I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing.... did you guys ever play that game when you were little? It was one of my absolute favorites, which should come as no surprise, given how much I love picnics. And while I am sad that summer picnic season is over, I couldn't be more thrilled to start rolling out the plaid blankets for fall picnic season. In fact, I kind of like fall picnics even better than those in the summer. I mean, let's be real. Who doesn't enjoy cozy sweaters and blankets, a good cheese board and being out in the colorful fall foliage? For today's picnic, I was also inspired by another favorite fall activity, wine tasting, to create one epic wine-infused cozy spread. Talk about the perfect pairing! And speaking of perfect pairings, I’m sharing a few more below (like a perfect sweater and dress pairing) so you can recreate your own fall wine tasting picnic before the cold weather sets in (Ahem, like ya know, this weekend).
What to Wear
I love to wear dresses or skirts to go wine tasting, but I also like to be comfortable, and fall weather most certainly makes me want to be cozy. Lucky for me, J.McLaughlin recently launched their new fall collection and it's full of cozy, perfect-for-fall (and wine tasting) pieces. This turtleneck looks like it may be simple, but the ribbing and gold button details on the sleeves keep it from being anything but. And can we all just take a moment for this dress. I mean, is it not a beauty?! The color, the cut, the material....excuse me while I go put it on and then never take it off. Oh, and did I mention how soft it is?! It's a total dream! And the dress and sweater paired together? Even dreamier! It's a pairing so perfect, I think the wine and cheese might have some competition! Of course, while the pair really is perfect on its own, I couldn't help but finish it off with, what else but a light wine-colored lip (I take themes very seriously around here!).
What to Bring
A picnic basket
A picnic blanket
Glasses (mini ones are best for tasting purposes)
Serving forks and spoons
A wine bottle opener (Because nothing will kill the buzz of a wine picnic faster than not being able to open a bottle of wine!)
Serving ware (i.e. little bowls, plates or boards to assemble the cheese and dessert boards, etc)
A cooler/cooler bag (for the meats, cheeses and white and/or dessert wines)
A bag for trash
Extra blankets to keep warm
A portable speaker to play some fall tunes (You can check out my fall playlist here.)
Paper and pens (optional, but would be nice for people who want to take wine tasting/pairing notes)
Decorations (not necessary, especially when you're surrounded by fall foliage, but things like mini pumpkins, old books, fall-colored flowers, twine, birch bark, etc. can all add an extra touch of ambience)
What to Drink
Ok, ok. I'm sure you're probably thinking "Duh, Alyssa! We're drinking wine because, uh, wine tasting picnic, so obvi." And I totally get that. But what I'm after is not the what, but more specifically, the whatkind. So here's the scoop, for fall I'm always drawn to anything with a bit of warm, spicy boldness. When it comes to wines that means things like Syrah and Pinot Noirs, Merlots and Garnachas, and, if you're more of a white wine drinker, chardonnays are going to be where it's at for you. For dessert, look at pairing your sweets with something like a Gewürztraminer or a Reisling, or, check your local wineries as many of them offer seasonal wines based around flavors like apple or pear, both of which would be yummy with dessert. Last but not least, if you're having a particularly cold fall and are looking for something that will really warm you up, try a mulled wine (Just remember to pack it up in thermos so it stays nice and hot!).
What to Eat
Fall Cheeseboard || My motto for a picnic, no matter the season, is to make sure everything is easy to pack and easy to eat. Luckily, a cheeseboard is both of those things. I used my guidelines for assembling a fall cheeseboard to make the one featured in this post, although I scaled it back a bit as the cheeseboard is not the only thing on today's menu. For example, instead of using 4 cheeses, I did only two (one soft, one hard). I chose a smoked gouda (Because fall!) and a stilton with dried apricots (particularly good with a Syrah or Pinot Noir). Instead of offering 2-3 meats, I only included one. I also have one type of cracker (I picked something that was heartier and chock full of seeds and whole grains, which is perfect for the season.) and one spread/dip (fig butter, in this case) and then I filled it in with a variety of seasonal accouterments (pumpkin seeds, nuts, dried fruit, etc). While the cheese, meat and crackers can easily be transported in their packaging, I suggest using mini mason jars for the accouterments. This not only allows you to bring just the right amount, the jars also look really nice when displayed.
Harvest Chicken Salad Sandwiches || Of course, no picnic is complete without sandwiches. Chicken salad is a particular favorite of mine, and, by adding apples, squash and additional seasonings, it instantly becomes a fall-appropriate recipe. Layer it on a baguette with a bit of arugula and you're good to go. Presentation bonus points for wrapping them in brown paper packages tied up with string (or twine).
HARVEST CHICKEN SALAD
In a medium-large bowl, mix together 2 cups of diced chicken breast, 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 cup of cooked acorn squash, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a dash of pepper, 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence, 2 tablespoons of dried cranberries and 1/2 cup of diced apple.
Dessert Board || Last, but certainly not least, is dessert. Keeping in line with the whole wine tasting thing, I decided to do a dessert cheeseboard...minus the cheese. Of course, there are plenty of cheeses that you can serve as a dessert, if you'd like. I opted instead to serve simple dark chocolate truffles and wafer cookies (I picked an almond biscuit with dried fruit as that seemed seasonally appropriate, but you could do anything from waffle cookies to gingersnaps to biscotti or shortbread.). Inspired by a fall favorite, caramel apples, I also set out fleur de sel caramel sauce and sliced apples and pears for dipping, as a slightly easier to eat, less messy version of the traditional fall time favorite.
How about you? Are you a fan of fall picnics? If so, do you have a favorite fall picnic food, wine or outfit? Spill the deets in the comments below!
PHOTOS BY DAVID LEVINE
Thank you to J.McLaughlin for sponsoring today's post.