As delicious as they are, artichokes have a compound that makes wine taste sweet. Tangy goat cheese brings both into balance. McReynolds leaves one end of the toasts free of toppings so fingers stay clean.
Pairing: Try with Stone Edge Farm Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Sonoma Valley, $30), which has refreshing citrus acidity, herbal notes, and creamy oak, or with J. Rickards Winery 2014 Croft Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($19).
With its light texture and “green” flavor, lettuce alone can be a challenge with wine, especially a red. McReynolds pulls it off by adding rich textures, savory flavors, and a verjus dressing (juice from unripe wine grapes), which has a softer acidity than vinegar.
Pairing: Sip Stone Edge Farm “Surround” Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Sonoma Valley, $50), with flavors of ripe red fruit, a touch of tobacco, and balanced oak in the background, or Simi 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24)).
This classic braise, adapted from Stone Edge Farm Cookbook ($60; stoneedgefarm.com), tastes even more flavorful made a day ahead, and chilling makes it easier to discard the fat. For the cooking wine, McReynolds believes that quality matters: “Certainly above $5 a bottle but maybe not $85,” he jokes. He serves the ribs with steamed potatoes, carrots glazed in herb butter, watercress, and a rémoulade salad.
Recipe: Wine-Braised Beef Short Ribs
Pairing: Choose Stone Edge Farm Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Sonoma Valley, $85) for its cassis, black pepper, and intense but polished sweet tannins, or Punch Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($35).
Bright with the flavors of crème fraîche and green apple, this crunchy salad tastes refreshing alongside the beef. A handheld slicer makes quick work of the prep.
Though the ice cream is fantastic on its own, McReynolds turns it into a sophisticated dessert with the addition of caramelized walnuts and a drizzle of saba—ripe wine-grape juice cooked down to a fruity syrup. He makes his own saba each autumn, but you can buy saba at gourmet grocery stores (or substitute good-quality balsamic vinegar).
Recipe: Crème Fraîche Ice Cream Sundaes
For McReynolds, pulling off a memorable meal comes down to a few principles.
Start with food
Plan your menu based on what’s in season, and then choose the wines.
For pairings, McReynolds’ most important consideration is matching body: lighter-bodied wines with lighter foods, and vice versa. But adding rich, savory ingredients (roasted nuts, cheese, and griddled vegetables, say) can also make a salad red wine–friendly.
Each course should have exciting flashes, but not so many strong flavors that it’s distracting. (Think rich meat plus potatoes.)
Something crisp or raw cleanses the palate.
For a party, about a half-bottle of wine per person total is a good rule of thumb, “though my friends might want more,” McReynolds confesses. Aim for three different wines over the course of a meal, poured from lightest to darkest.
Stick to dishes that aren’t too complicated and, though it may sound obvious, prep as much as you can before guests arrive; their ring at the door is “not the time to crack open the pomegranates and wrestle out the seeds.”