Party #1: Winery Tasting Party
Photography: Phindy Studios, Phil and Mindy Thornton; 615-777-9289; www.phindystudios.com
Florals: Terry White, The English Garden, firstname.lastname@example.org, 615.354.0094
Venue: The Winery at the Belle Meade Plantation
For this month’s party feature in At Home TN magazine, I decided to do two different versions of a “Wine Tasting Party.” The first type of wine tasting is one in which you’d visit a local winery. The second type of wine tasting is a blind-tasting party you host 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! For this month’s party, I visited The Winery at Belle Meade Plantation. The Winery opened November 2009, and they offer wine tastings seven days a week. The Winery is located in the heart of the City of Belle Meade, and their grapes are grown for their Tennessee wines in Hampshire, Tennessee, south of Columbia. Keg Springs Winery has produced award-winning wines and their talented wine maker, Brian Hamm, is also at the helm of crafting their wines.
Here is a list of the wines that they serve at their tastings, as well as ideas on the types of food each wine should be paired with when serving.
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. Also makes a great ingredient for a host of unique recipes, such as Easy Blackberry Cake, available on their website at: www.bellemeadeplantation.com.
Muscadine: A traditional Tennessee wine that would have been found being made here on the Plantation for over a century. Muscadine is a true American grape and is being 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...heaven!
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.
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 as a perfect accompaniment to Thanksgiving turkey. A wine for all seasons!!
The benefit of going to a local winery is that you get to taste wines that are exclusive to that winery. In addition, you have experts guide you in the process of tasting. If you are still learning about wines, this can be a great way to get together with friends and learn together.
The Winery at Belle Meade Plantation also pairs their 4 signature wines with delectable homemade chocolates. These chocolates are hand-crafted and designed by Franklin, Tennessee native, Julie Hinton. Her style is often referenced as modern art due to the unusual geometric shapes and decorative handwork. The taste profiles are defined as modern interpretations of traditional flavors. She works exclusively using artisan methods – hand painting, hand molding, hand dipping, and hand decorating. Each piece is “one of a kind.”
Racing Silk Chocolate
The ultimate in high cocoa content (85%), the chocolate in this truffle is made from a blend of fine cocoa beans from Africa. It is a sophisticated chocolate with notes of walnut and a powerful lingering intensity. (Pairs well with Blackberry)
Delicate Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka is combined with a paste of ground Italian pistachios to add the special flavor to this rich white chocolate ganache. The shell, a 40% milk chocolate, creates a dual chocolate flavor to satisfy the true chocolate enthusiast. (Pairs well with Muscadine)
Vanilla Caramel Apple
Inside this white chocolate piece is a pate’ de fruit made from fresh pureed green apples. It is surrounded with a soft, light caramel flavored with the seeds of Madagascar vanilla beans. Reminiscent of a caramel-covered apple but enjoyed year around. (Pairs well with White)
A milk chocolate shell is filled with a decadent passion fruit caramel. This flavorful filling is the result of cooking sugar until it is "almost burnt" then adding passion fruit pulp to quickly arrest the caramelization. Sweet, yet tart, it is the perfect balance. (Pairs well with Blush)
Caramel with Guerande Fleur de Sel (Seasalt)
A soft, buttery, caramel is infused with pure Madagascar vanilla beans and hand-dipped in dark or milk chocolate. These caramels are topped off with the distinctive flavor of fleur de sel from Guerande. (Pairs well with White and Blush)
Party #2: At Home Blind Tasting Party
A second type of wine tasting party that I wanted to feature is a blind-tasting party you host at your home. To start, make sure to find a fabulous wine-themed invitation to send to your guests. For this type of party, you want to keep your guest list small, between 6 and 12 people. Due to the nature of wine tastings and the discussions they invoke, it is easier to host with an intimate group of friends. Also, on your invitation ask each guest to bring one of their favorite wines to the party.
Here are types of wines to ask your guests to bring:
· If you want to taste wines from a certain region, say South America, make sure to specify that on your invitation.
· You may want to limit your wines to a certain type (For example, all white wines if it’s summertime or maybe you and your friends love organic wines)
· You may want to limit your wines to a certain price. If you want to put a limit on it, do it! It’s fun to see what $15 or under tastes like!
Once you have the type of wines selected and the invitations chosen, it’s time to determine what type of party you want to have. The great thing about wine tasting parties is that they can be relatively easy to organize. Since the focus is on the wine, you do not have to prepare an elaborate meal. In fact, keep the food selection simple and allow the wines to be the focus this evening. I would serve light hors d’oeuvres that pair well with the type of wines being served. In regards to food, wine experts recommend having “palate cleansers,” including fresh breads, artisan cheeses and crackers to help clean the palate between wines.
When you are ready for the tasting, you have several options for your guests for their wine glasses. If you have a plethora of wineglasses on hand, the best option is to allow the guests a different wine glass for each different 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 for a new wine glass for each guest, you can provide a bucket that guests can pour their wine into between tastings.
Once all the guests have arrived and all the wine has been covered, set the wine bottles out in numerical order. Ask each guest to take a wine journal with a wine tasting grid located on the inside cover. (You can also do simple scorecards, notepads, etc). Encourage your guests to take notes so that they can compare with other guests after the tasting.
Also, here are 5 simple rules for wine tastings from wine experts
- See-hold the glass at an angle and examine the color against a white backdrop
- Sniff-what flavors do you smell in your glass?
- Swirl-it helps release the wine’s aromas
- Sniff-smell it again after swirling and see if you discover new aromas
- Sip-Let the wine spread out across your mouth, curl your tongue, and breathe in air through your tongue.
Once all of your wines have been sampled, it’s time to reveal what each one is! Make sure guests write down the name of it, next to the number in their journal. Whenever they leave, they’ll have a list of new favorite wines to try. Also, ask everyone to vote on which was his or her favorite of the night. Give a small gift to the guest who brought the evening’s favorite wine!
Decorative Scrapbook Paper (I chose Purple and White Damask paper)
Using a paper cutter or scissors, cut the scrapbook paper to fit the bottle of wine. Using a glue stick, adhere the paper around the bottle and glue to secure. You can have pre-cut sheets that fit a variety of bottles prepared before guests arrive. While the guests are mingling, simply apply a small amount of glue to hold the paper in place.
Wine Number Markers
Small Wood Squares (Mine were on clearance at Michael’s for $0.29/each)
Spray Paint (I used Green I had on hand from a previous project)
Number Stickers (I chose purple glitter ones to match the purple and white damask paper)
Spray each wood square and allow to dry. Affix a number (I used 1-5) onto each wooden square. Tie the square around the neck of the bottle with twine or raffia.
Wine Tasting Grid
I purchased Journals from the $1 bin at Michael’s. Each journal had the guest’s first initial on the front. To the inside cover, I affixed a wine tasting grid (see pic below).
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Tannins, Body, Alcohol
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Finish and Complexity
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(o to 10)
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Would you buy this wine?
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Wine Cork Place Settings
Scrapbook Paper-2 different colors (For this party, I used the same purple and white damask and green that I used for the wine tags)
Circle-Punch in 2 different sizes
Using the large circle punch, punch a circle out of the purple and white damask scrapbook paper. Using a smaller circle punch, cut a circle out of a coordinating color of scrapbook paper, in this case I used an emerald green. Glue the 2 circles together. Next, affix the 1st initial of your guest to the center of the green circle.
Using a sharp knife, slice an opening along the top of a wine cork to hold the place card.
Finally, set the place card in the opening of the cork and place on your table.