(BPT) – Not everyone can drop what they’re doing and be whisked away for the weekend to visit Sonoma’s wine country — but if you’ve always dreamed of living the relaxed and stylish wine country lifestyle, you’re in luck. You can bring that casual, sophisticated feeling to your own backyard with a wine themed party. While you may not have a vineyard just feet from your house, you can still savor the flavor and vibe of wine country by hosting an afternoon get-together or laid-back soiree.
Here are tips to give your gathering just the right notes.
Create a casual, intimate atmosphere
The best parties are small enough that everyone has a chance to enjoy good food, good conversation and of course, good wine, so keep your guest list on the smaller side. Then set up your backyard, deck or patio with seating options that allow space for guests to flow from one area to another.
Choose a unified theme
For example, focus your wine tasting by trying wines from a highly respected wine producer such as Sonoma’s Hanna Winery, known for producing world-class Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet. To liven up the conversation and keep the theme thriving, invite your guests to compare the different wines, asking them to describe which are their favorites, and why.
Provide the perfect pairings
When creating a wine country theme, it’s important you serve food that will not only pair well with your wines but also is easy to eat with one hand. Think of skewers of all kinds, charcuterie and cheese, sliders, summer veggies and flatbreads.
A light, crisp white wine like Hanna Sauvignon Blanc will be perfect for a tangy goat cheese dip with veggies or grilled shrimp skewers with a citrus marinade. Hanna Chardonnay will complement slightly richer dishes like smoked salmon and herb flatbread, and Cabernet lovers will appreciate bite-sized lamb meatballs, grilled steak sliders and even a selection of bittersweet chocolates.
Regardless of what you choose, the Sonoma lifestyle is all about sustainable farming and knowing where your food comes from, so visit your local farmer’s market for fresh produce or raid your kitchen garden for herbs and veggies before your party.
Hanna Winery President Christine Hanna’s cookbook, The Winemaker Cooks, is a helpful source of inspiration.
“After a long day of working in the vineyards, there’s nothing more satisfying than a trip to our winery garden to see what’s ripe. This time of year, our Early Girl tomatoes are starting to flourish, and we serve them with Greek feta and fresh mint,” said Hanna. “A simple dressing of olive oil and lemon dressing is spiked with a touch of balsamic, which makes it a perfect complement with Hanna’s Sauvignon Blanc.”
Summer Tomato Salad
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
8 tomatoes cut into medium slices
1 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Arrange tomato slices on a platter. Scatter feta on top, then the mint. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
Set the stage
Whether you’re hosting your party indoors or out, provide a lovely setting to enhance your guests’ experience. White linens are the perfect backdrop for guests to appreciate the colors of the wine. Make sure you have enough glassware to allow for comparison tasting.
Do your best to avoid scented candles which can distract from the aromas of the wines. If you choose to use flowers, also use low scent flowers, and if you really want that wine country feel, add colorful and festive grape clusters to your arrangements.
Serve your wine correctly
Most wine in America is served at the wrong temperature: White wine tends to be served too cold, and red wine tends to be served too warm. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay should be served between 45-50 degrees and Cabernet should be served around 60, but since it’s summer, don’t stress over the wine’s temperature. Instead, offer frozen grapes (red and white) to your guests if their wine has gotten too warm. This will chill the wine without imparting additional flavors or watering it down.
Serve small tasting amounts in each guest’s glass (about two ounces). This will allow guests to taste all the different wines available and decide for themselves which they prefer.
Following these simple tips, your wine tasting party will help you feel like you’re living the good life in Sonoma, wherever you are.