With the 82nd Annual Academy Awards just days away, it’s time to start making your predictions for Oscar winners … and planning your party. If you expect your guests to watch both the red carpet arrivals and the entire telecast, that’s six hours of your Sunday night in need of food and drink.
You may be no Wolfgang Puck, who whips out 24-karat-gold-encrusted chocolate desserts in the shape of Oscar statuettes for the post-Oscars Governor’s Ball, but you can still craft a Hollywood-worthy soiree of your own. Go for these afterparty-inspired bites, including minted chèvre wrapped in smoked salmon, truffled popcorn and warm chocolate cake, for a taste of Oscar night. Since you mark your ballots according to your favorite performances, why not drink a wine fit for each nominee? Highlighted in our Oscar entertaining roundup are 10 wines to match the personalities of nominees in five major categories. Lights, camera, action!
The first awards of the night go out to the best supporting actors and actresses. Penelope Cruz, nominated for her role in the musical film Nine, goes up against a breakout star, entertainer Mo’nique. Cruz often receives acclaim for her acting, but more frequently for her elegant presence on the red carpet, always arriving flawless. Like the Iberian beauty in a gorgeous Oscar de la Renta gown, a fine and elegant Spanish wine flows effortlessly, easy on the palate like Cruz is on the eyes. To counter that smooth elegance, Mo’nique is sassy, vivacious and loudly confident. Nominated for her performance as Mary Lee Johnston in Precious, Mo’nique echoes the fruit-forward and spicy notes of a bold Australian Shiraz.
DESCENDIENTES DE J. PALACIOS Bierzo Pétalos 2007
This sinuous red delivers both intensity and elegance, with smoky oak notes floating around boysenberry, mineral and licorice flavors. The tannins are well-integrated and give way to a perfumed finish. Drink now through 2015.
See more Top Value Spanish reds.
NINE STONES Shiraz Hilltops 2008
Bright, vibrant and jazzy with raspberry, blackberry and dusky spice aromas and flavors that linger on the lively finish. Drink now through 2012. 5,000 cases imported.
See more Top Value Australian reds.
Christoph Waltz has walked away with almost every award in this category this season. He’s an Austrian actor who now lives in Germany playing a German soldier in the best picture-nominated Inglourious Basterds. For Waltz fans, the Oscar nod calls for an off-dry German Riesling. All his winning, however, hasn’t stopped Matt Damon from hoping for an Oscar for acting. (He already has one for writing Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck.) Spotlighted for his role as François Pienaar in the apartheid-rugby-allegory film Invictus, Damon is young in terms of talented, big-name Hollywood stars. Since he was nominated for his performance in a South African story, drink a bright Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc with staying power.
AUGUST KESSELER Riesling QbA Rheingau R 2008
Driven by its mineral side, this white offers a mix of stone, pineapple, peach and grapefruit. Lively and balanced, lingering with a juicy, peppery finish. Drink now through 2016. 20,000 cases made.
See more Top Value German Riesling.
WARWICK Sauvignon Blanc Stellenbosch Professor Black 2009
Lively, with a bright core of grapefruit and lemon peel notes backed by mouthwatering acidity. The long, floral-tinged finish lets it all linger. Very tasty. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.
See more Top Value South African wines.
Meryl Streep as Julia Child in the nominated film, Julie & Julia
If those wines aren’t enough to keep you sipping through the editing awards and montages, move on to best actor and actress. From Speed to Miss Congeniality to her now-nominated performance in The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock has always been a bubbly, spirited actress who has joined the ranks of America’s sweethearts. While new spunky actresses may be worthy of a Prosecco, Bullock deserves a graceful yet party-popping Champagne. Her competition includes Meryl Streep for her role in Julie and Julia. Just as Julia Child has become a timeless fixture in the culinary landscape, Streep has become a legend of Hollywood. So there is no better way to acknowledge the accomplishments of both of these icons than with a timeless French red wine from Bordeaux. It has backbone and confidence, but also a soft and luscious side that culminates in perfect harmony.
BEAUMONT DES CRAYERES Brut Rosé Champagne Grand Rosé NV
This rich rosé exudes berry, citrus and light toast aromas and flavors. Though round and generous, this stays lively, with a tangy finish of berry and spice. A crowd-pleaser. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.
See more Top Value Champagnes.
CHATEAU PIPEAU St.-Emilion 2007
There's a nice color to this red, with aromas of flowers, perfume, red fruits and dark licorice. Full and layered, with loads of fruit, yet reserved and long. Turns slightly herbal, but it's juicy and delicious overall. Drink now through 2014. 11,665 cases made.
See more Top Value Bordeauxs.
This category pits the charming George Clooney against everyone’s favorite Dude, Jeff Bridges. No matter what role Bridges takes, including his character Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, he’ll always be a laidback guy’s guy. He’s just like an Argentine Malbec paired with steak. It’s the ultimate man meal pairing that’s just recently had an opportunity to shine, similar to Bridges’ turn in the Academy’s spotlight. On the other hand, refined Clooney famously resides in a villa in Northern Italy along the shores of Lake Como, not far from the Piedmont wine region. Like a mature but seductive Nebbiolo, Clooney has the handsome looks, seriousness, and sincerity that uphold his reputation as a classic leading man.
