Entertaining and Wine Pairings

Choosing Wine for Holiday Events

Entertaining and Wine Pairings

Holiday Entertaining Is Easy with
the Right Inspiration

People often ask me how I find the right wine to order or serve for the various celebrations I arrange for clients all over Wine Country. Well… that’s what being a concierge is all about. I’m savvy to the latest popular flavor profiles, and I’m knowledgeable about vintages and terroirs thanks to my endless (and hardly grueling) research around Napa and Sonoma. And for wine recommendations and pairings, I rely on my expert Sommelier friends and insider wine media buzz (see links below, although some of this buzz is overheard at my favorite dining and drinking establishments). Then clients and I taste together, and matches are made, and cases of wine are purchased and delivered.

For Wine Country’s locals and vacationers, one of my favorite tasks is setting up a private wine tasting. We do this frequently for party hosts, guests staying at vacation homes and for corporate retreats. As the sommelier sets up, I make my mental notes, and after the event, I get the best feedback from my sommelier. It’s constant research!

I also stay on top of vintages, labels, favorites and pairings by surfing the blogs. There are some that tweet on Twitter, but they almost always link back to their wine blogs, so I just have my favorites bookmarked and check seasonally for updates. Plus, dining and entertaining articles provide me with a compass for setting up a client’s event or dinner party: I go back to some of these wine and food lists again and again, maybe updating the menu with a few recipes or wines I’ve found to enhance the experience.

I’ll let you in on my favorites:

  • For inspiring home decorating and party ideas: Elle Décor
  • For wine lists and lists and lists: K&L Wines Blog (see the SEARCH function — so great!)
  • More wine, The Terroirist: The Daily Wine Blog is also searchable, and getting tweets from the Terriorist also light me on to other wine enthusiasts’ commentary on what’s hot now.
  • For Event Shopping, Wine Accessories and Shipping Wine: Wine Enthusiast
  • For more ad hoc West (LEFT) Coast wine and travel advice: Off the Vine

    Holiday Table
    Inspiration for Holiday Entertaining can come from anywhere. This is a celebration table for a Diwali festival event.

Do share your favorite inspirational places, websites, people, bloggers… One can NEVER get enough wine advice. Happy Holidays, and Happy Entertaining!

Cheers from The Concierge

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This Fantastic Crowd Pleaser Is Simple to Make

Pumpkins and Squash for Your Holiday Table

This Fantastic Crowd Pleaser Is Simple to Make
Try using a hollowed-out squash as a serving bowl to add a rustic touch to your table.

So many squash, so little time!

Our weather here in Napa and Sonoma has finally turned to a fall chill, and cravings for the nutty roasted squash soups and fixings that grace our tables this holiday season.

One thing I tell my clients is that it is always impressive to guests when seasonal, natural ingredients grace your table. We are so lucky here in Wine Country to have such a wide variety of organic, local farms to choose from when planning a meal or a party — it amounts to visiting our backyard, or a short drive around the corner for most of us!

To utilize the incredible variety of squash available here in Wine Country, I’d like to suggest a risotto — though the recipe below calls for sugar pumpkin, you could easily substitute butternut squash, or a sweatmeat or an acorn squash.

And for all of you Napa and Sonoma locals with a green thumb, you should know that planting the squash — summer, fall or winter squash — is an easy and simple endeavor. Check out the squash varieties and recommendations for our Wine Country region published by the UC Master Gardeners of Napa County. If you’re never going to get around to planting yourself, you can always have the Concierge arrange to plant and maintain your garden with a phone call. Imagine having fresh produce year-round from your own garden, either on your property or a community plot.

Welcome to the Wine Country holidays, everyone!

Cut Sugar Pumpkin
Cut the pumpkin, discard the innards and toast the seeds (sea salt, olive oil, at 350 for 20 minutes), skin the pumpkin and roast.

