Guests receive a taste of France

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By Beth Waldon
Mason Times staff writer

Country House Catering served Mason residents five courses matched with five French wines Thursday evening at its banquet center at 3056 Okemos Road.


Country House Caterers prepare the French wine.

Country House Catering Chef Tom McNeil and his wife, Diane, have been in the catering business since 1979. Each month, they offer five wines with five courses, and tickets are $35 per person.

Country House Catering offered the following dishes and French wines Thursday night:

•Artichoke dip and chips served with Bordeaux Blanc
•Baby greens and bean salad served with Cotes Du Rhone white wine
•Pork tenderloin crostini topped with a cranberry sauce, and served with Cotes Du Rhone merlot
•Coq Au Vin chicken thigh on top of pecan wild rice served with Chateau Grand Rouge
•Walnut brownie with Ganache Van ice cream and chocolate sauce served with Chateau Famaey Malbec

“We’ve won many awards,” Tom McNeil said. He added that they won the Taste of Elegance award in 1997, and have received around 30 awards in the past 20 years. Tom McNeil said one of his most popular dishes is cashew encrusted pork tenderloin.

Diane McNeil said that each month, they have a different wine representative. They have had representatives specializing in wines from Michigan, California, France and Italy. Diane McNeil added that next month, they will offer an Argentinian wine dinner.


Collett, left, speaks with guests as they try the first course and wine.

Representing France at Thursday night’s dinner was Peerless Wine Selections specialist Richard Collett.

Following his educational career as an astrophysics professor at the University of Michigan and Harvard University, Collett became a member of several wine clubs in Jackson, Michigan. This allowed him to develop an interest in wine which led him to travel throughout Europe. Collett began importing wine from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Argentina.

Collett said that one of his favorite wines is Bordeaux French wine and he added that Argentinian wines are also doing really well. “I have to start looking for more wines so we have more to try,” Collett said. “That’s why we’ve been looking around in France.”

Technology specialists Justin Berklund and Mark Mitchell said they have been attending these tastings since 2012. Berklund said he prefers red wine and certain white wines like Chardonnay. Berklund added that he enjoys coming to these wine dinners because he gets to taste different European wines.


The bean salad was served with a sweet vinaigrette dressing.

During dinner, Collett told Mitchell: “I like to go over to Europe three or four times a year. There are about 75 of us in the U.S. who do this, and we all kind of know each other. We’re pretty good about working with each other.”

Berklund said his favorite dining experience with Country House Catering was when they brought an Italian representative. “He gave us useful information like how to store wine,” Berklund said. According to this specialist, wine is to be stored the same way it was shipped.

In between courses, Collett introduced each wine, “12 cases of this are in the world right now and they’re all in Jackson,” he said in reference to the third wine which was Cotes Du Rhone merlot.

Berklund said wine tasting used to be a cheap hobby, but now most wineries charge around $5 per tasting. “I can understand their need to charge now because several people come to tastings without purchasing any bottles of wine, but I like to try wine before I buy it,” Berklund said.

At the end of dinner, a guest asked Collett if the temperature of the wine really matters. “The big thing with wine is, you’ve got to control the temperature; you need to have it stabilized,” Collett said. Collett added that several places serve wine way too cold or warm. “White wine should be chilled at 35 to 50 degrees while red wine should be served at cellar temperature which is around 50 or 60 degrees,” he said.

Diane McNeil said that the next wine dinner will be Friday, April 11. Tickets may be purchased online at

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