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Wine Down Friday: How to Pick a Wine for your Wedding

Wine Down Friday: How to Pick a Wine for your Wedding


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You’ve been planning this since you were too little to recite your ABCs. You’ve got your dress all picked out; the flowers have been ordered; and you even know how your hair is going to be done. But have you picked out your wine?

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The right wine can be just as important as all the other details on your big day. There is no reason picking a wine for your wedding shouldn’t be anything but fun. Grab a glass and follow these steps to pick the perfect wine for your wedding:

What kind of wine to serve:

How many wines you serve will depend on how big your reception is. If you’re planning something smaller--just hors d'oeuvres and a toast--there’s no need to have more than a red, a white and a champagne for toasting.

Wedding planner Melissa Panico advises that you have one red and white for cocktails, a different red and white for dinner and a champagne for toasting if you're planning on serving a meal in addition to cocktails.

Taste, taste taste:

Get out there and start tasting as early as you can. Check out wine tastings at local markets, wine shops and wineries, or invite your girlfriends over and pop open a couple bottles. You’re going to be drinking at the wedding too so “make sure and pick something you like,” advises Panico.

Don’t forget to think about your menu. Bring a few of your finalists with you to your menu tasting. Or, ask the chef/catering company for recommendations. You might also want to connect with a local purveyor. He can work with you to pick out something in your budget that you will like, but that will also satisfy a crowd.

Panico suggests sauvignon blanc and pinot noir for cocktail hour and something a little richer for dinner. She’s noticed, however, that a newer trend is to serve a rose before dinner.

Get a deal:

Aim to buy “fewer wines in larger quantities.” This will save you money. Wine shops, wineries and even grocery stores tend to give discounts if you buy in bulk. If you already have a wine in mind, or a favorite winery, give them a ring and ask if they offer any special discounts for larger orders. And keep an eye out for sales. If you’ve got a few months before your wedding, chances are someone will have a sale before the big day. Stock up then.

A caution: If you’re planning on getting married at a winery, you should plan on purchasing their wine. Also some catering companies charge a corkage fee. You’ll want to check with them ahead of time.

How much to buy:

Panico suggestions you plan that each guest will drink about four glasses of wine--roughly one bottle--and a little less than 1/2 a glass of champagne for the toast if you're having cocktails and a meal. If you have 50 guests, you’re looking at about 50 bottles of wine and 12 or 13 bottles of champagne.

On frills and being fancy:

One thing you want to remember is that you’re serving a mass of people, and they’ll probably be happy with just about any wine they get. “There are plenty of wines at a reasonable price, $20 to $30 per bottle,” says Panico, who has been planning weddings for over 10 years.

However, if you want to have a little fun, go for it. Some couples have their own labels designed specifically for their wedding. They might say, "Brad and Jo Ann 'forever and always'" or have pictures or other sentimental designs important to the couple. An invitation designer can help you design and print the labels to stick over the bottles. Some wineries, like Windsor Vineyards, will allow you to design your own labels and then they'll stick them on the bottles for you. They make for great party favors, or just save a few for yourself. They’ll be something you appreciate for years to come.


Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook

A couple of months ago I was invited to attend a launch party for a new wine brand. It would mean going downtown for an evening affair and I can’t tell you how much I hate that. I have no reservations admitting I love the suburbs. Why such love? Parking. Lots and lots and lots of free parking. Searching for a parking spot, worrying about meter time, PAYING for the time it’s all just one big ugh in downtown Denver, so I pick my occasions very carefully and this was one invitation that won me over.

Now if I’m honest I just sort of glanced at the invitation. Denver Art Museum. Preview Party. Wines. All sounded good but the truth is that I did not really get the jist of this event until right before I headed down and re-read the invitation. Tuscan Sun wines? I recalled so fondly both the book and the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and thought how charming that there are now some wines from the region. What did not register?

They are wines from the same folks about who that movie and book are written…oh my! The launch party was nice filled with art and nice food and pretty people but it was the next event I was invited to that was really fun. At the party I was asked if I would like to attend a smaller, more personal event at a new Pizza Republica the next evening. Again downtown. This time I was more eager. Maybe it was imagining that by rubbing shoulders with the books author and heroine that I would somehow be transported myself to a crazy life living in a crazy house in the hills of Tuscany.

Sadly, that did not happen but happily meeting the heroine of many of our dreams did. If you see Diane Lane in your head when you think of Francis Mayes, you might be surprised at the real deal. Tiny in stature and with short hair, there was not the physical resemblance you might expect but no matter Francis simply exudes such sweetness, warmth and kindness and is, in a word, adorable.

When you hear her speak you are easily transported to that time and place and can see her living that riotous period in her life. She has embraced Tuscany with her heart and soul and the love of the region and people are present in her speaking of them and equally so in her gorgeous book co-written with her husband Edward Mayes.

Sharing with us the stories about the region, the people and the food they love all of it so special and yet so simple, prepared in season and with local goods. This might be a story of an entire country of locavores what we consider unique is simply the Italian (at least the Tuscan) way of life.

Not just a recipe book at all but a story of their love of Tuscany the people and the landscape and the food. And don’t forget the wine…oh the wine! Francis shared with us the love she has for the wines of the Tuscan region and I’m not talking about any ‘big’ Tuscan wines but those grown and bottled locally and what the residents of the area bring out for dinner guests and friends.

Simple and un-fussy, those are the characteristics they want to share with the world with their launching of Tuscan Sun wines. I enjoyed the entire line (why yes I did taste them all) but like many my favorite is Tondo Tondo. This gorgeous bottle holds the perfect elixir. Not too dry, certainly not too sweet, light on the tannins but still bold with fruit. I often designate a certain wine as my house wine and this is now it…and that means it’s also VERY affordable as in the $10 bottle range.

While I certainly have enjoyed some of the Tondo Tondo with meals, it actually worked nicely serving it with a slice of this magnificent cake. Filled with ricotta cheese and pine nuts, the subtle cheese element held it’s own and I really enjoyed mixing these two.

About this cake? Shared with us by Francis but from Bar Tuscher in a palazzo in Cortona run by Massimo and Daniela, it is a simple and yet simply delicious dessert. Vin santo wine is not widely distributed so I did a quick search and found that a dry sherry could be substituted.

So lightly scented but so perfect. Rich without being heavy and just so Italian with the hint of wine and scattered with toasted pine nuts. I know…pine nuts are SO pricey but this uses only a small amount and seems the perfect splurge if you have the mind to pick up a few. I would substitute almonds in a heartbeat though if pine nuts aren’t in the budget.

My dog is such a beggar and I am so bad she usually gets a bite of everything. Not this time each and every crumb was mine all mine! I’ve included the recipe for this cake but this is such a lovely book, I do urge you to find it the wines too. I can almost promise they will transport you to Tuscany too. Would you take me with you, please?


