After decades of wine tastings and events here at Far Niente, you might say hospitality is our forte. We love setting the scene, the table and the mood for our guests, whether it’s here at the winery or home after hours.
In fact, we’re often asked variations of the following Q’s: What’s the best tasting we’ve ever hosted or attended? What made it such a standout? If we were to host a Far Niente Family of Wineries & Vineyards tasting for our own friends and family, what would we pour?
That last question really intrigued us. With so many amazing wines and wine varietals at our disposal, what would we pour? It would need to celebrate a bottle from each of our five wineries, we decided. And we’d want a food-friendly array of flavors and wine varietals. We’d want the tasting not just to showcase great wines but to tell a great story. We soon realized we had the perfect five-bottle set (elegantly tucked into a stamped wood box) for just such an affair: The Far Niente Estate Collection.
With this boxed collection as our inspiration, we set out to create a mouthwatering at-home tasting experience.
Although we don’t necessarily have a rule book for throwing a successful wine tasting (no two tastings are ever alike), we have amassed some tips and tricks that could easily as easily be applied to an at-home wine tasting as they are to our own private and guided winery tastings and events. We’re excited to share the tools, menus and serving and sipping essentials you’ll need to create your own Far Niente Estate Collection tasting at home!
#1 The Tools. Here’s all you truly need:
Great stemware. Whether you're a Riedel devotee or love the durability of Schott Zweisel, having great stemware -- with bowls shaped to suit each wine -- elevates any experience.
A good wine opener (or two). Unless we’re opening older vintages, we prefer single-armed (also referred to as single-winged) waiter tools, like this Laguiole. Honestly, though, whichever corkscrew that helps you get your bottles open with the least amount of effort and stress is the right tool for you.
Spit buckets or cups. Although whether or not they choose to sip and spit is entirely up to them, we like to offer individual – and opaque! – cups for each guest.
Optional: Tasting mat. Although we don’t use them during or winery tasting, having a simply designed tasting mat can be very helpful when hosting a tasting at home. Check out our downloadable one here.
#2 Quantity. Here’s some quick and basic math to help:
A 750-ml bottle of wine contains 25.4 ounces.
That’s roughly 12 two-ounce pours per bottle.
Estimate that each guest will have five two-ounce pours each.
So … five guests each receiving five pours from five unique wines equals one five-bottle Estate Collection. Ten guests, you’ll want two of each wine. And so on.
#3 Menu. Because sending guests home on an empty stomach is not optional:
Plus, experimenting with food and wine can be a delicious part of the tasting experience. A variety of small plates or some richly laden cheese boards offer plenty of mix and match opportunities. At Far Niente, we pair these cheeses with our wines:
Far Niente Chardonnay + Seascape. This cheddar-style cow/goat cheese from Paso Robles, CA, is smooth and subtly tangy, with undertones of caramel that are further enhanced by our Napa Valley Chardonnay.
Enroute Pinot Noir + Ewenique. We love the velvety texture, subtle sweetness and salted caramel accents of this 100% sheep's milk cheese from California’s Central Coast. We love how sheep's milk cheeses can often highlight the juicy berry-cherry fruit of our Russian River Pinot Noirs.
Bella Union and Nickel & Nickel Cabernets + Mezzo Secco Monterey Jack. Because fat can bind to the tannins in a wine (seemingly stripping them away so that the deep fruit flavors really shine), rich cow’s milk cheeses with a higher fat content are a dream with our Cabernets. We love how this creamy Sonoma cheese draws out different – though equally delicious – flavors in each of our Napa Valley Cabernets.
Bleu d’Auvergne + Dolce. The saltiness of the cheese, the sweet stone fruit flavors of our late harvest jewel … this is perhaps the most talked-about pairing at any of our winery tastings. You have to taste it to understand why.
#4 Serving and Sipping:
Temperature. White wines are happiest between 50 and 55 degrees, with our Far Niente Chardonnay really revealing its depth and complexity when served between 53 and 55 degrees. Our red wines really shine between 62 and 67 degrees, with Pinot Noir happiest between 62 and 65 and Cabernet showing its full colors between 64 and 67.
We arrange our wines according to their richness and weight on the palate. We also include a glass of water, a spit cup, and some palate cleansing bread sticks or crackers for each guest.
For a complete Estate Collection tasting, we’d organize left to right as follows: Far Niente Chardonnay, EnRoute Pinot Noir, Bella Union Cabernet, Nickel & Nickel Kenefick Ranch Cabernet and Dolce Napa Valley. This is where our downloadable tasting mat may come in handy.
Pouring each wine ahead of time or waiting until everyone is seated is 100% up to you. Have a dark cloth napkin handy to catch any accidental drips.
Once your menu is prepped, Alexa is cued to play the perfect mood music, the guests have arrived and the wines are poured, it’s time to taste.
Our tasting tips are simple: swirl to open the wine; stick your nose in the glass and give it a deep sniff; be an enthusiastic sipper (you want the wine to generously coat your palate) and above all, don’t take it too seriously!
Remember, no two palates are alike. Let your guests take notes on aromas, flavors, texture, weight, length. Try each wine without food. Try them with food. Feel free to guide guests with questions like, does the wine feel heavy or light on the palate? Do the flavors linger long after you’ve spit or swallowed? Or do they evaporate cleanly and quickly? Compare notes, taste some more and then ... simply let the afternoon or evening unfold.
One final tip: Are you a scented candle fanatic? Stash them away for one evening. Since wine “tasting” is actually 90% smelling, strong scents can affect the way you perceive a wine.
Cheers to mixing, matching, sipping and savoring great wines with great people!
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