holiday wines & appetizers


Our latest event down at Gretchen’s Cooking School was a wine tasting with wine rep Tom Saunderson. The theme was holiday wines, and the food (prepared by us and Susan, the class coordinator) was a selection of appetizers: mostly finger food, featuring plenty of cheese.


There were six wines: four whites and two reds, which made for a different assortment than the usual. A lot of people do forget about white wines in the winter, but this was a lovely assortment with a wide variety of flavors.

Malibran Prosecco: one of the nicest Proseccos I’ve ever had. Bright, fizzy, and fabulously drinkable. We bought some.

Ponzi Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley: we have a bottle of this at home from the last vintage. It’s incredibly tasty and clean, with a bright grapefruit aroma.

Pacific Rim Riesling, Wallula Vineyard, Columbia Valley: a very dry Alsatian-style Riesling, floral but understated. Nice.

Girard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley: an interesting Chardonnay – woody without being buttery. Nice, but not our favorite.

Joseph Faively Bourgogne Pinot Noir: a lovely French Pinot. A nice choice with all the different appetizers.

Bookwalter Subplot 22, Columbia Valley: well, we always love Bookwalter wines. This is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink blend with lots of body and fruit. Yummy.


For food, there was a dizzying assortment of nibbles: cheddar pastry crackers, artichoke dip, sausage-stuffed mushrooms, onion-blue cheese tart, wheat crackers with Dubliner cheese and fig jam, spicy roast almonds, scallion-bacon cheese puffs (gougeres), foccaccia spread with a cheese-olive-parsley mixture, and (finally) brie with more crackers and fruit. People were quite full by the end of the evening! I think our favorite was the mushrooms – they were juicy and flavorful and fun to eat. Not to mention, Susan served them off of adorable amuse-bouche spoons that were really the hit of the evening. I believe she said they were from Crate and Barrel, should you feel moved to reproduce the effect.


Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms
from the November 2002 issue of Bon Appetit

  • 1 pound loose mild Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 24 large mushrooms, stems removed

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Saute the sausage and oregano over medium high heat, until the sausage is cooked through – make sure it is broken up thoroughly. Move to a bowl with a slotted spoon to leave behind some of the fat. Mix in 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, the Worcestershire, the garlic powder, and the cream cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add the egg yolk.

Fill the mushroom caps with the sausage mixture and set them into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake about 25 minutes. Best served immediately, but not bad heated up the next day, either.

afternoon snack

We got to take a few leftover cheesy things home. They were splendid with a glass of sherry the next day.

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