Tutorial - How To Throw An Around The World Wine Tasting

You can probably imagine that after all of the time and energy spent planning other people's celebrations, it's sometimes hard to find the time to plan a personal event...  But recently I decided to plan a dinner party for my husband's birthday, and I wanted it to be a memorable experience for all of our friends and family, but also incorporate some of his favorite things.  As an accountant for an International company he usually travels to a different country several times a year (a bonus for someone who already loves to travel).  And anyone who knows him knows he is quite a wine snob (no offense, sweetie!)  So I decided to combine these passions into a wine tasting party that would take our guests 'AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY SIPS' - what could be more fun than that?

         The answer is 'Nothing'. :)  Yes, nothing is more fun than a  travel-themed wine pairing party!

         The answer is 'Nothing'. :)  Yes, nothing is more fun than a  travel-themed wine pairing party!

I decided to begin by creating my menu, with lots of online research regarding the best wine regions and regional varietals as well as local cuisine.  But I had to go one step further and fully understand each wine's flavor profile and what would be a great pairing (for instance, a German Riesling and a Bratwurst would be famed German offerings, but would not be a great pairing).  I also needed to create a progressive menu that would follow the wine palette from light and crisp to dark and bold, AND be sure to pair foods that followed the typical course of a meal (what's a good appetizer? main course? dessert?)  Yes,  it's more complicated than it first seems, but the end result was well worth it!

                   Here's a good sample of wine and food pairing suggestions and progression.

                   Here's a good sample of wine and food pairing suggestions and progression.

Once I had the menu decided, I began brainstorming decor and details.  If I'm taking everyone around the world, and we're essentially having a 'flight' of wine, then an airplane-theme was perfect!!  Cha-ching!  I ordered a vintage flight attendant costume for myself online (and even pieced together a super handsome pilot costume for the hubs)! ;-)

                                                   Looking for this costume?  Here it is:                                            Don't forget the white gloves, tights, and heels!

                                                   Looking for this costume?  Here it is:  

                                         Don't forget the white gloves, tights, and heels!

To inform everyone of the menu that evening, I printed custom boarding passes (found through a fabulous Etsy vendor!) with each course described, including airport codes and time zones for each destination country.  It's all about the details!!  I also found an adorable boarding pass envelope design online and printed those to create jackets to hold all the passes.  OMG!!

                                      You can easily customize these printable boarding passes found on Etsy

                                      You can easily customize these printable boarding passes found on Etsy

                                                         Download and print this boarding pass jacket here

                                                         Download and print this boarding pass jacket here

Then I was thinking, how cute would it be to have passports for all the guests?  And they could have them stamped for each country we 'visit'??  After finding another fabulous Etsy artist who offered a template, I sleuthed around Facebook for photos of all my guests and customized each one, even down to their birthdates!  I printed the covers on adhesive back paper, printed the insides on blue wash paper to resemble the official pages, and sandwiched the two together.  Voila!!  And my standing shutter was a perfect display for all the travel documents!  I created a "Ticket Desk" sign, and also commissioned an Etsy artist to create a custom departure board for me, listing all of the destinations we would visit throughout the night.

                                                 Want to print your own passports?  Here's the listing I used

                                                 Want to print your own passports?  Here's the listing I used

                                                           I borrowed a podium to use as a ticket counter!

                                                           I borrowed a podium to use as a ticket counter!

                                                        You can commission your own departure board here

                                                        You can commission your own departure board here

It was going to be a lot for me to serve the food and wine AND stamp the passports, so a couple of my sweet friends volunteered to help in any way they could.  A few Toy Police Officer kits from the Dollar Tree later (and custom name tags via Sharpie...) and I had two Customs Agents outfitted with badges, name tags, and walkie talkies.  As guests arrived, they checked their passports and asked them questions to verify their identities, and as each course progressed through the evening they circulated and stamped their passports.  Who says you can't find good help these days? :)

 Don't forget to pay attention to presentation.  I served my Italian Crostini on a Pizza Peel for added authenticity.

