Mindy Kobrin


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Like fashion, wine and food pairings are an individual choice.  There are no absolutes, but it is important that all your fabulous guests are having a bunch of fun!  You also want to give your guests a new experience.  The first step is to encourage them to try visualizing where they taste the food and wine on their tongue.  

Take it a step further by playing an innovative party game that gets your guests to see and taste wine in a new way by taking a spin with the Wine Aroma Wheel.  Developed by Ann Noble at the University of California-Davis, the Wheel is considered the first standard descriptive language for wine. Remember, fruit of the vine is divine and should not overpower the food.  Keep in mind an open bottle of red or white wine can keep fresh by re-corking and storing in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.  When you plan a meal, start with delicate flavors and work towards heavier tastes as it builds.  For this reason, serve lighter wines at the beginning of a meal before moving toward full-bodied wines later.   

In case you ever ask yourself how to match a wine to an occasion not just a recipe, the task can be overwhelming.  Whether it’s a wedding anniversary, dinner at a colleague’s home, girls’ night out, holiday feast or tapas night, selecting the perfect wine for that special moment beckons for help.

Wine & Occasion Pairing General Guide

Wedding Anniversary
Brachetto d’Acqui is a caramel pink, light-bodied Italian Sparkling wine bursting with sweet strawberry notes that best compliments dark chocolates and fruit-infused truffles.

Champagne’s effervescent sexiness best compliments berries and anything salty and nutty.

Colleague’s Home
Cabernet Sauvignon, like a timeless business suit, is fabulous with rich and juicy red meat recipes.

Girls’ Night
Chardonnay, the “LBD” of wines, compliments fatty seafood and creamy sauce recipes.

Four Friends, $40 Pasta Night
Chianti/Sangiovese with its Tuscan-Italian designer grape best seduces saucy ragu pasta recipes.

Merlot/Bordeaux with its luxurious texture adds to highly flavored foods including barbecue grilled meats and vegetables.

Spa Day
Pinot Grigio with its well-worn comfy factor works well with light fish, simple seafood recipes and goat cheese salads.

Holiday Feast
Pinot Noir with its ultimate food pairing abilities best compliments mild, even, earthy flavors and soups including recipes with tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes.

Garden Party
Alsatian Rieslings with its dash of sugar and light spring floral notes pair refreshingly well with many brunch recipes as well as sweet and spicy Thai-inspired food.

Neighborhood Potluck Party
Rioja/Tempranillo like a sassy and sexy accessory dresses up burgers and best compliments Spanish cuisine.

Casual Get-Togethers
Sauvignon Blanc, a year-round sunshine in a bottle winner, adds crisp freshness to seafood dishes and tart citrus sauce recipes.

Tapas Night
Syrah with its smoking red-hot lips best compliments spicy recipes including many Spanish, Latin and Persian dishes.

Fall Fête
Zinfandels, the robust powerhouse within the family of reds, pair nicely with sultry terrines and party pâtés.


Yes, you heard it through the grapevine!  It’s hard to find those that don’t like wine and those that don’t LOVE cheese!  This hands-down party winner is fun and fuss-free any night of the year.  Sharing nibbles with family and friends is one of the greatest ceremonies of all—so set the table for a Mediterranean celebration of cheese, olives, artisan crackers, breads and wine. These savory bites are a delight enjoyed one at a time, but their real pleasure begins when you welcome them as the essentials of entertaining fun.

Bacchus Bash

  • Invite 6 to 12 guests with diverse backgrounds.  Start with introductions will keep guests engaged and happy.  Keep in mind a casual wine-tasting can be hard to pull off with more than a dozen sippers.
  • Your party will need at least 5 different cheeses at ½ pound each, 3 bowls of mixed olives and 3 – 5 different bottles of wine.

Winning Cheese and Wine Pairings 

  • A sheep or goat cheese (like Ossau-Auraty or Spanish Manchego) pairs well with a light to full-bodied red.  Rioja or Argentinean Malbec is great.
  • Coated-rind cow’s cheese (like Brie or Camembert) is complimented by a light to medium red wine like Pinot Noir or a White Bordeaux
  • Bijou, a soft goat cheese, goes effortlessly with Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Tourmalet, a distinct firm sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenées, compliments a divine white, Viognier.
  • Langres, a creamy French cow’s milk cheese, suits Champagne.
  • Cow’s milk hard cheese (like Gouda or Swiss) with an Italian Amarone.
  • Manchester, an aged goat cheese, or a nutty Alpine Raclette pairs very well with Rieslings.
  • Cheddar cheeses and Pinot Noirs are always a hit.
  • The world’s most famous hard cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano always wins with a crisp Chardonnay or a red Nebbiolo from Piedmont.
  • Blue cheese (like Roquefort or Gorgonzola), a bold finish to a cheese plate, with Côtes du Rhone, Bordeaux, Port and Madeira.

Be sure to buy your cheeses no more than a day in advance to ensure freshness.  Remember to unwrap your cheeses an hour earlier to allow them to come to room temperature.


Get creative!  Once you have selected a few cheeses and wines to serve, display them on a marble slab or wooden board for a more artisanal set-up.  Decorate each cheese with a porcelain cheese label for added ambient.  The markers are a lovely and creative way to identify cheese varieties and their accompanying wines on your cheese board.  After writing in the cheese and wine name, the ink will dry, won’t smear, and easily washes up with soap and water.  Your guests will appreciate the education too.
If you have the space, use it to your advantage with this elegant bucolic presentation.  Simply fabulous!

  • Large and long wooden table
  • Dark chalkboard horizontally placed at table’s center
  • White chalk for hand-written labels and notes to identify each item
  • Oversized carved wooden bowls filled with fresh bread loaves
  • Small silver bowls filled with mixed olives, nuts, crackers, dried fruit and grape clusters
  • A cake stand topped with a large glass bowl filled with fresh berries and a large silver serving spoon
  • Glass wine carafes
  • Bouquet of fresh flowers in a tall vase at table’s left corner

Noshes, Nibbles & Palate Cleansers

To best compliment your cheese selection, serve a variety of fruits, breads and crackers.

  • Fruits.  Some of my favorites are fresh figs, sliced pears, grape bundles, dried apricots or dried cranberries and slices of quince paste.
  • Breads.  Make your selection interesting with three or four different loaves of bread sliced into ¼-inch thick slices.  French baguette, olive rosemary loaf and walnut-raisin loaf.
  • Crackers.  Have fun with two or three boxes of specialty crackers.  I prefer Carr’s, The Fine Cheese Co., and Valenciano’s Sea Salt Sticks from New York City’s Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker Street.

I almost forgot…don’t forget your camera and most importantly, remember to raise your glass, smile and say cheese!