Roast Pumpkin Risotto

Yields: 8 cups

Total Time: 1 hr 35 min

Oven Temp: 400

Ingredients

U.S. Conversion chart
  • ·         1 small (3-pound) Sugar Pumpkin
  • ·         6 tablespoon(s) Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • ·         1 tablespoon(s) Finely Chopped Rosemary
  • ·         1 teaspoon(s) Finely Chopped Rosemary
  • ·         3 teaspoon(s) Sea Salt
  • ·         1/4 teaspoon(s) Ground Black Pepper
  • ·         7 cup(s) Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
  • ·         1 cup(s) Finely Chopped Yellow Onion
  • ·         1 tablespoon(s) Finely Chopped Garlic
  • ·         3 cup(s) Arborio Rice
  • ·         1 cup(s) Dry White Wine
  • ·         2 tablespoon(s) Butter
  • ·         2 tablespoon(s) Pumpkin Butter
  • ·         cup(s) Finely Shredded Fontina Cheese
  • ·         cup(s) Freshly Grated Parmesan

Directions

1.    Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut pumpkin in half lengthwise. Trim 1/2 inch off the rounded end of each half to stand upright on cutting board. Peel the sides, cutting downward, using a sharp knife. Remove the seeds and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss the pumpkin together with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Spread pumpkin on baking sheet. Roast, stirring twice, until very soft, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor and process until smooth.

2.    Bring the chicken broth to a bare simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat to keep hot but not reduce. Heat remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, onion, and garlic in a wide, deep saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook while stirring constantly, until the rice is hot — about 3 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, stirring often until almost all the wine is absorbed. Add the hot chicken broth one cup at a time, and adding more broth only when the previous addition has been absorbed. Check and adjust the heat as needed to maintain a steady simmer.

3.    Add the roasted pumpkin and continue to cook until the rice is creamy and al dente, about 10 more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in butter, pumpkin butter, cheeses, and remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary. Pumpkin Risotto is best when served immediately.

Holiday Entertaining and Event Planning: Ask the Concierge

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Wine Pairings Make for a Fun Holiday Party Conversation Starter
Concierge of the Valley can arrange any style of catering service to keep you mingling rather than serving.

We find that Holiday Entertaining is at first daunting to some new clients, who contact us for help with a specific task, be it catering, or chauffeur or valet services, or decorating. Yet when you call the Concierge of the Valley, you’ll hear the open invitation — Are you sure I can’t cover more for you? Really, we’re here to free you up to enjoy your own party.

Shopping. Gifts for family, co-workers, friends, relatives or house guests. Groceries for the party, or just the family, to take the pressure off.

Party Decorating. With a classic hand, we are capable of preparing your vineyard, home or venue for guests from 5 to 1200 or more. Flowers, serviceware, decorations, uniforms — it’s all coordinated for you, in your style, within your budget. We find that corporate clients especially appreciate our capabilities for customizing the “look and feel” of their celebrations.

Wine Selection, Delivery and Service. If you’re in Napa or Sonoma, there’s a measure of sophistication that’s expected with the choice of wine served at parties, events and celebrations. We’ve got your palate covered: we can make suggestions, arrange a consultation with a sommelier, and conduct follow-through to get the order to you on-time and at the right temperature. You’re ready to go!

Catering. From cocktail hour, to hors d’oeuvres, to wine pairings, to five-course buffets or served plates, the Concierge of the Valley is ready with all manner of suggestions, or just happy to help coordinate all the pieces you’ve so carefully selected. We can also arrange for the perfect personal chef to come by once a week to prepare the weeks’ meals — to keep your diet on track, or to make sure you’re not living on paté, Cambozola and water crackers.

Clean-Up. Cheers it up until 4 a.m. with your best family and friends, because we’ll be by the next day at your convenience to put your place back into pre-party form. Perhaps one of our most popular holiday entertaining services!

Car and Valet Services. No need to arrange a limo to get you and your friends around. Our designated driver services can be on-call for an evening or a weekend. This is especially useful for those visiting vacation homes, and may not be familiar with all the roads and byways around Napa and Sonoma. One tip: CALL AHEAD!! Booking will be tight around Thanksgiving and the month of December.

Pet Sitting. Don’t jam the cat into the coat bedroom! We’re happy to arrange a pet sitter for a few hours, a hotel stay, or an overnighter durning the busy holiday season. Many book us to take care of their pets while allergy-prone relatives come to stay, alleviating any discomfort having the pet around might cause.

Happy planning! We can’t wait to hear from you.