Chardonnay + Cheese

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When I first started working for a wine company, I knew absolutely nothing about wine beyond the fact that I liked to drink it.  I had no formal education in wine and the extent of my experience with it was picking up the cheapest or prettiest + cheapest combination bottle in my local market.  Like a lot of early wine drinkers, I couldn’t differentiate between varietals, wasn’t quite sure which wines pair with what foods and couldn’t appreciate any of the complexities that I now seek in my fermented grapes.  While most of the people that work in our company don’t fall in the “wine snob” category, we still experience know-it-alls (or think they know-it-all) wine snobs at events and in meetings with buyers which makes the industry intimidating and honestly, annoying at times.  My personal opinion is that wine is a subjective experience that is supposed to be fun and it’s supposed to be an experience.  Certain wines will enhance certain flavors in certain foods, but learning it through experience rather than studying wine notes from a book is really what this industry should be all about.  No two palates are the same and everyone is going to taste wine differently which is exactly what makes it so fun and personal.

This division of our company puts on wine tastings in the customer’s preferred setting of choice and while some of our reps have a ton of wine experience, many of them don’t and are eager to learn what to serve at their tastings and what favors are going to pair the best with each wine.  Last month our focus was Chardonnay so I had some serious fun putting together a cheese plate and easy apps that would be delicious with Chard.  I thought I’d pass it along just in case anyone is interested in learning more about what to pair with Chardonnay.  Check it out below :-)

CREATING THE PERFECT CHARDONNAY CHEESE PLATE

When you think of a wine party, the most obvious food pairing is cheese.  However, with Chardonnay, cheese isn’t always the easiest to pair with a varietal that has such incredible stylistic range.  While some chardonnays are extremely fruity and citrusy, others are oaky and buttery which can compete with the creamy cheeses you might initially think to pair with a white wine.  I explored a few different cheeses to find the best combination with our Chardonnay that offers a perfectly balanced profile of fruit and oak.  As told by our Sommelier:

With most Chardonnays, you get some green apple, a little citrus, and depending on the producer either no or tons of oak and malolactic fermentation to give it that buttered popcorn style. Our Chardonnay undergoes an extremely cold, slow fermentation that extracts tons of tropical fruit character out of this wine. Scents of pineapple, banana, white peach and pear jump out of the glass at me when I pour it. It spends about six months in American oak, but only 20% new oak. The rest of the barrels are all 2-3 years old so it is more for a textural component rather than making the wine overly oaky. You get some notes of vanilla and toasted coconut, but it is definitely in balance with the fruit character of the wine.

CHEESE: I sought to find the best cheese to pair with our style Chardonnay and found a few favorites: Mt. Tam, a brie-style triple cream crafted by Cowgirl Creamery in California.  Another favorite was Cabot’s Clothbound Cheddar which is nutty in flavor and has a similar consistency to parmesan while being much more mild to taste – perfect for our style Chardonnay.  The two can be purchased in a set from Cowgirl Creamery that also includes and absolutely unbelievable Echo Mountain Blue Cheese (still delicious with our Chardonnay when drizzled in a little honey and perfect for the reds at your wine tasting tasting), or can be ordered individually as well.  If you’re looking for less expensive options, both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer a wide variety of double-triple cream, brie and mild-medium cheddar cheeses that will be perfect for pairing with Chardonnay.

OTHER BITES TO INCLUDE: In my opinion, creating the perfect cheese plate is all about striking a balance between cheeses and other small bites that enhance the flavors of your wine.  Some crackers and perhaps a loaf of fresh French Bread are key.  The fig spread and honey found in both our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages are essential for getting that sweeter balance and will make cheeses like a tangy blue cheese more approachable for those who might not love an extra sharp cheese on its own.  Figs are also particularly delicious with our Chardonnay and can be served with any cheese imaginable all the way from a creamy brie to an aged, extra sharp cheddar or parmesan.  An artichoke spread (also found in both our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages) offers a savory yet citrusy touch while olive oil is a natural pairing and will give your guests something light to dip their bread in when they’ve indulged in enough cheese ;-)

PS: From a gorgeous marble cheese board to honey, olive oil, salami, cheese knives, and more, our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages offer a one stop shop for all of the goodies you will need to create the perfect wine and cheese party.  Cheers!

