Some say the key to longevity is having good friends, eating good food, and of course, drinking good wine. I tend to agree and that is why I’ve enjoyed being part of my wine tasting group for so long. Our first tasting took place seventeen years ago while casually relaxing on a friend’s porch here in Healdsburg. We had each brought a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and we discussed the wines while eating crackers. Though our tastings have become more elaborate over the years with the introduction of blind tastings and a full pot luck dinner, I’m happy to say that we still meet several times a year.
Recently, I hosted our group’s annual sparkling wine tasting. After we agreed on the the date of the party, I planned the evening’s festivities including the dish I would make and the wine I would serve. Once the food was purchased, the house cleaned, the table set, and two rosemary chickens were roasting side by side in the oven on a bed of potatoes, I relaxed as my guests arrived with smiling faces, fresh bread, aged cheeses, green salads, dessert, and of course, a bottle of sparkling wine each.
Bread was broken and updates on family and friends were shared along with recent adventures or mishaps. Additional still wines were opened by two wine makers in our group seeking comments on their latest release. I’ve been saving an interesting bottle I recently found in my wine cellar (coat closet) that’s ready to drink, so I opened it also.
After I caught up with each of my guests and made a couple rounds of the cheeses and still wines, I hid away in the kitchen wrapping each bottle of sparkling wine in a paper bag and numbered them for identification. This was a blind tasting after all, and even I tried not to look at the wine label while wrapping each bottle. Then I herded everyone to the dinning room table where glasses and note pads had been pre-arranged.
A row of six glasses, the equivalent to the number of wines being poured, was waiting at each place sitting. The wines were then passed around and poured in order. The chattering group of us settled and became quiet as we got down to business. Music that was once muffled by conversation was then recognizable above the clinking of glasses. Notes were taken, the wines ranked, and when each of us was done exploring the wines, we discussed them one by one.
Once our conversation was exhausted, we unveiled each wine by ranking, from the bottom to top of the list. “Aaahhhs,” “ooohhhhs,” and “huummms” were uttered, expressions of surprise and curiosity made as the bottles were revealed.
Then the scent of roasted poultry called me into the kitchen and we all prepared for dinner. Out of the oven came the two roasted rosemary chickens and potatoes, the salad was tossed, and more bread brought to the table. The feast was served and each of us chose from the remaining wines an accompaniment to his or her meal.
Clearing the table, we finished with dessert, coffee and conversation well into the night.
After saying farewell to the last departing guest, the dishes were rinsed and put into the washer. Then my wife and I relaxed in the afterglow of a great evening of friends, food, and fun.
(*Note- I started this drawing at the party but due to the fact I was hosting as well as had been tasting wine, I finished it up the sketch with a photo)