Tag Archives: wine

How to Host a Wine Tasting

Hey folks! I’ve been doing a lot of tastings at my place lately, so this guilty pleasure post is all about how to host a tasting! Whether it’s sampling new beers, wines or cheeses, hosting a tasting can be a really fun party idea you can do at home!

This post will focus on a wine tasting, but you can adapt it to really any food or drink you’d like to sample.  Let’s get started!


How to Host a Great Tasting!

1.  Try New Things!  You may be holding yourself back by thinking you have to know about everything you serve at a tasting, but you DON’T!  It’s part of the fun of trying new things – and everyone can do it together!  So if there’s a brand or a flavor you’ve been meaning to try, this is the perfect time to get one…or more!

2.  Keep Your Snacks Simple  If you’re spending money on nice bottles of wine, you don’t need to go over-budget on snacks too.  You can make a few snacks seem much larger by adding in more condiments.  Thus, you have more ways to mix and match your munchies!  If I’m serving wine, whether it’s just Joe and I or a bunch of guests, we have cheese and crackers and usually a few different spreads.  Various jams and jellies, mustards, or other spreads can added in to the crackers and/or cheese for new flavors.  We also put out a dish of nuts and dried fruit, like craisins, which act as palette cleansers.

3.  Create Fun Choices  Allow guests fun options like choosing their glass or wine charm.  If you don’t have different ones, you could still make up some fun with creative name tags or printing a tasting sheet where guests create their own rating system!  “I give this wine three classy cork tops!”  If you’re looking for more wine accessory ideas, you can check out my earlier post here.

Wine Charms4.  Do Some Research.  Want to sound like the blokes you hear in wineries?  Select your wine choices and look up their labels online!  I learned a lot about the wine-making process and how to classify the notes and aromas in wine by reading consumer reviews!  These fun facts can add to the experience for yourself and guests!

5.  Dry to Sweet, White to Red  When selecting your wine choices for the night, you’ll want to line up your wines in the best order for tasting.  Generally, that is white wines before red and dry to more sweet, both of which will give the palette time to adjust to each new flavor.  I like having at least one blush or rose wine to bridge the gap between white and red.  You can line up your bottles based on the tidbits you learned online, or from the bottle label too!

6.  Teach Your Guests Something About Tasting  Besides little wine facts you pick up, you can also teach your guests how to taste like the pros!  A true tasting allows the guest to really open their senses to the wine.   There is more to wine than just swishing it around the front and back of your mouth.  This video gives some quick tips on how to see, smell and taste your wine!

Bon appetit!  Enjoy your wine tasting party! Virtual glasses all around!

What are your favorite party planning and hosting tips?  Share your favorite party experiences in the comments below, both as a guest and a host!  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Guilty Pleasures: Wine Accessories

It’s been a fun month this April despite the dreary weather we’ve had in the Midwest.  Hosting numerous beer, wine and cheese tastings I feel downright indulgent!  And it got me thinking about collections.  Collections are guilty pleasures aren’t they?  I’m betting I’m not the only one with a growing wine accessory collection.

I’ll Show You Mine, If you Show Me Yours…

Wine Charms –

I think one of the first items I received in my wine collection was a set of wine charms, and since then we’ve accumulated a few more!  Wine charms are a fun and unique way of decorating one’s glass so throughout the night, as bottles go, you’ll remember which glass is your glass!  Charms can be fun little rings around the stems of glasses, or even stickers meant to easily peel off when the night’s over!  Here are a few of our charm sets – lovely gifts courtesy my honey’s mom!  Thanks, Sharon!

Wine Charms

Wine Stoppers –

If you’re not planning on finishing the bottle off that night, you may want a few wine stoppers on hand.  We have some decorative ones, but we also have 2 that act both as a pouring spout and a stopper, which is nice I think for white wines especially.  The photo below also shows off our wine aerator.  Best used for red wines, an aerator does several things: First and foremost, it allows air back into the wine to show off its aroma and flavor a little faster than just leaving the bottle top open to vent.  But it can also come with a strainer and catch any sediment in the bottle so it’s not going in the glass.  We really only pull ours out when we’re trying to be fancy. 

Wine StoppersWine Bottle Holders –

Ever plan on bringing a bottle of wine to a friend’s house, but feel like you have nothing to safely store the bottle in during travel?  I love this little wine sock for that reason!  It’s cute and practical when you’re taking your wine on the road!  *And I mean that in the most safest of contests, you should always, ALWAYS buckle your wine bottle up when driving.*  😀

Yarn BottleWine Picnic Ware –

Those that have hung around The Happiness Project for awhile know I like my wine on the go.  I’ll just say wine hiking is not for the faint of the heart, and do so at your own risk.  Since then, another great gift from my honey’s mom was this portable wine cooler!  It comes complete with compass and whistle!  You’ll have to ask my Joe how they work because since the last time, he’s in charge now…

Wine Carrier

Wine in a Box –

Another wine travel aid is wine that comes ready to go – in a box!  A fabulous road trip companion, it stores easily in the back seat or trunk, boxed wine does not have to taste like it was aged in a box!  Joe and I are particular fans of the Bota Box collection and during hard economic times, this really is the way to go if you’re hosting a party.

