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The Great Vacation Wine Tour Party

We had a wine tasting party this past weekend at our house. The title of the party was "The Great Vacation Wine Tour" and guests were asked to bring a bottle of wine that represented their vacation this summer. Since our friends traveled as far away as Germany, Greece, Italy and London, we were anticipating a wide variety of wines from around the world. Our party was such a success I thought it would be fun to include a blog about how we planned and executed the event so if you ever wanted to stage something like it at your house you'd have some guidelines.

The party takes a little advance planning. At the beginning of summer we created an event on Facebook and posted our intent to have a wine tasting. We asked our friends to bring back a bottle of wine from their travels, regardless of where they may have roamed. Throughout the summer, as each person returned with his or her wine it was posted to the event page so everyone could follow along and anticipate the kinds of wine we'd be sampling in the fall.

As soon as the weather cooled a bit (which means, in Phoenix, that it only reached 100 degrees for a night time low) we sent out an invite, again through Facebook (but also followed up with email) with the party details. Usually I enjoy hosting and cooking for the crowd but with my ankle freshly out of the cast I knew I'd be unable to do much this time. I asked that everyone bring a pot luck dish to share along with their wine selection. My contribution would be a thinly sliced roast beef platter and rolls. (It was fabulous, too. Before roasting I patted the entire piece of meat with coarse sea salt, course ground pepper, garlic salt, minced thyme and olive oil. After slicing and arranging the beef on the platter I sprinkled a mixture of chopped fresh parsley, oregano, thyme and some spiny sprigs of greenery I picked out of the 'field greens' salad bag.)

Part of our home remodel was to take a poorly planned addition to the back of the house and convert it into a home bar. Paul tiled the floor with beautiful slate tiles and then constructed a fully functional wet bar in one corner. We re-purposed my glass and wood china cabinet into a bar back. Paul even designed the bar so that it incorporated our small but awkwardly shaped wine fridge. He poured concrete to form the counters and used a metalic stain and epoxy to finish. The end result, although not completely finished, is impressive.

Our new bar has a door that opens to the back patio. We set up tables and chairs outside for guests to sit, which they did, but mostly they hung out at the bar - 3 deep sometimes - even thought it was hotter than hell in the room. We have not perfected the air flow, apparently, and sometime during the evening my friend Diana was heard in my bathroom using the blow dryer to fix her hair. It was misery yet, nobody seemed to mind too much. It was just the way it way and we all adapted in order to pretend we had a usable bar in our house! (We propped an oscillating fan on the fireplace mantle which fell off a few minutes later to much noise and screaming.) The patio also connects back to the living room so you could simply walk in a circle the entire night and hit all the main party areas. I know that was MY routine, anyway.

As our guests arrived I asked them to write on two poster boards the wine they brought and decide whether it was for tasting or drinking. Although nobody really followed through with the drinking poster (we just opened the wines and let 'er rip) everyone who had a special wine with a story behind it wrote it down on the tasting poster. Now, what surprised and delighted me was that even those who didn't travel this year wanted a chance to showcase his/her purchase, so their wine was featured on the tasting poster too. After about an hour or so of mingling, we got down to the business of tasting.

I went first with my story, which I thought was pretty awesome. I stood behind the bar and in my loudest bar voice told my guests that on a substandard cruise to the nothing town of Ensenada, Mexico I found a winery that was using grapes from vines brought over from Italy 30 odd years ago. When I asked what type of grape I was told "Nebbiolo". I almost fell over. Nebbiolo grapes produce the finest Barolo wines in Italy. I couldn't wait to taste it and found the wine to be beautifully complex and interesting. When I found out the winery couldn't ship any of their wines I bought a case and had found my contribution to the party. After I told my guests the story behind my wine, each party-goer, in turn, told his/her story. After we tasted the wines we crossed them off the list. We had wine from Germany, Greece and Italy. We also had a lovely champagne from France even though our guest Elaine didn't go to France. She was in England but since the champagne was served at the fancy hotel she stayed at, she felt it counted. I couldn't argue, myself. Our artist friend Cindy brought a wine that featured a color wheel; Diana brought wine from her weekly travels to Costco. All in all, we tasted more than 20 wines and drank too much to count.

Although we entertain large groups at our house, all the time, this party we barely had enough wine glasses to go around. This became a problem as full glasses were being poured in between the tastings. Linda resolved it by passing out shot glasses to everyone (of which, in comparison to wine glasses, we had more than enough. Go figure.)

We played a game too. As guests mingled I placed a removable sticker on everyone's left back shoulder and told them they had to guess who they were by asking yes or no questions. The 'person' could be living or dead, fictional or real. What they didn't know until later was the names all had a common theme, which I threw out as a surprise trivia question toward the end of the party. Although the first person guessed his 'name' within minutes of starting, we continued playing until the last few people still had a sticker stuck to them. Hilarity ensued as we serenaded Scott with "Rinestone Cowboy" and he STILL couldn't figure out that he was Glenn Campbell!

My last detail of the party was the playlist. I downloaded about 25 songs that featured wine in the title or as part of the lyrics. Everything from "Elderberry Wine" by Elton John to "Friends In Low Places" by Garth Brooks. Again I threw out the trivia question asking what the theme to the music was. One person guessed it; her prize was a copy of the CD. I found it on the fireplace the next morning. Maybe she'd heard "Red, Red Wine" once too many times?

If you decide to host a wine tasting like this, be prepared. You could be considered the host/ess with the mostest and every party thereafter will be at your house and you'll have to build a bar. Like this one:

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 3, 2011 6:02 PM.

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