Tag Archive | wine tasting party

Wine Century Party – 15 Down the Hatch!

Saturday evening Jon and I hosted our first Wine Century Club party.  I got the idea after deciding that I wanted to become a Wine Century Club member, and a party seemed like a good way to try some grapes I hadn’t tried before.  If you are not familiar with the Wine Century Club, it is an online “club,” open to those who have tried wines with at least 100 of the grapes used in wine-making.  You can read more about it here.

After a preliminary tally – I had 59 grapes on my list of bragging rights.  After doing a bit of digging though I added another three that I had tried without knowing it; Xarel-Lo, Macabeo, and Parellada, which are the grape components of the Spanish sparkling wine, Cava.  That meant that going into the party, I was at 62 grapes.

I made up a list of all the wines that I hadn’t tried before, and made visits to several local wine shops and wrote down every wine I could find that contained one of these grapes.  Each couple was to bring one wine that contained one of these unusual grapes (although some of my lovely guests really got into it and brought one bottle per person!).  That made for quite the assortment of wines.

The wines that arrived (in no particular order), with the grape name in bold and italics:

  • Aglianico di Vulture 2010, Terra di Vulcano (Italy)
  • Herdade do Mouchao 2009, Dom Rafael (Portugal) – Alicante Bouchet and Tinta Amerela
  • Damilano, Arneis 2012, (Italy)
  • Ironstone, Obsession Symphony 2012 (California) – a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris
  • Durigutti, Bonarda 2010, (Argentina)
  • Allegrini 2009, Palazzo della Torre (Italy) – Rondinella and Corvina
  • Crianza 2009, Marques de Caceres (Spain) – Graciano
  • Tinta 2009, Quito do Carqueijal (Portugal) – Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca
  • Giogantinu, Vermentino, (Italy)
  • Young Vines, Xinomavro 2010 (Greece)
  • Berger, Zweigelt 2011 (Austria)
  • Tikves, Vranec, (Macedonia)

That’s 15 grapes that I hadn’t tried!  We had a great time tasting through the lineup.  Since almost nobody had tried any of these wines before (I think one person had tried one of the wines), we just set them out, whites first then reds.  We really had no idea how they should be ordered.  For just purchasing blindly, I was pretty impressed with all of the wines; there weren’t any that were bad, but as with any wine tasting there were some that I liked more than others.

My favorites of the evening were the Young Vines Xinomavro, the Tikves Vranec, and the Damilano Arneis.  The Xinomavro and the Vranec were both nice, fruit forward reds with light tannins.  The Arneis was a dry white with a light hint of butter and a floral finish.

We had a great time describing the Zweigelt as a “quickie,” because you got a brief burst of flavor on the palate before it quickly dissipated, leaving almost no finish.  That said, the Zweigelt was my friend Allysa’s favorite wine of the evening, because it didn’t have the heavy tannins that so many of the reds had.  It was a nice easy drinking wine.  We were teasing her about her tasting notes reading, “dry, very dry, too dry, dry…” but hey, she knows what she likes and it isn’t a dry red!

I wasn’t a big fan of the Terra di Vulcano and the Palazzo della Torre – they were both big, heavy tannic reds (of the “dry, very dry” variety).  Coincidentally, they were both Italian reds; I have tried several other Italian red varietals and haven’t found them to be so tannic (Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo being a few).  I found that very interesting. I guess there really is something for everyone there!

We didn’t even try to do a food theme to go with all these wines, so we just had an eclectic buffet of cheeses, crackers, salami and prosciutto, Spanish and Greek olives, cowboy caviar, stuffed crust pizza, carrot sticks, chocolate, and apple pie.

As with any good party evening, I completely forgot to take any photos – but I did take a photo of the wines that were still here after everybody went home (I was a bit more successful in getting people to take wine with them this time!).  And now I am at 77 grapes – 23 to go!

Left to Right: Young Vines Xinomavro, Terra di Vulcano Aglianico del Vulture, Tikves Vranec, Durigutti Bonarda, Dom Rafael Mouchao, and Ironstone Obsession Symphony

Left to Right: Young Vines Xinomavro, Terra di Vulcano Aglianico del Vulture, Tikves Vranec, Durigutti Bonarda, Dom Rafael Mouchao, and Ironstone Obsession Symphony

I think a good time was had by all.  If you host your own Wine Century Party, be sure to let me know how it goes!  Happy Sunday Everybody!

Sparkling Wine Tasting Party

Last night Jon and I hosted a Sparkling Wine Tasting party at our house.  I love sparkling wines, and I think they are under-appreciated.  I mean, they are fun, with the tickle on your lips and nose, refreshing, perfect for celebrating or even just relaxing on the deck, and they go well with just about any food.  They have become known for just being the New Year’s and wedding toast wines, but that’s really not fair!  So let’s change that!

Flutes at the Ready

Flutes at the Ready

I asked each couple to bring one wine, and gave some suggestions for categories to select from.  Then I asked each couple to check back in with me after they made their pick so I could let the rest of the group know.  That way, we wouldn’t end up with a whole pile of Prosecco.  Beyond that, brand and price point were up to the guests.  Here’s what we ended up with (left to right in the photo):

  • Scharffenberger Brut Excellence NV
  • Santo Moscato D’Asti NV
  • Zenas Sparkling Riesling 1X
  • Blason de Bourgogne Crémant NV (Trader Joe’s Exclusive)
  • Domaine Ste. Michelle Luxe 2004
  • Montelliana Prosecco Treviso Extra-Dry
  • Gaetano D’Aquino Asti NV
  • Poema Cava Brut NV
The Sparkling Wine Lineup - The good, the good and the corked...

