California summer days are officially here! The weather had been unpredictable for the last few weeks giving us shivering cold nights, dreaded overcast skies and scattered showers. Goodbye bad weather and hello warm sunshine kisses.
What I love best about the summer are the parties. The idea of getting together with old friends and new ones strikes me as a great way to spend the afternoon mingling, learning about Patty’s upcoming vacation to Tahiti, Lauren’s recent promotion or Herman’s new found love for some ‘kah-rah-tay’ martial arts. The best part is inviting friends come over for a glass of wine (or drink of choice) and bite sized tantalizing appetizers and finger food.
My favorite type of party is a Wine & Cheese party. Any other kind of social gathering may require more preparation than others. I don’t mind preparing, but I would much rather spend my time relaxing instead of prepping. BBQ parties often require an investment into beer, meat & veggies as well as a commitment to the grill of fire where the smell of smoked meat wafts over to your guests. I love barbecue, but I’m not sure I want to spend all of my time manning the grill!
A Wine & Cheese party is an idea way to get friends (old and new) together to learn, experiment and enjoy new and unusual wine varietals and pairings. Whether you plan to pair wines with specific cheese, you’ll notice that everyone has different preferences and unique likes and dislikes. You can and should also invite your friends to bring their favorite bottle of wine and a cheese to share. That is unless you’re planning on doing a strict wine and cheese tasting. Read on for tips on how to host a great wine and cheese party:
- To get your party idea started, you will need to decide when you want to host the party. Fridays and Saturdays are usually more convenient for everyone, allowing your guests time to purchase any wine or food they wish to share. If you decide to host it on a Saturday, you can also stay up later in your evening and not feel rushed to clean up since you’ll also have an extra day before the work week.
- Determine your guest list. I often use Evite or Facebook Events for invitations. It’s free and easy to use. On the invitation, ask your guests to bring their favorite bottle of wine to share, some cheese or their favorite food. Most of the parties I host are pot-luck style so that nobody feels like one paid more than the other. This also increases the variety and types of wine and food available.
- Send out the invitation at least 7 days in advanced. You want to give your guests sufficient time to get into “wine and cheese” mode and do their research on what to bring.
- Prepare the day before hand by buying (or baking) bread. Olives, crackers, water and iced tea should also be included as basic needs. Get a bottle of wine for yourself so that you can start to relax while your party shows up! Let your guests bring the rest of wine and food to share.
- Set up your party with separate food and wine sections. A food section will contain appetizers, bread and snacks. The wine section should be home to all beverages, red, white, water and tea. This setup will encourage people can get up, refill their glass or plate and mingle. If you have a lot of food, you may want to consider splitting it up into a sweet and savory section.
- Also include a utensils station dedicated to silverware, wine glasses, plates and napkins. Make sure the wine glasses are clean and stain free! If you’re hosting the party outside, you also may want to consider using GoVino glasses. These wine tumblers look just like glass ones, except they are made of high quality plastic that is re-usable. If your guests get a bit tipsy, you won’t have to worry about any broken glass.
- Design a tasting card that specifies the wine, vineyard its production year and description. Since guests are bringing wine, you may want to leave these areas blank so that each guest can record their own notes and food pairings. If you want the party casual, provide pen and paper for them to write their own notes.
- Have your guests write down the name of the cheese they brought. Include the type of milk it was made from and its name. Adding little signs for the cheese area also helps your guests know which types of cheeses are available. A toothpick with a printing label folded over its middle is also a great way to make it fun and visually interesting.
- To kick the party up a notch, consider having a “blind pairing” experience. Same as the above, give your guests little tasting cards. Pour each wine (without showing the label) and allow them to savor the aromas, flavors and textures. Then, ask them to pair it with a cheese. Your guests will get very excited when they find that one cheese works better than another. Be sure to provide some bread or crackers to help cleanse the palate after each pairing.
- Decorations and mood is often overlooked, but can range from pretty floral table clothes to a simple flat white cloth. Keep the atmosphere light and engaging by putting on some background music. Clear the area so that guests don’t trip over toys, little objects or animals. Depending on the type of crowd you are expecting, you may way something that isn’t too loud or obnoxious. My favorite XM radio station for hosting parties is Blues and Jazz.
- If you are participating as a guest, bring enough food or wine to share with everyone. It is polite and expected to bring enough to share with the number of people attending the party.
- Dress up your wine bottles! Instead of wrapping your bottle, consider adding a necktye. Each neck tye is unique and can reflect the occasion or holiday. To see more samples of necktyes, click here.
- Hosting the party indoors? No problem! Close off bedroom areas by shutting the door. Keep pets safe by keeping them in a room or outdoors. Don’t forget to provide enough toilet paper so that your guests don’t peruse through your cabinets.
What You Need:
- A bottle of wine to get started – your guests should arrive with their favorite bottle
- Appetizers – invite your guests to bring some food to share incase anyone gets hungry
- Bread – provide plain bread for guests to cleanse palate between wines
- Wine glasses – one per guest
- Pitcher of water – for rinsing glasses and palates between wines
- Dump bucket (or the sink) – for discarding wine before next pouring
- Bottled water – for guests to drink in between wines
- Tasting cards – for describing and recording each wine tasted
- Aluminum foil or brown bags to cover wine bottles if you opt for blind tasting
- Pens and Paper
- Humor – encourage your guests to share their thoughts and humor on each wine
What’s your favorite type of party? Do tell of any disaster aversion tips too!