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Something as basic as March Merlot Madness would give way to a wine and food pairing: "I'd put out a bunch of cheeses on a buffet and have a bunch of wines. There would be a list of which wines go with which cheeses, but I'd say, 'You need to taste each one and try each one, mix and match and come up with your own choice.'" That, in turn, could lead to sit-down wine dinners, until eventually, you find yourself pulling up a chair at "an exclusive 10- to 15-person wine dinner in someone's home, which is something I still do through my catering company."

His tone is optimistic, but he seems to have earned it. "My experience is that, if it's done right, there are still plenty of customers out there for this sort of thing. What happened was, everybody started doing it, but very few people did it in a way that offered something educational and unique, something other than 'Hey, we've got wine and we've got food, so we're doing a wine-pairing dinner!' The key is to give them something they haven't had before, make sure they learn something, and make sure it's high quality.'"

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