In my short experience in the Langhe, Sunday Funday means one epic wine tasting party after the other. Variables: guests, location, and types of fermented grapes. Consistencies: amazing wines and magical Piedmont views. The form and function are adaptable to any wine tasting party (Piedmont farmhouse not necessary, but a definite plus!) Here’s a story of a wine tasting party that I recommend everyone try at home!
Jeff, cellar master from Marchesi di Grésy, hosted a group at his farmhouse in Castiglione Tinella. The location: his kitsch, messy, home that oozes funky character. And, those views – breathtaking.
The Guest List
Jeff packed the guest list with wine lovers and folks in the wine industry (both in ample supply in the Langhe). A couple from Oz who moved to the region a year prior was there; he works as a winemaker at Cerreto. Next an Italian couple from Genoa joined. Then, an American couple who float between the Langhe and the States – like me, wine lovers, not in the industry. A Columbian cellar master from a Roero producer. And, some Kiwis on a working holiday – just to name a few!
Wine Tasting Party Tip: Mix up the guest list to get everyone involved and excited! Conversation explodes when everyone brings different wines from all over.
Our host poured fizz to kick things off with a simple, “Salute”. Everyone gnoshed on the spread of pomodoro, cheese, prosciutto, an unreal homemade (not my home) onion tart. Then, about every 10 minutes Jeff poured a new white, primarily Piemontese wines representing the producers at the wine tasting party. It was a fun way to personalize things. He also made several rounds with different versions of Swiss cured meat, including a round with honey, one with lemon, and more.
Wine Tasting Party Tips:
- Kick things off with a palate cleanser of bubbles – don’t forget the “Salute!”
- Offer guests one food item in a variety of ways, like Jeff did with the Swiss cured meat. It’s always interesting to see how food changes with a slight ingredient shift and with the wines.
About five bottles in Jeff brought out a white in a decanter. Everyone got a bit of the mystery wine and the analysis began. It was fascinating to watch the wine pros swirl, sniff, and slurp before placing their educated bets.
Wine Tasting Party Tip: It’s not necessary to pour blinds from a decanter. If you’re limited, as most of us are, save the decanter(s) for the good stuff and put the others in paper bags or as they did at Jeff’s, wrap the bottle in tinfoil.
When it was time to start the red portion of our show Jeff selected two dolcettos to make the shift. Dolcettos are considered Piedmont’s “pizza wine”. They are the inexpensive, every day wines. They taste different to most western palates due to steel aging. It took me a couple of years of exploring Italian wines – especially Piedmont reds – before I fell for dolcettos. Now, I love them. The simpleness makes for a good white to red transition.
Wine Tasting Party Tip: Get a few easy, fun reds to transition from white to red. Try the same grape in different styles or from different regions to showcase varietal differences.
After the dolcettos Il Ragazzo (“The Boy”) stumped everyone with another blind. First, the crew worked to discern the varietal. Yes, he relented, it was a blend. Clearly it’s not Italian. Syrah? Mouvedre? Cabernet? Merlot? French? A Châteauneuf-du-Pape? Then, the bag came off. Hello, Snowy Peaks Winery in Estes Park, Colo. It was pretty exciting to watch this crew scratch their heads. I was also thrilled to see the state I call home get international love – especially from powerful Piedmont palates.
Snowy Peak Winery – Estes Park, Colo. Élevé: Rhone blend. Grapes: Syrah, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Cinsault, and Viognier. Production: 96 cases.
Unbeknownst to me, the Colorado wine selection kicked off the international portion of our show. Next we tried (all foil covered, natch) a Turkish wine, a Macedonian wine, a French wine, and a couple others.
Vino #1: Turkey Vino #2: Macedonia
From there we moved to a variety of Barolos and Barbarescos. Apparently he was now pulling the “good stuff” (I thought it was all good stuff!). Next came a cheese tray, also a part of the Good Stuff course.
I found Jeff in his wine room going through boxes of wine. There was no rhyme or reason to his stash. In fact, some were not even labeled!
I asked, “How do you know what is what?”
Jeff, “I don’t. I just go through it and see what sounds good.”
Can’t argue with that logic!
Il Ragazzo and I were leaving for the airport early the next morning so it was time to call it a night. We started to say our goodbyes, but were instructed to wait. Jeff was fixing a fruit salad (pineapple, melon, oranges, and fresh mint – add that fresh mint, it works wonders!) to pair with a sweet Swiss wine from Nicolas Bagnoud. Fine. If we must. We made it home at a decent hour. Il Ragazzo told me they’ve been up past 4 a.m. more than a few times with Jeff still opening bottles. What a night. Give a blind night a try – it’s a fun way to learn about new wines, grapes, regions and your friends’ palates! Salute – V-dawg Out!
Song Pick! Red Red Wine, UB40
http://youtu.be/zXt56MB-3vc Got suggestions on wines and regions to stump the Piedmont wine tasting crew? Lay it on me! And, let me know your favorite tips for hosting an epic wine tasting party!