Out with the girls
Part of the appeal of going out with friends is being able to act like a kid while enjoying adult activities. One of my all-time favorite over-21 activities is wine tasting.
I must admit, I'm a bit of a wine snob. If it comes out of a box or a jug, I'm not interested. I drink wine because I enjoy the aroma, the taste and the texture of it. If a wine is lacking in those areas, I won't drink it. What's the point? Now, give me a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a gritty Petite Sirah, and I'm a happy camper.
The way I've figured out what I like is by trying out different wines (red, white, rosé, sparkling, dessert) until I've hit upon some favorite varietals and wineries. I prefer not to have to buy a bottle for these experiments when a glass, or even a couple of sips, will tell me what I need to know. Which is why I enjoy wine tasting so much.
At the winery
When it comes to wines, nothing beats going straight to the source. If you are fortunate enough to live within reasonable driving distance to a wine region, as I have been since I became legal, then you should seriously consider planning a Saturday afternoon jaunt to some wineries.
If you're in a particularly prolific place, the Napa Valley in California, for instance, you shouldn't overdo it. Choose only three to five wineries to visit in order to enjoy, and to remember, the experience.
Also, for safety's sake your group needs to choose a designated driver. I know it's not always fun to be the one to do that job, but somebody's got to do it. I recommend you choose a friend who's either pregnant, breastfeeding or not a drinker. Then promise to buy her a nice lunch and a decaf latte in exchange for her chauffeur service.
A more equitable arrangement would be to plan for a shuttle bus or a limo to drive your group around. For example, some of the wineries in western Colorado have set up tours with local transportation companies. Your group can visit about eight wineries for as little as $20 per person, depending on your mode of transportation. And everybody gets to drink.
At the wine bar
Sometimes it's just not convenient to go to a winery. In that case, look around your area for a wine bar. One I visited in California was a restaurant that offered tastings each Friday night. The night I went we tried reds from Chile and Australia. I fell in love with a Shiraz/Cabernet I never would have tried otherwise.
Another place I know of is a wine shop in Oregon. Every other Friday night and every Saturday afternoon they offer several wines for tasting. The distinct advantage over a winery is being able to do a vertical tasting. You get to try, say, Zinfandel from different wineries, different years, different states and even different countries. It gives you a better feeling for what you like and what you don't like about a particular varietal (a wine made primarily from one kind of grape).
You don't necessarily have to go out to do this kind of tasting. You can send your hubby and kids packing to grandma's for the evening. Invite some girlfriends over and have each one bring their favorite Chardonnay. You'll be surprised how different winemakers in varied regions produce such diverse flavors and aromas in the same varietal.
You don't have to do a varietal tasting, though. Pick a theme, such as sparkling or red wines or wines from Washington State or from Italy. Then ask each person to bring an appropriate bottle of wine. This gives you a little peek into each other's personal preferences. Who knows? You might even find a new favorite wine for yourself among your friends' offerings.
You should also ask your friends to bring along some food to share that will complement the wines you plan to serve. It's a good idea to eat while you're drinking. An appetizer or dessert should suffice.
While you're having all that fun, remember what the beer ads tell you, "Drink responsibly."
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