A Valentine’s Day Wine Soirée

dsc_0896Roses are red
Violets are blue
Swirl, sniff, sip

WINE!

Need I say more?

A little love, a lot of wine…or is it the other way around? Few things are as fun as hosting a wine tasting party, with your closest friends, on the most heart-packed day of the year. That’s what I did. Here’s the scoop and some inspiration should you want to host your own.

Who

Six couples: one bottle per couple gave plenty of wine to taste and compare.

What

This time I asked every duo attending to choose one bottle of wine out of a list of varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Merlot Sangiovese, or  Zinfandel. It was to be a battle of the reds! Depending on your invitees, you might want to assign a price range for your wines, or not. Say what you will, but I’ve yet to see a cheap bottle of wine win a tasting challenge; I usually throw in a wild card with each tasting and it always comes in dead last. I trusted our group would not disappoint with their wine choices.

dsc_0936

When

There’s never a wrong time for a wine tasting of any kind. I’ve hosted several in the past during holidays, birthdays, or just because. But when I think of February 14th, I see flowers, chocolates, and wine: a great match!

Where

While I’ve obviously attended different wine tastings at restaurants, venues, and wine shops, I still prefer the quaint sanctuary of someone’s home for these events.

How

Taste. Wine. Blindly. Well, not literally blinded. I’ll explain. I don’t want anyone swayed by price or label design; it happens. I always assign a number to each bottle upon arrival and hide store them inside tightly tied bags to prevent anyone from cheating (cough, we know who you are, cough). Everyone receives a themed score sheet. As the wine is poured and sipped, participants assign a number (in our case, 1-6) to their favorite: the higher the number, the higher the preference. At the end of the night, the scores are tabulated to decide the overall wine ranking. One glass per person, per wine, and a minimum two ounce pour. This way, it’s easy to compare the wines as you go along. If you don’t have that many glasses yet, you can always improvise with disposable ones from any party supply store.

Additional tips

Of course, you can’t have a wine tasting party without food. I mean, you can, but it’s not a good idea. I try to stay away from serving complicated foods. Instead, I stick to a tapas style menu where the guests can serve themselves, as they please. Cheese platters are a given and always quite the crowd pleaser. As a rule of thumb, I feature hard and soft cheeses of varying milk types. The combinations are endless and I enjoy changing it up each time. I also fill trays with different crackers, jams, honey, berries, and grapes. Not only does this add color to my table, but each item pairs well with the cheese. Other great and easy options are empanadas, mini sandwiches, olives, and bacon wrapped dates. I love to end on a sweet note…meaning a dessert table. By then everyone’s tasted and scored the wine, and the results have been unveiled. The wine-happy chatter of friends discussing the results over chocolate always brings a smile to my face and warms my heart. Or maybe I’m a softie and I should put this glass of wine down. What? You didn’t think I would write this post without one, did you?

Party keepsakes are not needed, but I love including several if possible. I always have an eye out for party decor and accessories when shopping around (even when not actively planning an event). This time I scored heart shaped cork coasters and color coordinating pencils while browsing the Michaels wedding party section. Did they know I was coming? I also hand sketched each guests’ initials on synthetic corks which I then placed on each plate. Not artsy fartsy? You can use a stencil to make it easier! For little bit of added fun, I also set up a photo-props station. Because…selfies. If there is wine, guaranteed those will happen.

Back to the wines…

Here are the results from the last tasting:

RESULTS: (Average Price)

1st Place 2009 Angelica Zapata Malbec Alta ($60.00)

2nd Place 2014 Belle Glos Pinot Noir ($52.00)

3rd Place 2012 Sheridan Vineyard Boss Block ($53.00)

4th Place 2010 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino ($62.00)

5th Place 2013  Clio Jumilla Spain ($47.00)

6th Place 2011 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($59.00)

Results vary greatly depending on the guest list. I was shocked the Jordan cabernet placed dead last. Even more so when I looked at my score sheet and noticed how low I scored it! What’s even funnier than the selfie stand and post-event antics? Reading the wine tasting notes! Some have few words to offer, others…

Whether you choose to host a tasting, or just open a bottle of your favorite wine soon,

cheers to a lovely Valentine’s Day celebration!

May it include love, laughter, friends, and of course WINE!