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Wine tastings can be very simple to put together and a great way to learn about new wines and stir conversation before heading to a meal or hosting one yourself.

If you want to save the expense of flying to Napa or travel time to a local vineyard near you, plot out your own wine-tasting party for a casual weekend or holiday afternoon.  It’s also a great way to kick off a brunch or dinner party, warming up the guests for a fun meal, sparking conversation and an excuse to hit the wine early and go long.

There are many ways to map one out, including asking each guest to bring a wine they can present to the group.  I recommend making traditional breadsticks (or buying them) and a few select cheeses that will help bring out the flavors in the wine.

img_6684Things to do:

  • First thing, unless Robert Parker is a guest at your wine tasting, don’t go overboard. Consider this as a quick and casual conversation about wine, learn one or two interesting things and keep the tasting moving.  (No one likes the person who pulls out a wikipedia page, eager to educate everyone on the history of grapes.)
  • Pick four wines to taste, basing it on varietal or horizontal.
    • Varietal means you have picked a certain wine, let’s say a Cabernet, and you look for the same vintage from different regions.
    • Horizontal is when you pick from a single category and single vintage, so you could pick 1998 Cabernets from Napa Valley and go ahead and pick from different vineyards.
  • Since this tasting is more casual, you can just have each guest bring a few bottles of their favorite wine in the varietal or horizontal. You choose and each guest/couple can present their selections. No need to break the bank on a vintage bottle, when an interesting or unique vineyard is likely to be more fun to discuss (and drink.)
  • I went to a wine tasting hosted by Clive Cloates the legendary Burgundy expert from that region in France.  A woman from the Burgundy Society of Washington stood up and asked how he knew a wine is truly good.  His response devastated her as it was quick and simple, “If you like the wine you are drinking then it is good, well at least for you.”  So my recommendation, don’t spend the night sniffing, swirling, gurgling, just drink it, discuss it and have a great meal after.

What to serve for the tasting?

Cheese and fresh Prosciutto Thyme Gourgeres

It is a good idea to match cheeses with the wine, also known as pairing (this is done with food as well). Here is a thumbnail sketch on pairings, but you can also look it up on-line.

Cabernet: Extra sharp cheddar cheese and if your market has it, get Montgomery Cheddar from Neal’s Dairy Yard, Monchego

Pinot Noir:  Top quality Gruyere cheese

Bordeaux:   Colby Jack

Syrah:  Aged smoke gouda cheese

Chardonnay:  Triple cream brie cheese

Sauvignon Blanc:  French goat cheese

Pinto Grigio:  Mild cheese

What to serve after the wine tasting….

Shrimp Rolls

For the most part your shrimp that you bring back from the market has been frozen at one point. That’s not a horrible thing but if you can hunt down fresh shrimp you will notice the difference. Makes 6 Shrimp Rolls Ingredients 1 pound medium sized shrimp shells on, deveined 2 bay leafs 1 lemon,Continue Reading

Mini Puff Pastry Pizzas

The after hours menu at Claridge’s Hotel in London is a spectacular celebration of late night food which is troublesome, especially with their puff pastry pizza option dangling out there at 2 AM or so.  It’s too delicious to pass up but do you really need a sheet of pastry dough drenched with cheese, sauceContinue Reading

Asian Lettuce Wraps

I was traveling out to Los Angeles in the late 90s and went for the first time to Chin Chin, an amazingly delicious and expensive Asian restaurant that attracted the whose who from the entertainment industry.  Of course, we were all in blue blazers or suits and looked terribly out of place.  This was evidentContinue Reading

Baked Stuffed Clams

Clams are the heart of millions of delicious recipes that involve either stuffing, baking, grilling, steaming and on and on. However you make them, make sure you do not crowd out the flavor of the clams with too many ingredients or add-on flavors. For the most part, when something can be made quickly, effortlessly andContinue Reading

The “Morton’s” Steak Sandwich

When we were interns and wanted a big night out on the town, we would make our way from Georgetown University summer housing (we were squatters, not students) to Morton’s for happy hour. We’d have enough money for two glasses of wine, but the bartender would bring out complimentary steak sandwiches which we would devourContinue Reading

Mini Burger Hors D’oeuvres

We started going down to South Beach in Miami when there were just a handful of hotels and fewer restaurants.  At that time, there was one hotel and one restaurant that really stood out:  The Delano Hotel and Casa Tua Restaurant.  Luckily there were a block apart and we would rarely leave that area backContinue Reading

Muffuletta Sandwich

We popped into the ever so famous Oakville Grocery in Napa Valley, a stop that is long known for gourmet treats, from amazing sandwiches to delicious pastries.  Since we were mid-way through a long visit out west and had countless amazing and fancy meals, I was ready for something very casual, so when I walkedContinue Reading

Cookies & Cabernet during the Covid-19 Pandemic

I am a big believer in good cookies to end a dinner – and I mean very good cookies. Recently, I found a greater purpose for these tasty treats. When the lock-downs started to roll through the United States, it was tough to keep in touch with people beyond never-ending mass text chains. If IContinue Reading

Brownie Trifle

If you are having a big group over for a party, there’s a year round dessert guests devour. If you are in a hurry, you can find a good bakery and buy the brownies or make them yourself. Either way, once you layer them with whipped cream and toffee bars, you have a spectacular dessert.Continue Reading

2 comments on “The Wine Tasting

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