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Posts Tagged ‘Wine Tasting Parties’

DO TRY THIS AT HOME!

Have you ever hosted a wine tasting party at home?  If not, you and your friends are missing out on lots of fun and excitement!  I’ve hosted a number of wine parties with different games or themes, and it always puts a smile on my face to see people enjoying themselves, comparing tasting notes, telling dirty jokes and ultimately leaving with a sense of enlightenment. 

Here are some ideas for your own party!

Start with the “Eyes-Wide-Shut” Game. 

 

This is a great ice-breaker for any wine party.  No, no – it’s not what you’re thinking!  All you need is a blindfold, a bottle of white wine (room temperature), a bottle of red wine (room temperature), and a group of friends who aren’t afraid of the dark!  :)

The object of the game is to see if everyone can tell the difference between white and red wine when they’re blind-folded and when both wines are served at room temperature.  Before the experiment, you hear a lot of people saying, “Oh, I’ll definitely know the difference between a red and white wine!”

How quickly their confidence turns once the blindfold goes over their eyes and they’re left all alone in the dark with only their sense of smell and taste with two room temperature wines!  The comments sound more like, “I have no f*ckin’ clue what I’m drinking!” 

Move onto “You Think You’ve Got This ‘In The Bag’?” Game.

I love blind tasting!  It takes out any bias: name recognition, pretty labels and of course – price.  Although this is typically done for rating wines, you can add a twist:  Grab three of the most popular, single varietal white and red wines on the planet.  On the white team you can pick Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc; and on the red team, pick up a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir.  Bag all of them, number the whites from 1 -3 and number the reds from 1-3. 

Here’s where the fun and head-trip begins…besides the tasting notes and ratings, ask them to guess the varietal!

Do you think that you can spot a Chardonnay in a blind line-up of three whites?  How about Pinot Noir amongst three reds?  Are you sure??

To give all your friends a little extra help on the quiz, consider creating a cheat sheet with characteristics of the varietals, so everybody has a chance to score a 100%.  For a little incentive and to spur on some friendly competition, have a prize for the person with the most correct answers.  A bottle of wine makes a great grand prize!

Make sure all your guests have a separate scorecard with plenty of room for tasting notes, with enough space to write down the varietal they think they’re drinking.  Finally, when everyone has had a chance to write down their notes and mark down what they think they’re drinking, collect everyone’s tasting sheets for the Big Reveal.

Did everyone get them correct – even with a CHEAT SHEET

I think you’ll be surprised by the results.  Not to mention, it’s always a great source of amusement to read some of the tasting notes out loud.  Get a little wine in some folks and the hilarity ensues!

Some of my favorite quotes from these parties:

  • “It’s the color of pee and has a strong pee wood flavor .  So it has to be a Sauvignon Blanc!”
  • “Red Wine #2 tastes like it would be nice with chocolate cake, so I’ll say Merlot – I think?!”
  • “Smells like my grandma’s basement.”

One last piece of advice:  be sure to have plenty of great food and lots of water on hand, or it’ll be lights out on the da floor for you and all your pals!  :)

Bottoms up and happy tasting!  Let me know if you have any great ideas for wine parties!

You Want to be Where Everybody Knows Your Name…

Our troubles are all the same, right?!  It all starts around 6:00 AM with a sore back from sleeping on a WWE action figure all night; then as you make your way to the coffee maker while stepping over a pile of the kids’ clothes (that somehow couldn’t find its way to the hamper), you find your pet hovering over the kitchen sink trying to get some leftovers from some dishes you left from the night before.  You wrap up the morning with a 20 minute Q&A session with one of your kids while in your closet, half dressed, trying to make yourself look moderately presentable.  You’d love to stick around for more of this blissful morning glory, but it’s off to the workplace for even more fun and excitement.  The fun and laughs seem to never end, as this episode replays itself for 5 (long) straight days…  On day 5 you wake up in your typical haze, but then you stop and say to yourself, holy shit…it’s FRIDAY!!!!  You get so excited by the thought of it that you break out into a happy dance, a River Dance, and even the Cabbage Patch Dance!  You stir that pot of chocolate pudding like there’s no tomorrow, because it’s FRIDAY baby!!