Lake George Tasting Room

Our Tasting Room is located right on Canada Street/Rte 9 in downtown Lake George Village. We are on the north end of the strip, just before the corner of Amherst Street, right across from Shepard Park's Amphitheatre. The Tasting Room is located between LG Olive Oil Co and Ali Baba's.

Where to Park

Adirondack Winery does not have a parking lot, but ample parking is available on many Lake George streets or in parking lots located within easy walking distance to our store. Please note that parking meters are installed on most spots. During the off-season, some parking meters may be turned off (please contact Lake George Village office for more info). CLICK HERE for more information on parking in Lake George Village.

Curbside Pickup Customers: If parking is unavailable on Canada St., please pull into our back parking lot behind our Tasting Room on Iroquois Ave. and call 518-203-2597.


Kaloko-Honokōhau truly feels like an off-the-grid wedding destination for couples who want to steer clear of the the we-got-married-in-Hawaii cliche. A special permit is required if you have more than 35 people in your group, and may take up to three months for approval.

Equal parts icy water, lush forest, and glacier, Kenai Fjords looks more like a faraway mythical land than it does a U.S. territory. The park is located just outside the south-central Alaska town of Seward, and is most popular during June, July, and August.


Wine Down Friday: How to Pick a Wine for your Wedding - Recipes

Want to learn how to make both classic cocktails and creative drinks? Join our ODYSSEY COCKTAIL CLUB for 3 months or as a continuous member. Every month, you’ll receive 3-4 spirits plus a book of 10-15 recipes. We also send you a mid-month, seasonal recipe by email and we’re starting to make video tutorials.

Please call on us for curbside pick up or free delivery any time. Even though it may feel safer to be out and about, we are happy to carry wine to your car or bring it to your home. For same day delivery, please order by 2pm Monday through Saturday.

Have you checked out our custom case page on our website? You can give us your price range and taste preferences and we’ll assemble a great mix of wines that will help you explore new, delicious options.

Send a gift to a friend across town and we’ll wrap it, add a personal note and deliver it for you. You can do this from our website or by calling 607-330-1056. We can acquire special wines and spirits as well. Just ask!

Cheers to long days and drinks with friends,

Dewi, Empar, MP, Kate, Emma, Pam, Keewi and Elle

Reopening for in-store shopping in NY Phase 3 (June 12).
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--> Our Current Operating Mode --> CURBSIDE PICK-UP and FREE DELIVERY ONLY until the danger of Coronavirus decreases. The interior of our store is closed to in-person shopping and browsing because it puts our staff and clients at too much risk. Your good health and the well being of our staff are our most important priorities.

Curbside pickup and delivery minimizes your contacts greatly, yet allows you to re-stock your favorite supply of wines, ciders and spirits during this challenging time. Now that warmer weather is here, we are bringing on new wines and spirits on a weekly basis (think rosé!)

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Come Visit Our Store

Red Feet is located in the "Franklin Market" directly across from the Ithaca Farmer's Market near the corner of Route 13 and Third Street.

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Make someone extra happy! Give the gift of wine! Our Gift Certificates never expire and can be redeemed in our bricks and mortar store.

Our Gift Certificates can be mailed, picked up at Red Feet, or delivered. Use the gift certificate at our Ithaca store for all of our wines and spirits.

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If you live locally we can help you speed up your shopping experience. Click "PICK UP AT ITHACA STORE" when you check out on our website and we'll prepare your order and text, email or call you when it's ready. Or feel free to reach out to us by phone and we'll prepare a custom case before you arrive.

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Hello Friends of Red Feet,

We hope this finds you well and thriving, despite all the upheaval of the last three months. Thank you for your patience in adapting to using our phone and ecommerce system for ordering. We're still improving them every day: taking photos of the beautiful labels, adding product descriptions, and improving website efficiency.

Now that the reopening of New York has started, some of you have asked, "When will we be able to shop in person inside Red Feet again?"

First, we must step back to explain the path we have traveled up until now. As you probably know, we are a small store of only around 1,250 square feet. Our standards are to give very personal, "high touch" service as patiently as each individual needs. When COVID-19 became a serious threat to public health, we made the call to be the only wine and liquor store in Ithaca where clients could shop 100% contact-free. This protected our staff and clients throughout the rise and peak of the virus. We did not contribute to the community spread, and instead we worked to convey wines conveniently to you in order to support New York's stay-at-home orders.

Those lockdown orders are just beginning to lift, with the Finger Lakes in Phase One of four phases of reopening. We've made it this far in Tompkins County with only limited and contained cases (yaay!) but here's the thing: people are going to begin to travel (from other parts of NY and from other states that are no longer in lock down). People will begin to gather and to go out from their homes more and more. We're already seeing that as we look out our window at the increasing traffic on Route 13.

The results of these actions on virus spread will be felt, not immediately, but several weeks from the actual behavioral changes of our society. Right now, we have a variety of opinions and precautions in place throughout our country. Thus, it is still to be seen how the reopening of businesses and communities will affect our COVID-19 infection rates.

Based on our high standards of customer service, we feel that we most closely align with restaurants in the collective vulnerability we face as hosts and you as clients. At Red Feet, you don't just go through aisles and pick up standardized, factory brands that are marketed on TV. We don't just stand behind plexiglass and check you out once you've done your shopping. As you know, we are right there with you, to introduce you to new labels and to help educate as well as pair wine with your dinner plans. We criss-cross the store as we discuss what works for you, and in a coronavirus world, that requires attention to physical distancing and conversing while we all wear face coverings. We accept this challenge with the same professionalism in which we've always operated--to do our work better than what is expected of us.

In light of these thoughts, our current plan is to open for interior shopping in Phase 3 along with our restaurant colleagues. At this time, that looks to be tentatively around June 12, 2020 if our region proceeds without serious infection outbreaks. Based on our mission of bringing goodness and hospitality to our community, we are commited to keeping you and our valued staff healthy and COVID-free. Though it may be a different procedure than you are used to, we continue to offer personalized service by phone in the same way we do in person.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE DELIVERY!

Right now, we invite you to take full advantage of our county-wide free delivery service which has an extremely low minimum purchase of $35. You can stay home, stay healthy and receive wine on your porch Monday through Saturday from 3pm-8pm. We offer same day delivery as long as your order is placed by 6:30pm (though we welcome early planning if you live outside the Town of Ithaca).

CURBSIDE PICKUP IS A SNAP!

If you are out grocery shopping and you want immediate possession of your wines and spirits, you can back right up to our door and in 60 seconds, you'll be driving away with the wine you ordered. If you're feeling like an impromptu beverage, you can even call us right from the parking lot and we'll gather up your wishes while you wait (program our telephone number, 607-330-1056 into your cell).

