mushroom and pea shoots on a toasted crostini bread

Our Top Five Sophisticated Appetizers

There are times when a special dinner party merits a first course that wows the guests. Whether it’s a classic with extra homemade touches, a decadent dip or an impressively complex dish, sophisticated appetizers set the tone for a meal. We’ve curated five of our favorite, elegant appetizer recipes that are wine-friendly and crowd-pleasing. For best results, start with the best, freshest ingredients you can find plus quality wine like Jordan Chardonnay, Cabernet or Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble.

Our Top Five Sophisticated Appetizers

close up of Jordan Winery beef sushi nigri

Beef Nigiri with Wild Mushrooms and Grilled New York Steak

While the name might sound rich, this is actually a light and refined beef sushi recipe. We’ve created our own rendition of this classic Japanese dish with beef instead of fish, and trust us, we’ve found the ideal beef sushi for cabernet lovers. Sure, you can start a meal with red wine, and this sophisticated appetizer will most definitely impress. By using grilled New York strip steak, we arrive at the ideal texture for nigiri since its fatty texture softens the tannins in an elegant red wine. Also, using less acidic vinegars in the sushi rice, such as apple or sherry, better complements the acidity in wines like Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. It uses easy-to-find ingredients like savory wild mushrooms and comes together fairly quickly.

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mushroom and pea shoots on a toasted crostini bread

Wild Mushroom Crostini with Chèvre

In the spring, we forage wild mushrooms in the High Sierra, part of the inland Sierra Nevada mountain range. The deliciously meaty porcini mushroom is heavy for its size, and emerges from beneath the forest floor after spending most of its time growing underground. This low-acid, wild porcini mushroom crostini is refreshingly bright, and combined with the tart creaminess of goat cheese, presents an intriguing, wine-friendly pairing for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. Impressive to pass around before a meal or as a plated, first course. Garnish this elegant, vegetarian appetizer recipe with the first elements of spring—pea shoots and pea blossoms—and our local Humboldt Fog chèvre.

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Jordan Winery Buckwheat Blinis with Chef's reserve Caviar and Champagne
The Jordan Winery chef’s buckwheat blinis are topped with his Chef’s Reserve Caviar by Tsar Nicoulai.

Buckwheat Blini with Caviar

Adapted from San Francisco Chef Gary Danko’s famous blini recipe, these buckwheat blinis are easy to make at home for a luxurious hors d’oeuvre. The complex flavor and natural rise, combined with the additional of egg whites and butter, further elevates the classic pairing of caviar and Champagne. Try our own Chef’s Reserve Caviar, produced in partnership with California’s Tsar Nicoulai, with Jordan’s AR Lenoble Champagne.

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Jordan Winery Japanese cucumber corn salad with Chardonnay wine pairing

Cucumber Salad with Asian Inspired Vinaigrette

This flavorful, fresh cucumber salad is ideal for summer parties and the unique flavors elevate a simple appetizer. Subtle umami notes from the Asian-inspired vinaigrette coat the delicate cucumber, corn and edible flowers ever so slightly to offer a sophisticated as well as delicious plated appetizer. The vinaigrette can be prepared ahead and stored for up to one week, so you can toss it all together in a bowl and serve with Jordan Chardonnay or Jordan AR Lenoble Champagne.

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Authentic hummus dip with an assortment of crudite for a centerpiece

Authentic Hummus

If you haven’t made hummus from scratch, then you haven’t experienced this classic Mediterranean dish at its finest. Hands-on treatment elevates a normally humble dip to an elegant appetizer. Our rendition of authentic hummus includes elephant garlic and Jordan’s high-quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but also the surprising addition of a few teaspoons of baking soda — the secret of an ultra-smooth hummus. The ingredient list is short – only seven — but the shorter the list, the more important each component becomes. Pairs beautifully with Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay.

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Want unique idea son how to decorate your dinner table? So many ideas in our Entertain section.

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About the Author

Growing up in Hawaii, Todd Knoll developed a strong connection to the land and the ocean at an early age. As executive chef at Jordan Winery, he grows hundreds of heirloom vegetables, fruits and herbs, cooks hors d’oeuvres and meals for guests, makes olive oil, and tends to the estate’s honeybees and chickens. A visual artist at heart, Chef Knoll spends his free time with his son and wife, Nitsa Knoll, exploring the diverse terrain of Sonoma County with camera and pencil in hand, capturing moments in nature to inspire his next recipe.

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