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My Challenge #3 for Project Wine Blog

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Challenge #3: Wine Tasting & Appetizer Pairing Party (Week of Oct 4th)
Real or imaginary – host a themed “Wine Tasting & Appetizer Pairing” party for guests. Pick a theme, 6 wines, a pairing appetizer for each wine, and then tell us why you went with those ideas. P.S. Don’t worry about naming specific producers/vineyards for the wines, unless you want to ;)

As a reminder **This (and all subsequent challenges) were altered from the Food Buzz’s “Project Food Blog“. This is just a way for wine bloggers to get in on all the fun!**
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So the first part of the challenge was to pick a theme …

This last week, at the end of one of my Facebook stalking browsing sessions, I started to feel really homesick – because I am missing Halloween for the 3rd time …. so many posts/photos/links to everyone’s Halloween plans, costume ideas, etc. For those of you who think Halloween exists outside the US … not so much. Sure, you may come across the random party here or the bar that puts up a few decorations, but it is NOTHING compared to the insanity we celebrate in the US. I look forward to this ‘holiday’ all year long! Needless to say I miss Halloween like a Frenchman visiting the U.S. misses his cheese! (which is A LOT!) So the theme for Challenge #3′s Wine Tasting & Appetizer Pairing is …

That’s right all you ghouls and goblins! It’s a Hallo’Wine’ & Appetizer Tasting!

Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, so maybe you prefer to have a ‘low-key’ Hallo’wine’ Tasting instead of an all out “Trashcan-Punch  Halloween Bashapalooza” ? But if your the same kind of wine drinker as I am … you know ‘low-key’ wine nights almost never end ‘low-key’…. but that is neither here nor there. =P

So how do we go about this Hallo’wine’ & Appetizer Tasting?

We pick a costume first of course! A host/hostess cannot be sans costume for a Hallo’wine’ Tasting! And remember, it’s Halloween, so its the one night a year you can be ‘sexy’ and no one can judge you, hahahaha …. right?!

So what’s it gonna be? Ladies, maybe a ‘Sexy Bunch of Grapes’?

or a ‘Sexy Vineyard Vixen’ or ‘Sexy Bottle of Bubbly’ ?

How about for you men? Perhaps a ‘Sexy Wine Drinking Pirate’ or ‘Sexy Cork Man’ ??? hahaha!

Next on the preparation list ….. what party is complete without some spooky Halloween decor?

Go dig up that box marked ‘Halloween’ in the attic or if you really want to ‘splurge’, there are a bunch of impressive Halloween decorating ideas fit for a Hallo’wine’ Tasting on the Martha Stuart’s “Halloween Central” Site!

And you can’t forget the invites!

Here is a link to free online Halloween invites!

So now on to the best part – the appetizer and wine pairing!!!

Searching for ideas on what appetizers to serve for this tasting turned out to be a breeze! I found plenty of ideas on the Martha Stuart’s “Halloween Central” site! There are several ‘spooky’ recipe collections to check out, but below you will find the one’s I chose!  You can view all of the recipes by clicking on the photos. Below each photo I also explain the appetizer and wine pairing! In choosing the wines, I decided to stick with an ‘Old World’ wine theme … ‘old’ sounds more spooky, and it is a Hallo’wine’ tasting after all, but please feel free to adapt this to your wine preferences! Hope you find it hauntingly delicious!!

Spanish Fino Sherry & “Candied Tomatoes”

Photo Source

This recipe puts a delightful spin on the Halloween delicacy of ‘Candied Apples’. The linked recipe serves these on basil leaves, but I prefer to roll them around in sesame seeds instead! Yumm! Your first instinct might be to pair this with a bubbly wine, which would still be delicious, but why not go with something that will really throw your guests for a loop? That is why I paired these with fino sherry. If you are freaking out because you think sherry is a sticky, sweet ‘grandmother’s cocktail’, think again! Sherry is actually a very versatile wine (or rather a category of wines with various styles (dry to sweet) and they can be paired with all sorts of foods!

If you are new to sherries, here’s a short primer: Sherry is a fortified wine, finished with a dose of brandy to stabilize it by bringing the alcohol content to 15.5 percent for finos, and several degrees more for amontillados and olorosos.

I chose the fino style of sherry for this pairing because it is a unique choice and such a flexible appetizer wine! They are ‘so fresh and so clean’, light and dry! Sherry has a bit of an under-appreciated rapport; they seem to be seen as the ‘old pair of shoes’ of the wine world, but they shouldn’t be!  Fino sherry will get those taste buds rolling around and the palate woken up from its ‘zombie-like’ state. Folks will be talking about your adventurous wine pairing options for months to come! Just make sure your fino is served fresh and cold, and your that your pours are on the small side. Feel free to include some almonds and olives with this!