Now that the weekend is here, what are you gonna do for fun?  Are you going to just stay home and watch SuperNanny, Kitchen Nightmares, or My Big Redneck Wedding??  For Pete’s sake – haven’t you been on your couch enough for one week??  :) Why not do something fun with a group of pals – like a wine tasting party?!  That’ll certainly kick start your weekend!

That’s what my friend, Holly, recently did – and so can YOU with just a little help!

There are lots of great ideas and themes to choose from when putting together a fun tasting. I thought that it might be a blast to do a unique, in-store wine tasting for my friend and her wine gang.  Now when I say “in-store wine tasting,” you’re probably envisioning a mini-bar or table set up off to the side of your favorite local wine shop.  You know…the free tastings that take place on most Friday evenings and/or Saturday afternoons at many wine shops across the US; but I’m not talking about that sort of “unique” in-store tasting in the least.  What I’m talking about is a truly private tasting for just you and your gang in the store’s wine cellar! 

I’m lucky to live near several outstanding independently owned wine shops where the owners are truly passionate about their business and provide customers with superb selections and individualized customer service.  One of those great little gems is Peco’s Liquors.

I’ve recently gotten to know Edward Mulvihill of Peco’s.  Ed grew up in the family business and he’s now the store’s Director of Sales & Marketing.  When I first met Ed, I had no clue that Peco’s even had a wine cellar – even though I’d shopped at this establishment for the past 12 years.  Since seeing the old cellar for the very first time a few months ago, Ed and the Peco’s staff have done an amazing job renovating it. They’ve created an intimate atmosphere that is perfect for entertaining and sharing good cheer with 12-20 fellow wine lovers.  I was quite eager to share the cellar with some of the locals, so I asked Ed if he’d be willing to host a private soiree and he graciously agreed to my request.  So now that I scored a swanky venue for Holly’s wine tasting party, I needed some great wines to serve up.  I worked with both Edward Mulvihill and Alex Calla, who is the store’s wine specialist, to come up with a tasting flight that we hoped would receive high praise from our party host Holly and her 20 thirsty guests.

Here’s the line-up that we decided on:

When Alex, Ed and I were trying to come up with the tasting flight, we wanted the line-up to be a little bit off the beaten path, yet not totally out in left field.  We were also aiming to introduce the group to several new wines that would be perfect for everyday drinking (under $20) and that would also pair well with a variety of recipe ideas. 

So what did our thirsty guests think about these wines?

Well, based on the responses and written feedback that I received from our evening’s host and her guests – there were a few that hit the bull’s-eye and a few that missed the target.

Here were the ones that hit the mark and received the most accolades from the group:

Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago NV (Veneto, Italy) - This crisp Italian Sparkler was such a big hit that folks were lining up for more even after the tasting had ended.

2006 Trapiche Broquel Bonarda (Mendoza, Argentina) – Guests raved about this wine’s beautiful aroma, great body and impressive, big and full flavors.

2009 Bodega Septima Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) – This was another winner from Argentina with the guests.  Lots of folks commented on the richness of this wine and many expressed that its flavors were very complex.

Unfortunately, one wine that totally struck out was the 2009 Alamos Torrontés (Salta, Argentina).  Many in the group had never tried an Argentine Torrontés before, so we had hoped that the Alamos would be a nice entry into this category to leave a positive, lasting impression on our guests.  Sadly, those lasting impressions were of “armpits,” “feet,” and “grandma’s basement.”  I’m not quite sure if the last comment was a term of endearment or not.  :)

The wine with the most mixed reviews was the 2008 Penley Estate Sparkling Pinot Noir (Coonawarra, Australia).  Many did enjoy the smell of this wine:  bursts of strawberries, raspberries, and light spice.  And there were a few people that embraced this less traditional rendition; describing it as “FUN,” “Surprising,” and “Awesome!”  However, the majority of the tasters thought the sparkling nature of this wine was a little odd and too different from what they’re accustomed to from a traditional Pinot Noir.

