WINE CLUB

Wine Club: Murder Mystery Wine Party

Fresh rosemary & lavender from my garden tied
with twine on the napkins; magnifying glass &
note pads with “inspector” hat & mustache.
(Both from the Dollar Tree)

I’m often asked where my ideas for my gatherings come from.  The truth is, I see something that inspires me and literally can’t sleep well for a few days. My mind races with a creative adrenaline induced frenzy, causing me to get up several times throughout the night to write down the avalanche of ideas that attack my thoughts so I can be freed to go back to sleep. The idea can be inspired by a magazine article, something I read in a novel, an item I see in a store, or something I see on a morning talk, news or cooking show. Once one of our wine meetings has ended, I’m immediately seeking out inspiration for the theme of the next.

This wine club meeting was inspired earlier in the year when I was listening to the Rachel Ray Show. A segment with two ladies from The Skimm discussed a wine pairing bookclub in their office, that has become a whole new point of interest for their newsletter.

My interest peaked (originally for my bookclub) so I listened more closely as four book and wine pairing examples were discussed.  One of the books, a historical crime fiction  ‘The Alienist’ by Caleb Carr was paired with a bottle from the “19 Crimes” living wine labels collection (Australia) by Ms. Ray.  She demonstrated how the Living Wine Labels APP can be downloaded to a smart phone and when held over the label (with the use of the phone camera) the criminal comes to life and tells you a little of their story.  I immediately knew I had to do something with this wine and started looking for a Murder Mystery dinner script. As luck would have it, I found a free script on Pinterest about a murder on a vineyard (Sour Grapes of Wrath) and a plan began to form. http://www.whodunitmysteries.com/SourGrapesofWrath.pdfThe Invitation:

THE INVITATION

I typically send an email a month or two prior to the next anticipated meeting, with a couple of date options, requesting feedback on which date works best for the majority. I also include the theme for that meeting and request everyone save the date.

About a month prior to the saved date, I send an email selecting free clip art that represents our theme with an actual to create an actual invitation, detailing the date, time and any other special instructions. In this particular case, I purchased all of the wine, so there was no request for wine, but as usual guests were asked to bring a small bite and to R.S.V.P. by a deadline. Once I knew who was able to attend, I assigned the six characters from the script to the guests that I thought would best match those attending, three woman and three men. Separately I emailed the author’s suggested costuming of each character and WOW… did them come dressed to kill! They stayed in character throughout the evening and I can’t remember when we all laughed so much.

SETTING THE TABLE

The scene of this Murder Mystery took place at a vineyard. Therefore I wanted to create a table with the same vibe. While an outdoor alfresco setting would have been amazing, here in Southern Louisiana the heat and mosquitos make outdoor dining impossible unless you have a large screened room of which I do not. A faux leafy olive garland purchased at a craft store was used in the center of my table (live olive tree branches would be even better). Dollar store magnifying glasses, small flip up wire rimmed notepads decorated with mustache and bowler hat stickers were placed by each couple for noting mystery “clues”. Place cards were made with chalkboard paper tags with picks. I used a white marker to write the names and then tied the pick to a wine cork with twine. For an earthy look and fresh fragrance, neutral colored linen napkins were cinched with fresh lavender and rosemary in twine from my garden. Wicker lined glasses added a “picnic/alfresco” touch with votive candlelight along with the candelabra that added some drama to the table. Copies of the script were placed in front of each of the characters (specific with only information they should know) and a general script for the others. If you the weather and bugs are not an issue where you live, an outdoor setting with a lot of candlelight would create a mystic yet romantic atmosphere for the evening.

A bottle of wine was placed on the table in front of each couple’s assigned seat and two wine glasses per guest. There were six rounds in the script and we had six bottles of wine to coincide with each round. This gave each guest an opportunity to activate a label on their phone and we would take a short break from the script to evaluate the bottle of wine we were tasting.

Place cards were tied with twine to corks and a faux olive vine with wicker votives went down the center of the table to create a vineyard look. [ If weather permits, this would be lovely to do outdoors.]

LET THE PARTY BEGIN!

When my guests arrived I had everyone download the Living Wines APP on their phones and demonstrated how the label came to life on the first bottle, which was the only white wine with the only female criminal. Her narrative explained how she was banished from her country and family for stealing bacon. While I read the rules to the mystery game (as the hostess), the bottle of Chardonnay was passed around and my guests each poured some of its contents into their glass for sipping during our first round of the mystery, as scripts were read and the cheese course was savored. The wine was fresh and crisp and paired perfectly with my cheese course.

The interrogation began over my cheese course of oven roasted grapes & blackberries
on fresh baked toasted Italian braided bread with goat cheese;
parmesan pine nut crisps; Manchego slices and roasted asparagus tips upon a fig leaf.
Above is one plate shared by each couple.

At the end of each round the wines gradually circled the table, with each bottle’s label held up to the “Living Wine Labels” APP as we all listened to the narrative of each criminal starting with the lighter reds and moving toward the heavier reds. As we passed the bottle everyone poured a little in their glass, sipping while taking in the script’s clues read by the characters of our Murder Mystery.

I think it’s safe to say that all of the wines were quite good. Some a little better than others, but overall good drinking wines.  One was a little heavier and we agreed it would probably be better with food, but we had eaten all of our food by the time we got to that particular bottle.  The most expensive of the wines ($18) was ‘The Warden’ and it was very smooth and rich.

For dessert, I made death my chocolate cake. Layers of cake and brownie with salted caramel filling.  A blackberry mango compote to balance out the richness of the cake and a bloody red wine reduction.

The script and author’s instructions were well written.  In fact, so well written, that no one guessed who the true murderer was!

If you’re looking for a fun night and entertaining evening, get together about 8 friends and have a Murder Mystery Dinner Party.  For now my groups’ acting debuts have come to an end. Their final words… “We have to do this again!”  Cue lights out….

The 19 Crimes wine can be found in just about any grocery store, but to find all of the bottles you may have to go to your local wine store. They are all inexpensive and all were good. For this meeting I purchased six bottles of the wine, but another method would be request each couple bring an assigned bottle to avoid duplications.

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