Champagne & “Monster Mucus” and “Devilish” Eggs

Okay, okay … I know “Monster Mucus” probably made you want to vomit lol, but is it just a scary Halloween name for oysters! And for those of you unfortunate souls who haven’t yet developed an appreciation for those slimy suckers … you can always make the every-trusty deviled eggs! I chose Champagne cause I felt like splurging =P (feel free to substitute your favorite bubbly, Prosecco, Cava, California Sparkling, etc.) and because Champagne pairs excellently with all those ‘strange’ textured foods! Not to mention having a little sparkly in a wine tasting line up is always a hit!

French Chardonnay from Chablis & Morbid Mini French Onion Soup

You might think that french onion soup would be better paired with a light red wine, and you’re not wrong, but I felt like living a bit on the ‘wild-werewolf’ side! Soups can present a bit of a challenge when trying to pair a wine up against them, but in this case a crisp, dry, unoaked white will do the trick. It is nice to serve a wine that can still be considered an ‘aperitif’ but can still carry over to food. The creamier a soup is, the more full-bodied a wine it can take. So since french onion soup falls in between a thin broth-based soup and a creamy one, a Chardonnay from Chablis which also falls in the middle of the white wine spectrum, would pair nicely with it! If you prefer to make your french onion soup with red wine and beef-stock, then a red Beaujolais is certainly recommended.

Italian Chianti & Cured Epidermis and Savory Pumpkin Puffs

You say Prosciutto, I say Chianti! You say Parmesan, I say more Chianti! Chianti is a dry, fruity, acidic red wine, made from the Sangiovese grape and is a food wine all the way!  Acidic wines are generally flexible wines and Chianti is a perfect example. Salty foods pair best with acidic wines because the wine makes the salty dish appear less salty which is why Chianti pairs well with the salty Prosciutto and Parmesan! Not to mention this is an age old pairing … like peanut butter and jelly ;P only better!

Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon from the Graves & Petrified Cheese Log and Sinister Spread

Nothing says Halloween like Graves! This sub-district is located southeast of Bordeaux on the left bank of the Garonne River, and gets its name from the gravel found there. It is known for its intense red wines based from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Cabernet Sauvignon goes great with the cheeses above because the tannins found in Cabernet Sauvignon wine bind with the proteins/fat in the cheeses and come across as softer and more balanced. Hope your taking all this in … if you go spouting this stuff off at your next wine party, people are gonna think your part of that ‘Secret Wine Fraternity’!

Italian Primitivo & Bat Wings or Spider Cupcakes

With this last pairing I am giving you two options, the savory finish and the sweet one. I personally am not a fan of sweet things, except Frenchie …. awwwwww!, so I prefer the savory option, but I know many, many people need to feed their ‘sweet tooth’ so to finish out our Hallo’wine’ & Appetizer Party you can pair an Italian Primitivo (or if you prefer its relative, a red Zinfandel) with the savory chicken wings or the chocolate spider cupcakes. Yes folks Primitivo/Zinfandel pairs excellently with both. Why? This style of wine is both jammy and spicy, much like the sauce used for the chicken wings and in other barbecue style sauces, so the two pair well in that respect. As for pairing with the chocolate, the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be and with dark/bittersweet chocolate, you need a wine that offers similar notes, all this is found in your Primitivo/Zinfandel. If  you use a strong chocolate for these cupcakes (or the chocolate dessert of your choice) this wine pairing works great, if you want to go with a more milk chocolate option, I would suggest a dessert wine in the ruby port category.

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If you want to get real technical with your wines and choose specific wines with ‘spooky’ names, here are a couple links I found for you!

Gary Vaynerchuk’s 2007 Halloween Wine Tasting
Bordeaux-Undiscovered Blog: Halloween Wine 2008

There are also several sites that offer wine pairings for all those various Halloween candies your “Trick or Treaters” bring home! And if your itching to really ‘put on a play’? You can always go ‘Murder Mystery’ Party style with this Wine Murder Mystery Party Kit! (And yes, in case you were wondering, I do have this ‘game’ at home in the US and yes, I have played it with my wine friends back home. Way too much fun!!)

Hope you enjoyed this Hallo’wine’ & Appetizer Party! I look forward to seeing you back here next week for Challenge #4!

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