We have two phone lines going all day with our expert staff to advise you and our website is constantly being updated and improved for ease of use. Either way works. If you want to order wine in the middle of the night or you are constantly online anyway, use the website. If you prefer to talk to a wine professional, we welcome your call. You'll pay in advance and pick up is ultra-convenient.

We are stocking our shelves with new wines every week, including crisp, summery whites and refreshing rosés, along with exciting artisanal spirits and barbeque reds. Even though you can’t see the bottles in person, you can review our new arrivals by clicking See All New Arrivals on our home page.

And don’t forget: we love special orders. Tell us what you’d like and we’ll be happy to acquire it for you.

We miss you, yet we remain your loyal wine merchants.

Warmly at your service,
Dewi, Empar and Red Feet Staff

Due to the contagious nature of Covid-19, Red Feet is operating with CURBSIDE PICK-UP and FREE DELIVERY ONLY until the danger of Coronavirus decreases. The interior of our store is closed to in-person shopping and browsing because it puts our staff and clients at too much risk. Your good health and the well being of our staff are our most important priorities.

Curbside pickup and delivery minimizes your contacts greatly, yet allows you to re-stock your favorite supply of wines, ciders and spirits during this challenging time. Now that warmer weather is here, we are bringing on new wines and spirits on a weekly basis (think rosé!)

Our hours remain the same: Monday through Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday Noon-6pm.

We will assemble your order asap and we are very flexible in finding ways to help you. You may call from home or the parking lot and we can help you over the phone if that's easier for you. Call (607) 330-1056.

Or you may shop online and arrange pick up or delivery. But don't let the idea of online ordering deter you from getting what you need. Always know that you can call us for any questions or requests. For instance, if you don't see inventory of what you usually get, we would love to discuss options with you. While you may see some items out of stock, we receive large deliveries every Wednesday and Friday and will constantly be re-stocking.


Best Practices: How An Apron Impresario Changed the Look of Restaurant Kitchens

Ellen Marie Bennett on her new business book Dream First Details Later, how her company made more than a million masks during the pandemic, and why perfection and fear of failure are the enemy of progress.

Editor&aposs note: We could all use a little inspiration and light during these strange days. Enter Best Practices, an F&W Pro interview series where we share how leaders and creatives are facing unprecedented challenges head on during the pandemic while still growing personally and professionally.

It may be hard to imagine now when you see Top Chef Season 17 winner Melissa King looking so sharp in a Gap ad campaign or 2019 Food & Wine Best New Chef Kwame Onwuachi with his black nail polish and crisp looks on daytime TV, but it was only a decade ago that cargo shorts and T-shirts seemed to be the chef&aposs civilian uniform. Don&apost believe me? Just look at photo shoots with Best New Chefs in the early aughts. Cargo shorts. Cargo shorts. Cargo shorts. On the fashion spectrum, male chefs of yore showed as much imagination and individuality as the tech bros of today. 

You could say the same about cooks&apos work uniforms, too. Unless you were wearing the tablecloth apron a la Thomas Keller, you were like me back in 2006, pulling on those cheap black drawstring pants from J.B. Prince, ill-fitting white scratchy chef coats, and flimsy cotton aprons at the start of your shift. Food television helped create better dressers out of the kitchen, while innovators like Ellen Marie Bennett helped change the look on the line with her colorful custom Hedley & Bennett aprons. 

Recently I talked to Bennett, a former line cook at Providence in Los Angeles and lotto announcer on TV in Mexico City, about her new business book Dream First Details Later. Cooking professionally inspired her to launch a custom apron line for restaurants in 2012, and within a few years the iconic "&" logo and colorful designs could be found in serious kitchens around the country. Home cooks took notice, too. Now 80% of her business is direct-to-consumer via the company&aposs site. Still, the chef community remains the lifeblood of the brand, she said. 

"It&aposs something that I feel very strongly about never losing because it&aposs the chefs that built our whole world," she said. "They&aposre our community. They&aposre our heartbeat. They are honest. Chefs do not mess around with fricking quality." 

I recommend Bennett&aposs book if you&aposre looking to start a new business or if you&aposre like me and just need to get out of your head and launch a new project. 

The following interview is edited for length and clarity. 

You&aposve written a book about dreaming big. Are you an Aquarius?

Leos dream big, too, huh?

Exactly, they dream first and they worry about the details later, apparently.

Tell me a bit more about the size of the business. 

We&aposve sold hundreds of thousands of aprons. Hedley & Bennett started out as a B2B business. We made custom gear for restaurants order by order. As the business continued to evolve, we&aposd make designs that people really loved. Then we would start leaning into that, and adding the designs to our website, and then people would buy it organically. What I realized somewhere along the line was that people who were watching Top Chef and the Food Network, et cetera, also wanted to look and feel proper and legitimate, like the chefs that they admired so much. We were outfitting those chefs.

The direct-to consumer side has really evolved and grown so much. We were still trying to only service the restaurant industry, so for the past couple of years and especially through COVID, because of the pivot we made, we have dramatically leaned into the direct-to-consumer model. That means we now outfit the home cook and the pro chef. Our world has just exploded open because we&aposre getting to be in people&aposs home kitchens. It&aposs so beautiful because that dignity and pride that I brought to professional spaces is now in the home of someone who&aposs learning how to bake for the first time.

Or she loves having a garden. She wants to feel legit, too. She gets the Hedley & Bennett apron. That is where the change and growth and evolution really happened over the last couple of years. 

So you&aposre selling more aprons to consumers now than to the trade?

Yes, 80% of our business is now direct to consumer. It&aposs a really challenging pivot because it means you&aposre basically standing up a media company within your own organization. Now we&aposre creating content, newsletters, website, and retention marketing. We&aposre working on ads. It feels like we have two companies within the same organization because you have two totally different customers. It&aposs something that I feel very strongly about never losing because it&aposs the chefs who built our whole world. They&aposre our community. They&aposre our heartbeat. They are honest. Chefs do not mess around with fricking quality. They don&apost give a damn who you are, if you don&apost have good quality, you&aposre f&aposed. They keep us honest and they keep us straight and they keep telling us like, Hey, I love this thing. Change it. I want. I don&apost like it. Fix it. That chef community will always be around, even if it&aposs 20% of the company.

That&aposs actually how I think of our audience breakdown at Food & Wine. Our mass audience, what I call our civilians, that&aposs a great majority of our readers and followers. The chef community, our F&W Pros, are just as important. If the hospitality industry is not reading what we&aposre putting out there, then we&aposre not doing our jobs well.

One hundred percent. I always say to our development team and our crew: We make pro-grade gear that works for everyone. If we are not making something that&aposs pro-grade and durable for a professional kitchen, then it is not Hedley & Bennett. Even if we&aposre making beautiful smocks that have flowers and floral things on them, I don&apost care. If it doesn&apost work in a pro kitchen, it&aposs not us. 

