Get Ready for the Return of Restaurant Wine Dinners

Wine dinners are back!

As more and more states are reopening and lifting capacity limits, restaurants are beginning to schedule multi-course dinners that feature a specially selected wine to accompany each course.

Smith & Wollensky is a chain of steakhouses that has been hosting wine dinners for years. Sometimes all of the wines come from a single estate, sometimes they come from a specific region, and there’s almost always an expert on hand to talk about the wines.

These dinners are great fun (unless you’re on a diet) and educational at the same time. And if you keep the printed menu that’s provided, you have a cheat sheet for future wine-pairing efforts at home.

On February 24, 2010, the Smith & Wollensky restaurant overlooking the Chicago River in downtown Chicago hosted a wine dinner that featured the following courses and wines (according to the menu I have kept in my files)…

* Passed Mini Burgers and Assorted Flatbreads — Fume Blanc (i.e., Sauvignon Blanc).

* Colossal Lump Crab Cocktail — Fume Blanc (i.e., Sauvignon Blanc).

* Saffron Risotto Croquettes — Chardonnay.

* Sage-Rubbed Pork Loin — Merlot.

* Dry-Aged Rib-Eye — Red blend.

* Smith’s Coconut Layer Cake — No wine. (To which I recall reacting, “Thank goodnness!”)

It was a memorable meal, and even though I wondered whether Sauvignon Blanc was going to work with those mini burgers, I was convinced after the first bite. The burgers were slathered with an herbal dressing that played off the herbal quality of the wine perfectly.

If there’s a wine dinner coming to a restaurant near you soon, consider giving it a try. These dinners can be a bit pricey, but if you treat it as a special occasion, you can enjoy the food and the wine without guilt — and you’ll leave with some great pairing ideas to try on your own.

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