Spending time with friends and enjoying fine wine may feel like a thing of the past. But, it doesn’t have to be as long as you observe social distancing and gather in small groups of less than 10 people. Wine tasting parties are better in small groups anyway, giving everyone a chance to get to know one another and discuss the different wines.
With proper planning, you can host an amazing tasting event for your closest friends that will be remembered by all. Coming up with a fun theme for your party can make it even more enjoyable for you and your guests. We’ve picked 5 of our favorite themes that you can customize for your event. Choose your favorite and modify it to make it perfect based on your guest list. We’ve also thrown in some hosting hacks that will help make your wine tasting party memorable!
Wine Tasting Party Themes
- The Blind Wine Tasting Party
Despite what comes to mind at first, no one actually needs to be blind-folded and you don’t have to worry about your stemware getting broken! Blind-fold the bottles of wine instead by wrapping them with a cloth napkin so that the labels are hidden. If you really want your guests to work hard, use carafes. Carafes also allow the wines to breathe, which is essential for tasting events. Each guest gets to taste a small amount of the wine and then record their impressions and guesses on score cards or grids. Gift the winner a bottle of wine from Cellar Angels or really up the ante and give the winner a subscription to the quarterly Wine Club.
Be sure to number each bottle or carafe to keep track of the wines. You will have a master list that allows you to keep track of which wine is assigned to what number. Also keep plenty of spittoons around so that people can dispose of any remaining wine and prepare for the next one.
- Napa and Sonoma Valley Theme
Some of the worlds finest wines come from the Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California, thanks to its perfectly unique climate. Hosting a party with a Napa/Sonoma Valley theme will be both elegant and prestigious. Regardless of where you are located in the country, Cellar Angels delivers the best wines from small-batch wineries in Napa and Sonoma right to your doorstep. We specialize in finding wines from limited production vintners that you’d never find in an average wine shop.
Set up different stations, each representing a different region or winery and compare one region's wine to another. The area is also famed for its gourmet food, so you can go all out and provide an array of delectable Hors D’oeuvre for your guests, as well. Your wine tasting event with the Napa/Sonoma theme will not soon be forgotten and will become the gold standard of any future parties.
Fine wines paired with fine chocolates is a match made in heaven. With this option, you must be careful about selecting your wines, however, as chocolate can ruin the taste of some wines. Research wines that pair well with dark, milk and white chocolate. Be sure to choose high quality chocolates, and keep trays of bite-sized chocolates within easy reach at all times.
- Cheese and Wine Party
Who doesn’t enjoy a combination of wine and cheese? The trick here is to make sure you have enough variety of wines and cheeses. Aim for a minimum of six different kinds of cheese prepared into cubes with toothpicks. Toothpicks should not be reused. Choose an array of foreign and domestic wines that fall anywhere along the white to red spectrum. It won’t take long for your guests to decide which combinations they like best for the wine and cheese tasting.
- Ladies Night Wine Party
Girls-only wine nights aren’t just for bachelorette parties or bridal showers. In fact, you can have girls’ night wine parties anytime! Birthdays, anniversaries, career changes and promotions, or even a celebration for a friend who has just gotten out of a bad relationship, are all great reasons (as if you really even need one!) to host a wine party. Incorporate a variety of cheeses, chocolates and fruit for a classy wine tasting event and a fun night with your best girl friends.
We don’t want anyone to feel left out, so this theme can be easily modified for a guy’s night or a couple's party event. The sky's the limit, so let your imagination run wild as you plan.
Planning Your Event
Whatever theme you decide to go with, you’re sure to give your guests a unique and enjoyable experience. A well prepared host/hostess will be able to enjoy the party alongside their guests, without worry of running out of wine or snacks. A little planning ahead goes a long way and will ensure everyone has a wonderful and memorable experience.
The Guest List
Who shall you invite to your wine tasting? Your guests will make or break your party, so choosing people with common interests and similarities is important. Invite an eclectic group. While you do want to ensure your guests will enjoy one another, shoot for some variety. Those who don’t know each other well may find out they have a lot in common with one or several of your other guests, and become friends. At any rate, everyone will enjoy meeting new people, as well as seeing long-time friends.
Quantity and Quality Are Equally Important
The last thing that should happen at a wine tasting party is running out of wine - it’s better to have too much than not enough. Order your wines online in advance from Cellar Angels so you’re well stocked and ready to rock! Not sure what kinds of wine you need for your theme? Reach us out at (888) 282-1353 - we have sommeliers on staff who can guide and advise you to ensure you choose the perfect bottles and pull off a winning event!
