase them all at regular price.
Here’s a quick roundup of three wine dinners in Atlanta that I’ve attended recently, and how I fared at each.
Mirassou Wine Dinner
As part of a multi-city promotional tour coinciding with the 156th anniversary of Mirassou Winery, California winemaker David Mirassou hosted a series of wine dinners for local food and beverage writers, wine educators, and bloggers across the country. The Atlanta stop of the tour featured a 6-course tasting menu prepared by Chef Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, and yours truly was invited to attend. Each course was a perfect mouthful of local, seasonal ingredients that Chef Gillespie crafted to complement the accompanying wine. Throughout the meal, David entertained us with stories from his family’s winemaking past, and explained the unique characteristics of each wine we tasted. Needless to say, the food was amazing. The wines – a pleasant surprise.
My favorite wine of the evening: Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon – I’m not usually a big fan of Cabs, most tend to be too tannic for my tastes. But Mirassou’s Cabernet was much more drinkable, while still retaining the tannic profile. I dubbed it, ‘the softer side of Cab’. Retails for around $10
Mother’s Day Brunch at Frogtown Cellars
Craving the experience of Napa, but lacking the time or the funds? Georgia’s wine country is a suitable alternative for us Atlantans. This past Mother’s Day I decided to treat Mom and myself to our first visit to a Georgia winery. We chose Frogtown Cellars in Dahlonega, and were treated to a delicious 4-course brunch with wine pairings in a truly beautiful setting.
My favorite wine of the day: Frogtown First Convergence – East-meets-West blend of Cabernet and Malbec grapes from Russian River (66%) and Cabernet Franc grapes from Frogtown vineyard (34%). Retails for $27.99
The Generous Pour Wine Event at The Capital Grille
Did you know that there are only 173 Master Sommeliers in the entire world? So it’s a real treat when one of these esteemed wine experts hand picks 9 of his personal favorites and invites you to taste them. That’s exactly what went down this week at The Capital Grille in Buckhead. The restaurant invited several local food writers to a special preview of their summer wine event, The Generous Pour. George Miliotes, Master Sommelier and resident wine expert at The Capital Grille, joined via telecast to explain the 9 wines he chose for the event, and then answered our questions via live Twitter feed. After George’s introduction, we sampled each of the wines along with complementary dishes prepared by Chef Brad Weiderman. The unparalleled white-glove level of service at the Capital Grille made this one a real treat.
My favorites of the evening:
Tarima Hill Monastrell, 2009 – A Spanish varietal that’s not available anywhere else in the US for the next couple of months. It’s a medium-bodied red that I can only describe as ‘seductive’.
Chateau St. Jean, Belle Terre, 2008 – arguably the best Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted. Described as ‘a rich, creamy wine… with toasted almond and vanilla oak’. From the Russian River region of California. $25.
The Capital Grille’s Generous Pour Wine Event continues through September 4, and is only $25 for ample servings of all 9 wines with dinner. Do this!
To see questions and answers from The Generous Pour preview event, search for #tcgpour11 on Twitter.
Want to get personalized wine recommendations from a Master Sommelier? Follow George Miliotes (@TheWineExpert) on Twitter.
But hey – don’t just settle for his (or my) recommendations. Go out and taste for yourself.