How many employees are at Hedley & Bennett now?

It&aposs a small crew. We&aposre only 36 people. We have to be tight and nimble because as we have evolved and grown as an organization, we&aposve focused a lot on doing less [and doing it] better. Whereas when I first started, it was like, let&aposs do everything with everyone and let&aposs show up at every event and let&aposs talk to every shop and let&aposs do everything. I realized over time after saying yes to everything that not everything has an equivalent effort. How much effort you put into something vs. how much value you get from it. It&aposs not always proportional. We never used to look at it that way. We&aposd just be like, "Oh, that&aposs fine. Let&aposs do it." There&aposs so much more responsibility that we now have to deliver and to do something really well. We are much more focused, which has actually just created so much more bandwidth for our organization.

The book says dream first, details later, not details never.

You wrote in the book about what happens when somebody says no and how to turn that no into a positive and quickly turn on your heels to open up some other door or avenue. Now you&aposre in a position where you&aposre the one saying no. What&aposs that like? 

I want to dance at everyone&aposs wedding, be a part of every single thing. I just recognized that it&aposs not sustainable. That took a long time to learn and took a lot of doing and failing because I was juggling too many balls and stretching our team too thin. It was not worth it. Yes, maybe we&aposre going to say no now to more people, but in the long run, the people we say yes to, we&aposre going to deliver at 150% versus delivering at 70%. The book says dream first, details later, not details never. 

I remember when I first saw your Instagram posts with the prototype model of the mask when we were all just beginning to figure out this pandemic mess. You have sold more than a million masks, according to the website, and given away how many?

What have you learned from that big pivot to making masks so quickly and how might that inform where you take a part of your business?

It was the most radical thing we&aposve ever done, and I&aposve done a lot of radical things. That was really intense. It was very scary to see our entire restaurant industry basically fold overnight. I was coming into our factory to shut the 16,000 square-foot building down and send my team home until Lord knows when. I remember feeling a sense of loss because I&aposve always been able to just make things work no matter what happens, because I just can show up and pull it together. This felt like an instance where there was no control. It was so much bigger than all of us. It felt suffocating. The world was ending around us and there was nothing we could do about it.

I had this hopeless feeling, but I was walking my factory floor, looking at our fabrics, looking at our sewing machines, looking at the stacks of material everywhere. Just being like, this is so crazy that we&aposre just going to shut it down. I went on Instagram and saw that Christian Siriano in New York said that he would make a face mask. I just thought, man, what a brilliant guy. A fashion designer who is going to show up for his community like this. It took me from this place of fear and propelled me into action instantaneously. That made me decide we&aposre making a face mask. I called a friend who is a doctor and talked about masks. And we made a prototype and posted about it. I said, "This is a buy one, donate one model, because we cannot do this without you guys. We&aposre going to show up, into the world and literally risk it all to do this. We&aposre going to need your help." 

People showed up in droves, and it was the wildest thing because we suddenly went from thinking the world is ending to never having run as fast as we were running at that moment. And because we were now making face masks, the factory was able to stay open.

Did making masks change your thinking about what you might make for the home cook?

A lot of people heard about us through these face masks. They got little tiny peeks of how we nerded out on those face masks, just like we do with aprons. They are blinged out, adjustable straps, the nose piece, and the fabric is chambray and has an anti-wrinkle coating on it. That&aposs just who we are. Customers said, "Well, if I&aposm going to get a face mask then maybe I&aposll just pick up an apron." It created this snowball effect of new customers for us, and without meaning to they became our extended community.

It helped to clarify our direct-to-consumer focus. Part of that meant we had to stop doing a lot of things that we used to do. We had to stop doing that heavy-volume custom orders, because the supply chains of the world were just shutting down on us. We had to start saying no to certain crazy ideas that people would bring to us, because we just couldn&apost deliver. And we realized that it was better for the organization. And at the end of the day, the customer was happier with just taking one of our core products that really works, versus us inventing something from zero every single time.

But it took a pandemic and eight years to come to that conclusion. Sometimes challenges push you out of your comfort zone enough for you to wake up and look at reality. You have to reassess what you&aposre doing and adapt and adjust and let go of the old playbook.

Walk me through the creative process of the book.

I really wanted people to understand the zero-to-one part of an entrepreneur&aposs journey. The leaping into the unknown and not knowing where they&aposre going to land and doing it anyway. And getting people out of their cloud of doubt and into action. 

People are like "But I don&apost have a business plan, an MBA, and maybe I need to get this and I need millions of dollars before I can kick this off. And that&aposll make it legit enough for me to feel comfortable, to talk to people about it."

And the truth is you need a great idea that&aposs solving a problem, and you need to have something about it that&aposs different, but it doesn&apost need to be perfect. You think about how many times the iPhone has been iterated, right? We&aposre on something like iPhone 20 right now? They didn&apost start with that. They evolved it over time. Progress is better than perfection and so I wanted to put all of that in a nutshell. I wanted to make it tangible so people can pick this up, feel fired up, and empowered to just fucking try.

And make it okay to fail. So much of the book is about all the failures and the challenges that I ran into. It&aposs not some love story about how great everything was. 

I also convinced Penguin Random House to make it a business book that was colorful. That was important to me too, because business is not black and white. It&aposs layered and it&aposs nuanced. And so why the hell are all the business books black and white? 

We all have so much fear of failure. And this book seems like the antidote to that.

It normalizes it. Hey, you want to be successful?  You got to show up and be willing to take the punches. And they&aposre going to come no matter how perfect you are, no matter how planned out you are, they&aposre going to happen. So just start trying and recognize that every punch is an opportunity for you to learn something. Don&apost take it so personally. Recognize this is a slice of the journey. Lean into failure because you&aposre going to learn that much more.

Let&aposs talk about hustle. It&aposs a part of the branding, it&aposs a part of the mission. Anybody who follows you on Instagram knows how hard you work. As we&aposre looking at this brave new world, as things open back up again, how do you create a more sustainable business?  We&aposre seeing people in the hospitality industry who aren&apost going to come back and take part in that hustle anymore. Talk about the hustle that got you to this point now, and as a leader, is this something that you can sustain? Or are you thinking about maybe working differently?

Hustle definitely got it going. For my dream, gasoline was the hustle. It was the thing that got me out in the morning. It was a thing that got me through every crazy explosion that happened, which were frequent and often. But the hustle, to me, meant show up no matter what happens and get to the finish line every time no matter what happens. And maybe that&aposs a little bit of my restaurant line cook DNA, right?

