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How To Host a Wine Tasting Party

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Love a wine tasting? We’ve partnered with Brie Matulich, founder of My Splendid Living, to show you how to host a wine tasting party at home for family and friends. Plus, we’ve included some delicious recipes to sample between sips.

Growing up with a small home vineyard in California, I’ve learned more than a few things about wine. While I’ve helped with various stages of the wine-making process, including tending to the vines, harvesting, crushing and bottling, I’ve learned that the best part of the process is getting together with friends and family to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

My family frequently hosts joyous backyard parties where wine tasting is the main activity. Here, I have gathered some of the most important topics, tips and proper etiquette for throwing your own festive tasting party!

First, invite as many people as your buffet table will comfortably serve, and maybe a few more! Your guests will enjoy tasting the wine while sampling small bites at the table, so allow enough space for your guests to comfortably drink, eat and converse. Our lovely outdoor table has room for eight guests to stand around the wine and spread of hors d’oeuvre.

A sufficient amount of wine and glasses is a must. For a party of eight, provide two bottles of each wine being tasted and at least three white wines and three red wines. This will provide enough variety for the guest who is only drinking white or red wines. Serving three different vintages or three different producers of the same varietal allows for an interesting comparison of different flavors, aromas and textures derived from the same type of grape.

Wine tasting parties can have many different themes and wines served. For a more traditional tasting, I recommend that all wines served come from the same specific region. This way your guests can taste the differences of each wine makers style from the same region and compare and contrast. I chose three Chardonnay wines from Napa Valley, California and three Pinot Noirs from that same area.

However, you don’t have to be traditional, there are many different ways of selecting the wines that you serve. It is always a good idea to have at least a few constants such as varietal or region to help bring out the subtle, or overt, differences. Think of it as comparing fruit, it is hard to compare apples and oranges, but it is interesting to compare mandarins and tangerines.

For a formal tasting, provide one piece of stemware per wine per guest. For eight guests, you will need eight champagne glasses, 24 white wine glasses, and 24 red wine glasses. If you are hosting a more casual tasting, you only need one white wine glass and one red wine glass per guest. Just be sure to rinse the glass with water between pours.

Place all glasses and wine bottles in a straight line on your buffet table to have them easily within reach during the tasting. We served one sparkling white wine in a champagne glass to start as a welcome toast, then provided three white wines of the same varietal served in three separate white wine glasses per guest. The last three wines we poured were all reds of the same varietal, served in three red wine glasses per guest.

Bruschetta Three Ways

The fantastic thing about bruschetta is that it’s hard to go wrong. Pairing almost any type of veggie with olive oil and parmesan on top of grilled garlic bread is divine. I brought delicious bruschetta recipes from the book A16 Food + Wine to life, served as a delicious spread to compliment our wine tasting party. For best results, choose loaves of bread without holes and slice thick. I chose bread from a local bakery Manresa, which added a nice farm touch to the gathering. Loading up Crate and Barrel’s bread baskets full of fresh uncut loaves on the table adds effortless style.

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Bruschetta with Dungeness Crab and Rapini
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Servings
Ingredients
  • kosher salt
  • 2 bunches rapini
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes
  • 1 pound fresh-cooked Dungeness Crabmeat
  • 6 bruschette thickly sliced grilled or toasted
Servings
Ingredients
  • kosher salt
  • 2 bunches rapini
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes
  • 1 pound fresh-cooked Dungeness Crabmeat
  • 6 bruschette thickly sliced grilled or toasted
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Instructions
  1. Boil rapini and cook about 5 minutes. Squeeze out extra water and chop. In a saucepan heat olive oil and stir in garlic about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in chili flakes and rapini and cook for about 5 minutes to blend flavors. Add a pinch of salt to taste. Keep hot and set aside.
  3. Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil into the fresh crabmeat with a pinch of salt. Now assemble bruschetta by evenly spreading rapini on top of toasted bread, then top with crab meat. Let rapini slightly warm up crab meat before serving.

 

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Bruschetta with Cannellini Beans, Arugula, and Pecorino
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Ingredients
  • 2 cups Cannellini Beans with garlic marjoram, and Oregano
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Aged Pecorino for shaving
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 bruschette thickly sliced grilled or toasted
Servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Cannellini Beans with garlic marjoram, and Oregano
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Aged Pecorino for shaving
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 bruschette thickly sliced grilled or toasted
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Instructions
  1. In a small pot over medium heat, cook cannellini beans with a splash of water.
  2. Spoon warm beans over toasted bruschetta and top with a small handful of arugula.
  3. Shave a few curls of pecorino on top and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
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Bruschetta with Ricotta and Peperonata
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Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
  • kosher salt
  • 2 cups peperonata (a delicious mix of bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes in olive oil)
  • extra virgin olive oil
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
  • kosher salt
  • 2 cups peperonata (a delicious mix of bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes in olive oil)
  • extra virgin olive oil
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Instructions
  1. Spoon out ricotta onto warm toasted bruschetta and top with fresh peperonata (jarred bell peppers). Drizzle with olive oil to finish!

 

 

Cheese and Charcuterie Platters

Along with the bruschetta, I served up a splendid assortment of cheese on a Crate and Barrel cheese board. With various wine and cheese pairings, we can start to see the palate influence a specific cheese may have on a particular wine. Types of Brie, Parmesan and Gouda are great cheeses that compliment both red and white wines. I added an array of exotic soft and hard cheese from The Cheese Shop, Carmel to compliment the tasting.

A charcuterie is also sure to delight. Choose two to three meats, cooked and cured. One ounce per guest as an hors d’oeuvre should satisfy. The more charcuterie you serve the more your guests will eat, so keep this in mind if you are planning a meal to follow. I chose prosciutto, Calebrese salami and dry coppa. For a smooth, meaty texture add a small bowl of pitted Kalamata olives soaked in olive oil on your charcuterie platter.

Want to size up your charcuterie? Check out this how-to guide.

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