Pairing hors d’oeuvres with wines

Buffet of hors d’oeuvres paired with Paso Robles wines suggested by Lou Phillips

Hosting a party isn’t always easy. It can be a challenge deciding what hors d’oeuvres or appetizers to serve with the perfect wine.

What is the difference between hors d’oeuvres and appetizers? Hors d’oeuvre translates to “out of work” in French or “outside the meal.” They are a one-bite item either passed or laid out on a table and served with wine or a cocktail before a meal. Canapés are hors d’oeuvres on toast, bread, crackers or puff pastry. Appetizers are larger and served as a first course before a meal. In this day and age, hors d’oeuvres and appetizer have become synonymous.

The hot, earthy odors of the mushrooms, minced garlic and onion topped with melted cheese smelled divine; the aroma drew guests to the table.

Bulletproof small-bite ideas and recipes that are easy to prepare and serve are perfect for a party or dining event. I teamed up with Lou Phillips, Tahoe Weekly’s wine columnist, to prepare hors d’oeuvres to pair with a selection of wines from Paso Robles. Lou, a third-level sommelier, selected six wines for the Tahoe Weekly staff to taste. The wines included an Albariño, Sangiovese, Grenache, Zinfandel, Marsanne and a Cabernet Franc.

Try Priya’s recipe for Chocolate-Cacao Peanut Butter Cups

I prepared a variety of hors d’oeuvres to pair with his assortment of wines. For starters, I served two dips, a vegan walnut pâté served with gluten-free kale crackers and baby rainbow carrots, and an olive tapenade served with sliced Truckee Sourdough baguettes. The walnut pâté paired well with the white wines while the olive tapenade went the distance with both the red and whites served.

Bacon-wrapped dates baked with maple syrup and dates stuffed with a puree of pistachio and goat cheese

In addition to the dips I prepared stuffed mushrooms, a classic hors d’oeuvre that is easy to make and paired well with the white varietals we tasted. I used both organic Baby Bella’s and large white mushrooms topped with Gruyere cheese. The hot, earthy odors of the mushrooms, minced garlic and onion topped with melted cheese smelled divine; the aroma drew guests to the table. I went vegetarian for the mushrooms, although adding bacon is a lovely variation.

Bacon-wrapped dates baked with maple syrup and dates stuffed with a puree of pistachio and goat cheese were a party hit. The Marsanne was a lovely wine to pair with the hors d’oeuvres that were made with cheese. The cheesy dates and stuffed mushrooms were a perfect pairing.

The bacon-wrapped maple dates were paired well with my favorite wine of the evening, the Cabernet Franc.

Lou laughed and said it was no wonder I loved it: “This wine is a badass food wine … as if Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc got married.”

Rounding out the selection of savory hors d’oeuvres were lamb meatballs and a homemade pureed marinara sauce with heirloom tomatoes that paired well with the red wine selection. I poured another glass of the Cabernet Franc and popped a lamb meatball in my mouth; it was a perfect combination.

Sales Manager Anne Artoux thought the lamb paired with the Zinfandel, while feature writer Kayla Anderson preferred them paired with the Grenache.

In addition to savory starters, I made a tray of sweets, chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate-cacao peanut-butter cups and mint cacao-chocolate bites. They all paired nicely with the red wines.

“The chocolates are perfect with the Cab Franc,” said Publisher Katherine Hill.

Family Editor Michelle Allen said, “I’d serve both date hors d’oeuvres. They are classic.” Lou was a fan of the cacao-chocolate peanut-butter cups: “Reese’s shouldn’t exist with that.”

Some of the hors d’oeuvres that I enjoy serving at parties include crispy artichoke hearts, Japanese gyoza (stuffed dumplings), roasted Shishito peppers, mini egg rolls, smoked salmon mousse, coconut shrimp with sweet chili sauce, baked artichoke spinach dip, baked brie with fig compote and pigs in a blanket.

Pairing wine and food can be a fun way to host an evening. Throw a party and ask your guests to bring their favorite wine to pair with their favorite appetizer. It’s a great way to spend an evening with friends on a cold winter night.



Olive tapenade
1 C pitted black olives
2 garlic cloves
2 T lemon juice
2 T capers with juice
¼ C fresh parsley
¼ C olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend ingredients in blender or food processer and chill for one hour.

Serve with crackers, crudité or sourdough baguette.



Crispy Artichoke Hearts
1 large jar of marinated artichoke hearts

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Drain artichokes and discard liquid.

Lay out the artichoke hearts on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes or until they are brown and crispy. Serve hot. For variation, toss hearts with parmesan cheese or minced garlic and red pepper flakes.