CRAFT A DELIGHTFUL WINE-INSPIRED DINNER PARTY
Hosting a wine-inspired dinner party in the comfort of home is a great way to spend time with friends and family. Stacey-Jo (a.k.a. SJ) Strombecky and her lovely family hosted a seamless dinner for eight last weekend. Here are her tips for a wonderful evening of food and wine with family and friends.
SJ started working in the restaurant industry in her early 20s before becoming a top sommelier in Alberta — she held the esteemed position of cellar-master at the five-star Eden restaurant in Banff ’s Rimrock Resort Hotel. She currently represents two wine portfolios: Renaissance and Clarus.
“The key for a successful party is to start planning early, make lists and keep it simple,” says SJ. “It doesn’t have to be an elaborate multi-course dinner, it could just as easily be tacos and some house-made margaritas. It’s not all about you, find things that your guests will find interesting and do something unique. Have a little something for everyone.”
Consider your guest’s interests — if they hunt, pair game with a full-bodied red wine, or for a vegan you might prepare roasted seasonal root vegetables such as squash and mushrooms from Mona Foods, paired with veganfriendly wine. Check ahead for any dietary considerations, food sensitivities and allergies so you can make accommodations.
How much wine and which wines to choose? For sparkling wine, a good ballpark is to have one bottle for every five guests and half a bottle per guest for the dinner wines, with two-thirds red wine for winter meals.
Choose white and red wines that are crowd-pleasers, wines with acidity and the flexibility to pair with a variety of dishes. Choose bright and aromatic whites such as Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, Gavi, Soave, and unoaked Chardonnay. Choose dry rosés and interesting red wines with freshness and lower residual sugar levels from grapes such as Pinot Noir, Frappato, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo.
“Start with bubbly,” says SJ. It’s easy to go to a good wine boutique and ask for a recommendation. If Champagne isn’t in the budget, a great organically grown Cava or Cremant would be perfect. You can also repurpose the bubbly as a great base for a sparkling cocktail by simply adding a little liqueur, such as St- Germain (elderflower) or a cassis ( black currant).
Which stemware to use? A dinner for wine geeks might involve setting out several glasses specifically chosen for the wine paired to each dish with a multi-course menu. But, “for most people, a good white and a good red glass is pretty much all you need,” states SJ.
A smaller bowl for whites and a wider one for red wines to allow for swirling for the aromatics to evolve. For many years we pulled out flutes for bubbly; that’s going by the wayside as most sparkling wine and Champagne producers prefer to taste in a wine glass.
“I love serving Champagne (or Cava) with the saltiness of chips and popcorn, it works so well.”
Stacey-Jo’s husband, Gavin, made Cafe Linnea’s porcini popcorn to serve with the bubbles, which is the best popcorn ever (strong words, I know). Thank you to chef Kelsey Johnson (and co-owner of Café Linnea) for sharing her recipe with Journal readers.
“These are the wines I’ll have kicking around the house in case company stops by,” SJ says.
CONDE DE CARALT CAVA $22
Solid value Spanish bubbly that’s made using the traditional method with organically grown grapes. Handing over a sparkling wine to guests as they arrive is a wonderful way to start conversation and stimulate the appetite.
RUNDLMAYER LANGENLOISER BERG VOGELANG GRUNER VELTLINER $35
It’s a mouthful to pronounce but this aromatic Austrian white grape varietal is a pairing maestro and the panacea food wine for chefs in the 1990s. Pairs with most everything — a rich wine with jasmine, incense, spice — white wine that overdelivers. Pair with seafood to Asian to grilled meats.
SAGET PINOT NOIR ROSÉ $21
If you can’t decide between red or white wine, why not rosé? This French Pinot Noir rosé is from the Loire Valley. A lighter style of wine that’s food flexible and pairs well with vegetarian dishes, poultry and seafood.
MAZZEI SER LAPO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA $37
“Reliable, rustic red wine with that trademark Italian acidity. Works magically with all kinds of foods, not just pasta,” says SJ. An outstanding Tuscan red that’s mostly Sangiovese with a splash of Merlot offering great structure on a rich, earthy, fresh red berryladen palate.
GARZON TANNAT $29
Tannat is a grape for those who enjoy a full-flavoured, structured red wine. Concentrated aromas and flavours of spiced red and black fruits, leather, minerality and nutty tannins that beg for roasted red meats, especially game, or just to sit back after dinner and enjoy a glass of wellmade red wine.
Wine selections are available at select Alberta shops. Log onto liquorconnect.com to check availability and give them a call to verify. Juanita Roos opened Color de Vino, a fine wine and spirits store, with her family in 2014. She has travelled to wine regions around the world and completed the prestigious WSET Diploma from London, England, the prerequisite for the Master of Wine program. Send your questions about wine to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sommelier Stacey-Jo Strombecky, her chef husband Gavin Strombecky and their daughter Madison know how to plan a dinner in a way that produces interesting wine experiences for their guests.
Sommelier Stacey-Jo Strombecky recommends starting a wine-inspired dinner party with a bottle of bubbly.