It's fun to focus on one varietal.
You really don't appreciate how different wine from the same grape can taste until you try several examples side-by-side. This can make for a fun party.
Here's one way you can do it that's relatively easy.
First, pick a grape that you know you and your friends generally like. We have a few friends that are crazy about Pinot Noir, so we recently decided to go with that one.
Next, invite some friends and ask each couple to bring a bottle of wine made from that grape. If you are inviting singles, you can ask half your guests to bring a bottle to keep things from getting too boozy.
Now, you'll want to plan a menu that goes with that wine.
Wine pairing doesn't have to be difficult if you have the ultimate cheat sheet! We use What to Drink with What You Eat as our go-to guide for wine pairing. Just pick a grape and the book will give you a list of possible menu items that are sure to go well with that wine.
For our Pinot Noir party, Sally decided to go with beef brisket, mashed potatoes, and green beans wrapped in bacon.
We also started with a cheese course since wine can be fun to pair with cheese. Lucky for us, there's an amazing cheese shop in San Diego called Venissimo. All we have to do is tell one of their knowledgeable employees what varietal we're serving and they'll have several stellar recommendations at the ready.
The day of the party, it's a good idea to give your guests one wine glass for each bottle of wine being shared. Just be careful - this can make your table a little crowded.
We've found that dispensing with unnecessary items like table clothes, place mats, and center pieces can free up a little extra space.
There's one last prep item to mention. You want to get a bag of some kind for each wine bottle. Open yours just before guests arrive and then hand one to each guest.
This way, guests can open and bag their own wine so you won't see what they brought. We mark the bags with numbers so we can keep track of each wine while we're drinking it. Number one is the glass on each person's left, number two is the glass immediately to the right of that, and so on.
This helps during the tasting so you can all compare notes by referring to number one versus number two, etc.
OK, that covers the party planning. Once your guests arrive, it's time to enjoy yourself! We pour a small glass of each wine for our guests once everyone arrives and then start with the cheese course. This gives everyone a chance to try the wine with and without cheese.
We then move on to the main course. We all discuss the wine along the way. Part of the fun is discovering how people's perceptions change depending on what you're eating.
Finally, we see if there's a consensus favorite among the group.
At our Pinot Noir party, we were all surprised to learn that everyone brought a Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley region! Here's the line-up:
- 2012 Maison L'Envoye Two Messengers Pinot Noir
- 2012 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir
- 2013 Solena Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir
- 2014 Erath Pinot Noir
All of the wines were tasty, but they had some big differences. Some were earthy while others were fruitier. Some were lighter while others were darker. It was fun to compare.
As always, we voted on a winner just for fun. The crowd favorite this time was the 2012 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir.