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Hosting a Wine Tasting with Friends

February 7, 2013 - Written by Diana

One Saturday evening this winter we decided to meet with a bunch of friends for a wine tasting.  Though the wine was provided by a pr company, a wine tasting doesn’t need to be expensive or costly.  It’s a great way to get to know people.  We made some new friends and had time to chat and enjoy each others company and learn about our friends in a relaxing atmosphere. Our party is not the serious wine connoisseur’s party, it’s a fun gathering of friends trying out wine. Would we do it again – definitely!  Here are a few suggestions for hosting a successful wine tasting party.

1. Have wine, spirits, non-alcoholic refreshment, something fun but not too much. Five or six different wines is the limit, so that you don’t overwhelm everyone with too many choices.  The distinction between a big party and a wine tasting is that you aren’t going to seriously drink and forget what you’ve done, you’re there to taste the wine and talking about the wine is key to a good wine tasting.  However, chatting off topic is enjoyed and encouraged; really good gossip is a plus.

2. Agree to disagree – because you are there to relax and have a good time.  There are no winners, no losers, no ties- at the end of the party hopefully you found something new to enjoy, or even something to avoid. Different people have different palates and the goal is to find what suits you – the goal is not a consensus. If you come to an agreement, it could be a really good wine to look for again.

3. Be prepared. Have on hand at least one glass for each person, appropriate for serving the drink. While you might drink out of a juice glass (or in our case – Pom glasses), when hosting a wine party have at least wine glasses. If it was Martini night use Martini glasses. The tone can be set by using the proper glassware. Another good to have on hand is a dump bucket so you can dump out those you didn’t like or want to finish. The object isn’t to drink it all, it’s to have fun. We’re not part of the clean glass club.  Five or six different wines is the limit, so that you don’t overwhelm everyone with too many choices.

4. Over prepare. I got the tasting notes for the wines we tried out and made copies for all of the couples to share. Since we aren’t experts, we liked the suggested notes and also sometimes disagreed with their assessment but it was part of the fun. If you were working with mixed drinks, you would want to include copies of recipes so that it could be duplicated. For the wine tasting, I wish I had made up little score cards. When reporting on a review for a blog, an overall assessment is nice to present, though not necessary for the group itself.

5. Have snacks that everyone can enjoy. We had a potluck, lots of bites to munch on while you are sipping. The only suggestion really is to avoid too much spicy or very heavy foods because it can throw your palate off, and it may mask the flavor of the wine. Fruit and cheese always work well.

6. A theme my not be necessary but a nice to have. Suggested themes could be:

7. Blind tasting – if you are serious wine drinkers, a blind tasting might be the way to go.  Cover the bottle, so that no one knows the name, the brand, the label – and then you can seriously discuss all of it’s attributes. If I were to cover the bottles, I’d probably do guessing games to figure out which attributes went with which bottles.  I’m not so serious.

8. Sniff, Swirl, Sip, Spit -  I think that’s the correct order.

Valentines Day is coming up, and this would be a great couples way to have fun. Gather some of your best pals, a couple of bottles of wine and get some tasting going on.  This would be great for an Oscar party – or Bachelor reunion cat party or just couples night – cause we like to gather and do some sipping.

Here are some websites that could help with your next wine tasting.

Food and Wine – How to Host a Wine Tasting

Epicurious – Wine Tasting Party Tips

The Skinny Gourmet – How to Host a Wine Tasting

Williams and Sonoma – How to Host a Wine Tasting Party

 

Disclosure: The wines were provided to me and we planned a wine tasting.  It was very nice.

 

My summer drink of 2011 – Peach Mint Vodka Cocktail

August 30, 2011 - Written by Diana

I made my new favorite cocktail tonight.  I’ve tried it a few times, and it always comes out tasty.  It’s a refreshing summery peach drink that finishes with mint, so so good. (more…)

Upscale Your (Kiwi) Cocktails with Domaine De Canton

June 17, 2011 - Written by Diana

Wow!  Domaine De Canton is something wonderful.   @DebNg – this would add an asian twist to your specialty martini’s. It’s a gingery vanilla liqueur – that smells and tastes like a ginger bouquet added to your drink.  It’s the perfect way to upscale your cocktail.  The first time I opened the bottle, I knew I would love this liqueur.  I could just sit with the bottle smelling the aroma, or maybe dousing myself in the fragrance but then adding it to lemon lime soda or ginger ale with ice, is just fantastic.  It enhances whatever you drink, making it seem so much more than just liquor and soda.  Adding lemon, tequila would also be great too.  I came up with a kiwi cocktail that is uber delicious, so delicious that my husband begged for the dregs with all of the kiwi and ice remnants.  I should have cleaned up the glass better when I was taking photos, but I kept taking sips and messing the glass up.

