French wine tasting party

Welcome, May!  This time of year is prime outdoor entertaining here in Palm Springs.  It is warm enough to sunbathe on a giant, inflated flamingo in the pool, but not yet scorching.  Yesterday, we celebrated with an outdoor wine tasting party, complete with a variety of wines from France and a few favorite appetizer pairings.

I find it pretty interesting how different friends have such different tastes in wine.  I have some who only drink whites, some only red, others who like their wines incredibly sweet and 0thers still, very dry.   Lucky for me, I enjoy shopping for wine just as much as I like drinking it.  Reading about the different nuances, foods to pair them with, where they come from – it’s really interesting – and so, my wine cooler is always stocked with a variety, ready for entertaining.

Admittedly, I’m the type of girl who loves just about every variety of wine, as long it is high quality.  The super sweet stuff I can’t do, though.  I definitely prefer dry wines that are fruity or buttery – which is why I gravitated to the Trimbach Riesling 2014, a dry white wine from Alsace, France.  It is crisp and clean with flavors of peach, quince and lemon – a perfect summer afternoon wine.  It inspired me to create a Cod Ceviche that paired so well with it.

Ceviche is a really great appetizer to set out at a wine tasting party.  It pairs well with Rieslings but also other whites (especially acidic varieties) like Sauvingon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  At this tasting, I had a perfect Pinot Gris from France – a Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 2013, also from Alsace.  The Trimbach family has been producing fine wines for 3 centuries, over 13 generations.  Their celebrated wines are structured, balanced and fruity, what has come to be known as the Trimbach style.

Cod Ceviche

1 1/2 lbs  fresh cod, cubed

1 1/2 cups lime juice

1-2 serrano chiles, sliced

1/4 cup red onion, finely diced

1 tomato, finely diced

1 garlic clove, minced

cilantro, salt and pepper

  1. In a bowl, combine cod and lime juice.  Cover and refrigerate for 7 hours.  Add chiles, onion, tomato, garlic, salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate another hour.
  2. Stir in cilantro and serve with a slotted spoon as to not get too much lime juice.

For my red fans, I had an incredible Mas de Daumas Gassac red 2015 from Languedoc, France.  Mas de Daumas wines have reached the rare status of cult wines and it is easy to see why.  This fine wine was born on a unique red glacial deposits soil – made from 75% non-cloned and ancient Cabernet Sauvignon blended with about 18 other grape varieties from Pinot Noir to Merlot.  I fell absolutely in love with this wine and its dry, buttery taste.

I felt it could really handle something spicy or peppery, so I created some quick buttered brioche toasts with cream cheese, cucumber and arugula.  Brioche toasts are a stable for any wine tasting party, especially one with a fantastic French theme since brioche is, say it with me, French.

Since we were celebrating France, clearly I needed to use France’s #1 butter to create my buttered toasts.  Made in the heart of Normandy, Président Butter is made from high-quality cultivated creams.  It has a rich and savory nutty flavor that was just meant to bring brioche to life.  For this easy recipe, simply slice a small loaf of brioche, spread Président Butter over top and toast in an oven or under the broiler until crispy.  Top with anything you think will pair well with your wines.  I chose cream cheese, thinly sliced cucumber and peppery arugula – very refreshing and palate cleansing.

With whites and reds covered, clearly my guests needed something bubbly.

I put out two exceptional choices.  One, Mas de Daumas Gassac Rosé Frizant 2016, a unique wine made from the young Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and Pinot Noir of the Daumas Gassac’s estate.  Fruity with the flavor of berry, this rosé is surprisingly light and bright.

And two, Château D’Esclans, Whispering Angel Rosé from Provence, France.  Chateau d’Esclans is a prestigious estate and winery producing the industry’s leading rosé wines, awarded Wine Enthusiast’s European Winery of The Year Award for 2014 .  This dry rosé is fresh and crisp – a perfect rosé for my palate that doesn’t care much for sugary sweet.  Literally everyone loved this one with is smooth, round finish and pleasant aftertaste.

Of course, we can’t talk French wines without talking French cheese.  Wine and cheese is the grown up version of chocolate and peanut butter – they are infinitely better when paired together.  Le Châtelain brie, from Raival in Meuse, France is one of the only pasteurized-milk brie that embodies the very same luscious, complex taste of raw milk brie.  It is absolutely divine and was perfect to top my tomato tart.

Stemming from my love of a good, southern tomato pie comes my simple tomato and brie tart.  It is literally only three ingredients if you don’t count olive oil and seasonings.  Savory, acidic and topped with rich, creamy brie, it pairs very well with an assortment of wines.

Tomato and Brie Tart

2 cans  crescent roll dough

2 lbs  baby heirloom tomatoes

Le Châtelain Brie

olive oil, salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an oven safe dish and line bottom/up sides with crescent roll dough.  Bake until cooked through and golden brown.
  2. While dough is baking, toss tomatoes in olive oil.  Saute in a pan over medium-high heat, adding oil as necessary, until they wrinkle and pop.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour tomatoes into baked crust and top with brie, to taste.
  3. Place completed tart back into the oven to melt the brie – 3-4 minutes.  Serve.

What would you serve at your French-inspired wine tasting this summer? 

Learn more about the wines I served:

Château D’Esclans
Mas de Daumas

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