Tuesday, October 8, 2013

HOW TO: Host a Wine Tasting (Featuring NAKED WINES!)

Some people are great at fixing things, or building things, and some people are even good at doing things. Painting, skiing, singing.... these things are called talents. I, too, have talents (which is the only way you know someone has talents, because they tell you.). Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, singing will never be my ticket to fame and I will never get to be a pop star. My talents are a little more focused on things that I can put in my stomach and, fortunately for those around me, include drinking wine and feeding people. You might be asking yourself... Drinking wine is a talent? And I will tell you that the answer is yes. Drinking wine is a talent. One that I am exceedingly good at and also one that pairs very well with feeding people. People say, "Sarah, I think you have a problem." And I say, "No, I have a hobby that I am very great at. Are you jealous?"

So, just as doctors and architects take continuing education courses to stay on their game and learn new things, people who love wine have wine clubs. Richard and I are members of a great wine club called Naked Wines. Naked wines is a unique club where you invest directly in independent wine makers and in turn get huge discounts on the wines those winemakers make. Your monthly $40 "investment" goes into your account and you get to use that money towards the wine you buy.  I'd explain it more but I don't really like math. What I do like is a lot of great wine for very little money. So, as you can imagine I was excited to use this as an excuse to host a party. To be fair though, for me a strong breeze is a good enough reason to host a party, but wine is even better. Luckily for Rich and I, Naked Wines was kind enough to give us the opportunity (and the wine) to host a tasting with some of their new wines that we hadn't tried yet.  And while I told them that Richard and I didn't need help and that we could taste the wines all by ourselves, they suggested we invite a few friends. 

Matt Iaconis Margaret River Valley Sauvignon Blanc Semilon 2013
La Tapatia Pinot Noir Nappa Valley 2012
Sartirano Piemonte DOC Barbera 2011
Sin Fronteras Los Primos Red Wine 2012
S & A Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley 2012
Matt Iaconis Globetrotter Red CA USA 2012

We are a red wine loving group, so while we did try one great Sauvignon Blanc, we kept the tasting focused on a selection of red wines. 

Along with the wines, we prepared several small bites for our friends to nibble on during their tastings.  For a cocktail party, it is a good idea to serve your guests about 5 ounces of cheese and 4 ounces of per person. You always want to make sure there's more than enough to eat when you are serving alcohol (don't worry, it won't go to waste. You'll crawl out of bed and finish it off at 3am). If your party will include dinner and the charcuterie will be presented as an appetizer, 2-3 ounces of cheese and about 4 slices of meat per person should be enough. If not tell your friends to stop pigging out on your free food! 

Some great snacks to serve at a wine tasting or cocktail party:

Assorted cheese and charcuterie with an assortment of dried fruits, nuts, olives, and crackers
Some of my favorite cheeses to serve are manchego, brie, gouda, camemburt, stilton, & cotswald. I always chooses a few that I know everyone will like and then a couple new ones to experiment with. 
Cheeses are at their optimum flavor at room temperature, so remove them from the refrigerator about 60 minutes before serving. 

I also prepared a spread of cured italian meats including several different salamis, mortadella, prosciutto, and bresaola. 

Some other great things to serve with charcuterie:
Crackers, crsuty bread, flatbreads, and crostinis
Fruits: Figs, grapes, apples, pears, dried apricots, dried cherries
Nuts: Almonds walnuts, pistachios, pecans
Jams & Spreads: Fig jam, onion confit, pesto, olive tapenade, mustard
Other: Roasted peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, cornichons, assorted olives

When serving charcuterie, I aways accompany the meats with whole grain mustard, cornichons, and arugula. 

Assorted Crostinis
Heirloom tomato brushetta topped with buratta cheese
Figs with goat cheese, honey and thyme
Butternut squash with sage and crispy pancetta

Artisan Flatbreads  
Caramelized shallots and mushrooms
Mozzarella and fresh basil
Brie cheese, apples, and caramelized onions

And of course we had a spread of fancy baked treats from Three Dog Bakery for the pups. 

we really have the loveliest of friends.

If you live in LA, you know every friend that you invite over has a dog that they really are dying to bring to your house... And since we have a lot of dogs ourselves, I figured what better than to take a classy afternoon and turn it into a dog halloween party. We are clearly a very well rounded bunch! 

Octopuses, Donkeys, and Skeletons, Oh my!

Thank you again, Naked Wines, for sponsoring such a wonderful afternoon! For more information about what they do (and how to get them to send you wine) visit http://us.nakedwines.com/


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