You don&apost walk out. You have to get to the finish line. You complete the orders that are on your board, no matter what, no matter how many sauces you run out of, no matter how many dishes go south, you just keep going. And I remember being flooded when we were at Providence and it&aposs like, the bus boys are yelling "Where&aposs the dish?" and chef&aposs like, "We&aposre waiting on table five, the meat&aposs getting cold!" It was just always chaos, and yet you put your blinders on. You finish the dish because there&aposs nowhere to run to.

So I took that same feeling and applied it when I walked into this business world that I entered. And at the beginning that was fine. There&aposs a moment in the book where I talk about getting off the bike to fix the bike. That was the moment when my team members almost had an intervention with me. They pulled me aside. My CFO was like, "You are going to kill yourself if you don&apost reassess how you are doing this because you&aposve just been running so hard and you are like a ball of energy, but even you can&apost just keep doing this. Let&aposs look at this differently. You&aposre killing yourself. The team is overwhelmed and overworked. We have to do something differently."

You cannot work 24 hours a day and kill yourself to push your business forward.

I was just running so hard and couldn&apost even see all of that. I had to learn to trust other people. As the business grew, I was actually damaging the company more by trying to do it all. And that was one of the biggest shifts I had. That took us to the next level. Like we really expanded as an organization after we made those choices. Now I have this unbelievable team of people around me that I trust. We have a Head of Product. We have a Head of Finance, we have a Head of Growth. And each one of those people are taking a brick of burden off of my shoulder and putting it on theirs and saying, "I&aposm going to own this piece."

You have to embrace the people around you. You cannot work 24 hours a day and kill yourself to push your business forward. You need to adapt.

I read that it takes 12 people to cut,  sew, and create each apron. You and I both made $10 an hour as line cooks. What are you doing now as a business leader to make sure that the blue collar workers at the apron factory are taken care of?

Every time we could afford it, we&aposve expanded our core benefits as a business. I had never had health care as a line cook. When we began offering health care benefits to our team, some had worked at big companies, and they&aposre like, "That&aposs great, thanks." Other people had never had health care benefits. Over the years we&aposve also expanded vacation time, and we really allow people to take time if they need it.

We work hard, but we live our lives, too.  I mean, COVID really reinforced that. We can all work our butts off, but we need time to reset or else we&aposre just going to burn ourselves out. When you have a good team and they&aposre all doing what they need to do, you don&apost need to be so stringent and micromanage. If you need time to go do something, go do it. You have a life outside of Hedley and Bennett.

That&aposs been a really great shift in the culture of our company. We&aposre still working our asses off, but we take breaks. That&aposs the difference.

You moved from Los Angeles to Mexico City at 19. What was the weirdest job and what did you learn from it?

I was the lottery announcer for Mexican television. I would literally go on TV in Mexico City Monday through Friday or whatever it was and announce the winning lotto numbers. It taught me to show up, it taught me to be able to talk to anybody, and it got me over any sort of stage fright I had ever had to be on a stage to talk and just do it. 

I also worked as a simultaneous translator for the Mexican Railroad Union so I would go into really intense meetings when I was like 20 years old, translating simultaneously between two people. Each side had their own translator and I was the Mexican side translator. Everyone was in suits. It was so mentally exhausting and it was like a two-hour meeting with just back and forth negotiating. But I loved it because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. It showed me that I could do it if I put myself in a place and just commit to doing it and practice, I can get to the other side no matter how complicated, no matter how weird and bizarre. 

Meanwhile, all of my friends in the United States were graduating from Berkeley, had fancy jobs, and were buying a house and getting the white picket fence. I was a simultaneous translator? But it was that winding road to take that big giant leap when I said yes to making that first apron order. If I hadn&apost said yes to all these crazy jobs and showed up and figured it out. I don&apost know if I would&aposve had the courage to start my business.

How are you filling your well these days and what are you doing intentionally to make sure that you can show up and lead your team?

I have definitely adjusted my life a bit. Sometimes I work more from home than from the office and I do that for a couple of reasons. One is to give the team more space. I had no idea I was a total micromanager. I&aposve learned to trust and allow the people that we hire to do the jobs that they were hired for because they love it. They&aposre committed, they&aposre part of the apron squad, and that has really allowed me to let go of a lot of areas and focus on what I&aposm really good at. 

Now I&aposm so much more focused on product development and the brand side of things and working with our marketing team versus doing everything and that has given me more time. I also sleep a lot more, I sleep eight hours a night religiously because it&aposs so important to be on it in the daytime when you rested enough and those are just basic things. 

If I&aposm exhausted, I take a bath. If I need to chill out, I do a Peloton ride. I do these Reels on Instagram for speedy cooking like speedy tacos. I still love to cook: it recharges me and I like to share with other people. It&aposs taken me a long time to get to that place where I&aposm like, "Okay, my entire life doesn&apost have to be work and I&aposm going to balance that out a little bit." Balance, it&aposs a tricky term. Work life balance, I don&apost love, but just this idea of thinking about more than one area in your life is kind of my approach to it.

The thing that you should always remember is to say please, thank you, and what do you think.

Who are a couple of your most trusted advisors and what did they teach you?

Marty Bailey was the chief manufacturing officer at American Apparel. He was the man who set up all the sewing floors there, and he worked with us for a good long time when we were first setting up our factory. He said, "The thing that you should always remember, Ellen, is to say please, thank you, and what do you think?" 

I love that because you&aposre making people feel heard, you&aposre making them feel important and valued and you&aposre also acknowledging them for anything that they&aposve done and it&aposs simple. It&aposs just the simple truth. Another one that I love is from my magical Jewish brilliant uncle Ted who said your word is worth gold. Never commit to something you can&apost deliver and he taught me to never spend more than I made and that is one of the things that really sustained us in the early days when I had nothing but myself. 

I never spent more than I made and I reinvested every penny back into the business so instead of hitting a big account and going out and splurging, I tightened up even more and I would just put the dollars into the organization and that helped us get a little nest egg, little by little, brick by brick.


Tontitown
Free wine tastings seven days a week. Housed in the Taldo House, built in 1917. Wines made on site from locally grown Ranalli Farms grapes, using old-fashioned recipes. Winemaking has been a Ranalli family tradition since 1923. Join us Wednesday and Friday nights (May-Oct.) for live music on the patio.

Springdale
Enjoy exceptional wines inside the beautiful tasting room, under the covered patio next to the fireplace or on one of the many oversized decks. Create everlasting memories in the beautiful Chapel Ruins and gather in the 3,500-square-foot newly renovated Stables for a variety of events.


Single-Serve Wedding Drink Ideas

Offering a signature cocktail allows your guests to enjoy an elegant drink without waiting in line at an open bar. See a few of our favorite ideas, below.

Aperol Spritz

An aperol spritz is refreshing and elegant. Plus, it'll add a gorgeous pop of color to your wedding decor. (Psst: we especially love this cocktail for a spring or summer wedding.)

