Plan a Winter Gathering With Sparkling Sips and Wine Country Bites


Planning a last-minute gathering doesn’t have to be complicated, just settle on some simple decor and pick up some luscious bites and sparkling wines to create the perfect, simple evening.  Here are some inspiring appetizers from wine country’s favorite tastemakers, paired with the sparkling wines of Schramsberg Vineyards.


manzanita-candleabra-west-elmCandlelight and gilded branches make a pitch-perfect holiday decoration in one fell swoop. Manzanita candleabra from West Elm. 

New Year’s calls for something special like American osetra caviar from Tsar Nicoulai served atop a blini with crème fraiche and chives, or this Miyagi oyster with blood orange-infused Maltaise sauce, both featured on Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead’s New Year’s Eve dinner menu

farmstead-restaurant-miyagi-oyster-with-tsar-nicoulai-caviar.jpg Farmstead Restaurant’s oyster starter. Photo: Lauren Massie

Pair these with another classic, the long-aged, Chardonnay-focused 2005 J. Schram, its citrusy flavors, rich mouthfeel and creamy mousse complementing the voluptuous caviar and oysters beautifully.


martha-stewart-wreath-chandelierThis Scandinavian-style cedar wreath chandelier is a focal point that will draw guests to an appetizer table. Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart. 

terra-restaurant-crab-fritters.jpgTerra Restaurant’s Crab Fritters with remoulade. Photo: Terra Restaurant

Fresh crab is the perfect appetizer whether topped on a round of puff pastry, made into mini crabcakes or fried into these delectable fritters featured on Terra Restaurant’s New Year’s Eve dinner menu.  Serve these with Schramsberg’s mouthwatering 100% Chardonnay 2009 Blanc de Blancs, the purity of appley and citrus fruit highlighting the sweetness of the crab while the lively effervescence cleanses the palate. 


terra-restaurant-steamed-brioche-buns-with-_pulled-pork.jpgTerra’s steamed brioche bun with pulled pork and Parmesan tuile. Photo: Terra Restaurant

For something hearty, fix some mini sliders with pulled pork, smoked ham or pork belly and serve them with the bold berry fruit and fresh acidity of Schramsberg’s Pinot Noir-focused 2009 Brut Rosé.


Pair light and fresh Asian appetizers with Schramberg’s 2009 Cremant Demi-Sec, its floral aromas and tropical fruit complementing Thai and Vietnamese flavors, while its slight sweetness balances the saltiness of Cantonese dishes like dumplings or mini egg rolls.  At the same time, the wine’s fuller body embraces the umami (savoriness) in most Asian dishes.

terra-restaurant-deviled-jidori-egg-with-salmon-roe-and-uniDeviled egg with salmon roe and sea urchin. Photo: Terra Restaurant

For rich and savory Asian dishes like this deviled egg topped with salmon roe and earthy rich sea urchin, the dry J. Schram with its complex flavors and refined mousse is a better bet.


Sparkling wines are a great choice with spicy dishes because the lower 12.5% alcohol keeps the heat at bay.  I especially like the 2008 Blanc de Noirs – a Pinot Noir-focused wine fermented without the skins – with the spicy Spanish flatbread and Moroccan carrot ‘salad’ below, both prepared at an inspiring Weekend Samplings class at the Culinary Institute of America.  The wine’s vibrant spectrum of berry, apricot and orange fruit stands up to bold flavors without the tannins that can add to heat. 

A minimalist theme will let food and wine shine at your next soiree. Photo courtesy of 


CIA’s shrimp and chorizo flatbread with nutty Manchego cheese and white bean puree


CIA’s harissa-infused carrot salad topped with toasted spices, almonds and coconut


Miniature pastries and sparkling wine are decor in their own right. Image courtesy of Wednesday Custom Design. 


Kara’s Cupcakes: Meyer Lemon, Peppermint Twist, Fleur de Sel, Passion Fruit, Sweet Vanilla (from top right)


Ca Momi bignès: Grand Marnier, Zabaione, almonds, pistachios and chocolate 

Schramsberg’s Cremant is perfect with lighter, slightly sweet desserts like these mini delights from Kara’s Cupcakes.  I especially like the Passion Fruit which sings with the tropical flavors in the Cremant.

Add these eye-popping mini bignès from Ca Momi at Oxbow Public Market – their airy whipped cream fillings match the delicate effervescence of the Cremant while the caramel-topped crisp pastry echoes the brioche and honeyed notes in the wine.

For more information on inspiring and fun-filled cooking classes for the amateur, check out the Weekends at the CIA Enthusiast courses at the Culinary Institute of America.

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