Finally, the 2006 Henry Estate Pinot Noir (Umpqua, Oregon) – which was the most expensive wine of the bunch – also received a few mixed reviews from the tasting group.  Some said, “it’s very earthy,” “reminds me of the woods,” “flat taste,” while others said, “amazing,” “very smooth,” and “very good.”

Oh well, you know the old saying, “You win some and you lose some…”  But at the end of the night, everyone goes home happy, feelin’ good, and ready for the rest of the weekend!  :)

Very special thanks to Peco ‘s Liquors, Ed, Alex and Josh for a great evening! (Peco’s FaceBook Page)

I’d also like to thank my good friend Holly for bringing the incredibly delicious cheese selection and a great group of wine lovers to party with!

Trust The Pour

Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it…Stop.  A perfect pour every time!

One of the most helpful wine gadgets that I’ve had the pleasure of using over and over again this past year have been these terrific portion controlled pourers from Drinker.com

These little babies are fantastic for conducting any size wine tasting.  Can I tell you how many tastings that I’ve been to where I’ve been poured practically an entire glass of wine?!  Not a bad thing when I like the wine, but otherwise wasteful.  The greatest beneficiaries, though, of this gadget are definitely any commercial businesses that serve wine and spirits that are interested in controlling over-pours in their establishment.

It’s simple:  You just push the pourer into the neck of the bottle, tip the bottle so that the bottom is turned to a 1-2 o’clock position, and pour.  The liquid flows out and stops when it’s reached the right amount based on the pourer size you’ve selected.  Another excellent feature about these super accurate pourers is that they’re also great for drip and spill control.  FYI, I’ve been using the 1 oz. pourers, but there are several different measurement sizes (and colors!) available.

Well, enough of my rambling and on with the show!  Checkout the “Hi-Profit-Pour” in action for yourself:

If you’d like to learn more, please visit Drinker.com.  If you’re interested in purchasing these dandy little pourers, don’t forget to use coupon code D005 to get a 5% discount on orders up to $150 and coupon code D010 to get a 10% discount on all orders over $150.

3 Wishes Granted

Photo Courtesy of the News Journal

I had a dream…a wildly crazy dream of putting together the baddest, most bombastic and over the top blind wine tasting party ever attempted; but I had a few things (make that lots of things) to overcome in order to make my sweet dream a reality.  Things like…I had no place, no wine, and no food.  I knew I needed a pretty, idyllic, and beautiful venue, enough wine to satisfy several army platoons, and some great food.  To sum it up in a nutshell, I needed a whole lot of everything if I was going to make this party one for the record books.    

I could only hope that a genie would fly out of one of my wine bottles to grant me three wishes, or maybe I just needed to pray for some divine intervention!  Well, guess what?  Dreams and wishes do come true – you just need to say the two magic words:  HELP and PLEASE.     

WISH #1Where was I gonna hold this beautifully conceived blind wine tasting?  In my mind, I wanted the tasting to have a warm, relaxed feeling in a home – not in some rented church hall or at the local moose lodge.  I really wanted a place where people could just kick off their shoes, sit back, and try a few wines in a comfortable, intimate setting.  You know, just the picture-perfect place where guests could feel right at home.   But as I thought about the potential number of wine lovers attending this little shindig, I quickly began to realize that my slice of home-heaven was not going to accommodate the number of guests that was floating around in my dizzy wine-soaked brain.  So I wished and wished, asked for HELP, and said the magic word PLEASE.  And guess what?  It worked!    

WISH #1 GRANTED:  My wife phoned our good friends Rob and Candice Holden and asked them if they would be willing to open up their gorgeous early 20th century home to nearly 100 winos eager to sip, swirl, swallow, and spit (maybe not so much of the spitting part) a bunch of brown-bagged wines.   

And you know what?  They said, “YES”!  Candice & Rob, you guys are the best!  Thank you both for your immense generosity and all of the work that each of you put into making this party a huge success!     

WISH #2How in the world was I going to assemble enough wines to put into this blind tasting?  I was hoping for enough variety, with price points ranging from Boone’s to Dom, that would thoroughly floor this thirsty crowd and send them into a total wine euphoria.  So I wished and wished, asked for HELP, and said the magic word PLEASE.  And guess what?  It worked again!     

