Metro Detroit experts in wine, food and decor share their tips for pulling off the perfect wine tasting from your backyard.
By Stephanie Steinberg
Photography by Erin Kirkland
Wine provided by Elie Wine Co.
Food provided by Andiamo
Decor provided by Gerych’s Events and Floral Design and Dee Dee Hoffman
Dishes provided by The Italian Dish
Location: Danialle Karmanos’ home
Dee Dee Hoffman, Metro Detroit event planner
What’s the most important thing to do when hosting a wine tasting at home? Hire the right sommelier to do the wine. Typically, in a wine tasting, you describe the wine and what foods it goes best with. So, if you were doing an outdoor dinner, you would do your wine tasting as part of the appetizers. I would have a beautiful charcuterie with meats and cheeses and vegetables. You don’t really need much more than that.
What’s a fun dining or decor item to incorporate? Something I do that’s fun is buy wooden discs online. You buy these, just plain wooden discs, and you can use those as your charcuterie plates. I use them at big events. You can wipe them with walnut oil, and it changes the color. It’s a fun thing to do if someone wants to create their own look. Also, mix and match. When you’re doing a wine tasting in a garden, mixing lots of different patterns is cool.
Create your own style and make the event yours. Use what you have, if you have enough of things, instead of trying to rent everything and have it look generic. Also, check out local vintage shops to personalize your event decor and dishes.
When hosting a tasting outside, what are some must-do party planning tips? You have to cut your lawn and spray for bugs. And you probably should have citronella-type candles. If you’re in an area with a lot of mosquitoes, put those mosquito wristbands out. Have them available for the people that want them. And then the most important thing: You gotta have a backup plan. If it rains, put up a tent. Or make sure you have space in your home to move everything inside.
Best music playlist? For background music, you could hire a simple jazz combo. If the budget doesn’t allow you to hire musicians, create your own music playlist. And that’s fun, especially if it’s going to be a casual night.
Elie Boudt, owner of Elie Wine Co. in Birmingham
What should you keep in mind when planning a wine tasting at home? Don’t just focus on grape varieties, which can make vastly different wines based on climate and production methods. Instead focus on places. Wine is liquid geography. It tells epic stories of oceans and mountains, and it tells small tales of villages and streams and hills. It encapsulates an entire growing season and the hardships and the joys of the people who work the land. Treat your guests to a journey through place and time by choosing wines that tell these stories.
How many reds, whites and/or rosés should you have? For a warm-weather, outdoor tasting there should be an equal amount of light- to medium-red wine and white wine. Rosé is texturally similar enough to white wine that it can basically be put into the same category as white wine.
What kind of wine glasses do you need? A good universal glass would hold between 12 and 16 ounces and have a classic tulip shape. Anything larger gets to be cumbersome, and anything smaller might not allow aromas to develop in the glass. We like to use stemless glasses for larger groups because they are much easier to handle and less likely to break.
Do you need to switch the glass with each wine poured? Especially fragrant wines and dessert wines should get their own glass, but unless you are planning a highly formal tasting you can generally use the same glass. There should always be fresh glasses available and some type of bucket so that guests can pour out any wine that they don’t want to consume.
How much should you pour of each wine? 1.5 to 2 ounces of each wine is sufficient to fully experience the wine.
One wine tasting must-do? Provide plenty of water.
Elie’s Wine Menu:
- VallDolina, Cava Brut Nature 2016, en magnum
- Raventós i Blanc “DeNit,” Barcelona Rosé 2016
- Principia Mathematica, Penedès 2017
- L’Equilibrista, Catalunya 2015
- Ona, Priorat 2015
Chef Bill Hall of Andiamo in Bloomfield
How many courses do you recommend preparing for a wine tasting? Four to five. Any more make for too long a dinner for guests.
What are some things to keep in mind when deciding what foods to pair with wine? At home, I would do simple yet elegant dishes — less stress to prepare and cook while presenting the wines.
What should you avoid when pairing food for a wine tasting at home? Complicated, excessive layered dishes which are harder to pair with wines. After all, you are looking to enjoy the evening with good food, good wine and great friends!
Chef Hall’s Wine Dinner Menu:
- Zucchini Saltimbocca
- Zucchini ribbons layered with Fontina D`Aosta, crisped sage, roasted red peppers, sweet onion confit
- Radicchio Arrostos
- Grilled Radicchio Treviso, stuffed with baby artichoke pate
- Served with arugula, Belgium endive, summer truffle slices, lemon, Acacia honey
- Savory Napoleons
- Wild Morel Duxelle, French jambon ham, cave aged Gruyere cheese
- Layered with buttery puff pastry
- Salumi e Formaggi
- Selection of artisan Italian meats and cheeses, olives, peppers, Spanish almonds, with crostini
- Wild Asparagus Tartlets, with fine herbs and red shallots
Jon Gerych, president of Gerych’s Events and Floral Design in Fenton
What are some tips for decorating a tablescape for a wine tasting? I love creating an organic and natural look that makes a statement when I decorate for wine tastings. Be different: Incorporate branches, grape leaves, greenery, fruit, use levels, use colors and different vessels. The décor is an enhancement to the tasting, but if done right is a perfect conversation piece to your guests.
What are your favorite colors/patterns for summer decor? Neutral beiges/whites are perfect with wood accents and create a natural look. Use color in your decorations and dishes, and stay plain with everything else. That way it is not overpowering.
Your favorite florals to incorporate? White tulips, hydrangeas, delphiniums, bells of Ireland, Italian ruscus and white ranunculus are amazing flowers and greens to enhance in your decoration. If you stay neutral with flowers, you can add colorful fruit and food (lemons, limes, artichokes, eggplants, etc.) elements to add dimension and a “wow” element to an amazing floral arrangement.
Do…? Make sure you have enough wine glasses (do not use plastic). Make sure you always have enough seats, and come up with the theme depending on your selection of wines.
Don’t…? Wear heavily scented perfume or cologne, as it interferes with wine aromas. Do not buy too many snacks. Stick to one salty snack like chips, grapes and chocolate that pair well with your selected wines.
Things to keep in mind for a tasting at home? Keep your party of people smaller rather than bigger. Wine tastings are meant to be more intimate and personal. About 12-15 people are ideal. If you are planning an outdoor tasting, make sure you have a backup rain plan.
Best music playlist? Acoustic covers on a very low volume.
From left: Detroit Soup co-founder Amy Kaherl, personal stylist Clare Pollard, DIA vice president of museum operations Elliott Broom, Ford Motor Company digital marketing manager Tim Sullivan, Karma Has Spoken host Danialle Karmanos, The Empowerment Plan founder Veronika Scott, podcast producer Jon Gay and goat yoga instructor Shawn Cannarile.