This post is sponsored by La Crema, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.
Wine tasting dinner parties may seem like a different caliber of hosting if you have little to no experience with wine (or dinner parties). But the good news is that you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur in order to successfully plan and host a wine pairing. I say this as someone whose wine knowledge extended no further than being able to differentiate whites and reds by color just a few short months ago. If I can now fully comprehend why a buttery Chardonnay would be best paired with a lobster prepared in a creamy sauce, then surely anyone can.
Since I remember all too well what it feels like to have limited knowledge on this topic, I did all the intimidating legwork for you. I went straight to the source and asked the wine experts at La Crema to share everything a hostess needs to know about wine tasting dinner parties. La Crema’s hands-on wine-making process consistently produces distinct and elegant wine that’s exquisite at every sip. Their Executive Chef, Tracey Shepos Cenami, is incredibly talented at creating delicious food and wine pairings and provided us with her invaluable expertise.
Using Chef Tracey’s advice, we’ve broken down how to host a wine pairing dinner party into three easy steps—and created savable graphics that you can reference later on.
1. Choose your wines
Seeing as this whole event will revolve around wine, it’s only fitting that we start here first. “I love starting with the wine menu, then building out which dishes I know will spotlight the unique characteristics in each wine,” Chef Tracey noted. But the ultimate goal, she added, is to select options that will “compliment, not compete against, each other.” Most wine retailers have the notes of a wine on their website, which will be your biggest ally when deciding which wines interest you and what foods they pair well with.
Most wine pairings start with a sparkling, transition to a white, then go to a red, and end on a sweet dessert wine. Classifying them this way will help simplify your shopping process. And to make it even easier for you, we’ve listed our top wine picks per meal categories below.
La Crema wines are our first choice for obvious reason. Their wine is referred to as the “best of the vine” due to their over 40 years of wine-making experience. La Crema wines have complex flavors and aromas with firm acid structure, which yield mouth-watering finishes you’ll need just one more taste of. Use code LCEVERYMOM to receive 15% off + free shipping when you order four or more bottles from La Crema or get it delivered right now on InstaCart!
2. Plan the menu
Based on the number of wines and types of wine you selected, you can hone in on what foods and flavors pair best with your choices. Chef Tracey recommended starting with the basics: “pair light with light, and heavy with heavy,” she said. If you’ve chosen a citrusy and crisp sauvignon blanc for your appetizer, then pair it with a salad served with a vinegar or citrus-based dressing. As you move onto your bolder dinner wines like pinot noir, choose a meal with grilled meats or rich sauces.
“Lightly sweet wines go well with spicy foods—the sugar helps counterbalance the heat from the spice. Dry, light white wines are great with things like veggies and lean seafood. Fuller bodied, creamy whites like chardonnay do well with heavier seafood dishes, pastas with cream sauces, and even chicken. But at the end of the day, wine and food are natural partners, so I always say, ‘drink what you like!'” she added.
You can also take seasonality and ease into consideration when deciding your menu. While we understand wanting to impress your guests, it’s important not to overcomplicate the food and spend hours in the kitchen instead of enjoying your event. And in the spirit of simplicity, we’ve created a helpful reference below with wine and dinner pairings using Chef Tracey’s top recommendations:
3. Set the table
One of the best elements of a wine pairing is the interactive and experiential element for the group. You can place a pen and paper at each seat for guests to take notes and prepare your own tasting notes so you can share more about the wine before you serve each course. Want to get even fancier? Purchase a wine tasting card template to print out and set at the table with the rest of your tableware.
If you are just starting out with hosting, we recommend first building and investing in a collection of white dishware and serving pieces. Once you have your neutral basics, you can bring in different colored linens, candlesticks, and centerpieces for whatever season your dinner party is in. With accent pieces in various colors, you can create a different vibe from an al fresco summer dinner in the backyard to a cozy, moody meal in the dining room during fall or winter.
When it comes to table settings, most people prefer to have plates, utensils, and glasses set out and ready for guests. Even if you end up serving the food buffet style and passing the wine family style where everyone helps themselves (as opposed to serving everyone individually), it works that they have everything they need at their place setting. Worried about getting your place settings correct? Check out our savable resource below!
This post is sponsored by La Crema, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board. We only recommend products we genuinely love.