Wine Tasting Party

          Why not do one yourself?


We've done this one before, but I don't think we ever discussed it here. Well, I did it again. For Christmas 2004 I put on a little wine tasting party for my family. Here's how you can do it too.

You will need:

1. First you have to pick a varietal to taste. Both times I've used merlot because it is an easy wine to drink and most people will like it.

2. Head to your local wine store, CostCo, Trader Joe's, or supermarket. Just some place with a large selections of bottles. It helps if they display scores for the wines from some "expert" source, but that isn't necessary. Select five bottles of the variety you want to taste. I suggest making sure that one of the bottles is priced around $4.00 and make sure one is priced as expensive as you can afford. It works best if your high priced bottle is expensive enough to raise an eyebrow among your guests. ("Who'd ever pay that much for one bottle of wine?") Warning: don't mix screw-tops and non-screw-tops.

3. Remove the cork covering from each bottle. Do not uncork the bottles yet. Use a pen to write a different letter of the alphabet on each bottle label. Also write the price you paid on each label. Wrap the bottles in some paper that is opaque and robust; I cut up paper bags from the supermarket to do mine. Do only one bottle at a time and write the same letter on the outside of the paper.

4. Print out enough copies of my wine tasting review score card so that each guest can have one. Also locate enough pencils for everyone.

5. 30 minutes before your guest arrive, uncork each bottle. Set the bottles out on a table. Also set out a pitcher of water and a big bowl for people to discard their wine samples.

6. At this point you have to decide how the party is going to run. The most free flowing for a mixer is to let everyone sample the wines as they want. You stand back and let everyone make sure they taste all the wines. This format works best when the wine tasting is just part of the fun. 

The other way to run the show is for you to remain in control. You pick one bottle at a time and pour a wine sample for each person. Then everyone sips and comments and scores one wine at a time. This is a more controlled setting, but yields more wine-discussion. It also forces people to compare their own ratings. This format works best when the wine tasting is the focus of the gathering.

Remember, just a little taste for each person. Let them spit out ones they don't want to swallow. A rinse of the glass and a dry cracker between samples helps.

7. Once everyone has tasted and rated every bottle, have each person rank their choices. Each person must pick one as their best. Each should also pick as many "horrible tasting" bottles as they want.

8. As the host, you now unwrap each bottle to expose the labels and let the real fun begin.

Note: At the same time we did a cola tasting for those who don't drink. I wrapped up cans of Coke, Diet Rite, Safeway Select, Pepsi Edge, and Diet Coke. The winner? Safeway Select Cola !!


Christmas 2004 Tasting: Merlot

A) Columbia Crest 2001 Columbia Valley $8 Rated Excellent

B) Clos du Bois 2001 Sonoma County $12 Rated Very Good

C) Crane Family 2001 Napa Valley Don Raffaele Estate (TJ's didn't charge me for this one, but I think it cost $15. I'm not sure) (Cork showed a lot of sediment.) Upon first taste no one could drink this. With dinner some folks came around to liking it. Rated Unacceptable

D) Black Mountain 2003 Laurelwood $5 Comments were "too watery" and "not really a wine."  Rated Poor

E) Chateau Ste. Michelle 2001 Columbia Valley $11 Rated Excellent