Gathering With Food & Wine
My wine club was formed much in the same way as my book club. The book club idea had turned out to be a success, so I decided to expand on another passion – food and wine. In the fall of 2015, I sent out invitations to couples and of those started with a group of five couples and two singles for a total of twelve members.
All of the meetings are held at my home (only because no one has volunteered to take a turn at hosting) and I’ve enjoyed coming up with new themes and table settings for each event over the years. As others in my circle learned about the group and saw the pictures, requests to join were made and we now have two alternate couples that fill in when one of the original group is unable to attend.
Our first meeting was fall themed and guests were asked to bring a red wine that would go well with the flavors of fall cuisine as well as a small bite. The seating is always assigned by myself, with the intention of mixing up the group so that everyone has a chance to move around the table from meeting to meeting and get to know the couple seated next to them.
In the beginning, for the first three or four meetings, I created conversation games to help everyone not only get to know one another, but also have a chance to participate in the table conversation. In the future I will create a link of the games we played to reference.
A list of the wines is created prior to the meeting (requested from my guests) to be distributed at the end of the meeting. I usually have some kind of aperitif for guests to sip on as they arrive and they visit with everyone while in another room I uncork, bag and number each bottle. I then enlist a couple of the members to pour the wine in the matching numbered glass once they are all bagged and numbered.
Once all of the glasses have been filled, we say a blessing and everyone disburses to their assigned seat to begin tasting and making notes about the wines. Couples share a set of 6 or 7 glasses. Once everyone has had a chance to try the wines purely on their own, I ask them to note which were their favorites.
Once completed we move on to a cheese course which is my contribution (I also make the dessert) and following the cheese course, if the small bites require rewarming or final finessing this is quickly done and then everyone has a salad size plate to self-serve for the table of many wonderful tasty treats that were brought to the party.
A winning bottle is voted on and I have some kind of small basket or prize for the winner. Each year we have approximately three meetings. At year’s end we have a “wine off” of the top wines for the year and pick an overall winner. When there are two bottles with very close or a tie vote, both bottles become contenders in the wine off.
Our fifth year was kicked off in early November with a “Hauntingly Elegant” theme. Everyone wore black, made a mysterious small bite and brought a red wine with a “haunting or spooky” label. These are easy to find around Halloween. This was one of the most creative meetings to date and the winner received a bottle of Demi-sec in a black webbed bag with a cork spider. (Photo below) I decorated the house with moss hanging from dried tree branches and black crows in my chandeliers, dried flowers, moss and plastic skulls were used to create center pieces for the tables and around the room.
My signature “Bitter Broken Heart” cocktail was served as an aperitif (frozen black cherries soaked in Kirsch or volka overnight; pureed and strained for liquid only, chocolate bitters, topped with Prosecco, garnished with kirsch soaked dried cherries and Amarena cherries.
Twisted garlic bread sticks shaped into serpents, sprinkled with black salt and black sesame seeds with dried red chili tongues; a roasted vegetable and apple salad with forbidden (black) rice & apple cider vinaigrette assembled my Garden of Eden warm salad. For dessert – S’mores cake to celebrate several birthdays in our group.
Future posts will share many of our past and future meetings to inspire you and ensure a really lovely evening with friends.
A votre sante’! Chin-Chin!