Starting our countdown to our favorite pairing of 2017!

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As this year comes to a close (wait... whaaaa? How did that happen?!?!), we wanted to highlight some of our favorite pairings from this past year.

Our first is from our "American Mosaic" program that we performed just a few weeks ago in New York City. Our two musical selections, "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and "Life is beautiful" from the movie of the same name are familiar to us all, and we felt that each played to a particular role in the pairing. Their tasting partners were the Sonoma County 2012 Bucklin Ancient Field Blend from the Vinfluence portfolio, Sottocenere al tartufo from Murray's Cheese, and Dutch Dark from Honey Mama's (soy, gluten, dairy, and grain free, I'll have you know!)

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We were so taken by Will's – the winemaker – story, particularly his dedication to walking his vineyards every day and addressing the vines individually... as if they had their own personality. Our first musical selection has the protagonist, Lauretta, cutting through the cacophony of the rest of the opera to address her father very quietly one-on-one. "Life is beautiful," on the other hand, reflects the rustic quality of this wine.

Sottocenere_al_tartufo

Sottocenere al tartufo is one of my all-time favorite cheeses. It's way up there on the flavor meter yet paired wonderfully with the dark, ripe fruit flavors in our wine. The Dutch Dark gave an extra flavor kick at the end of the pairing.
 

 

Definitely one of the highlights of our 2017 pairings!

Happy Thanksgiving from Five Senses Tastings!

This week, we are going to leave the music, wine, and food choices up to you.

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Thanksgiving is a personal and family affair, and we wouldn't purport to have better ideas than your Aunt Susie or those generous folk hosting you for Friendsgiving.

We will simply encourage you to try something new this year. Try serving the bubbly that you typically reserve for New Year's Eve (Sommariva Prosecco is an excellent option), opt for a gourmet cheese platter with Goat cheese, St. André, Comté, and Aged Cheddar instead of your usual pre-dinner nibbles, and dabble in some different versions of the Holiday music you've been listening for the past couple of decades.

We wish you a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Why being a good host(ess) matters just as much as creating the perfect event

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For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone come back to attend a second one of our events. It's happened a few times, and each time, I am again touched by a feeling of intense humility that this person should entrust me with their time and money because, I can only presume, they feel I have given them an experience worthy of said time and money.

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I have heard from many of my clients and guests at public events about how much they have enjoyed the customized tasting experience, that they find the pairings delightful and the stories engaging. And yet, call me self-centered if you like, but I am often most surprised and moved by how they single me out, calling me out by name in public and private testimonials to tell me how much they appreciated... me. My easy-going nature, my embracing of how things can go wrong and making them simply part of the evening in a humorous manner, my dedication to the perfection of the story of the evening, my interactions with them throughout the night.

I have heard that people appreciate that I do not spend all evening mired in the red fruit aromas and the tannic structure of the wines we serve, that I play and interact with the other musicians and with the audience, making them feel at ease, as if they were in their own living room. It took me a while for those types of comments really to sink in but after a while, I realized that what they were reacting to was, yes, in technical terms, ME, but in abstract terms, their host(ess). 

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How often, after all, have you been to an event – whether large or small – where someone checks you in and then... well, was that person the host? Or... where is the host? Or is there a hostess? The concept of welcoming people, of giving them a center of energy from which they can begin their evening's entertainment is of utmost importance and, I believe, massively undervalued in today's special events world. 

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All these points, and so many more, are why I so adore being hostess to groups of around 25-40 people. In such an intimate setting, I'm able to be the hostess you'll remember, the hostess who cares and is able to attend to the needs of each individual guest, the hostess who remembers you when you come back a second time.

A Pairing inspired by the Sun

String Quartets Op. 20, "The Sun" by Joseph Haydn
"Here comes the sun" by The Beatles
"Morning Mood" from Peer Gynt, Op. 23 by Edvard Grieg

Our musical selections for this week's pairing are inspired by the same thing that inspires our winemakers of the week: the sun. Listen carefully to how each composer and songwriter creates their own unique melodic and harmonic identity for our bright, warm star!