Alcohol content in this drink is low, so you can use some light white rum to make it stronger – on a work night  my brain is already on it’s way out, so I didn’t tonight.

My cocktail shaker is stuck together (I am looking for suggestions to take care of this), so I used my magic bullet cup for mashing, and shaking and that worked just fine (without putting it on the base).  I love fresh fruit to make my cocktails, it’s a lot tastier than simple syrup.

Kiwi Cocktail with Domaine De Canton

Muddle kiwi, squeeze in lime, add Domaine De Canton and Ice.  Shake vigorously.  Strain Cocktail into glasses, top with lemon lime soda and ice and stir.

 

From their website:

Each bottle of Domain de Canton begins with the selection of only the finest, fresh baby Vietnamese ginger. The baby ginger is peeled and cut by hand and then, in Jarnac, at the center of France’s cognac region, it is macerated with a blend of herbs and spices to unlock its fresh essence. Domain de Canton is made in small batches by hand and, therefore, mass quantities are not possible. Each batch of Domain de Canton boasts a distinctively bright, fresh, yet rich and complex ginger flavor.

It is good as it sounds – YUM!

Disclosure:  Domaine De Canton was sent to me for a review.  The review is my own honest opinion.

Mardi Gras Cocktails

March 8, 2011 - Written by Diana

Today starts Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), the day before Lent is kicked off. We’re always looking to celebrate; here are a few fun drinks to start off your Mardi Gras festivities. Enjoy!

The Big Easy

Refreshing, yet potent, this simple drink has the flavors and energy of Mardi Gras.

In a shaker, combine 1800 Tequila, passion fruit syrup, and lime juice.Shake well and pour mixture into a glass of ice. Top with champagne and stir, Garnish with mint leaves.

Bourbon Street Sunrise

A New Orleans twist on a classic cocktail

In a shaker, combine ice, 1800 Tequila, passion fruit syrup and lime juice. Shake well and pour mixture into a glass. Add a splash of lemon-lime soda and stir. Garnish with orange wedge.

Me’lon de Dobel

One part sweet, one part tart -this is the perfect cocktail to kick off any French celebration.

In a shaker, combine ice, DOBEL Tequila, Apple Schnapps , Peach Schnapps, melon liqueur, grape fruit juice and orange juice. Shake well and pour mixture into a glass. Garnish with orange wedge.

Agave Jazz Julep

Inspired by kitchens in the Deep South and a staple in New Orleans bars, this Southern cocktail is sure to spice up your celebration.

Muddle mint leaves in glass. Add agave and tequila. Stir and top with ginger ale. Garnish with mint leaves.

Red Wine Blends for your Valentine

February 12, 2011 - Written by Diana

My husband and I are doing you a big favor – we’re tasting wine blends so that you can get our honest opinion of what we think.  It’s a tough job, but we’re doing this so you can enjoy your Valentine’s Day with your loved one.  So far, I’d have to say we are enjoying them and it’s not like wine punch – a mixture of different wines just thrown together, but it does have different compatible flavors hitting your tongue in a nice way.

My husband predictably liked the Barefoot Sweet Red Blend.  He likes sweet wines, but Barefoot Sweet Red isn’t a dessert wine, it’s a smooth, sweet red wine a little fruity, a little sweet, nice tasting, but not too sweet. Sweet Red ($7), is a deliciously sweet blend of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Petite Sirah.  I’m including a Sangria recipe below that I would be great to share with your significant other.  My dad used to make Sangria for our summer gatherings, but there was never enough to go around.  This wine is perfect for Sangria. (more…)

Cool Lemonade For Friday Night Unwind

January 15, 2011 - Written by Diana

Lemonade in the Winter – This 1800 Cool Lemonade will warm you right up on a cold wintery Friday Night Unwind.  I’m going to slip under a warm blanket with a cool cocktail to relax with my husband, what about you – have some Cool Lemonade and think about spring with me.

1800® Cool Lemonade


Ingredients:

Muddle mint with simple syrup in a tall glass.
Add tequila, lemon juice, and ice and shake vigorously.
Strain over fresh ice and garnish with lemon wheels.

