The burgeoning Long Island and Hamptons Wine Trails have helped Long Islanders swirl, sniff and taste their ways to expert wino status. And of course, wine and cheese pair as perfectly together as Long Island and summer. Peak party season will be here in a Long Island minute. This summer, combine your love of vino, cheese and friends by bringing the tasting experience to your living room or patio. To help you host a wine and cheese party that will have your guests raising a champagne flute to you, I got Melissa Martin of wine and food marketing and consulting firm Creative Island to share pro tips.
Start With Cheese
Martin suggests picking the cheeses first, then researching which wines go best with your choices. “I would recommend at least four cheeses, you should always have a good variety,” she said. Her favorites include a mild cheddar, an Italian sharp cheese, bleu cheese and brie. “Brie is a great wine cheese. It goes well with fruity rosé and red wines. It’s very easy to pair.”
Pick Your Wines
If you can’t remember what the tasting room staff said about wine and cheese pairings, the websites of Long Island wineries typically have food pairings in their notes. You can also ask local wine and cheese shop owners. Pick out four to five because, as Martin said, “You’re going to want to enjoy more of each one.” Go with a range of styles: a sparkling, a stainless steel white like a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, a Riesling and a Merlot or bold red.
The Rest of Your Grocery List
Martin loves to have a salty nut like pecans or almonds, bland crackers such as the water crackers the local wineries serve, olives and red grapes on hand for her wine and cheese parties.
A tasting can be an educational experience, but obviously with all the chatter going on during a party it can be easy for guests to forget which wine they are tasting. “I’m a big fan of a card or menu, even if it’s just one,” Martin said. She suggests using a postcard to list each wine with the cheese pairings underneath and maybe even some tasting notes.
“When you’re doing a wine and food pairing, I think the presentation is a part of the whole experience that makes it that much better,” Martin said. Use stone trays for cheese, get chalk and picks to label food and make sure you have red and white wine glasses and champagne flutes. “The proper glass is important because it helps to get the most out of the nose of the wine and to have enough room to swirl the wine.”
Help your guests remember the evening by sending them home with a little something. “Charms are fun because they can use them [during the party] and take them with them.” You can find them in a shop and even personalize them. Bottle stoppers also make for great favors.