Posts Tagged ‘dinner party’

What to do with wine you bring to – or receive at – dinner parties

September 20, 2018

We had some family and friends over for dinner last weekend, and they brought wine! That is nice, obviously, but especially for me as a wine dweeb because a lot of people seem too intimidated to do that.

I ended up serving all the wine that was brought – which wasn’t what I would normally do — and that made me think the topic might be good for a blog.

When receiving wine from guests, I think there are a couple of options. If you already have wine planned for the evening, you of course don’t have to open the guest’s wine. Unless they ask you to – which is what happened to us on the weekend (as they had been to a new winery and wanted us to taste the wines).

Another reason to open it is just to help make sure you have enough for the dinner party! Depending on the number of guests, it can get a bit crazy – and expensive – to be providing all the wine.

The main reason not to open a wine is if it is for your cellar/to keep. How do you know that? Well, your guest may tell you…or you may be able to figure it out yourself (I previously was given a 2014 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon…it would have been nice at dinner, but will be even better in about 10 years!).

And if you bring wine…what should you expect from the hosts? That’s actually the tougher question for me.

I have come to judge it by the person I am bringing it to. If I know they are a fellow wine dweeb, I will ask in advance – do you want it for dinner or can I bring you something for your cellar?

If I don’t know them, I usually bring something that is good value but which I have had before. That way I won’t be disappointed if the don’t open it, and I know they will like it when they do!

I learned that approach after a couple of years of bringing a wine from my cellar that I wanted to try…and then not getting a chance to taste it!

Bottom line on bringing wine is always bring something you would be happy to drink yourself!

I hope all this helps!



July 23, 2015

Okay, I admit it…I am a wine snob! I have strong opinions, I don’t like home-made wine, and won’t stand for people putting ice in their red wine…among other things!

But I also try to not to inflict my wine snobbery on people as much as possible. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, as long as they don’t force them on me (and vice versa). And being nice is a good policy…period!

Having said that, I have encountered enough wine snobs in my time to know how painful they can be!

So what is the best way to deal with them?

Well, the easiest thing to do – like with any unpleasant person (or person who is behaving unpleasantly) – is to simply walk away. If you can, do it…what follows is often not worth the effort, and life is too short!

But if you are stuck with a wine snob, at a dinner party or in a conversation you can’t get out of, there are ways to deal with him (or her) that can help “manage the pain”.

Note the word “manage”! I use it because you can’t usually change the behavior – or views – of a wine snob. But there are ways to manage him or her to minimize the impact.

The first strategy is to simply go along with what the person is saying. If he or she is pontificating on Bordeaux, or Riedel glasses, or natural wines…just nod your head, look interested, and perhaps ask for more information. Snobs love this kind or behavior! The problem, of course, is they will just keep talking…to you!

Another approach is to change the wine subject. Ask, perhaps, what the person things about another kind of wine. Or a certain vintage. Or even his or her favourite wine reviewer. Any wine snob will jump at the chance to keep talking about something new! But while that means the topic will change, you still end up listening to the bore!

A more tricky approach is to transition the conversation, just slightly. For example, if the wine snob is talking about French wine, ask whether he or she has been to France and if so, where. If they haven’t – and you have – you may actually be able to jump in and take over the conversation! If you haven’t, at least that may lead to a different discussion (around travelling, perhaps, which the snob may not be quite as opinionated about).

The last – and most daring, but dangerous, approach – is to actually disagree with the wine snob. This takes a combination of guts and wine knowledge (although more of the former than the latter). On the subject of Bordeaux, for example, if you don’t like it, think it is too expensive, too woody, etc….just tell him or her. Just the look of shock on his or her face is often worth it! But that may be followed by more bluster –which you must endure – or perhaps he or she may just walk away (which can be a triumph). This does take more effort, however…and it is up to you if want to exert it!

So there you have it…some wine snob strategies! Try one, try all…and let me know how it goes!


“What’s a great red wine to take to a guys “foodie” dinner party featuring steak?”

February 11, 2015

A friend of mine asked me this question yesterday and, in developing an answer, it occurred to me the question would be a great blog topic. That’s because in order to get to the answer, I had to sift through a few important wine issues.

The first one to deal with was the fact this was not only a dinner party, but a “foodie” dinner party. From that, I took it that the participants are knowledgeable about at least about their food (and probably about their wine). That means whatever wines I recommended had to work with the food

And it was also a “guys” dinner party. So – at the risk of stereotyping – and assumed there would be a bit of competition going on here. So the wine not only had to be good, it had to be well known and probably not cheap. So probably no bargains wanted.

Next issue – the food! By steak, I assumed it wasn’t just chuck or sirloin and would be cooked on the barbecue. The potential cuts actually didn’t matter as much – T-bone, striploin, New York, Porterhouse, Ribeye – as it would be the barbecuing that would add much of the flavour. Grilling adds that wonderful charred flavour to meat, which can be powerful and overwhelm a more delicate read wine. A minor consideration was also if they were going to sauce the steak i.e. bbq sauce before, béarnaise after. Either way, those are some rich flavours that have to be accounted for in the wine selection.

The last issue was the word “great”. I needed not just any red wine, but a “great” red wine.

Now, that could mean a number of things, of course. “Great” tasting, “great” reputation, “great” rating…or some combination of all three. I doubt it meant “great” price i.e. cheap, given the other factors above. So, we are probably looking at $50+ in order to be in the game!

The toughest issue here, actually, is the “great tasting” one. It would be relatively easy to find a “big red wine” from Bordeaux, Piedmont, Tuscan, or even Spain. But if it is too young – and therefore too tannic – that might be a problem, even if those tannins are somewhat softened by the steak itself. Chances are the guests are going to start with a glass before eating the steak, and if all they get is a mouth of wood and lip-searing tannin, that’s not going to work.

So, with all that to consider…can you guess my recommendation(s)?

There were two, both from California.

The first was Cabernet Sauvignon from a “name” producer in a good, recent year. The style of Cali Cabs should be perfect for steak – big enough to take on the barbecue and any sauces, but also ripe enough even on release to enjoy on their own. And some of the “name” wineries make enough wine to have it available. I specifically recommended Caymus (the 40th Anniversary Vintage is very highly rated, although pricey at $72) as the wine that would be the best name. For about $30 less, I also recommended the Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet – not as big, but same style.

The other option was old vine Zinfandel. Again, big enough to take on the barbecue (it is actually my “go to” barbecue wine), nice on release, and available from some big name producers. Ridge Vineyards is my top pick, either the Lytton Spring, Geyserville (both $55 up her) or the Three Valleys (at $40). All are Zin blends, which adds even a little more complexity to the wine.

There you go…no over to my friend to see what he chooses…and how it works out!


PS If you have a wine question you think would make a good blog topic, let me know!