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This post is sponsored by La Crema but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.

I Hosted a Wine-Tasting Party and It Was Incredibly Fun—Here’s Exactly How to Replicate It

written by CHRISTINA HERBST

This post is sponsored by La Crema but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.

The Everygirl product selections are curated by the editorial team. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. We only recommend products we genuinely love.

Source: Meagan McCormick
Source: Meagan McCormick

Sonoma’s wine country captured my heart the moment I stepped foot along its rolling vineyards a few years ago for a work trip. I think about the days I spent testing out their finest wines while watching the California sunset at least three times a week and, with the near-embarrassing number of times I revisit my camera roll for footage of those vino-filled days, it’s safe to say that I miss it greatly. My budget-friendly hack for bringing Sonoma County to Wisconsin? Hosting a wine-tasting party with a few of my closest friends. If you’re like me and want to throw your own tasting, but you’re not quite sure where to start, here’s your step-by-step guide to throwing one—from wine and food pairings to expert tips from a tried-and-true sommelier. Follow this guide so you can host your own:

Meet the expert
Meet the Expert
Emily Pickral
For the past 20 years, Emily has held various sales roles in the wine industry, working for importers, distributors, and California wineries. Emily has worked for Jackson Family Wines since 2014, and she currently serves as the Director of Sales for Jackson Family’s field marketing team. Her passion for learning about wine encouraged her to embark upon the Master Sommelier diploma. She was the 19th woman in the world to earn the title and is one of 256 Master Sommeliers worldwide. She also has a Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and a BA in Literature from the University of Virginia.

Plan your party

Like any gathering, you need to start with the basics before you can get to the fun part aka sipping on wine with your gals. First order of business? Narrowing down your guest list and sending out invites. You could go the old-fashioned route and snail mail a couple of invites or you could send out a digital invite. Either one can be made on Canva—my favorite tool for creating stunning invitations that impress any guest. Here are a few of our favorite easy-to-edit templates:

Choose your wines and food pairings

Now here’s the fun part: choosing the starting lineup. Emily recommends tasting 4-6 wines at a time for a true tasting. You could base your tasting on a theme—like food board pairings—or a region—like California wine country.

To be a true at-home sommelier, you’ll want to pull out the best of the vine: La Crema. La Crema wines are thoughtfully and carefully made in Sonoma, California and they’re our drink of choice when it comes to elevating any occasion. Their experts source the finest grapes and use specialty French oak barrels to age their wine—which produces their spiced vanilla bean accent flavor. For a beginner’s tasting party, we suggest a split sampling of whites, reds, and a rosé.

Rosé Wines

La Crema offers three lovely and light options. Begin with the Monterey Pinot Noir Rosé—its delicate aromas of orange blossom and sweet watermelon are perfect to prep your palate. Then, make your way towards Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé. This one packs a punch with its flavor of fresh Bing cherry, mandarin oranges, and wild raspberry. Finish with some light bubbles with their refreshing Russian River Valley Brut Rosé that leaves a vibrant, lingering finish.

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La Crema
Saralee's Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé
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La Crema
Monterey Pinot Noir Rosé
Use code LCEVERYGIRL for 15% + when you buy four or more bottles, you get free shipping!
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La Crema
Brut Rosé
Use code LCEVERYGIRL for 15% + when you buy four or more bottles, you get free shipping!
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White Wines

La Crema’s creme de la creme of white, their Chardonnays, are the star of the show with their subtle flavors of oak, lemon, crisp apple, and tangerine. End with their vibrant Sauvignon Blanc and fresh, rich Pinot Gris.

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La Crema
Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
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La Crema
Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc
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wine tasting party
La Crema
Monterey Pinot Gris
Use code LCEVERYGIRL for 15% + when you buy four or more bottles, you get free shipping!
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Red Wines

La Crema has made Pinot Noirs since their start so naturally, they have nailed this wine down to a science (and they deserve to be the main attraction for your red tasting). One of their finest reds is their Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. With aromas of blackberry, cranberry, and black licorice, it’s sure to please any red wine lover’s palate. Follow it by their Monterey Pinot which presents a plush texture of plum and rhubarb flavors. End with their cherry pomegranate Los Carneros and blackberry-plum Nine Barrel.

wine tasting party
La Crema
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Why wait? Order it to your door today on InstaCart!!
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wine tasting party
La Crema
Monterey Pinot Noir
Why wait? Order it to your door today on InstaCart!!
Shop now
wine tasting party
La Crema
Los Carneros Pinot Noir
Use code LCEVERYGIRL for 15% + when you buy four or more bottles, you get free shipping!
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wine tasting party
La Crema
Nine Barrel Pinot Noir
Use code LCEVERYGIRL for 15% + when you buy four or more bottles, you get free shipping!
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Food Pairings

To start, begin with a cheese board adorned with charcuterie, fruit, nuts, and crackers. Then round out your spread with heavier apps for your second course—like bruschetta with fresh basil and drizzled balsamic vinegar, shrimp with cocktail sauce, ricotta and roasted grape crostinis, and bacon-wrapped dates. Then end with something sweet, try milk or dark chocolate or one of these easy dessert recipes.