 Don't forget to pay attention to presentation.  I served my Italian Crostini on a Pizza Peel for added authenticity.

                                              Looking for stamps?  Here are some similar to the ones I used

                                              Looking for stamps?  Here are some similar to the ones I used

In case anyone needed to hydrate between courses, I custom printed water bottle labels with our own airline logo, and set up a hydration station.  And since it's a wine tasting, you'll also need a pitcher of water and a dump bucket for rinsing and discarding unfinished wine from the glasses (in the event that you don't finish your wine, but why would you do such a thing?!)

                              These water bottle labels come with templates you can customize like I did

                              These water bottle labels come with templates you can customize like I did

I decorated foam gliders to suspend from our patio trellis with inflated globes and bistro lights.  And to set the mood, I also created a play list with song selections from each country throughout the evening.  I wanted our guests to feel like they were truly going on a journey with us, and no detail was overlooked...

                                                              Looking for inflatable globes?  Click here

                                                              Looking for inflatable globes?  Click here

                                               Dress up plain foam gliders using cardstock and Sharpie markers

                                               Dress up plain foam gliders using cardstock and Sharpie markers

It was time for the big event!  Here's an outline of the menu we enjoyed, with links to the recipes and wines we purchased (all of which were hand-selected by our favorite wine expert, Yurika, at Total Wine & More in Tampa, Florida).


Menu

Course 1 - FRANCE

Pertois-Moriset Brut Cuvee Champagne + Lavender Fleur de Sel Shortbread Cookies

(I swapped Fleur de Sel for Sel Gris because it was easier for me to find)

                           Lavender Fleur de Sel Shortbread Cookies by Leite's Culinaria

                           Lavender Fleur de Sel Shortbread Cookies by Leite's Culinaria

In Champagne and sometimes in other regions producing sparkling wines by the traditional method, the cuvée also refers to the best grape juice from gentle pressing of the grapes. In Champagne, the cuvée is the first 2,050 litres of grape juice from 4,000 kg of grapes (a marc), while the following 500 litres are known as the taille (tail), and is expected to give wines of a coarser character. Many Champagne producers pride themselves on only using the cuvée in their wine.

A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards on the southern slopes towards Sezanne. This balanced light-bodied Champagne has a creamy nose with a serious and deep mid-palate. Precise fruit (apple & citrus) with a long finish and fine bubbles. It is refreshing and perfect as an aperitif. Champagne is said to pair perfect with nearly everything. It balances sweet and salty foods with a refreshing cleanse of the palette, and cuts through rich buttery foods like cheeses.

For the amuse bouche (a French word meaning mouth amuser) I wanted a single-bite course that immediately made you think of France. When I think of France, I picture Parisian cafes and patisseries and I picture French lavender fields, so I combined them in a shortbread cookie which is also topped with a little sugar and sel gris (which is a type of coarse salt from France that translates to ‘Grey salt’).

The champagne should highlight the botanical quality of the lavender and brighten the salt on your tongue like a spark!
— Christi Winsor
             Tuscan Kale & Cannellini Bean Crostini by Williams Sonoma

             Tuscan Kale & Cannellini Bean Crostini by Williams Sonoma

Vernaccia is a type of grape local to Italy, with a name that comes from the Italian word Vernaculo, meaning ‘common’ or ‘indigenous’. The location of the grape varies; this one is from San Gimignano, Tuscany, hence the name. Its bouquet is intense and penetrating, with notes of floral, citrus, and subtle tropical fruits. The flavor is medium-bodied and harmoniously crisp, dry, and refreshing, with a characteristic bitter almond finish that could be described as spicy or zesty. Given its unique structure, it is one of the few whites that benefits from a brief ageing.