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Wine
Don't take it from me. Take it from wine guru Jancis Robinson, who told listeners of the Splendid Table podcast during their Thanksgiving episode that her favorite grape is Riesling. This week we're hanging out with the 2015 Dry Riesling from Solminer in Los Olivos. As with many of our pairings, it's the winemaker's story that we want to highlight through our musical choices. We can't really tell it any better than they, so, here is David and Anna deLaski's story. Pick up or order a couple bottles of this amazing wine for your Thanksgiving dinner!

"Sol-miner as in mining the "Sun" which in turn nourishes the soul. The name inspires us to discover and unearth the treasures in the soils of the California Central Coast... We have a feeling of connectedness as each trip around the sun gives us the chance to experience the magical process of exchange from the dirt, plants, fruit, wine, humans, sky, moon, sun and stars."

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Cheese
Inspired to try something new as my holiday party treat this year, I fell upon this recipe from Delish for Brie and Cranberry bites. I'll admit I could have done better with the presentation, but they sure are, sorry for the pun, delish!

And what a perfect pairing with the Riesling! It's super fruity and floral on the nose, and the tangy citrus mixed with stone fruit give you a clean, refreshing finish on the palate that really balance out the saltiness of the warm, melted Brie.

Is Riesling making a comeback?

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Music
“Bird on a wire” by Leonard Cohen * “Autumn in New York” from Thumps Up!” by Vernon Duke * “50 ways to leave your lover” by Paul Simon

Leonard Cohen used to start his concerts with the song, "Bird on the Wire," saying it would "return him to his duties," so we recently began our program in New York with this song. Most of us have heard and love the beautiful song, "Autumn in New York," but few of us know that it comes from a musical by Vernon Duke called "ThumbsUp!" Plus, it was so very fitting for our event in October in ... New York. Our last song,"50 ways to leave your lover" by Paul Simon, is inspired by the very small production – just 50 cases – of this wine. We figure... one case = one way to leave your lover. So drink and listen up!

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Wine
If you'd asked me a couple years ago to name a wine from Germany, I'd have crinkled my nose and sheepishly answered... "Um... Riesling?" That's until I learned about the unbelievably diverse varieties of wine originating from my birth country as well as the unbelievable diversity of Riesling itself. This week we dive into the 2016 Benevolent Neglect Riesling from Mendocino County in California. Old world inspired but definitely Californian, this winery makes very small quantities of their wine, trying to make wine that is the truest expression of the vineyard and the vintage. This wine is pale straw in color, with fresh, ripe peaches, nectarines, citrus, and honeysuckle jumping out of the glass. On a sweetness scale, we're at about a 2 out of 10 with this bottle.

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Cheese
In my opinion, ricotta is an underrated cheese, mostly because we don't often taste it on its own, finding it more commonly buried in layers of lasagna. However, isolating it on a lovely brioche toast and garnishing it with a drizzle of EVOO and some Himalayan pink salt brings out the slight tartness of the cheese, and the texture is a lovely complement to the freshness of the Riesling. It's worth splurging on a really good Ricotta from a cheese store but store-bought is also delicious! 

What did you think of this week's pairing? Let us know by sharing your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Sweater weather... time for those big, juicy reds!

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Venice... sad? Impossible! Charles Aznavour sure thought it could be – in EnglishFrench, AND Italian – but with this wine and cheese pairing, we know you'll experience pure bliss. And... why not look forward to Summertime in Venice next year?

Wine
Oh Amarone... you've always had my heart. Unfortunately, you aren't always so nice to my pocket book, and so I don't get to hang out with you too much. BUT when your neighborhood Trader Joe's has one this good, well, it's a no brainer and a total steal at $17. Aramone di Valpolicella from Italy's northeastern region of Veneto is full-bodied and is made from dried (or passito) grapes: perfect for sweater weather. Fun fact about this region: it's actually really small, smaller in fact that any of Italy's other main wine-producing regions... but it produces more wine than any of them. So get stuck into this bottle of full-bodied, low-acid deliciousness!

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Cheese
Parmigiano Reggiano (colloquially known by most of us as Parmesan) is so much more than just a garnish on your pasta dish... though you should aaaaalways have it as a garnish on your pasta dish. Like champagne, this unpasteurized cow's milk cheese can only be called by its true name if it comes from the regions of Parma, Reggio Emilia (you see where the name comes from!), Bologna, Modena, and Mantua. The crumbly saltiness of this cheese works so well with the rich mouthfeel of this Amarone. Treat yourselves, friends... then tell us how much you loved it!