Who doesn't love this classic cocktail? Make it your own by giving it a creative name or using special garnishes, like this personalized stirrer.

Moscow Mule

We love this wedding drink idea because it's a total crowd pleaser. Moscow mules are sweet and spicy, so everyone will love them. Gift your guests a copper mug as a wedding favor and use them as escort cards for table assignments.

Spicy Margarita Pouch

Behold: The most Instagrammable wedding drink idea. If you're hosting an outdoor wedding, give your guests cocktails in a pouch, which they can bring around the venue without worrying about spills.

Berry Mojito

Take a simple mojito to the next level by incorporating some kind of fruit flavor. We personally love the idea of strawberry or raspberry, as it creates a lovely pink color.

Vodka Soda

A vodka soda is the ultimate wedding drink idea because it's universally loved. Since the drink is so simple, spice up the presentation with personalized cups.

Berry-Infused Champagne

Skip the spirits altogether and offer your guests a refreshing glass of bubbly. Add in berries for a sweet surprise during cocktail hour.

Fresh Juice Bar

There is nothing more refreshing than fresh juice. Serve it straight as a non-alcoholic option or mix it with champagne or processor for a delicious fizz.

Mini Soda Bottles

Whether you're hosting a vintage-themed wedding or you just want to provide fun sober options, keep some miniature soda bottles on hand.

Lavender Lemonade

Elevate a simple lemonade cocktail by adding in lavender and elderflower liqueur. Top with a splash of bubbly and a sprig of lavender. Leave out the alcohol for a mocktail that's equal parts pretty and delicious.

Pet-Inspired Cocktails

We'd be remiss not to include this creative wedding drink idea. Name your signature wedding cocktail(s) after your furry friends. It's a unique way to personalize your nuptials.


Our DIY Backyard BBQ Wedding - Part 2

We're married! And no one fainted from heat! This post is the second half of our wedding tale - our bride & groom portraits and the DIY reception. To see pictures and read about our first look, bridal party, and ceremony details (including our vows), find part 1 here. With that, here's the second peak into our DIY backyard BBQ wedding. The story of how a craft-obsessed California girl married a design-savvy woodworking Texas boy. On the hottest day of the year.

We love pinwheels - obviously. They make fun colorful decor for way less cost than flowers. These pinwheels basically tell the story of the mood of our wedding - "let's all just have fun - yay!" After the ceremony, the guests followed my best friend and usher Tyler, who held an upcycled fence board sign that read "RECEPTION" all the way across the street from our neighbor's garden where we got married to the celebration in my childhood backyard (read about the fence boards in part 1). During cocktail hour, Lucas and I snuck in a few photos before joining the fun.

As before, while we go through the pictures, I'll share specific details, alternating between day-of anecdotes and our DIY touches, including links to where we bought certain things. We did lots of research to find the best prices, and, in general, we tried to buy as much as possible using our Amazon points. All images are copyright of Brent Van Auken Photography, except where noted with the "© SK" mark. Click any picture to enlarge.

After scarfing down some food, Lucas and I snuck away to take a few happy couple shots in the sunset. Life is good.

Welcome to the reception! I made five of these chalkboard signs using frames I picked up at Goodwill & the clearance section of Michaels. Lucas cut some smooth MDF to fit in the frames that we spray-painted with chalkboard paint. Before drawing, I "seasoned" the chalkboard by covering the entire board in chalk and wiping it off. I printed out scaled down images of my designs, and divided both the image and the chalkboard into sections to make copying them much easier. I drew with a combination of regular chalk that I sharpened with a pencil sharpener, q-tips to wipe things away (like my guidelines with I was done), and chalk ink pen.

Our entry table is made out of the old fence boards on top of two borrowed wine barrels. We had both of our parents' wedding photos on either side of one of our engagement pics. We used an old hinge to put together two old windows into a stand that we taped our alphabetical seating arrangement to and a copy of our menu. Note: washi tape melts off in 110ºF heat. For some extra decor, a couple of my bridesmaids picked some extra bundles of lavender from our neighbor's yard the day before the wedding.

For our guestbook, I painted this CA + TX sign out of an enormous piece of plywood. I started by painting the entire board gray. I then used yarn to divide the board into 6-inch squares my scaled-down image was also divided into the same number of squares. I pencil-drew the states and then painted over in orange. The vintage typewriter held a note that read, "Please use the sharpies to leave us a message in the gray area of the sign!" After the wedding, we hung the sign on our office wall - room decor and a constant reminder of all the people who showered us with love that day! Someone wrote "HOTTEST WEDDING EVER" unsigned in the bottom left corner. Truth.

Before telling you about the details of our table settings, I must start by saying that the groomsmen set this all up the morning of the wedding. With the help of a few other key players: Lucas's parents, my brother's girlfriend Alexis, Tyler, and Big Sarah & her close friend Lauren. Impressive right? The week before the wedding, my mom and I divided all of the table decor into separate boxes - one for each table (complete with seating diagrams).

Quite a few months before the wedding, my bridesmaid Corey & I cut 29 yards of fabric (in 8 prints) into 200 napkins and 144 bunting flags. Lucas and I bought a majority of the fabric from JoAnn Fabric on Black Friday at 7am. Thank goodness for Corey's: a) enormous dining room table b) rotary cutter and c) cutting mats. My friend (and former landlady) Cordula spent several weeknights helping me sew the bunting flags into 9 rows along a rope of thick jute twine. We had quite the rhythm going. I kept and washed all of the napkins and plan to turn them into a memory quilt.

I put together the centerpieces using a hodgepodge of random things:

  • Clear wine bottle with raffia around the neck, filled with dried billy balls, lavender, and wheat grass (bought online here and here)
  • Clear soda bottle with an orange pinwheel sticking into multi-colored birdseed
  • Small glass vase with purple flowers I made using crepe paper from the dollar store, some wire stems, and floral tape. sitting on top of a wooden coaster from a tree that fell down in my parents' front yard
  • Small bowl full of my mom's famous tamari almonds
  • Mason jar candle holder with a wire handle I twisted onto it
  • A small jar with golf pencils (for the madlibs)
  • Succulent wrapped in kraft paper (that my mom later planted all together into an arrangement for our porch!)
  • Napkin holder made out of a burlap-covered soup can with a small green pinwheel glued to the front.
  • All on top of a piece of recycled fence board atop a piece of burlap.
  • Repeat 21 times.

Phew! I'm pretty sure that those candles were melted long before they ever got lit. (Ps. I calculated that the centerpieces cost us about $7 each). We rented our table linens online for literally half as much as it would have been from a local shop. A quick pop in the dyer with a wet towel and they were wrinkle-free (Thanks, Mama V, Daniela, and Alexis for taking on de-wrinkle duty!).