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Wine Wednesday | Pear + Goat Cheese Crostini

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Happy Wine Wednesday!  We’re halfway through the week, y’all!  The past 7 days have been exceptionally exciting and I’m thrilled to be feeling the most inspired that I have in a very long time.  Jake and I spent last weekend in Napa and we’re heading back tomorrow for a big project that we’re working on together for our company (more details on that later), but there have been a lot of exciting changes in the works :-)  In the meantime, for Wine Wednesday, I wanted to share one of my absolute FAVORITE appetizer recipes that we whipped up for our Pink Party.

Inspired by one of my favorite salads, this Pear + Goat Cheese Crostini is basically an easier-to-eat/one-hand-required version that is perfect for a party or wine tasting.  The creaminess of the goat cheese combined with the slightly sweet balsamic vinaigrette and pears are LEGIT with a well balanced Chardonnay (light on the oak, but not overly sweet). Get in my bellyyyy!  Check out the recipe below and bookmark it for your next party so you can wow your friends and thank me later ;-)

Prep: 20 minutes
Serves: 10-15

Ingredients

1 loaf French bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic (minced)
5 oz. arugula
3 oz. Goat Cheese
1 Pear (diced)
1/2 cup Glazed Walnut Pieces (I used Fresh Gourmet brand – available in the salad or crouton aisle)

Ingredients for Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  While oven is preheating, slice bread into ~1/4″ slices.

2.  Combine olive oil and minced garlic.  Brush mixture onto bread slices.  Place bread on baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes on lower rack or until bread has started to toast.

3.  While the bread is in the oven, combine all ingredients for dressing until thoroughly mixed. I like to put everything in a mason jar and shake it up to get an even consistency. This also makes it easy to save leftovers

4.  Remove toasts from oven.  When they have cooled enough to handle, spread each toast with goat cheese.  Return to oven for 2-3 minutes or until goat cheese has softened.

5.  Remove toasts and transfer to serving platter.  Garnish each toast with a few sprigs of arugula, diced pear and walnuts. Drizzle dressing over top and serve with a glass of Chardonnay.  This one is awesome :-)

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DIY Yarn Fringe Backdrop

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Creating a fun backdrop is one of the best ways to make a party picture perfect.  After making two for Blair’s 1st birthday party (and seeing it featured on Style Me Pretty!), I’ve been hooked on finding quick and simple ways to jazz up a focal area at parties and events.  I came across this on Pinterest and have been waiting for a time to replicate it and our Pink Party for work seemed like the best opportunity.  Since I wanted to make the party “fall-ish” while staying on theme with pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the yarn fringe backdrop was actually the PERFECT way to bring all of the colors together.  I picked up seven different colors from our local Michael’s store with a 25% off coupon, purchased some dowels (and had them cut at our local hardware store) for under $5.  The entire project cost less than $25 and made such a fun statement at our party.  Here’s how you can recreate the look on your own :-)

Supplies

Dowels
Yarn in various colors
Scissors

Instructions

1.  Cut your dowels to length.  If your dowels are longer than you’d like your finished length to be, cut them to size using a hand saw.  Or, simply ask your local hardware store to cut them for you which is what I did.  The sizes I went with were 24 inches and 16 inches.

2.  Decide what color yarn you will be using the most and cut it accordingly.  I knew we were going to be using mostly pink with a few strands of orange, yellow and white mixed in so I cut out much more pink in strands of ~48″.  Note: you will be folding your strands in half to attach it to the dowel so keep that in mind when cutting to length.  If you want your finished length to be 18″ cut your yarn at 36″.

Fringe DIY

3.  Fold yarn in half and pull the ends of the yarn through the loop and around your dowel.  Side loop to tighten and repeat.

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4.  Alternate colors as you see fit until you’ve filled the dowel with yarn.  Hang your yarn fringe behind a bar or dessert table (I even attached one to the table cloth) and have fun!  Cheers!

