Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Evening of Wine

Wind down this month with a wine tasting event. Whether you decide to visit a local winery with friends for an afternoon of perfect pairings or you choose to host a blind tasting party in your own home, At Home Tennessee’s Stephanie Alexander has all kinds of tips, from adorable cork place cards to tasting techniques.
Text Stephanie Alexander, event planner| PHOTOGRAPHY Phindy Studios
FLORALS Terry White, The English Garden| VENUE The Winery at the Belle Meade Plantation

This month is all about wine. When planning your tasting party, you’ve got multiple options—we’ve provided tips for two versions of a wine tasting event here. The first type of wine tasting is one in which you and your guests visit a local winery. The second type is a blind-tasting party hosted at your home.
If you’re lucky enough to live close to a winery, you’re in for a treat. You can gather several close friends and schedule a tour and tasting and let the experts handle all the details! If you visit a local winery, you’ll get to taste wines that are exclusive to that location as well as enjoy an expert-guided tasting. If you’re new to wine tasting, this can be a great way to spend time with friends and learn together.
This month’s party took place at the Winery at Belle Meade Plantation. The winery opened November 2009 and offers tastings seven days a week. Located in the heart of the city of Belle Meade, the winery’s grapes are grown in Hampshire, Tennessee, south of Columbia. Keg Springs Winery has produced award-winning bottles and its talented wine maker, Brian Hamm, is also at the helm of crafting Belle Meade’s wines.

Meet the Wines: An Overview of the Winery at Belle Meade’s Bottles
•Blackberry A deep, dark, sweet wine with pronounced berry flavor, this wine is a perfect companion for flavorful cheeses, pork tenderloin or ribs, a full-bodied steak or as a reduction for a sauce. It also makes a great ingredient for a host of unique recipes, such as Easy Blackberry Cake, available on Belle Meade’s website.
•Muscadine is a traditional Tennessee wine that was made on the plantation for more than a century. Muscadine is a true American grape and is recognized today for its high antioxidant qualities. Many muscadine vines still grow wild along the fencerows surrounding the plantation. This wine is best served chilled on a front porch while rocking!
•Carriage House White Made from a Tennessee-grown grape, Carriage House White surprises you upon opening with the aroma of apple pie and citrus. Once on the tongue, the fruity characteristics continue as this semi-dry, full-bodied wine offers a crisp taste of Tennessee. Serve as other whites with seafood, chicken, nuts and cheese or as an aperitif.
•Blush The best of Tennessee grapes joined to create a blush that makes an ideal light sipping wine as well as an accompaniment to a wide range of foods. Serve slightly chilled at your next picnic, or dress it up this fall with Thanksgiving turkey.

If you don’t have access to a winery or would rather host a party in your home, hold a blind tasting for your friends. To start, find a fabulous wine-themed invitation to send to your guests. Because of the nature of wine tastings and the discussions they evoke, keep your guest list small, between six and 12 people. Also, on your invitation ask each guest to bring one of their favorite wines to the party.

Themed Tastings
You may want to limit the wines you will taste to a certain type. For example, sample all whites in summertime or specify that the bottles brought should be organic. Or try some of these fun suggestions:
Grape Geography If you want to taste wines from a certain region, such as South America, make sure to specify that on your invitation.
Budget Bottles Try putting a price limit on the bottles your guests bring. It’s fun to see what $15 or less tastes like!

The great thing about wine tasting parties is that they can be relatively easy to organize. Keep the food selection simple and allow the wines to be center stage this evening. Do serve light hors d’oeuvres that pair well with the type of wines; experts recommend providing snacks like fresh breads, artisan cheeses and crackers to help clean the palate between wines.
If you have a plethora of wineglasses on hand, the best option is to allow the guests a different wine glass for each type of wine. Another option is to rent inexpensive glassware from a party rental company to ensure that each guest gets a fresh glass for each wine. On the other hand, if you do not have enough glasses, provide a bucket that guests can pour their wine into between tastings.
Once all the guests have arrived, cover each wine bottle label (do-it-yourself instructions follow), affix a number to the bottle and set the wine bottles in numerical order.
Pass out your guests’ wine journals, which feature a wine tasting grid (instructions to follow), or provide simple notepads or scorecards with a wine tasting grid. Encourage your guests to take notes so that they can compare with other guests after the tasting.
Once everyone has sampled all the wines, it’s time to reveal what each one is!
Ask participants to write down the name of the wine next to a number in their journal. Also, have everyone vote on his or her favorite wine of the night. Give a small gift to the guest who brought the evening’s favorite bottle!

For Do it Yourself tips and more, pick up the August issue of At Home TN!


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