Sparkling Sugarplum Cocktail for your Friday Night Unwind

December 11, 2010 - Written by Diana

Last weekend I was sick as a dog, so there wasn’t a Friday night cocktail.  This weekend I’m starting out with a sweet spicy sparkling sugarplum cocktail to help shed all the drama of the week.  I find sake to be a very mild flavored alcohol, that adds a little body, but doesn’t overpower the cocktail. Gekkeikan plum wine was different from a previous plum wine that I tried earlier in that it had less sweetness, but more flavor.  It is less of a liqueur and more of a wine.  I think the Zipang Sparkling Sake is better tasting than soda water or sparking water, but less sweet than soda.  My only problem was it wasn’t resealable.  This isn’t an overly sweet cocktail, but nicely sweet and a good way to unwind.

Sparkling Sugarplum by Tad Carducci

Shake Gekkeikan Plum Wine, ginger liqueur and passion fruit nectar over ice.  Strain into a champagne flute. Top with chilled Zipang Sparkling Sake and stir gently. Garnish with a candied ginger slice.

Gekkeikan plum wine: subtle plum flavor, rich and full bodied

Gekkeikan traditional sake: Junmai class with a mellow, well-balanced flavor

Zipang Sparkling Sake: Junmai Sparkling, low alcohol.  Light and sweet with a clean refreshing finish.

Friday Night Unwind – Thanksgiving Dessert Cocktails

November 20, 2010 - Written by Diana

I think Friday’s are a great unwind time.  You don’t have to get up and rush out, so sit back with a cocktail, glass of wine, nice micro-brew etc.  Tonight I am bringing you cocktails for your Thanksgiving Dessert ( so you have time to get the ingredients for next week).  These are a little on the sweet side, but some days a little something sweet is just what we need.

Caramel Apple Pie

Combine ingredients and shake well with ice, strain into martini glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

Pumpkin Pie-tini

Using a small amount of honey, rim martini glass with chocolate graham cracker crumbs. Shake milk and pumpkin puree over ice to combine. Pour in remaining ingredients and shake well. Strain into the martini glass.

Grandma’s Cherry Pie

Combine ingredients with ice. Stir and garnish with a cherry.

CranCider Toddy

Heat apple cider and cranberry juice, add 1800 tequila, Gran Marnier and stir. Garnish with an orange slice.

Don Julio Tequila Cocktails With a Little Heat For Your End of Summer Party

September 6, 2010 - Written by Diana

Labor Day may be here, but your fun summer evening aren’t over yet. There may be a few more warm evenings, though it might be too cool for the pool. These drinks using Don Julio Tequila, Zacapa 23 Rum, Ginger and Jalepenos will warm you up, even on a cool evening.  I think there’s still time to run out and get the ingredients to make this Cocktail for your friendly gathering.  One more last hurrah before you huddle under the blankets and close the windows.

Don Julio Hot Nantucket Night
Served at Woodward at Ames in Boston, MA
Ingredients:
1 1/2 ounces Tequila Don Julio Blanco
1 ounce agave nectar
2 fresh cranberries
1 thin slice jalapeño pepper
1 jalapeño for garnish
1/2 ounce lime juice

Preparation:
1. Muddle jalapeño and cranberries in a highball glass.
2. Combine Tequila Don Julio Blanco, agave nectar, and lime juice into a cocktail shaker with ice.
3. Shake well and strain into rocks glass over ice, muddled jalapeño and cranberries.
4. Garnish with jalapeño.

Ideal Serving Glass:
Highball glass

Yield:
1 drink

Zacapa Summer Soiree

Ingredients:
1 1/2 ounces Zacapa 23 Rum
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur
4 dashes orange bitters
2 ounces orange-guava juice
Preparation:
1. Combine Zacapa 23 Rum, ginger liqueur, orange bitters, and orange-guava juice into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice.
2. Cover and shake until thoroughly chilled.
3. Strain into a rocks glass.

Ideal Serving Glass:
Rocks glass

Yield:
1 drink

Melon Coolers

August 23, 2010 - Written by Diana

Today, working in the kitchen, I decided we all needed something cool and refreshing to drink.  I remembered my Watermelon Limeades, and decided to make Melon Coolers.  These can be alcohol free, or you can add some white wine, white rum, tequila – light alcohol to it.  It’s kind of like a melon slushy, but really nice tasting.  If you drink it too fast though you may end up with a cold headache like I did.  This is a super simple drink, that takes no time to make.

Throw everything into a blender.  Whirl until slushy like.  If you want wine or alcohol, stir it in.  Drink.  Nothing better than a cool, refreshing drink on a hot summery day.  Time to sit by the pool.