We've been meeting since the summer of 2008; nine of us are coworkers and the tenth member is a spouse. We also have two regular guests who are tapped to fill in if one of the main members can't make it. Sometimes we have gaps at the very last minute, but usually we manage to have between 8 and 10 participants each month.
A couple of weeks in advance, we confirm what wine we're going to taste, and that at least one person is willing to research & purchase them. This month we chose blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, and two people did the selecting. I think they divided the globe by hemisphere; one selected three wines from the Northern, and the other brought from the Southern hemisphere. I've never been a wine selector and don't feel nearly informed enough to do so, though I suppose I'd apply myself and figure something out - you're just supposed to represent some aspect of the chosen grape.
Once we have the wine settled, people volunteer for various parts of the meal. Here are the categories, and what we had this month:
- Someone always brings a bottle of Yay It's The Weekend sparkling wine. This month that person was the very last to arrive, so we've agreed that in future, I'll make sure to take custody of the bubbly bottle at least a day before we have our wine night. I am pathologically on-time to events, and I will promise to ensure that the late-comers still get a glass of wine, without making us wait to get started!
- An appetizer - as mentioned, I made brie-stuffed mushrooms. Someone else brought three types of olives. Usually we mill around having the bubbly and snacks while the people responsible for the meal do the final touches. We also use that time to get all the wine glasses organized on the table!
- Main course - Unbelievable Eye of Round. It was smeared in mustard, coated in kosher salt, and baked at high temperature (475) for about an hour.
- Salad - a delicious pea/prosciutto deli salad on a bed of greens. garnished with blood oranges.
- Side dish, veg - Cooked greens & onions - I think it was just a bag of mixed greens (collard, mustard, etc.) & onion cooked over low heat for a while. I was pretty tuned out of the kitchen by then, but it was delicious!
- Side dish, starch - amazing bistro-style gratin.Those only had to be heated in the oven, so we put them in while the meat was resting.
- After the main courses are done, we do a cheese course, with slices of baguette. We had stilton, something like Manchego but called by a different name, and a triple-cream brie.
- THEN we had dessert - a ridiculously dense and rich chocolate/cherry torte.
- THEN I was able to offer some digestifs to the crowd, since I'd picked up little 2-ounce glasses at Crate & Barrel that very day. I had Zwack, B & B, and Drambuie on offer.
We always wrap the six bottles of wine in brown paper, and label them A through E. Everyone brings six glasses, which are labeled or arranged in some set order. Then every glass gets about 2 ounces of wine. On the nights there are 8 of us, we can be a bit lax, but if we have 10, we have to be really careful that everyone gets some of the wine!
After the Yay It's The Weekend bottle of bubbly wine, and before dinner is served, we all sit down and start examining and tasting the wine. I'm not very good at this part. I'm trying to get better at labeling what I smell and taste, but it's hard. After we've examined and tasted for a while, we have our dinner, and after we've eaten we have to sort the wines by our personal preference, 1-6. I'm *terrible* at this. This month especially I felt like all six wines were pretty much the same to me, so my rating system was a bit arbitrary. (For that very reason, we're talking about changing to a points system, so I could give all of mine an 8 out of 10 if that felt right to me.)
Once we've done our rating, we go around the table and log what everyone gave each wine. Then someone figures out how each wine fared in the ranking, and THEN we unwrap the wines, and THEN we get another sheet of paper describing them.
This month's wines ranged from a low of $13.99 to a high of $46.99. They came from South Africa, France, Washington State, Chile, California, and Argentina. A couple of the wines were 100% cab, while the rest were blends of such grapes as merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, syrah, and carmenere. (I'm cribbing from the notes, here - it's already gone from my head for sure.)
The week after the event we all add up what we spent, and then divide the total cost by the number of participants. Usually the entire evening runs around $35 per person - what a deal!!!! And it's a really nice monthly event.
I've been exposed to a lot of great food and wine in the last almost-two years, and I know that a little bit of it has stuck with me, but not a ton. Food-wise, I tend to offer to bring dessert, now that I think about it. I definitely haven't been brave enough to do the main course. I've done apps a couple of times, and salad a couple as well. I should probably get brave and do the main course, but hey! At least I finally hosted!