Tuscan Kale & Cannellini Bean Crostini
This type of wine pairs well with white foods (starches, white fish, white meats) as well as antipasti and vegetables, so I thought a vegetable crostini was perfect! This Crostini (an Italian appetizer of small slices of toasted bread and toppings) is topped with Tuscan kale and Cannellini beans (which are white Italian kidney beans) sauteed with vegetable broth, olive oil and garlic, all of which are distinctly Italian.
— Christi Winsor
                                     Fresh Cheese Spaetzle by Food & Wine Magazine

                                     Fresh Cheese Spaetzle by Food & Wine Magazine

Because Riesling is rarely made with oak or blended with other grapes, its dry wines showcase the varietal’s pure green apple, citrus and peach flavors with bright and refreshing acidity. In Germany, where the variety originates, Riesling wine labels indicate five different sweetness categories: Kabinett (dry to off-dry), Spätlese (sweet), Auslese (sweeter), Beerenauslese (very sweet) and Trockenbeerenauslese (super sweet).
This wine shows a bright and lively nose. The flavors are fruity and reminiscent of stone fruit and pear, and cherry blossom flowers. You’ll also notice a mineral quality, common in German rieslings. The acidity and sweetness are beautifully balanced, perfect for
Fresh Cheese Spaetzel.
Spaetzel is a soft egg noodle found in Germany, where the noodles are boiled and then pan-fried, so they’re both soft and crispy at the same time. This one is traditionally made with Quark, a type of tangy soft cheese from Germany, similar to Mascarpone (which is what I used).
— Christi Winsor
BBQ Ribs via Food.com and Apple Slaw via Real Simple

BBQ Ribs via Food.com and Apple Slaw via Real Simple

Zinfandel has a long history in California. During the Gold Rush, miners primarily drank Zinfandel, largely because the Zinfandel vine was prolific. For the most part, Napa Valley Zins all have good fruit, with blackberry, raspberry, plum and cherry aromas and flavors. Some have hints of earthiness, chocolate, leather and spice, but are not overly complex. The tannins are moderate and generally balanced, with good acidity and nice mouth-feel. The brambly flavors associated with this vineyard are complemented with just a hint of spice along with a lingering vanilla finish. Sometimes described as a JamBomb. This wine was the winner of the Silver in the San Francisco Wine Competition. Zin pairs great with meats and bold sauces, because the lower tannin in this wine can accommodate some heat from chiles, so ribs with a spicy barbecue sauce are considered almost a classic match.

There’s nothing more American than slow roasted pork ribs with BBQ sauce, which I’ve elevated with a creamy, crisp Apple Slaw to balance the sweet and spicy sauce.
— Christi Winsor

Course 5 - AUSTRALIA

Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz  + Aussie Beef Sliders with Old Croc Smoked Cheddar Cheese, Fried Egg, and Balsamic Ketchup

(instead of homemade ketchup, I created a balsamic ketchup by adding balsamic glaze to store-bought Heinz, omitted the beet relish, and to make it even more authentic to Australia, I used an Australian smoked cheddar cheese)

                                                Aussie Beef Sliders by 'What Katie Ate'

                                                Aussie Beef Sliders by 'What Katie Ate'

This Shiraz from Australia (a variety of the Sirah grape) is more consistently full-bodied with softer tannin, jammier fruit and spice notes of anise and earthy leather due to the warm weather climate. NOTE: it’s pronounced Shih-RAZZ (like Taz-mania) - what a nifty way to remember the pronunciation, right? This one is from the Barossa region. The palate is rich and full with spicy plums and creamy oak. The tannins are fine and give the wine great length of flavor and a superb smooth mouthfeel. Pairs well with foods with richness and flavor such as meat and pasta dishes.

These beef sliders are spiced with mustard, herbs, and red chili flakes, and are topped with Australian smoked cheddar cheese, fried eggs, lettuce, tomato, balsamic ketchup, and fried onion straws. Grab a napkin for your drool!
— Christi Winsor
I spread Savannah Bee Company Winter White Honey over Boar's Head Canadian Cheddar Cheese

I spread Savannah Bee Company Winter White Honey over Boar's Head Canadian Cheddar Cheese

Ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. Vidal is a hardy hybrid grape that is grown in Canada and the northeastern United States. It is best known as one of the ice wine grapes of Canada. This one features a nose of pineapple, peach and honeysuckle. A luxurious wine, soft and velvety that delights your senses with aromas of honey-dipped apricot, hints of pineapple and sumptuous sweetness. You always want your wine to be sweeter than what you’re eating (with the exception of sparkling wine), so you can pair this with a sweet dessert or a creamy rich cheese!