The Sparkling Wine Lineup – The good, the good and the corked…

We didn’t do a blind tasting this time, as I thought it would be too difficult to figure out the differences between a Spanish sparkling wine and a California sparkling wine without knowing what it was.  Besides, as most of the guests hadn’t done much sparkling wine tasting, they were unlikely to be biased by the price points of the wines or the regions where they were made.  (If you want to read about the blind wine tasting party that we hosted last year, you can find that here.)

We popped all the wines and went to work sampling and tasting.  Meanwhile, Jon grilled up the teriyaki turkey burgers that I made, because wine as classy as sparkling wine deserves a fancy meal!  Remember I said that sparkling wine pairs with just about everything?  They were fantastic with our burgers, accompanied by 7 layer dip and chips, fruit salad, a veggie tray and Greek salad – just to give the evening the right amount of international influence!

Here are my limited notes (I paid more attention to socializing than I did to evaluating the wines).

  • Scharffenberger Brut Excellence NV – dry yeast, very nice
  • Santo Moscato D’Asti NV – very sweet, apricot
  • Zenas Sparkling Riesling 1X – sadly, corked
  • Blason de Bourgogne Crémant NV (Trader Joe’s Exclusive) – Dry, yeast.  Very good.
  • Domaine Ste. Michelle Luxe 2004 – decent, dry – like the Blanc de Noir by Ste. Michelle better
  • Montelliana Prosecco Treviso Extra-Dry – semi-sweet
  • Gaetano D’Aquino Asti NV – Creamy, with a Pineapple/Papaya Finish
  • Poema Cava Brut NV – very slight green apple flavor with bread
Tasting Sheets

Tasting Sheets

Other than the corked bottle of Zenas (an Oregon producer), I was pleased with all of these wines.  I’m not sure what happened there – I know it was purchased at the winery about 4 years ago – but I’m sure it wasn’t stored optimally either (I guess that’s a lesson for us -let’s enjoy them now!)  Most of the sparkling wines last night were priced at $10 or below, and I think one or two was even less than $5!  There weren’t any of them that I would turn down or not purchase.  Overall, a great night where we got to try some new wines.

Although we didn’t have an official winner’s list, we did tally everybody’s top 3 and the unofficial winners were the Santo Moscato D’Asti, the Montelliana Prosecco, and the Blason de Bourgogne Crémant (if I remember correctly).  The Poema Cava got an honorable mention.  Seems by the rankings that I have friends who love a sweet wine, as the Moscato D’Asti was by far the sweetest of the bunch!

All in all, I think everybody had a great time, and the opportunity to expand their horizons a bit and try some new wines.  I got to spend a wonderful evening with friends.  What better evening is there?

Blind Wine Tasting Party!

Jon and I decided that we wanted to do a Blind Wine Tasting Party. We have heard about them from time to time and it sounds like it would be fun. Jon and I frequently open blended wines and try to guess which grapes went into the blend, but we haven’t ever tasted wines where we have no information ahead of time about the wine. So, we came up with a plan and a strategy.

For a Blind Wine Tasting Party, You Need Wine!

Here are our proposed “rules”, so to speak:

1. We had to limit the guest list. Unfortunately, if you leave it open ended, then you either end up with too many choices of wines, or not enough wine in each bottle for everybody to taste it. Plus the logistics of pouring small pours at stations in our kitchen, and too many people could make for a lot of bumping into each other, and the potential to spill wines or break glasses. The web (and isn’t the web always right!?) says that a tasting party gets unmanageable at more than 12 people. I invited more than that, but the laws of adult responsibilities mean that some of my friends won’t be able to attend.

2. Each guest has to bring a single varietal wine, and inform me ahead of time which varietal they are choosing to bring. Only one bottle of each varietal will be allowed. This is so we have some variety (get it, variety – varietal?  I know, that was dumb…), because it would be a different kind of tasting if everybody brought a Cab. Although that might be a different wine themed party someday!

3. Jon and I want to play the game too, so to maintain the mystery of each wine, each guest will place their bottle in the “oh-so-classy” brown paper bag before they come in the house. This is so I can have the neighbors believing all my friends stroll about town with a shopping cart and a bottle of booze in a brown paper bag!  Then the guest will uncork the bottle and remove the foil top, so nobody can read Chateau Ste. Michelle on the foil.

4. Then we’ll shuffle all the reds and all the whites, and then assign each one a letter, for anonymity.

5. Guests can talk among themselves about the wine, but we really do want each guest to try to guess for themselves. What’s the fun in copying from your neighbor? Ok, I’m sure some of you will say that was easier in High School, but that doesn’t make it right.  Plus, I have a feeling this will be ten times more difficult to judge whether a Sauvignon Blanc has those characteristics if you can’t see the bottle to know that’s what it is.

I’ll give everybody a score sheet, with a section for each lettered wine. Guests will try to guess the varietal and the region for each wine. And of course, we’ll have a section for tasting notes, so guests can let us know which ones they like best, in case they want to go out and find that wine! I’m going to be nice too, and even provide a primer on the characteristics of each varietal, for my less wine-adventurous friends.

It’s all in good fun, but we’ll see who gets the most points to decide the King or Queen of the glass! I’ll let you know how it goes, but let me know if you have any suggestions for how to make it better. Now I just have to wait for the party!