Variety is important, and it never hurts to add a wine or two into the mix that you know most of your guests enjoy. Feel free to add in some surprises, too! Browse our wide selection of wines, all from Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries, at CellarAngels.com.
The quantity of wine you’ll need obviously depends on how many guests you’ll have. You’ll want to make sure there are enough bottles of wine to last for the entire evening. The general rule of thumb for the tasting portion of the evening is one bottle of each wine for every five guests. So, if you have ten guests, you’ll need two bottles of each wine selection for the tasting, plus an additional bottle for anyone who’d like to enjoy a full glass.
Don’t worry about having too much (not that you would!). If you don’t want what’s left over, one of your guests will happily take it off your hands for you.
This may seem obvious, but you’ll need some tools to go along with the wine so you’re all not sipping from the bottles (You’re not drinking Boone’s Farm, after all!) Even if you’re sure you’ve got everything you need, it’s best to double check ahead of time. You don’t want to suddenly discover that your old neighbor never returned the corkscrew they borrowed last week when everyone is waiting for you to pop the cork.
- Wine Opener:
It’s recommended to dedicate one opener per wine type. So, six different kinds of wine would require six corkscrews. Even if you have hired a wine steward for your event, make sure you have a couple on hand, just in case.
You’ll need plenty of glasses for the wine tasting. This is true even if you have only a small number of guests. Plan to have at least two glasses per guest, plus a few extra in case a glass gets broken, one for whites and one for reds. Get the finest crystal stemware from Cellar Angels that will impress even the most hard-to-please guest on your list.
- Score Cards:
Purchase plenty of score cards plus something to write with, like the tiny pencils they have at every miniature golf course in the world. The scorecards should have a grid so that there’s room to grade each wine in several key categories, and allow a spot for guests to make notes. You can also print your own wine tasting score cards using a free online template to make them a little more budget friendly. Whatever theme you have decided on should be reflected on your score cards.
- Hors D’oeuvre:
Make sure you have plenty of snacks and Hors D’oeuvre for your guests. Even if you’re going with the wine and chocolate, or wine and cheese themes, it is a good idea to have water, crackers, assorted nuts, or even a selection of small pieces of bread to help cleanse the taste buds. Divide your offerings into single servings using small paper cups so that no germs are shared.
Plan the menu and pairings with care, taking into consideration any allergies or dietary restrictions of your guests. Be conscientious and offer options sans dairy, nuts and gluten, and take necessary precautions to keep food items separate and clearly marked, and provide alternatives. Having a variety of options for everyone will ensure no one gets left out or feels they need to abstain.
Our food and wine pairing page is full of great ideas, as well as general guidelines for matching foods and wines.
You can add a little more fun to the festivities by including wine tasting games that go along with your theme. Remember to keep the games simple and make sure they are not a distraction from the actual tasting. The games can be enjoyed in between rounds of tasting or reserved for after each wine is sampled. You could even have a silent auction and donate the proceeds to a local charity.
Wine bingo or charades are loved by most, and personal favorites of ours, too. Each will require something to write or sketch on. In the case of wine bingo, print out cards that include squares with words to describe different aspects of the wines you’re serving. Having great prizes, like a Cellar Angels Wine Club membership or gift card, for the winners will instill a little friendly competition among your guests.
Hosting your wine tasting party should be a lot of fun. Careful planning and paying attention to the details ahead of time will allow you to relax and enjoy the event along with your guests.
Cellar Angels provides a channel for wine artisans to share their craft with enthusiasts living outside of the Napa Valley and Sonoma, and supports both small-batch producers and hard-working charitable organizations through purchases made on our website.
We hand pick the premium small batch bottles from the local wineries and make them accessible to you through our Wine Club and Marketplace. Every vineyard-to-bottle selection you receive from Cellar Angels is shipped directly to you by the producers.
Cellar Angels hosts a new virtual wine tasting and interview series every Friday evening at 5pm PT (8pm ET) to help wine enthusiasts cope with the unsocial world of social distancing and self-quarantine. We invite you to join Cellar Angels CEO, Martin Cody, at our next live broadcast event on Facebook Live and via Zoom this Friday at 5:00 p.m. PDT.