We talk a lot about wine education here for obvious reasons, but there’s also wine for entertainment. Corporate wine dinners, pairing parties, birthday and holiday events, or even at-home dinner parties – each a great opportunity to share a variety of wines among friends and colleagues. But how do you pick the wines? You can do the research yourself, work with your caterer, or to kick it up a notch, and engage the services of a sommelier. Both sourcing and selecting the wines can be made all the easier with the help of a wine consultant. In fact, the American Wine School has been helping plan exactly such events for nearly 20 years for various corporations including AT&T, Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, Fortessa, and most recently for Brizo & Delta Chicago at their showroom in the Merchandise Mart.

For the Brizo & Delta dinner, American Wine School President and Founder, Marianne Frantz, was asked to both make the wine selections and present the wines to a gathering of interior designers for a “Voice-Activated Culinary Dinner.” The dinner was designed to showcase the new luxurious, smart-faucet – which you guessed it – is voice activated! Each course featured a food, wine, and opera pairing from 5 different countries. The well-planned, thematic dinner combined classic design with a modern twist and the wines were selected to do the same. In planning for the event, Marianne not only considered the foods to be served, but also classic wines that would likely be new to the guests. An added bonus, each of the wines selected is readily available to the consumer in the area. For this dinner the pairings included:

2014 Argyle Winery Vintage Brut Sparkling Wine – Willamette Valley, Oregon

Celebrations are synonymous with bubbles and nothing is more classic than Champagne. However, for the welcome glass, Marianne brought the modern with a Champagne-method sparkling wine from the Willamette Valley’s Argyle Winery. Classic bubbles from the New World.

Argyle Winery was founded in 1987 by Rollin Soles, with a belief that the cool-climate of Oregon’s Willamette Valley was ideal for producing sparkling wines. The winery is renowned for classic sparkling wines derived from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown on more than 400 acres of diverse vineyards. The winemaking team works in extremely small lots to preserve the nuance and complexity of the fruit while innovating and fine-tuning in the cellars.

2018 Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris – Alsace, France

Alsatian wines are a classic choice and Pinot Gris is one of the noble varieties of the region. This winery, in particular, is also a classic and has been passed between father and son since the early 17th century. Today, the winery is certified organic and bio-dynamic a charge led by the family in the late 1990s. While such methodology is a more modern-day winemaking practice, it’s also a return to the classic ways of natural farming and viticulture.

Domaine Zind Humbrecht was created in 1959 when the Humbrecht and Zind winemaking families combined vineyards. Winegrowing is a tradition in the Humbrecht family that has been passed down from father to son since 1620. Today the Domaine is run by Olivier and Margaret Humbrecht and comprises 41.1 hectares of vines, over six communes. After centuries of experience with the Alsatian terroir, the growers assign different Alsatian grape varieties to each of the specific soils and microclimates, respecting the specificity of each cru.

2018 Muga Rosé – Rioja, Spain

Here the classic aspect is derived from one of the more well-known Bodegas in Rioja. As for the modern spin, #roseallday! Although Marianne has long been a proponent of rosé-style wines, the pink drink has gained enormous popularity in the last several years.

As for Bodegas Muga, it was established in Haro, Spain in 1932 within the historical Barrio de La Estación. The winery buildings are two centuries old and Muga is the only cellar in Spain with a master cooper and three in-house barrel-makers. Bodegas Muga’s 620 acres of vineyards are located at the foot of the Montes Obarenses, within the area called Rioja Alta. The grape varieties grown include Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano for the red wines; and Viura and Malvasia for the white wines.

2016 Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco – Langhe, Piemonte, Italy

When it comes to classic Italian wines, Piemonte and its world-renowned Barolos and Barbarescos are certainly among them. For this course, Marianne chose a Nebbiolo from the Langhe DOC, and more specifically from Viette, a winery with roots dating back to the 19th century. The grapes for this Nebbiolo come from multiple vineyards in the Barolo and Barbaresco areas and when consumed young are powerful and intense, but here were softened by the perfectly paired beef short rib.

Vietti began in 1919 when Patriarch Mario Vietti made the first Vietti wines, selling most of the production in Italy. In 1952, Alfredo Currado (Luciana Vietti’s husband) continued the family winemaking and became one of the first producers in Piemonte export to the US market. Alfredo was also one of the first winemakers to select and vinify grapes from single vineyards (such as Brunate, Rocche and Villero), a radical concept in the area at the time; and is considered the “father of Arneis,” one of the most famous white wines from the Roero area, north of Barolo.

Alfred Schladerer Black Forest Edelkirsch Liqueur – Germany

The classic dessert chosen to close out the dinner was a rich and elegant Black Forest Cake with cherry compote and brandied ganache. While it can be difficult to pair wine with dessert, and even dessert wine with chocolate, the selection of a Black Forest Kirsch, or cherry brandy was the natural choice. And in this case, the brandy is all natural, made exclusively from Black Forest cherries.

Since 1844, the distillery Schladerer has specialized in fruit brandies and spirits. Fruits are handpicked and processed through sustainable production, for which renewable energies are used. The products are 100% natural and presented in the classic square bottle designed by Founder Alfred Schladerer in the late 19th century.

Wine pairing for dinners, parties or even enlightening, tasty seminars can be fascinating and entertaining. Contact the American Wine School to work with Marianne Frantz, CWE, DipWSET, FWS or any one of the staff’s wine educators or consultants, contact us at info@americanwineschool.com or to register for a food and wine pairing course, check out our available course offerings.