Wine tasting at home. That’s every weekend for me lately during the pandemic.
Thank goodness liquor stores are an essential service.
Life is different in 2020. My family, who have a unique situation in that we both work and isolate together, has been getting creative on how to celebrate while social isolation keeps us from our favourite local haunts.
Mother’s Day is usually a weekend filled with wine tastings at local wineries, a nice dinner at one of our favourite spots and some good ol’ family time.
Nowadays we are getting copious amounts of family time so now the struggle is making some days more interesting than others.
It being my second Mother’s Day as a mama, I am no longer head of the party planning committee and was able to sit back and relax as everyone else made plans to spoil my mom and me.
First, my mom and I were blind folded and escorted to a portion of my parents’ property where I had previously spotted an empty antique table. When we were instructed to remove our blind folds we saw a table with 4 wine glasses and 3 wine bottles with hidden labels. There was also a cheese plate with distinct kinds of cheese from our local cheesemongers, Perseval & Young.
With each wine we tasted, we were to do 3 things.
- Guess the wine in our glass. We got an additional kudos if we could name the wine region/state/province as well as the winery itself.
- Taste each wine with each cheese and determine our favourites.
Although this entire cleverly planned day was my sister’s idea as well as the effort of my dad and husband, I felt compelled to share it! With Father’s Day coming up I figured it might be a fun way for you to treat the father you are celebrating or any friend/family member/neighbour in need of a fun day of drinking for that matter.
My sister cleverly designed a theme to each “stop” as well as these adorable boarding passes. Adorable!
How can you set up a wine tasting at home, yet on a budget, of your own? I’ll show you!
1. Decide on how many stops you want to do.
Go as big or small as you want! One “stop” might be enough for some.
Mom and I enjoy our wine so my family concocted 4 stops total. The first was Washington State, then California, third Italy and finally back home in the Okanagan. They utilized wines we already enjoy often so that they didn’t have to completely break the budget on wines.
2. How many wines per stop?
This all depends on your budget and frankly, do you really want 6-10 open bottles of wine around the house that you won’t get to? You might want to invest in a wine preserver if you do want the full “round the world” experience!
At some stops we had 3 wines and others we had 4. With our crew wine rarely goes to waste!
You could easily do the tasting experience with 2 wines and simply compare sparkling wines from Canada vs Australia if you want to stick to new world. On the other hand you could go new world vs old with Syrah from France and Shiraz from Australia or German Rieslings vs those from Oregon, USA. The examples are endless.
3. Select wines strategically
All wines selected were ones we typically enjoy and are familiar with. Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and so on. However, they were also wines that were unique in that they threw you a curve ball when it came to guessing.
If you have seasoned wine drinkers try to select varietals and regions that they might not be familiar with or else there will be no competition. For us, we are all over the map. Despite my WSET 1 certification I second guessed myself all the way. I would change my answer at the last minute even though my first guess was right all the while! What’s that saying…Too much knowledge can go to your head?
If you are with a group of newbies I’d suggest sticking with the basics and that is single varietal wines like an oaked Chardonnay vs an unoaked Chardonnay, a Syrah from France vs a Cabernet Sauvingon for example. A Champagne vs a Sparkling Wine from the Okanagan. I could go on but it’s too much fun. Basically, choose wine that you know they like and will continue to enjoy the rest of the evening or weekend.
Additionally, if you want to have tasting notes for your own sake (not that you should live or die by them) you can usually find notes from sites like Gismondi on Wine, Wine Folly’s amazing grape varietal page, or Natalie MacLean’s wine reviews.
You can also completely avoid having to plan all this out and look to mobile Sommelier services like Red Lips & Wine Sips.
4. Be sure to have…
Water! You’ll need plenty of water for hydration if you want to avoid palate fatigue as well as getting way too tipsy in the sunshine. You’ll also need water to wash out your tasting glasses. I mean, you could have a different glass for each tasting but that would be a lot of wine glasses to wash!
You’ll also need food. Bread is a great palate cleanser and it absorbs all the wine in your belly. Bread was served at each stop along with delicious cheese from around the world.
5. Cheese & Wine Pairings
You’ll want to stick with the classics here. Don’t overwhelm yourself with so many selections. Wine and cheese taste delicious on their own, there’s bound to be some funky combinations but let your guests determine which wine went best with what cheese.
Some easy suggestions from Wine Folly to get you started are:
Cabernet Sauvingon and Aged Cheddar
Pinot Noir and Gruyère
Sparkling wine or Chardonnay and Brie
Rosé and Havarti
I hope you are inspired to treat someone to a wine tasting around the world at home. It was so much fun to debate, compare, and sip the day away!