For place cards, my nana and I used a decorative puncher to cut stickers out of chalkboard contact paper that we then stuck onto mason jar cups and I wrote each person's name in chalk ink. After the wedding, my mom tossed them all in the dishwasher and, while the chalk washed away, the labels stayed put! Each setting also had a smaller 8-ounce mason jar cup to use for water. On top of each wheat straw paper plate, we put a custom wedding-themed madlib, which we collected at the end of the night as a fun keepsake. All those mason jars and only one got dropped - at the end of the night as we were all walking to the shuttles (way to go, Bob!).

Instead of the mason jar cup and madlib, the kids got chalkboard labeled metal pails filled with crayons, stickers, and candy, along with a DIY card kit that read "Get crafty. Use stickers and crayons to design your own card!" Much to our surprise, most of these handmade cards wound up in our CARDS suitcase - best wedding cards ever! Flower girl Lola and her sister Layne Grace also completed a madlib in which they told us to "always remember to flip your pineapple before bed." Good advice, folks.

Click to enlarge the below photos to read a couple Madlib samples - I included Tina's cooking-themed madlib because, after all, this is a food blog.

Since our wedding was in California, we wanted to make sure we brought in Lucas's Texan roots as much as possible. We served Texas-style BBQ and as our thank you favors, gave each of our guests a little jar of BBQ spice rub. Rudy's Rub - straight from Texas. We bought it in bulk from the restaurant and, with face masks and rubber gloves, Cas and I divided the 28lbs of spice rub into 200 small jam jars. We'd originally planned to try to make our own BBQ sauce, but the thought of handing out 200 jars of spoiled BBQ sauce to all our favorite people terrified me. As it was, this project took the good portion of a day - I can't imagine if we'd tried to make something too!

Lucas and I don't drink, but our friends sure do. Lucky for us, my brother works for Sierra Nevada and took charge of the beer selection. Mom was on wine duty. We still wanted to have His & Hers signature drinks, so we stocked up on Lucas's favorite ginger beer and my favorite Vignette Wine Country Soda made by a Berkeley-based company. Surprisingly, no one wanted to sip on red wine in the heat (hint: if you buy your wine from Trader Joe's, they'll take back any unopened, un-chilled bottles after your event).

This straw holder is the same one I made to hold napkins on the tables.

I bought the Anthropologie apron I'd been eyeing for months to wear during dinner. Let's be completely real for a minute, me + white dress + BBQ sauce drenched ribs + baked beans = disaster. And, I'd like to report, I did get BBQ sauce on the apron. Those Mr & Mrs signs you see hanging from our chairs? More upcycled fence boards! I did quite a bit of painting. These are now hanging outside our bedroom door.

For the past couple of days, I've heard you all groaning, "yes, but what about the food?!" This is supposed to be a food blog. One of my dear high school friends - Melissa - baked all of the cupcakes and a tiny cut cake. Strawberry lemonade (with a gluten-free version using Cup4Cup flour), honey pumpkin, and red velvet. She went to culinary school for baking, so I had complete faith in her, but we used it as an excuse to get together anyway. We spent an entire day baking a few months before the wedding taste-testing the recipes, and even though it'd been a few years since we'd last seen each other, it felt like old times. I had the little bird cake toppers die-cut at a local scrapbook store and my bridesmaid Jenny added the teeny-tiny bow tie and veil. I've been blessed with some pretty talented female friends.

Speaking of incredible women, that cookie table you see is not any ordinary cookie table - it holds the time-tested and well-loved recipes of my aunts, cousins, nana, and family friends. The women in my life can bake a mean cookie. The cookie table was my favorite part because it showcased the family recipes of the women I love - the perfect personal touch. My namesake Sarah arranged the cookie table decor using some vintage platters and pieces from her kitchen and my mom's. Oh, and because I'm a candy-fiend, we had large jars filled with the Bride's Favorite - lemon drops - and the Groom's Favorite - peach rings.

With the help of my new sister-in-law Daniela, we made all of the cut-out props for the photobooth out of card stock, an exacto knife, and some skewers. A few of the mustaches were die-cut at the scrapbook store. In addition to all the cut-out props, we set up a coat-rack filled with hats and a few chalkboards that we glued to paint stirrers to make signs.

The top left photobooth picture is Anjali from The Picky Eater with her husband and a couple of close friends from grad school. Top right is a group of my Philly friends - AND, even though she didn't catch the bouquet, the couple in the center is the next to be married! Bottom right is a group of Lucas's very serious friends from college. That creepy-looking dude in the tank top in the bottom left? That's my brother. Earlier in the evening he was wearing a dress shirt and bow tie, but it transformed into this black tank top within 5 minutes of delivering his toast. Keepin' things classy.

Right after cutting the cake (delicately and with no cake to the face), we twirled out to the dance floor for our first dance as husband and wife - Gotta Have You by The Weepies. For the father-daughter and mother-son dances, our respective parents chose the songs and they were kept a surprise: Father & Daughter by Paul Simon & My Wish by Rascal Flatts. One minute and 30 seconds into each of the parent dances, we invited all of the fathers & daughters, and mothers & sons to join the dance floor. Three new moms danced with their infant sons - picture perfect.

Now we get to the good stuff. The real party. You can finally tell from the sweat dripping off people's faces how extremely hot it was. even after the sun went down. Ten's red hair dye even dripped off, staining his white dress shirt pink. And yet, everyone threw on their dancing shoes and kept the party going all the way 'til 11:30pm - bring on the heat! At Lana's command, our friends tried really hard to put that dance floor into the pool (maybe they just really wanted all that water?). In case you forgot, that dance floor was built over my parents' pool (click to see pictures of the process). When my dad announced his idea to construct a dance floor over the pool, I laughed at him. When he kept a straight face, I figured - what the heck! At least if it did go crashing down into the pool, we'd make the local news!

Since we're both music freaks, we decided that if we hired a DJ, we'd just end up telling the DJ exactly what to play. Instead, we opted to forgo the DJ and plan it all ahead of time. That way we knew we'd hear exactly what we wanted. We made our own playlists and Lucas's cousin Bobby flew all the way from Texas to MC for us (and, of course, the control freak in me created a spreadsheet of all the announcements we knew we'd want). He was fantastic - even getting on the dance floor during the Cupid Shuffle to show everyone what to do. Of all the decisions we made for the wedding, making our own iTunes playlist was one of the best (you know, right up there with deciding to get married in the first place).