WISH #2 GRANTED:  I knew that I was going to have to call in some pros that have lots of experience conducting blind-tastings.  So I picked up the phone and called my friends over at “The Wine Trials” and asked them if they might be willing to take a road trip to the home of tax-free shopping – Delaware.     

(From left) Tyce Walters, Coco Owens, Robin Goldstein, Mark Walker and Alexis Herschkowitsch at the tasting in Wilmington. The News Journal GINGER WALL

They graciously agreed to participate and brought with them a ‘Baskin-Robbins’ array of wines, priced low to high.  Heck, they were even nice enough to bag and number all 72 of them ahead of time!  For that – Alexis, Robin, Tyce and Coco:  Thank you for bringing enough wine for an army and for giving these Delaware wine lovers an opportunity to participate in the Wine Trials.  We’re looking forward to the 2011 edition with great anticipation!  

 

But wait!  Can you believe that after 6 flights, which included 72 wines, guests were still thirsty for more!  Here comes my good friend Oscar Zelaya, owner of Ward’s Fine Wines in Wilmington, Delaware, to the rescue.  He conducted his own special wine tasting, pouring some of his own personal favorites (under $20) from his shop.    

 

Oscar, thank you my friend for calling St. Peter and guaranteeing us a perfect rain-free evening and for not choosing the World Cup over the party.    

WISH #3Food!  What was I going to do about food?  We certainly have to offer up something for our guests to eat in order to soak up all of that wine that was going to be consumed, right?  Two of the 4 hosts were beginning to think that the only things that would be served at the party would be breadsticks and the Kraft singles that were in the fridge.  So I wished and wished, asked for HELP, and said the magic word PLEASE.  And guess what?  Well, this one required some divine intervention.  We needed a very brave individual with nerves of steel (who also happens to be an outstanding chef) to pull this together with very little notice.      

WISH #3 GRANTEDTalk about a spread that was as beautiful as it was bountiful.  Wow!  Major “big ups” go out to one of Delaware’s Masters of Gastronomy, Matthew Curtis, Owner and Chef of Wilmington’s Union City Grille.     

Photo Courtesy of Union City Grill

A few of the tasty morsels he prepared, included:  

Roquefort grapes – grapes dredged in Roquefort and dusted with Pistachio Crumbles
Spicy tuna tartar with mint served on a cucumber
Thai chicken skewers
Thinly sliced “Blackened Beef” on crostini with gorgonzola mascarpone
Warm phyllo cups with chorizo, roasted peppers and cheddar
Curried crab salad on cumin toasted pita crisps
Antipasti
Scallop Ceviche with toasted tostada chips   

  

I’m still in awe of Chef Curtis and the amazing spread he put together in such a short period of time.  Thank you for keeping your cool, while some of us were beginning to lose it.    

I almost forgot – Dessert!  When throwing a party, you’ve got an obligation to offer your party guests a little dessert, right?  A very special thank you goes out to my dear MUM for slaving in a hot kitchen for 100 people she didn’t even know.  My own mom got into the WineLife action and cranked out several of her naughty brownie creations for guests to nibble on.  Thanks Mom!  No doubt, you make a mean brownie and now a few others know it too – including Chef Curtis.  

Final Parting Words:    

What more can I tell you about this spectacular evening besides, it doesn’t take a genie to make magic.  It just takes some fantastic people who are willing to help!    

I think this swanky soirée was best summed up by one of our guests as they were leaving:    

“Hey, can we do this all over again in about 2 weeks?”  And I replied back, “Why, two weeks?”  And they said, “It’s about the amount of time I’ll need to recoup from this one!”  

Cheers to everyone that participated in The Delaware Wine Trials…let’s do it again!  

  

  

If you’d like to read more about the party or see more pictures, checkout these links:    

Fine on the Palate, Easy on the Wallet“  News Journal – June 16, 2010
The Wine Trials:  Wilmington Edition“  Second Helpings – June 16, 2010
Delaware Wine Trials Album“  WineLife365 FaceBook Page – June 19, 2010
The Delaware Wine Trials Album“  The Wine Trials FaceBook Page – June 14, 2010

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