BODEGA RENACER Malbec Mendoza Punto Final Reserva 2006
A dark, tarry style, with crushed plum, fig and hoisin sauce flavors backed by an invigorating licorice snap note on the ripe, muscular finish. Powerful but driven, this brings you back for more. Drink now through 2012. 10,000 cases made.
See more Top Value reds from Argentina.
TRAVAGLINI Gattinara Tre Vigne 2005
Offers pretty blackberry and floral aromas, with cigar tobacco hints. Full-bodied, with ultrafine tannins and silky, balanced fruit. Drink now. 2,100 cases made.
See more recently rated reds from Piedmont.
George Clooney presenting at a previous Academy Awards ceremony
By now, it’s that time you’ve been waiting for, almost. Just before the best picture is announced comes best director, seeing two heralded superstars among the five nominated. Quentin Tarantino, who gave us Inglourious Basterds, among other push-the-envelope films, can be compared to nothing less than an innovative, smart wine. Go with a unique blend and cult label crafted by a contemporary visionary, such as Dave Phinney of Orin Swift, who took his obsession with Zinfandel and crafted it into a successful business. Similarly, James Cameron likes to go above and beyond with his films, including Terminator, Titanic and this year’s nominated Avatar. But he’s a Canada native, and our neighbors to the north are producing quality wines. To celebrate Cameron’s imagination, go with an ice wine or other late-harvest sweet wine from Canada, something that other Oscar party probably isn’t pouring. Plus, by the time the show gets around to naming the best director, it will be the dessert course.
ORIN SWIFT The Prisoner Napa Valley 2007
Offers both style and structure, with lively aromas of black raspberry, cracked pepper and mocha that lead to plush, layered flavors of wild berry, fresh sage and licorice. Ripe tannins sneak in on the finish. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache. Drink now through 2014. 39,000 cases made.
See more recently rated Zinfandels and Zinfandel blends.
JACKSON-TRIGGS Vidal Niagara Peninsula Icewine Proprietors' Reserve 2007
Light-weight, though still packs in the sweetness, along with apple skin, apricot, marmalade and a hint of onion. Balanced, with a lingering finish. Drink now through 2018. 8,000 cases imported.
See more Canadian dessert wines.
Now that you’ve got your ideas, put the Champagne on ice and the cake in the oven. Here are three party dishes, and you can access more at the Recipe Search.
• 1½ tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
• 5 ounces herb-coated goat cheese, at room temperature
• Fresh pepper
• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 12 ounces smoked salmon, sliced thin
1. In a small bowl, mix the mint with the goat cheese, pepper and lemon juice. The blend should be thick and creamy.
2. Tear off a length of plastic wrap. Arrange the salmon slices over the plastic to cover an area 3 to 3½ inches wide, overlapping them slightly to make a seamless surface of a single layer of salmon. Repeat with any remaining slices on an additional piece of plastic until the salmon is used up. Spread the cheese mixture along the salmon, leaving ½ inch on each side. Lift the edge of the wrap to roll the salmon and the filling into a long cylinder. Keep this refrigerated and wrapped with plastic until shortly before serving time to keep it from drying out.
3. Remove the plastic, then cut the salmon roll into 24 pieces and arrange them on a platter. Spear each with a toothpick to make it easier to eat. Serves 12.
• 6 ounces truffle butter (available at specialty food shops) OR 5½ ounces butter plus 2 tablespoons white truffle oil (available at specialty food shops)
• 5 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
• 1½ cups popcorn kernels
• Kosher salt to taste
1. In a small saucepan, gently melt the truffle butter or butter over low heat and keep warm. If using truffle oil, whisk into butter until well-combined.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot with lid, combine the vegetable or canola oil and the popcorn over medium heat and cover. Cook until the kernels begin to pop and continue cooking, shaking the pot frequently, until most of the kernels have popped and the pops become a few seconds apart. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Pour the warm truffle butter over and toss with salt to taste. Serves about 12 as an appetizer.
• 1 cup butter
• 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
• 4 eggs
• 4 egg yolks
• ½ cup sugar
• ½ cup flour
• Pinch of salt
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. In a mixing bowl, melt the butter and chocolate together over a pot of simmering water or in a microwave oven. Set them aside.
2. In another bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks with an electric mixer on medium speed until they become very thick in texture and light in color. Mix a large dollop of the beaten eggs into the warm butter and chocolate until very smooth, then fold this mixture gently into the eggs. After a few folds, sprinkle the sugar, flour, salt and vanilla extract over the mixture and continue folding it together gently but thoroughly.
3. Transfer this mixture to buttered individual cake molds or a muffin tin with large muffin forms. Bake at 350° F for 7 to 8 minutes. The cakes should be firm on the exterior but still soft in the middle. Let the cakes cool before unmolding.
4. To serve, carefully unmold the cakes onto a microwave-safe plate. Reheat them in a microwave oven for 15 to 20 seconds, just to warm them through. Transfer to dessert plates and serve them with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 8.