Bota Box

Wine (in a box) For the Movies! –

Again, followers of this blog will recognize a little hobby of mine, which is sneaking wine into the movies!  Who can afford the monstrous prices of soda these days?  I’d rather sneak this little guy in my purse.  There are several brands which are good, but being a nerdo for a play on words, I’m a fan of Bandit wine when I play Drinko McSneakery.  This wine is best enjoyed with girlfriends, free plastic water cups from the concession stand (hint: do fill with water so as not to look conspicuous and to stay hydrated at the cinema!), and a movie along the lines of Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 2.  Trust me, it will make the movie better!

Wine for the Movies

Those are just a few of my favorite wine accessories!  What are some of yours?  Do you have a favorite wine charm or stopper?  Would you drink wine in a box?  It’s getting cool now!

Almost as cool as this…

Why yes, that is a picture of me attending Jurassic Park 3D while wearing a Dinosaur hat.  Jealous?!

Why yes, that is a picture of me attending Jurassic Park 3D while wearing a Dinosaur hat. Jealous?!

Until next time, happy weekend everyone!

Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival – Part 2, The Wine

Welcome to Round 2 of the Guinea Pig Diaries and this month’s Virtual Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival!  It’s been Tasting City at my house lately, and I CAN’T WAIT to share with you our fun finds!

beerwinecheesepicSo sit back, relax, grab a glass of your favorite red or white and toast to the

Top (or Not) 12 Wines in our Tasting!


We’ll start with the whites and work our way ahead!

1.  Frontera Moscato

A Chilean South American white wine, this moscato is anything but bubbly.  Upon first pour, it’s smooth and golden in color.  It’s got a sweet taste to start, and the finish is almost pear-like.  This moscato is a dry, tart white and would pair well with most any dish.

Frontera moscato

2.  Bel Arbor Chardonnay

From the Bel Arbor Vineyards in California, this chardonnay is blended with apple and melon fruits.  It’s tart – like kick up your taste buds tart.  I think it would best be paired with light appetizers or pasta with seafood.  I served this white wine with a citrus marinated chicken.

bel arbor chardonnay

We interject for a Thumbs Down:

3.  The Infinite Monkey Theorem – American White Wine

Not all wines can be winners, but of the dozen we sampled the past week, this one was really the only BAD one.  Brewed and sold (in a can!) only in Denver, Colorado, my honey picked this up on the road as something for us to try.  At 13% alcohol, this carbonated white is a very bubbly, light champagne in color.  Unfortunately, neither its aroma or taste matched its fun packaging or color.  It had a slightly skunky aroma to it, even though we did pour it into wine glasses.  The fizziness of this particular wine is not a light refreshing bubbly, but more like the candy explosion equated with Pop Rocks!  Not a soul at our tasting finished their glass of this wine.  Buyer Beware.

infinite monkey wine

We now return to our regular tasting!  And the rest were all spectacular!

4.  Lost Island Wines – Apple Cinn-Ah-Mon and Exotic Fruit

Purchased at a local winery, these fun bottles were the party people of our picks!  Fun and festive packaging matched with fruity wine blends, Lost Island was a taste bud fave!  To start with, the Apple Cinn-Ah-Mon, at 12% alc, smells just like apple pie!  It has a cool, crisp start with a warm cinnamon finish.  Creators and owners of Lost Island Wines already boast of an even better bottle for next fall premiering more apple and spice for that cozy autumn season.  They may want to start selling it now as Wisconsin has failed its attempt at achieving spring season.  Could mean more nights in with a blanket and a glass of Apple Cinn-Ah-Mon!

The Exotic Fruit was the perfect blush to lead us toward the red wines.  Similar to a White Zinfandel, Exotic Fruit has notes of passionfruit and berries.  It smells like a delicious perfume that I would love to get my hands on!  Seriously, you’ll want to wear this stuff!  It is sweet, but not sugary, clean and smooth.  A definite re-buy in my book!

Lost Island Wines

5.  Fancy Pants – Red Wine

With a label declaring “I Wear the Pants!” this California red wine was another popular guest at the tasting!  At 13% alc, you’d never guess its mass appeal.  This wine was the first one everyone took a full glass of at the end!  Fancy Pants is a mixture of cherry and plum fruits, and expectedly is a dark ruby in color.  The plum was the standout flavor for me and it was great with hard cheeses, which I thought brought out the sweetness of the wine.  Fancy Pants is a perfect wine to share with girlfriends, not too dry and not too sweet, but a perfect blend of red wine goodness.