This Canadian cheddar is aged for over 3 months, resulting in a sharp, nutty flavor with a bit of a dry-crunchy texture. The dab of winter white honey is whipped honey from the wildflower fields of the Rocky Mountains, has notes of pear and peach, and hints of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Together these will dance on your palette - a true match made in Heaven!
— Christi Winsor
                                 Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts via The New York Times

                                 Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts via The New York Times

Tawny Port is a ubiquitous style of fortified wine from northern Portugal. It is lighter than Vintage Port and Ruby Port in both color and aroma, and is often made from grapes grown in cooler parts of the Douro. Unlike Ruby, which ages for most of its life in bottle, Tawny Ports are aged in barrel for several years. This allows oxygen to interact with the wine, which gives Tawny Port its most distinctive characters, and leads to the pale, ‘tawny’ color that gives the style its name. With an attractive red-tawny hue, typical of an older wine, Offley Porto Tawny has a delicate aroma reminiscent of ripe red fruit and enhanced by nutty notes that provide it with an added complexity. In the mouth, there is a fine balance between soft tannins and natural sweetness which combine harmoniously towards an elegant and fine finish. Flavors of caramel and raisin are introduced by an enticing aroma. The texture is rich and sweet with layers and layers of fruit and hints of walnut and vanilla leading to a velvet finish.

These diminutive egg tarts — pasteis de nata — a specialty all over Portugal, have a cinnamon flavored custard nestled in a flaky puff pastry crust. The sweet and creamy texture pairs perfectly with a nutty, rich port.
— Christi Winsor

At the end of the evening, guests collected their parting gifts from "Baggage Claim" area: hand-decorated gift boxes made to resemble suitcases, complete with handles, travel stickers, and luggage tags with each guests' name handwritten (as a keepsake)!  They were so stinkin' adorable that people didn't want to open them!!  I couldn't blame them, but the best part was inside...  What do you give as a party favor for a travel-themed-wine party?  A travel wine bag of course!  Everyone left with a collapsible wine flask (each holds an entire bottle of wine!) with a message that read "For wherever life takes you!"  

                                I used mailing paper (like kraft paper) to wrap gift boxes to look like suitcases. Jot mailing paper rolls / Gift Boxes / Printable travel stickers / DIY handles template

                                I used mailing paper (like kraft paper) to wrap gift boxes to look like suitcases.

Jot mailing paper rolls / Gift Boxes / Printable travel stickers / DIY handles template

                                         To print a similar Baggage Claim sign, click here (I made a few edits)

                                         To print a similar Baggage Claim sign, click here (I made a few edits)

                                           Use cardstock to decorate each box with colorful suitcase straps and corners.

                                           Use cardstock to decorate each box with colorful suitcase straps and corners.

                                                                To purchase similar luggage tags, click here

                                                                To purchase similar luggage tags, click here

Cindy and Dan - Coral and Midnight at the Museum Wedding

Dan and Cindy met on a blind date that turned into love at first sight!  They exchanged timeless vows in a ceremony mass at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, followed by an elegant reception at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.  The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the bride's favorite places in St. Pete and held a special place in their hearts. Guests enjoyed a cocktail hour in the Membership Garden and a reception in the expansive conservatory with floor to ceiling views of the water. The couple's navy, pink and ivory color palette was reflected in their beautiful and classic floral arrangements and stationery.  Everywhere you looked, the wedding was filled with elegant details from the crystal candlesticks to the pocket invitations, and can we just talk about that bouquet?!  

                                            How gorgeous are these two?  Their wedding attire was STUNNING!

                                            How gorgeous are these two?  Their wedding attire was STUNNING!

                The bride's bouquet featured white tulips, roses, & calla lilies, accented with blush & peach roses.

