May is graduation month for a lot of households across the country. Whether graduating from high school or college, thousands of families will be celebrating the transition of their children from one phase of adulthood to another.
This weekend, my youngest son is graduating from college, marking a road to — hopefully — financial independence. This is certainly cause for celebration.
Of course, we are going to host a small gathering of friends and family to mark this auspicious occasion. But the celebration comes with a price. Our guests will be expecting a certain level of wine to go along with the Hawaiian-themed buffet, so this will call for a thoughtful approach when selecting the appropriate wine for this celebration. While we certainly want our guests to be impressed, we don’t want to feel like we’re making another tuition payment.
The good news is that good wine does not have to cost as much as room and board at a small liberal arts college. A little thoughtfulness when pairing wines with food can pay big dividends, particularly when the combination enhances both the food and the wine. Guests will raise their glasses and toast both host and the new graduate for a job well done.
Here are a few suggestions to help you move the tassel of hassle from one side of your mortar board to the other and earn your own diploma of party pairing.
Our son is graduating in sunny San Diego, and our dear friends from college have agreed to host his party in their backyard. We know it’s going to be a little warm outside, so we plan on greeting every guest with a glass of well-chilled Non-vintage Casa Bianchi New Age White Wine over ice and then adding a squeeze of lime. Yes, lime. The combination makes an amazingly refreshing aperitif. A blend of 90% Torrontes and 10% Sauvignon Blanc, the citrusy-based wine provides a wonderful backbone for flavors of peach and nectarine to shine through the mouth. The slight fizz gives a revitalizing boost to the palate. It’ll be a hit with the grilled shrimp. $10
The fish and grilled vegetables on the menu are going to need a wine that brings both weight and acidity to the party, so I am inviting the Antinoris, one of the most famous wine producing families in Italy, to join us. Well, at least their 2017 Antinori Guado Al Tasso Vermentino will be there. It provides a wonderful value in white wines and is worth tracking down. It is made from Vermentino grapes grown in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany — also home to the famous Super Tuscan wines. The bouquet opens with luscious fruity-floral aromas reminiscent of lemon zest and white flowers. Soft and well-balanced on the palate, flavors of nectarine, white peach, and fresh citrus glide across the tongue on a carpet of bright acidity. The finish is zesty and refreshing. $20
Now, what to pair with the Kalua pork and Hawaiian spare ribs? It has to be a wine with weight, but not too fruit-centric. I think the wines made just up the coast in central California will do the trick — particularly the 2017 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rhône Blend from Paso Robles. This red wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Counoise and Mourvèdre and is the perfect team player. Very reminiscent of its cousin in the southern Rhone Valley, this version features aromas of blackberries, dried cranberries and wet stone on the bright bouquet. The palate is lean and focused with flavors of dark plum, black cherries, dried herbs and a touch of black pepper on the medium-bodied finish. $20
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