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Mini meatball meals make perfect party pairings possible

Dave DeSimone
| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
The Michel Chapoutier, La Croix de Bila-Haut, Côtes Catalanes, France. With this wine, aromas of spicy, dark fruit interplay with ripe raspberry notes.
The Michel Chapoutier, La Croix de Bila-Haut, Côtes Catalanes, France. With this wine, aromas of spicy, dark fruit interplay with ripe raspberry notes.

Admit it. You love them.

American holiday partygoers just can't gobble up enough savory little meatballs. Served with countless variations on sauces, these tasty morsels create terrific opportunities for wine pairings.

Making mini meatballs from scratch can produce great results. But to save time in preparation, don't fret over serving precooked, frozen meatballs from your favorite grocery store or deli. Pre-cooked meatballs do the trick nicely — especially when the sauces dominate the flavors anyway. Just have the toothpicks handy for guests and forge ahead.

For Polynesian meatballs, also known as Hawaiian meatballs, mix a bottle of store-bought sweet-and-sour sauce with a little freshly grated ginger, minced garlic and a pinch of cayenne red pepper. Heat the sauce and meatballs together and serve with the tasty 2011 Chateau Ste Michelle, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington State (8656; on sale: $8.99).

As Washington State's oldest and most acclaimed winery, Chateau Ste Michelle built its reputation on making terrific Rieslings. Unlike many cloyingly sweet and flabby domestic Rieslings, this wine has just a hint of well-balanced sweetness with only 11 percent alcohol.

Classic apple and brown spice aromas greet the nose. Crisp apple, fruity peach and subtle grapefruit flavors unfold in the glass. Bright, firm acidity balances the fruity, elegant finish. The relatively low alcohol makes for a perfect party wine. Highly Recommended.

For meatballs with white wine, lemon and bay leaves, heat the two dozen mini-meatballs with a cup of dry white wine. Bring to a gentle boil. When the wine reduces a bit, add a cup of water, four bay leaves and again boil gently until the sauce thickens. Then, add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a teaspoon of grated lemon peel and boil briefly.

Remove the bay leaves, and serve the meatballs and sauce topped with grated Pecorino Romano cheese. The dish pairs nicely with the 2010 Chateau de Chantegrive, Graves, France (Luxury 33027; Chairman's Selection on sale: $13.99).

The Bordeaux-based Lévêque family crafts this tasty, crisp wine with equal parts Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Growing the grapes near the village of Podensac in gravelly soils with cool nighttime temperatures allows the fruit to balance ripeness with refreshing acidity.

After hand picking and sorting the grapes, fermentation in stainless-steel tanks captures the fruit's innate freshness. Aging the wine sur lies — that is, on spent yeast cells — with periodic stirring adds subtle creaminess to soften the final wine.

Aromas of lemons, pears and honeysuckle open to ripe grapefruit and lime flavors. Stony mineral notes and firm acidity add freshness and backbone through the lively dry finish. Recommended.

For mini meatballs with barbeque sauce, simply heat your favorite store-bought sauce with the meatballs. Pair the dish with the 2010 Michel Chapoutier, La Croix de Bila-Haut, Côtes Catalanes, France (Luxury 33119; Chairman's Selection on sale: $8.99).

The Côtes Catalanes appellation lies in southwestern France's Roussillon region, also known as French Catalonia. The ruggedly beautiful region sprawls before snow-capped Mt. Canigou's looming presence in the Pyrénées along the Spanish border.

Stony soils, brilliantly sunny days and cool nights allow Syrah, Grenache and Carignan grapes to ripen with lively personality. With this wine, aromas of spicy, dark fruit interplay with ripe raspberry notes. Flavors of raspberries greet the palate with pleasant earthiness. Bright acidity and well structured, ripe tannins carry the fruity, refreshing finish. Highly Recommended.

Mini meatballs with marinara sauce can evoke southern Italy. Pair them with the delicious 2009 Azienda Agricola Conti Zecca, “Donna Marzia” Negroamaro, Salento, Italy (Luxury 46071; $12.99), a red that originates in southern Italy's Puglia province in the heel of the famous Italian “boot.”

The native Negroamaro grapes grow extensively in Puglia's sand and limestone soils where tomatoes also grow in profusion. The conditions enable the grapes and tomatoes to ripen beautifully with terrific flavors and freshness.

This wine is fermented in stainless steel and then aged in concrete vats, rather than oak barrels, to preserve fruitiness. The dark-ruby color exudes dark black cherry and plum aromas. Ripe, fruity black cherry flavors with brown spice accents balance with fresh acidity and soft tannins. Highly Recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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