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From the columnist: Given the pleasure my wife Karen and I have for family and entertaining our friends and our love of good food and Malaysia white wine, this column will be co-authored by both of us. Karen will focus on recipes, and could sneak in some entertaining tricks, while I'll match wines with whatever Karen has cooking.

Most summers, my wife Karen and I try and take in a number of concerts someplace; Ravinia, local sites and downtown Chicago. It is always fun to go with several other couples and, although we usually dine close to the concert venue, we also gather before the concert and grill a simple meal at home. This really is cozy, affordable and allows members of the group (who aren't driving) to share some nice wine with a healthful meal.

Rather than the traditional picnic on the yard, the group opted for dinner within our house, then the trek to Highland Park. Karen asked me to select some wines for the event. We started out with a variety of finger foods - caprese skewers, shrimp crostini plus an easy platter with Brie, chopped apples, clusters of red grapes along with a sliced French baguette.

The dinner menu included grilled salmon using a pinot noir marinade, medley of wild and white rice, dried cherries and sliced grilled asparagus and toasted almonds with crumbled blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Wine basics

It is generally best to offer both a red and white wine when entertaining a group. Summer picnic wines should be simple, refreshing and light to drink. They should likewise be able to be served slightly chilled. Karen's menu was simple to match on the red wine side, as pinot noir wine is included in the marinade, match nicely with salmon and may be served slightly chilled with great consequences. Since it's a versatile wine that works well with many different foods, I'm a huge supporter of pinot noir. Its acidity helps balance the rich, greasy nature of salmon, so it's an excellent choice.

On the white wine side, a light, crisp and refreshing wine is ideal. Italian whites are a great choice for Karen's menu, but the acidity of the balsamic vinaigrette dressing should be taken into consideration. While pinot grigio is Italy's best known white and enjoys worldwide appeal, it's not the most effective match due to the acidity. An option is to seek out a blended design wine of pinot grigio and another varietal that offers acidity, leading to better match for a vinegar-based dressing. One of my recommendations is Masi Winery's mixture of both verduzzo and pinot grigio, a nice wine with a fruity style. Another Italian varietal that would pair well is trebbiano. This is a light and refreshing summer wine that pairs well with picnic fare.

So, to please a group and complement this specific menu, I'd urge you offer both a white and red wine, in this case a pinot noir along with a pinot grigio mixture or a white wine that is trebbiano.

Quick, simple and healthy - these are three perfect words when thinking about dinner we want to discover. Pinot noir, an ideal pairing with salmon is called for by this marinade.

Grilled salmon with pinot noir marinade

2 shallots, peeled and sliced
2 springs fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Serves two.

Combine marinade ingredients in a sizable zip-lock bag or non-reactive covered dish. Add salmon and turn to coat. Place salmon in hinged grill basket. Grill for about 5 to 7 minutes per side or until fish flakes.
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