I love wine and I love parties, so having a wine tasting party was a natural fit. Planning it, however, was more difficult than I anticipated! Even though I found pages and pages of guides, suggestions and tips on how to pair foods with wines, it was a lot of work to put together the actual menu. My guests and I had a great time at the party, so I thought I’d share my menu to make your planning a little easier!
It’s important to add a disclaimer here. I am by no means a wine connoisseur or a food expert. I just put together a menu that was a party pleaser, so I’m sharing it with you. I also planned around sweeter wines, so if you prefer dry, this might not be the menu for you!
Want to preview the menu? Download the Step-by-Step Wine & Food Pairing Plan.
Pick a Party Theme – I love a good theme! My party was in November, so my theme was “Give Thanks”. My invites alluded to being thankful for my guests, and I used the theme to guide my décor of fall garlands, chalkboards and rich colors.
Invite Guests – I went the cheap and easy route of inviting my friends via a Facebook event. If you wanted to make your party a little fancier, you could opt for paper invites or e-mailing an invitation. I limited my guest list to 10-12 guests to keep the party intimate and keep the pairings moving.
Make Your Plan – I can’t say no to a good Excel spreadsheet! I made a plan for when I would perform tasks like cleaning (vacuum and clean the bathroom the day of, cook most of the food the day before, grocery shop two days before, etc.) and even included items like what serving trays I would need. You can skip this step, but I found it really helpful. I would have been a lot more stressed without the prior planning.
Decorate – I enjoy decorating for parties. I rearranged my dining area to make more standing room, used craft paper to cover my kitchen island and make a bar (I labeled each bottle of wine right on the craft paper) and pushed the food up against the wall so no one would trip over it. I used chalkboard paper and corks to label each food pairing, plus cute labels for each glass.
Add Some Fun – I filled an apothecary jar with corks and had guests guess how many corks were in the jar. This was a fun game that didn’t require a lot of work, plus gave guests something to do in between tastings. Of course, the prize was a bottle of wine!
Food and Wine Preparation – You can download the Step-by-Step Wine & Food Tasting Party Plan here. The menu includes six wines with a simple and more complex pairing for each. At the end of the night everyone was stuffed, so you could easily pair this down to be either just the simple or complex pairing. Again, I’m no expert, but everyone was happy with the menu!
- Zinfandel (Dry Red) paired with Aged Cheddar and Gruyere Puffs
- Pino Grigio (Semi Dry White) paired with Brie and Pinwheels
- Riesling (Semi Dry White) paired with Apples and Spinach Feta Cocktail Balls
- Cayuga (Sweet White) paired with Caprese Skewers and Honey Cheese
- Blackberry Merlot (Sweet Red) paired with Blackberries and Death by Chocolate Cookies
- Moscato (Sweet White) paired with Grapes and Buffalo Chicken Dip
During the Party – Once everyone arrived, I explained how the pairings worked. For example, match a splash of wine from bottle one with both foods labeled number one. I let guests taste at their own pace, keeping the event very laid back. Some people preferred to sip and savor, while others wanted to try everything quickly.
I also had additional bottles of wine for people to drink after they finished their pairings, as well as oyster crackers to cleanse the pallet in between each pairing.
Most of all, don’t forget to have fun! I really enjoyed that I picked food that didn’t need attention during the party, allowing me to mingle and enjoy my company. The one thing I did forget to do was take pictures – make sure to take a moment to snap a few!