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Wine Wednesday (HalloWINE Style)

When one of our co-founders at work suggested that we put an adult spin on Halloween and pair our wines with classic trick-or-treat candy, I was game.  She conducted a tasting and figured out which flavors would work the best with one another before passing it over to me to style and shoot.  The office was FULL of goodies yesterday so we all did our own little tastings and they were AMAZING… Some of the pairings were really different and unique so I didn’t expect to like them all as much as I did, but I guess you really can’t go wrong with candy and wine!  It was tough to pick a favorite.  Thought I would pass these along for a little Halloween inspiration in case any of you wanted to give it a whirl on your own!  And I know it might be tempting, but try not to eat all your kids’ Halloween candy ;-) Cheers!

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Thanksgiving

Every year, my boyfriend and I travel up to the San Francisco Bay area for Thanksgiving with his family.  We are usually rushing to get out of the city (along with millions of others) the Tuesday night or Wednesday before the holiday, but this year we decided to take a more relaxed approach and drove up on Thanksgiving morning which was surprisingly quick.  On Friday, we made the trip down to Pismo for a few quiet days by the beach… just what we needed to recharge and kick into holiday mode on Monday morning.  Take a look at some of my favorite moments from the weekend below.

{Lily watching with curiosity as we were packing on Wednesday night}

{Little cousin love}

{Collecting sand dollars on the beach with the little ones}

{Love these guys}

{The CUTEST beach house in Pismo.  The French doors, the windows, the view.  Can I move in now?!}

{View from the hotel}

{One of my favorite parts of traveling – bringing home new sauces and jams to try}

{Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo}

{Recycled wine bottle glasses}

{Tasting fleet at vineyard #3 – Baileyana}

{Fall colors at Kelsey Winery}

{One of the 100+ Peacocks at Kelsey Winery!  I always seem to forget how beautiful they are until I see them again in person}

{Watching the sun set on our last night}

Hope at Home Site Launch

Wahoo!  It’s finally here!  Today we officially launched the new Hope at Home site which has been a tremendous effort on the direct-to-consumer side of our business.  Originally, Hope at Home was just a tiny section of the ONEHOPE Wine site and being that the program has been such a huge success, we finally invested in creating its own stand-alone site and did an entire rebrand.  I worked hand in hand with the program’s Director, Haley Harris to appropriately rebrand this program and integrate some softer and slightly more feminine design elements into the customer’s visual experience.

We started with completely eliminating black from the equation.  Black is a very prominent color in the ONEHOPE Wine branding, which is perfectly fine, but we wanted to tone down the masculinity a bit for this at-home wine tasting side of our business (being that our customers and Wine Specialists are primarily female).  However, since all of our wine labels are black, we didn’t want to go so far in the opposite direction to where the two couldn’t compliment one another.  From there, we integrated a lot of texture including kraft paper and chalkboard with a little hint of chevron thrown into the mix to give it some energy and fun.  I love it!  What do you think?

PS:  If you’re interested in hosting a wine party and donating back to a cause of your choice check it out here.  If you’d like to become a Wine Specialist, click here.

San Francisco-ing

Last Wednesday, I flew up to San Francisco for a gorgeous few days of work and play.  I’m so in love with that city, it’s hard to put it into words and pictures never do it justice so I always wind up yearning to go back from the moment I hit the ground at LAX.  The architecture, the food, the history and the seemingly endless hills with panoramic views of the city from every street corner leaves me with the desire to pack my bags and find little a bay-windowed studio to call home.  Check out a few of my favorite weekend moments below.

{Quick lunch break at The Melt at Stanford.  This place was amazing!  They only serve different types of grilled cheese sandwiches and soups for dipping.  YUM.  Side note: They’re expanding from 4 to 22 locations in 2012… Proof that a simple (but great) concept and design are a winning combination}

{Platters of finger food for our Hope at Home tasting in Santa Cruz}

{View of the Golden Gate from my friend’s rooftop as it started to light up at dusk}

{Views from the top of Nob Hill}

{So very envious of this rooftop (yes, I was doing some stalking).  Great little grilling/entertaining space with a patch of grass for a very lucky city pup}

{Taking in the architecture and hills}

{My friend Megan’s adorable gallery wall in her room}

{Some wine and kitty cat snuggle time while finishing up our work day}

{On my walk from Nob Hill to Union Square}

{Gorgeous}

{San Francisco buildings are never short of character and detail}

{On our walk to Sunday brunch}