Searching for an excuse to have some girlfriends over for a party, I decided to host a wine tasting. We did a blind tasting of 7 local red wines. Here is what I learned:
- Do choose a theme. I chose local red wines under $15, and defined for my guests what I meant by local (Santa Barbara, Ojai and Santa Ynez area).
- Do research if your theme is actually a realistic one. After going to my local wine store, I realized it was hard to find bottles from the local area under $20. And, after reading the fine print on my own purchased bottle from a Santa Barbara winery, I came to realize that the grapes were actually grown and vinted in Napa Valley.
- Do have people post their wines (we did this through the Evite invitation) as they purchase them to avoid duplicates, especially if you have chosen a narrow category as I did.
- Do have lots of food on hand to counter the effects of the wine consumption. I didn't worry too much about serving foods that went with the wine, I simply chose foods I thought we would enjoy eating. I served Rosemary Roasted Walnuts (see below for recipe from Chow.com), a pesto pizza, oreo truffles, and some other goodies that my friends were kind enough to bring.
- Don't pour giant pours. As we went through the evening and tasted seven different red wines, it quickly hit me that we would never make it to number 7 sober if I kept pouring large pours.
- Don't be hesitant to pour out the wine after you taste it. For many of my girlfriends this was hard to do, and completely counter intuitive. "What, pour out good wine?!" But if you want to be able to taste and appreciate #7 as much as you did #1, then pour away.
- Don't be too rigid. As we started off the evening, we were all keeping notes on our scorecards and tasting a new wine every 10 minutes or so and talking about things like tannin and body. As the evening wore on, we sometimes lost track and noticed our senses dulling a bit. But since the main goal was to have fun and drink wine with good friends, I didn't sweat it.
So, what did we find? While there wasn't a huge consensus, the group favorite was definitely the Casa Barranca 2006 Syrah ($20). Made with organic grapes grown at Harmon Vineyard in Santa Barbara County, it solicited a lot of 'wows' and 'yums' from the group.
Rosemary Roasted Walnuts
- 5 cups walnuts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary coarsely chopped
- 4 tsp kosher salt (I recommend using closer to 3 tsp)
- 1 TBL sugar
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Place the nuts on a baking sheet. Add remaining ingredients and mix with your hands to evenly coat.
- Bake until nuts are browned and toasted, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet, transfer to a bowl, and serve.