Fancy Pants

6.  Apothic Red

A staple at my book club meetings, Apothic Red wine is an affordable red wine blend of a rich zinfandel, smooth merlot, flavorful syrah, and bold cabernet sauvignon.  The name comes from the word Apotheca, which was a mysterious place where wine was blended and stored in 13th century Europe.  It’s a dark red in color with hints of mocha and vanilla in the taste.  It’s full, or should I say filling (*wink*), smooth, fruity, but not too sweet.

Apothic Red7.  Kore Zinfandel

This bottle came from the Laithwaite Wine Club my honey is a part of, and which I’m most privileged to be privy to on special occasions!  Blended in Sonoma County, CA, a land that is good to the zinfandel’s dark skinned grape.  It combines red berries, white pepper, and cinnamon with its entirely hand-picked and sorted grapes, then is aged in oak barrels.  The entire process living up to its namesake Kore – or beauty.  It is crimson in color and goes with anything you’d serve at a Thanksgiving meal!  To taste it is silky smooth, warm, but not too alcoholy to enjoy on its own for a great night in!

Kore Zinfandel

8.  Folonari Chianti

A tasty and affordable chianti!  Something tells me even Hannibal Lector wouldn’t snub his nose as this Folonari blend!  Made in Italy, the Folonari family has been winemaking since 1825 and pioneered the production of wine in a bottle so that people, such as you and I, could enjoy a fine wine in the comfort of their own home!  Cheers to Folonari!  This chianti was ranked #41 in the Wine Spectator Top 100 and has cherry, strawberry and floral notes.  The aftertaste seemed almondy to me, and would be a great introductory chianti to anyone who’s unsure of whether they’d like one or not.

Folonari Chianti9.  Collezione Di Paolo – Reserva Chianti

Another of the Lathwaite Wine Club collection, this pricier bottle is made by Paolo Masi in Tuscany, and is a Gold Medal Winner at the Mundus Vini 2012 world’s largest international wine competition!  The chianti uses the sangiovese grape which grows well in the Tuscany area and makes for a warm and inviting flavor; this particular chianti adds in notes of sweet cherry, spice and refined tannins.  It’s a medium garnet in color with a lovely berry aroma.  It pairs well with most foods, but especially pastas and hard cheeses!

Collezione di Paolo Chianti10.  Little Black Dress – Pinot Noir

Little Black Dress is the fashionable wine that partners with charities to support women and their success.  I already like this wine!  Add to that great cause some notes of black cherry and blackberry and we have ourselves a sharp, dry red!  This one is more robust at 13% alcohol content, but definitely tasty!  With its sleek label and saucy branding, this is a great gift wine for the professional women in your life, or even for a night out with your besties.  Wear your heels!

Little Black Dress Pinot Noir11.  Pineau Des Charentes – Port Red Grape Wine

Best kept for the end of the night, this port wine has a 17% alcohol rating.  Made in Western France where the brandy industry is popular.  This bottle is a mix of wine and cognac.  It has a warm, sweet beginning with a robust, alcohol finish.  If any Midwesterners have been feeling chilled to the bone this long, long, loooooong, long winter, then port is for you!  Light in color, this liquid leaves a layer on the glass from its syrupy nature.  If eating the crust of bread puts hair on your chest, then drinking a thimble full of this will warm your belly up!

Pineau Des Charentes12.  Lost Island Wine – Chocolate Strawberry Cyclone

All wine tastings should end with the dessert wine, typically very sweet and good in small doses – if you know what’s good for you!  Sampling another bottle from local winery, Lost Island Wines, this dessert wine was more dry, but still sweet in nature.  It had a gorgeous rose gold coloring.  The taste at first screams chocolate but mellows to more berry afterward.  It’s a light, velvety wine that could leave you licking your lips to taste every last drop!  Best when paired with…more chocolate!

Lost Island Wine

That’s it for our Wine Tasting!  Tune in on Friday for Guilty Pleasures – Wine Accessories!

Until then, what’s your favorite wine to drink?  Do you prefer red or white wines?  If you were a type of wine, what kind would you be?  And if you say wine in a can, we can no longer be friends.

Coming Soon! Jess’s Virtual Beer, Wine, & Cheese Festival!

Hello, hello everyone!  I hope you’re all well rested from last month’s Sleep Study, because this month is all about fabulously savory treats!

It’s a new month, so that means a new challenge on the Guinea Pig Diaries!  Starting next week, we’re kicking off:


Next Week:  Top Picks in Beer

Followed by:  Top Picks in Wine

With a Side Order of:  Top Cheeses

And the Grand Finale Tour of:  A Real Local Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival!

Beer, Wine, and Cheese Festival

I’m currently researching at the moment, but will be sharing my favorite selections soon!

What are your favorite beers, wines, and cheeses?  Got any I should seek out?  

See you all soon!

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