Anyone who knows Fox and I knows that we’re pretty big-time
winos wine enthusiasts. We like to taste it; we like to take detailed, nerdy notes about it; we like to travel for it; and, when possible, we like to share the stuff we’ve learned with friends.
Which brings me to the wine tasting night we hosted at our house earlier this year. We focused on the area of the wine world we know best: the Central Coast of California. We decided to hone in on this wonderful wine-growing region, giving attention to wines we love that, more importantly, are available to be shipped to Pennsylvania!
So, we turned our dining room into a tasting space and invited 20 of our closest friends over to have an evening of bubbles, whites, reds, and dessert wines, with plenty of small bites to keep the party going.
Because Fox and I are admittedly pretty extra, we made informational packets for every attendee, with a page of notes on the viticultural areas in the Central Coast (with sections on Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo County, and Paso Robles in particular), and some “biographical info” for every wine on the tasting agenda. Here’s a sample note for a wine:
2015 Chronic Cellars Stone Fox
Paso Robles, CA. Established 2008
WINEMAKERS: Josh and Jake Beckett
DESCRIPTION: A blend of 41% grenache blanc, 37% viognier, 22% picpoul blanc. Picpoul literally means “lip stinger,” and it brings acidity, minerality, and tight citrus to the mix.
SUGGESTED PAIRINGS: brie with honey; sushi; your porch at noon
(We probably had waaaay too much fun putting all this together.)
To get everyone in the tasting mood, we started everyone out with a full glass of bubbles. Our choice was a favorite that you can periodically actually find in the state stores in PA, Chronic Cellars Spritz & Giggles. It’s a non-vintage dry sparkling wine that is delicious, refreshing, and very affordable! (Thankfully!) Starting with bubbles also gave us the opportunity to share some general champagne/sparkling vocabulary, and also to demonstrate how to safely open a bottle of bubbles.
…and to let everyone stock up on snackables — which is essential if you want to avoid getting everyone completely snookered. Between Fox’s parents, our own efforts, and the contributions of several guests, we had a nice array of tasty goodness. (This depicts only a portion of it.)
After which, class was in session! Because of the size of our class and 1-bottle limit we had for each wine, we did 1-oz pours for everything we tasted. I did most of the talking about each wine — here I am discussing the 2015 Viognier from Alapay Cellars, which is the first place we ever did a wine tasting back in 2007, and the first place we ever joined a wine club. It was really fun to try and bring some of that informative, laid-back, unpretentious flavor back to Pittsburgh.
After one glass of bubbles and four different white wines, we moved into the half-dozen reds we’d picked. Our initial plan was to do a single wine representing each varietal, but we did do a few detours where we cracked an extra off-menu bottle to do a side-by-side comparison of two different expressions of the same grape.
As I guided us through tastings of lighter reds, like the delightful 2014 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Mateo, Fox’s parents helped us out by taking orders for a special treat that we served up with the bigger reds: baby burgers! (Of beef, not baby.)
Meanwhile, Fox queued up a multimedia slideshow of pictures we’d taken while visiting the vineyards and tasting rooms that inspired the night. Here’s our exterior establishing shot of the beautiful Oso Libre winery, from which we tasted their 2012 Oso Libre Querida Cabernet Sauvignon. (For those interested, the pairing suggestions in my notes were “charcoal-grilled steak; veal; lamb chops with rosemary; a biker chick named Rosemary.”)
…and Fox also shared some choice movie clips. (Spoiler: we actually did taste a merlot — produced by the very establishment that Miles from Sideways so loves visiting, The Hitching Post II!
After our red tasting wrapped up, we took a quick break for champagne cupcakes. As a finale, we paired up some dark chocolates with a tasting of Justin Winery’s fabulous dessert wine, a late harvest cabernet sauvignon called Obtuse. Holy hell, was it satisfying.
Fox and I had a fantastic time throwing this little educational shindig for our pals; and we are definitely hooked on hosting nights like this. Next up, we’ll being taking folks on a tour of South American wines!