I have always wanted to host a wine tasting party in my home for friends, but I have been so afraid of the sticker shock! Just to have 10 people join you for a tasting, can you imagine the price? You would have to have at least 8-10 bottles for the pre-tasting, tasting, and after party. Then consider the cost of food pairings and hors d’oeuvres. I always imagined the price tag would be in excess of $250.
Then, I got to thinking about it. Every time I go to a friends house, I bring a bottle of wine to share. I don’t bring wine because it feels like an obligation, I bring it because I want to contribute to the festivities and I want to share a bottle and varietal that I enjoy in hopes that everyone else will enjoy it too. You probably do the same – even if it’s not always wine – it’s fairly customary to bring something with you when you are going to someone’s home. So here’s my guess: I bet that if people were interested in joining me for a wine tasting party, they would be happy to contribute a bottle for the tasting.
This concept is also somewhat exciting. What will people bring? What if everyone brings a white wine? What if everyone brings a red blend? Then you will have a white wine tasting party or a red blend tasting party! And that is also indicative of the preferences of your guests – so they’ll probably enjoy the party that much more!
After I allowed all of these ideas to stew in my brain for a couple of weeks, I decided that I am going to do it! I am going to host a wine tasting party on a budget and it will serve as the celebration of the launch of Grape Juice Mom! My approach was to invite Colorado Springs friends whom I enjoy drinking wine with and ask them to invite one girlfriend whom I do not know and bring one bottle of wine between the two of them. For the launch party I reached out to a few local small businesses to ask if they would like to partner with me by contributing products that best represent their business. For my Colorado Springs readers, these businesses include The Cheese Haus, Venice Olive Oil Co., Cacao Chemistry, and Boonzaaijer’s Dutch Bakery. These specialty businesses are providing gourmet Wisconsin cheeses, fine olive oils, balsamic vinegar and dipping salts, handcrafted chocolates, and artisan breads. Sure, those fancy titles sound expensive, but for a wine tasting party, you’re not providing a five-course dinner! These items are designed for pairing with your main course: wine. So, a little bit goes a long way.
You may have read in my “About Me” section on grapejuicemom.com or in my first article “Why Grape Juice Mom” that I am a math geek. The idea of a wine tasting screams “STATISTICS!” at me. You may not have the same appreciation for numbers as I do, so it may be sufficient and helpful to simply offer a means for your guests to record their thoughts on each wine using their own descriptive words. I have included a free PDF of a wine tasting notes sheet for your use if you find yourself in this category. Though I created this sheet and I use it for my own tastings, I need to know exactly and precisely how my guests feel about each wine….with a numerical value. So, for my party I am using a free program, Survey Gizmo, which I learned about from a friend who works in marketing. This program allows you to create your own survey, push the survey to your party guests electronically, and allow them to answer your questions through their phone. It immediately compiles the results and performs analytics so that you would be able to share the average responses with your guests upon completion of the tasting. I look forward to sharing my survey format with you after my party so that you can use it if you choose. If you only knew how excited I am about this part of the party!
So you’re probably thinking: “Okay so let’s see your numbers on how you plan on budgeting for this so-called ‘Under $100’ party”. Well, here it is:
- For ten guests (5 couples or 5 girlfriends who bring a friend with them), you can expect five bottles to arrive with your guests at no cost to you. You should be prepared to provide three more bottles: one to enjoy as your guests are arriving and before the official tasting begins, one to contribute to the tasting, and one “just in case” you all keep drinking after the tasting (insert sarcastic eye roll here). I have estimated the cost of these bottles on the high end of the affordable spectrum at $15 per bottle ($45 total). I would recommend contributing a less common varietal or type of wine to your tasting such as a sparkling wine or port.
- You will want to prepare a few food pairings. Some typical pairings include cheeses, breads, chocolates and oils/vinegar. If you’re a Colorado Springs local, the small businesses that are contributing to my party that I listed above are all experts with recommending great food pairings, so I recommend visiting their locations – and tell them Grape Juice Mom sent you! After my party, I will be featuring the exact pairings that we conducted, so stay tuned!
- If you have a really weak ice machine like mine, you may want to pickup a bag of ice to keep any white wines cool. I use a wine chiller sleeve like this Vacu Vin Active Wine Cooler (Set of 2) (https://amzn.to/2RiMO8r – affiliated link) and have recently started using this Corkcicle Classic Wine Chiller (https://amzn.to/2EP1DhI – affiliated link). I recommend both of those for keeping an already chilled bottle of wine cool, but ice seems to be a better option if your wine has not yet been chilled. Check out this awesome trick for quickly chilling wine with just a paper towel and water: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ0zrmcbyqc.
- Assumptions: I am assuming that any plates and napkins you are using are either washable or already in your home. Additionally, if you do not have enough wine glasses, you may have to stock up on those. I found these Bormioli Rocco wine glasses (Amazon affiliated link) at Costco for twice as many glasses at the same price (8 glasses for $17.99)! But, there’s always the convenience of Amazon Prime…
After the party: Since the wines that your guests are bringing will be a surprise to you, it may be fun to send out the official tasting notes for the wines once your party is over. This is often easily found by Googling the wine by name, winery and year with “tasting notes”. It may be interesting for your guests to know the official tasting notes versus the subtleties that they personally identified.
Now I have two questions for you: When is the party and am I invited??
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