Wine dinners are back!  For a while they were yet another casualty of pandemic hunkering, but lately my mailbox has been filling with news of exciting events. 

Wine is meant to go with food and best enjoyed at the table. With multiple courses and a half dozen or more wines, a wine dinner is a rare tasting opportunity to sample and compare wines and match them up with food. 

It’s not all serious “sniff and swirl” at these fun events. What could be better than spending a few hours with folks who like food and wine as much as you do? After a few glasses, the conversation usually circles around to travel, culture, kids and memorable wine experiences. We’ve made some good friends at wine dinners. 

Julia Menn hosts popular and well-attended wine dinners for the Wines and More store in Milford. She described her September Italian Wine Dinner as a “rousing success.”  Eighty customers who

Pork Osso Bucco with two red wines

enjoy wine and food gathered at Fratelli’s Restaurant to survey the Italian wines imported by Dalla Terra.  

Guests are seated according to their reservation: two or four up to groups of twelve. Fratelli’s is a “fan favorite” for Menn’s events. The dinner takes over the entire restaurant on Mondays when they are usually closed.  The five-course dinner was $95 including tax and tip.  Some of the courses were: Tortellini alla Panna, Octopus Kale Salad and Pork Osso Bucco along with the wines. 

Small-producer, handmade wines are what is driving the fine wine market these days. At Menn’s dinner Kate Cassidy, of Dalla Terra importers introduced 6 wines from family-owned wineries across

Kate Cassidy describes the wines.

Italy: three white and three red, each with their own food pairing.  Offered for purchase at the store, prices ranged from $23 to $32 with four of the wines priced under $17 – very reasonable for wines of this caliber.

The popular, wine-focused Bin 100 restaurant in Milford is the site for Menn’s next dinner on November 7. Owner Andrew Tow of the Withers Winery on the Sonoma Coast will present his cool-climate chardonnay, pinot noir and Rhone varietal wines. 

Terry Rogers at Harbor Point Wines in Stamford also hosts regular wine dinners. Her approach takes another direction, focusing on smaller groups and more exclusive wines.  Her upcoming dinner featuring the cult Napa winery Orin Swift Cellars on October 17 ($125++) will be capped at 25 guests.  

Long tables can be very social

The dinner, at the Valbella Restaurant in Greenwich, will start with sparkling wine and finger foods. Guests are seated at one long social table for the wine-friendly menu starting with chilled lobster crab and shrimp.  The meal continues with the Valbella signature pasta with truffle cream and then a choice of salmon or filet mignon.  A white wine will be served with the seafood and two reds with each following course. Dinner ends with a cheese course and a chance to re-taste the evening’s wines. 

Leading up to Thanksgiving, Rogers will host a dinner at Columbus Park Trattoria in Stamford on November 10 tasting a range of wines that will compliment the broad scope of flavors at the Thanksgiving table. 

Ready to pour at Fratelli’s

The Barcelona Wine Bar in Fairfield hosts an annual Asado on the Patio ($90 inclusive), a celebration of South American wines with a menu organized around fresh produce and the traditional grilled meats of the region.   

Oysters and Chilean Sauvignon blanc kick off the dinner. A floral Argentine white pairs up with a traditional Remojon salad of oranges and salt cod.  From Barcelona’s Tapas menu, Morcilla, NY Strip, Pollo Moruño, Lomo de Orza will all be fired on the open grill and served with a highly-rated Bordeaux-blend red from Argentina and a Chilean Syrah.  

The menu is set by Chef Misha Ryklin. Wines are chosen by William Miller of Harry’s Wine & Liquor Market in Fairfield.  Gretchen Thomas from Barcelona Wine Bar will introduce the wines.

Wine wizards and star chefs are matching up handmade wines and carefully crafted food at a range of prices and styles.  The fun around the table comes at no charge.   

Frank Whitman can be reached at