                The bride's bouquet featured white tulips, roses, & calla lilies, accented with blush & peach roses.

            This pocket-style invitation suite featured navy and silver papers and inks plus a custom monogram

            This pocket-style invitation suite featured navy and silver papers and inks plus a custom monogram

                                                   The wedding party wore classic navy suits and chiffon gowns

                                                   The wedding party wore classic navy suits and chiffon gowns

                       A navy suit with pink tie and blush rose boutonniere is such a stunning combination!

                       A navy suit with pink tie and blush rose boutonniere is such a stunning combination!

         You guys... THAT DRESS!!!  The lace mermaid gown with keyhole back is EVERYTHING!

         You guys... THAT DRESS!!!  The lace mermaid gown with keyhole back is EVERYTHING!

                          Even the custom wedding programs reflected the peach and pink flora in the design

                          Even the custom wedding programs reflected the peach and pink flora in the design

                 Did we mention we're HUGE fans of a First Look?  Such an intimate (and emotional!) moment.

                 Did we mention we're HUGE fans of a First Look?  Such an intimate (and emotional!) moment.

                  These gorgeous floral arrangements dressed up the Cathedral alter as well as the head table

                  These gorgeous floral arrangements dressed up the Cathedral alter as well as the head table

                   The reception at the Museum of Fine Arts featured crystal candlesticks and chiavari chairs

                   The reception at the Museum of Fine Arts featured crystal candlesticks and chiavari chairs

   Centerpieces included tall hydrangea and rose arrangements, accented by crystals and candles

   Centerpieces included tall hydrangea and rose arrangements, accented by crystals and candles

                                        The sweetheart chairs were decorated with Bride and Groom signs

                                        The sweetheart chairs were decorated with Bride and Groom signs

            The buttercream wedding cake featured a delicate piped detail and fresh rose accents

            The buttercream wedding cake featured a delicate piped detail and fresh rose accents

                   Photo strip frames served as place cards that doubled as favors for guests

                   Photo strip frames served as place cards that doubled as favors for guests

                        How much do you love this ivory and blush sequin photo booth backdrop?!?!

                        How much do you love this ivory and blush sequin photo booth backdrop?!?!

      Soft pink uplighting along the walls and ceiling created an intimate dance floor at the MFA

      Soft pink uplighting along the walls and ceiling created an intimate dance floor at the MFA

Wedding vendors who created the magic:

- Ceremony Venue:  St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church

- Reception Venue:  Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

- Photography:  Life Long Studios

- Florist:  Arlene Floral Designer

- Catering & Cake:  Olympia Catering

- Bar:  Catering by Lundy's

- DJ & Lighting:  Cory Barron, Grant Hemond & Associates

- Transportation:  Blu Moon Transportation

- Valet: Courtesy Valet

- Save-the-Dates and Programs:  Minted

- Invitations:  Invitations by Dawn

- Linens:  Connie Duglin Linen

- Chiavari Chairs:  PKS Rentals

Jennifer and Casey - A Blush and Baroque Wedding

Jennifer and Casey - A Blush and Baroque Wedding

When Jennifer and Casey met while out on the town with friends, it truly was love at first sight. At the end of the evening, like a scene from a movie, their first kiss through the taxi door was as electric as their first kiss as husband and wife at their waterfront nuptials! The couple exchanged vows in front of 150 of their closest friends and family at the Davis Islands Garden Club near downtown Tampa.  

Jessica and Mike - Timeless Tradition in the heart of Tampa

Jessica's eye for classic beauty and timeless detail, and Mike's goal of excellent music and food were perfectly merged on their wedding day.  Before exchanging sacred vows in a traditional Catholic ceremony in historic Ybor City, the bride shared an intimate first look with her Father after stepping into her stunning lace sleeved gown.  The chic black and white color scheme and formal styling first appeared in custom invitation suites, and was accented with tiny touches of pale pink and pewter, appearing in flora that popped against the formal onyx gowns and tuxedos.

