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Off The Vine

Host your own wine tastings

Every once in a while, I am asked how to host a wine-tasting party. With the thousands of labels out there and the new and emerging wines hitting the shelves vintage after vintage, it can become a daunting challenge on how to get a handle on the wine scene. The average consumer is lost in the woods on how to proceed in the evaluation process of wine. Here is the classic wine tasting party guideline that will give you a good idea on how to evaluate wine but also how to have a lot of fun doing it:

First, choose friends who have the same interest in learning about wine. Nothing is worse than being serious about learning something while having a few &

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uninterested in the subject involved. You can make the tasting centered on food items but this is not always necessary. Some finger food that goes well with the wine chosen is, though, a good idea.

Secondly, choose a single variety, such as zinfandel. Select someone to &

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the grape, perhaps with handouts and give a brief five minute talk about what taste sensations to expect. Keep the group of tasters around 10 folks to keep the tasting manageable and light.

Third on the list is to determine the price level of the wines and the region where the wines should come from. Make the prices in line with group wishes. A good model for this on zinfandel, for example, would be zinfandel from Amador County, 2002 vintage under 20 bucks per bottle. The host would then wrap the bottles in a brown paper sack and number each bottle with a number. The leader or host of the tasting would have the numbers and wines listed with each safely hidden away. After the group has discussed which wine was the winner of the tasting the host can reveal the winner. A rare but real cool thing to do is have a winery representative host the tasting. He or she will come to the house and taste the group on new releases. This is best done with large groups with some sort of dining involved. This is a good way to taste wines from a certain winemaker and evaluate the winery as a whole.

Some groups (There are wine groups which have been going on for years!) choose one person to purchase the wines from group funds so that there will be no duplication during the evaluation process. Other tasting groups simply ask folks to show up with a wine at a certain price level. I&

ve attended many tastings over the years, and the discussions about the wines can really get spirited. Rarely do two people come to complete agreement on the wines, and there can be some real ego involvement in the process. It can be a lot of fun. Give it a try and see what happens! See you next time.