Emily also suggests picking up a few boxes of plain crackers to cleanse your palate between wines. And if you want to go the extra mile, grab some bags of coffee beans to clear your nasal passages of any lingering aromas.

Have supplies on hand

For an elevated tasting experience, you’ll want to pull out your finest wine glasses. Emily recommends about three glasses per guest so your guests can taste as many wines side-by-side as possible. Just make sure you’re using the correct wine glass for red vs. white wines: red wine glasses are taller and have a larger bowl whereas white wine glasses are smaller both in height and width. She also recommends snagging some small paper cups so your guests can dispose of any wine they don’t finish before their next pour.

In addition to your glasses, you’ll want to set aside a tasting mat with pens and pencils for your guests to take notes on each pour. They can also use these to write down their favorites so they know which ones to shop for later. We’ve made a printable tasting mat specifically for you to use for your party that you can find here. If you need guidance or you’re new to tasting, La Crema offers extensive tasting notes on their website under each wine that you can use as a guide.

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West Elm
Crystal White Wine Glass Sets
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West Elm
Crystal Red Wine Glass Sets
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Amazon
Paper Tasting Cups
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Amazon
Gold Pens
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Set up your tasting areas

Once it’s the day of your party, you’ll want to start arranging your tasting areas so you can “winery hop” around your home and backyard. This is a great idea especially if you just moved and want to show people around your new home. The key to setting up each station is to make a moment with each wine. The decor, the location, and the snack pairings all should fit with the wine you are serving. Here’s a quick tasting “roadmap” that brings your guests from room to room:

Rosé tasting: backyard

Rosés are best paired with sunshine, so you’ll want to start in the backyard. Enjoy lawn games, maybe a couple of games of cornhole and oversized Jenga, and enjoy time together outdoors. This is a great way to break the ice if your guests don’t know each other well. Here you’ll lean into fun, lighthearted pink-themed decor with your servingware and outdoor throw pillows.

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Pottery Barn
Striped Outdoor Throw Pillow
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West Elm
Archie Glass Dinnerware Collection
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Amazon
Giant Tumble Tower
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Zazzle
Pink Cornhole Set
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White tasting: living room

Make your way indoors to your living room where you’ll enjoy a fresh, crisp tasting of whites to cleanse your palate. Here, you’ll serve some of your heavier, entree-like food pairings and enjoy light conversation. For decor, think classic, airy, and bright with classic wine glasses, light blue and white servingware and pillar candles. Maybe even add a bouquet of flowers to the table to freshen it up. Kick off your tasting with these conversation starters to get your guests mingling.

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West Elm
Unscented Wax Pillar Candle
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Pottery Barn
Chambray Tile Stoneware Serving Bowls
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Williams Sonoma
Classic Wine Glasses
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Terrain
Fresh Dahlia Bunch
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Red tasting: dining room

And finally, end with your reds and some dessert in your dining room. If you have carpeting in your dining room, consider hosting your red wine tasting in your kitchen if you’re worried about spillage. Dim the lights, light some moody candleholders, pour your wine into edgier, modern wine glasses, and lean into richer, darker colors like deep red to set the vibe. Here you’ll move onto deeper conversation topics while you sip on your red wine.

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Booker Taper Candleholders
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Crate & Barrel
Edge Red Wine Glass
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CB2
Red Marble Serving Tray
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Target
Burgundy Eucalyptus Leaf Arrangement
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At each station, you’ll want to include the following for each guest: one printable tasting mat, three wine glasses, a pen, and a paper cup in addition to your snacks and palate cleansers. Once your guests are seated, you can start pouring each glass. Emily recommends going from light to dark in terms of color and weight. This provides an easy roadmap of where to start and end for your guests. So, for example, going from a Sauvignon Blanc to a Chardonnay.

Host your tasting

Now it’s time to taste test! While you’re working your way from the light to the dark wines, encourage your guest to take notes and discuss each pour before moving on to the next. For budding sommeliers, Emily recommends describing what you’re smelling and tasting into four primary categories: fruity or savory, acidity vs. tannin, texture and body, and the finish. Here are some of Emily’s thought-starters you can share with your group:

  • When examining the wine’s aroma, do you smell certain fruits, like berries, or do you sense savory characteristics that may lean toward sour foods like green apples?
  • When tasting the wine, does your mouth water due to the acidity level, or do you find that the wine dries your mouth out given the higher tannins that may be present?
  • Describing the texture and body is identifying how the wine feels in your mouth. Light-bodied wines sit in your mouth more like a delicate tea, while full-bodied wines fill your palate with texture and intensity.
  • The finish is often the defining factor between a mediocre and an awesome-tasting wine. Following a sip, are you left with a hint of tartness, spice, heat, or bitterness? Does that taste linger or does it disappear quickly? All of these can describe the finish of a wine.

And last, but not certainly not least, make sure to take time to cleanse your palates with food and water in between each glass, too. Hop along to each tasting station, and once you’ve all completed each one, discuss your favorites. Make sure to share the names of each bottle so your guests know what to look for the next time they’re at the store.

This post is sponsored by La Crema but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.