An impressive seating chart mirror guided guests to their seats on the rooftop terrace, where feasting tables were set beneath shady pavilions in preparation for the five course meal.

A live jazz band serenaded guests during a poolside cocktail hour at the foodie-focused Epicurean hotel.

Mirrored table runners boasted silver candlesticks and wood hedge boxes of bountiful flora, with towering loose arrangements accenting the head table and a plush tufted loveseat for the bride and groom.  

Following an indulgent gourmet meal including courses like short rib ravioli, beet salad, and filet with crab cakes, everyone crowded the dance floor for what has been referred to as the BEST wedding reception to date!

When guests grew tired of dancing they lounged in chic furniture groupings along the terrace and sipped on 'Oxford' signature drinks, a cocktail comprised of elderflower, lemon, and black currant tea syrup - a nod to the couple's first date and later proposal at the Oxford Exchange restaurant in Tampa.

After slices of cake and late night snacks of sliders, fries, and mini Chicago-style hot dogs (in honor of the groom's Chicago roots) guests departed with gift boxes filled with all the accoutrements to create their own Oxford cocktails at home.  

Wedding Pros who created this incredible day:

- Ceremony Venue:  Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church

- Reception Venue & Catering:  The Epicurean Hotel

- Photography:  Andi Diamond Photography

- Florist:  Braun's Fine Flowers

- Rentals:  Coast to Coast Event Rentals

- Wood Farm Tables:  A Chair Affair

- Lounge Furniture & Charger Plates:  MMD Events

- Linens:  Connie Duglin Linen

- DJ:  Ben Daniele, Grant Hemond & Associates

- Jazz Band:  Gloria West & The Gents

- Videography:  Life's Highlights

- Makeup: Lindsay Does Makeup

- Transportation:  Network Limo

- Seating Chart:  Love Storey Weddings

- Cake:  Publix Greenwise

Lisa and Tushar - an Indian Fusion Wedding in St. Petersburg

Lisa and Tushar wanted to honor their family and culture during their wedding at the beautiful Renaissance Vinoy St. Petersburg.  Lisa's fairy tale wedding vision was combined with Tushar's Indian customs which inspired such details as the colorful and lush flowers, gold accents, and recurring elephant motif.  

The couple actually hosted two wedding ceremonies in the tea garden; first an Hindu ceremony and then a Christian ceremony.  The first ceremony was filled with customs including the baraat, wherein Tushar entered the garden on a decorated white horse while friends and family sang and danced in escort, and the gorgeous mandap that the couple sat beneath during the wedding.  To ease their jitters, they partook in an intimate first look before the ceremonies.

winsor event studio indian wedding jewelry

Before the Christian ceremony, the bride restyled her hair and changed into a tulle ballgown with a lace bodice and beaded illusion back.  During the brief intermission, guests enjoyed a gelato cart set in the garden - perfect for a warm Florida afternoon.  The couple then exchanged vows lead by a pastor, and partook in a unity wine ceremony where they sealed a bottle of wine and love letters inside a beautiful wood box that the bride's brother hand-crafted for the couple as a gift.

Details throughout the reception included nods to elephants, such as elephant candle favors at place settings, and the cutest elephant cake pops you've ever seen!

A delicate floral motif and various shades of pink were also echoed throughout the reception details.

The bride and groom received performances from family members before everyone partied on the dance floor for hours!

The towering cake was topped with a custom acrylic silhouette of the couple and their dog.  As if cake and cake pops weren't enough, guests also enjoyed fresh donuts as a late night snack!  

Wedding pros who made this dream a reality include:

Venue, Catering & Cake:  Renaissance Vinoy St. Petersburg

Photography:  Carrie Wildes

Videography:  Trinity Wedding Cinema

Floral & Linens:  Events in Bloom

DJ & Uplighting: Cory Barren, Grant Hemond & Associates

Gelato:  The Gelato Cart

Indian Caterer:  The Clay Oven

Transportation:  CTS Limo Service

Horse:  St. Petersburg Carriages

Hair & Makeup:  Michele Renee The Studio

Stationery:  Minted