Here's the gist of how we DJed our own wedding - our ultimate DIY. We had three main playlists on iTunes: cocktail hour, dinner, and dance. Plus a playlist for the ceremony songs and all of the important moments (first dance, etc.). We spent months on our dance playlist - grouping songs that would go well together, keeping in mind the flow of the night (ex. oldies earlier on, sets of two slow songs followed by a fast up-beat song to get everyone back on the dance floor, and, at a certain point, all fast up-tempo dance songs the rest of the night). Lucas then edited every single song to somewhere between 2 and 4 minutes, making all of the transitions between songs smooth so we could set iTunes to play with a 2 second crossfade. You can read more details and view a PDF version of our playlists here.

Right after we got hitched, I gave you quick anecdote of how our favorite day ever ended with nothing short of magic. Since this is the story of how a craft-obsessed California girl married a design-savvy woodworking Texas boy, I'll tell you again because every good story needs an end. The backyard dance party ended at 11:30pm with We Are Young blasting and every single guest still at the party joining arms in a gigantic 50+ person (sweaty) circle around me and my new husband. Some shirtless, some shoeless, and all dancing, stomping, and screaming along at the top of their lungs. And in the last 20 seconds, everyone stormed the center into a gigantic mob of hugs and love. It was magical. The stuff of movies. You couldn’t recreate it if you tried.

Thanks for (virtually) coming to our wedding! The story of how I married the love of my life. To keep you from having to scroll up, here's the link to part 1 (first look and ceremony details).

In the ultimate of budget-wedding moves, we sold more than half of the decor to other brides - feel free to check out what we've got left. Check out my recipe for a flourless salted almond chocolate cookie inspired by the deep dark chocolate cookies Big Sarah baked for the cookie table.

Photography: Brent Van Auken Photography | Cake: Melissa Haskins | Invitations: Printed by GreenerPrinter (designed by bride & groom) | Catering: Steelhead B.B.Q. Co. | Day-of coordination: Chico Event Specialists | Bride's Dress: Casablanca | Hair & Makeup: Lindsey Lifur @ Mecca Salon | Venue: Private residence in Chico, CA. | Music: Bride & Groom

Snixy Kitchen Wedding Posts:

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How To Host a Wine Tasting Party for Couples

1. Choose the wine

The most important decision you will make for a wine tasting party is what type of wine to serve. We decided to do a chardonnay tasting with wines from Notable Wines. We specifically selected Notable Wines as each of their wines has a distinct flavor profile. We thought this would make the wine tasting party a bit easier for us amateurs and give us some good talking points. Here are some suggestions on themes to pick:

  • A specific grape
  • A specific region
  • Blind test of expensive vs. inexpensive wines
  • A specific style, like big bold wines
  • A specific year

We suggest serving 2-5 wines. We chose just 2 since we only had one other couple over and didn’t want to open too many bottles that we may not drink. In general, we do recommend keeping the guest list small as a wine tasting party is more fun when it’s intimate.

If you are serving different varieties, try to go in this order:

Champagne –> Light whites –> Bold whites –> Rose –> Light reds –> Bold reds –> Dessert wines

We found Notable Wines in the Chardonnay section of our local grocery store.

2. Create a classy tablescape

I love a good tablescape. I think it really sets the mood for the party. We just had the party in our kitchen, since that’s where I’ve noticed our guests like to hang out. Since this was meant to be a relaxed party, I thought, “why not go with it!” I set up a very simple tablescape of red roses, grape leaves from our backyard, tall candles, and tea lights. I love the look of bringing the outdoors in with the grape leaves and the candles add a cozy and intimate vibe. I thought the pops of red went well with the classic and romantic vibe of the night.

Here are some other tablescape ideas:

  • Put old corks to good use and sprinkle them all across your tablescape
  • Cover the table with white or brown craft paper. Draw “place settings” for the glasses where each person will sit

3. Serve a simple menu

Professional wine tastings don’t serve much other than water crackers, so don’t feel like you have to serve a full spread. We kept our party limited to a cheese board and simple snacks like a veggie board, crackers, salami, and nuts. This helped to keep the focus on the wine and not distract anyone’s palates from what we were tasting. To make it a little more original, instead of doing a main cheese platter, we made mini ones for each couple. You can do this or create one large one for the whole party to share. If you would like to create mini ones, serve it on smaller platters and cut the cheese into smaller portions. We found mini brie to include on our platters.

Since wine tasting tends to get people a bit hungry, we served a little more food later on in the night. We kept these snacks simple as well, but heavy in carbs. We included mini pizzas and ricotta crostini. The crostini was easy to make, just bake slices of baguette until crispy, spread with ricotta cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and top with freshly ground pepper.

Finally, after the wine tasting was over, we served a dessert course. To keep with the “tasting” theme of the night, the dessert course was a chocolate tasting. We served three varieties of chocolates with distinct flavors on a small platter for each person to sample. The “surprise” tasting course was a big hit with our guests!

4. Set up the tasting

Setting up the wine tasting is really easy. Once you’ve selected your bottles, cover each one with a wine bag, foil, or wrapping paper and number each bottle. If you don’t have anything to cover the bottles with, you can also decant them and tie a number around each decanter. While this option looks really pretty, it’s not our favorite as it means the host/hostess will not be able to participate since they know which wine is which.

Make sure each person has a glass for each wine you will be serving. We like using mini glass and cheese board combos, but you can also use regular wine glasses. We like using glass safe markers to write each person’s name on the glasses so they don’t get mixed up.

Finally, pass out tasting notes so each person can take notes as they try the wines. You can create your own, just list:

  • Apperance
  • Taste: sweetness (dry, semi-sweet, etc)
  • Taste: Body (light, medium full)
  • Oak (none, some, plenty)
  • Structure/acidity (fruity, medium, acid sharp)
  • Tannin (low, medium, high)
  • On the nose (floral, spicy, fruity, mineraly, etc)

5. Lead the tasting

If your guests seem unsure what to do, lead the way. Start by picking up the glass and analyzing the color of the wine. Is it clear, medium, cloudy or hazy? Then swirl your glass to release the aromas and take a big sniff of the wine. Finally, take a sip like you’re sucking on a straw and let the wine linger on your tongue for a few seconds.

Discuss each of the points on your note card and have everyone take notes on what they’ve observed, smelled, and tasted. You can also guess which wine it is if you told your guests ahead of time what the wine choices are.

6. The reveal

Once everyone has tasted all the wines and jotted down their notes, uncover the wine bottles and reveal which wine was which! You can even give a prize to the couple who guessed most accurately. What we really love about Notable Wines is that each one has the notes listed right on the bottle. Wine tasting is a very personal experience and so there is no “right or wrong” answer, but it’s good to know if you’re on the right track. One of the Notable Wines chardonnay we tried was oaky and buttery with notes of butter, oak, and vanilla and the other one was fruity and crisp with notes of citrus, melon, and peach. It was really fun to see who was able to determine each of the flavor profiles most accurately. If you are not incorporating Notable Wines in your wine tasting, you should be able to look the notes and flavor profiles up on the manufacturers’ website.