We kicked off the summer in high style last weekend, finally hosting our Jardin Soiree. We couldn't have picked a better day really, perfect weather (eighty plus degrees), French inspired playlist at the ready, and of course pretty decor provided from my local Pier 1 Imports.
After all this shopping and prep, I was happy to finally have the day arrive and very ready for a taste, or ten, of wine! We welcomed friends with a rose vs white wine bracket, a perfect way for our mom's group to get out with the kids and the husband's (who all met for the first time). Nothing like lots of wine and smack talk to bring a group together....much more effective than name tags!
I stuck with all the treasures and steals I found the week before (and posted about here). Decor was French garden party ready with eyelet and lace paper lanterns hanging from our umbrella, a vineyard wine jug as our tasting table centerpiece, wood and glass platters, cake stands and cloches were stacked with cheese, crackers and tasty sweets, and of course a Parisian accent or two.....all tres, tres, jolie! Everything worked together seamlessly, which made set up a snap and allowed me extra time to focus on the nibblies and wine bracket set up. From the rustic floral runners, to the Provencal inspired pillows, copper beverage tubs, tiled bar cart, and the pretty glass dish with the Eiffel tower (which served as our bottle opener stand), everything came together for the perfect outdoor look.
Now, how does one host a wine bracket? Here are the rules and finer points outlined for guests:
- Bring two of the same bottles per guest/couple, one for entry into the wine bracket and one for entry into the prize pool. If the wine should be chilled, bring one cool and ready to drink.
- Bottles should be $15-20 each, white (any type or region) or rose, though clearly this would work with any type of wine or specific region.
- Bring wine disguised in a bag and deposit with host/ess, who will coordinate all entries (and be excluded from the voting, not the sipping). I opted to disguise all wines and then shuffle them up, allowing myself to vote!
- All bottles are numbered and disguised with a classy paper bag for multiple rounds of voting. Helpful to have like types against each other, but not totally necessary.
- Each wine goes head to head with another (at separate stations) until voting is finished by all guests.
- Ballots are counted, the losing vino unmasked, while the winning bottle advances to the next round where it goes against another finalist. *Make sure to limit samples so there is enough for each round! You might want to provide a mini decanter or glass with a mark for suggested serving size per pour.
- To the winner goes the spoils! The guest with the winning bottle will take home the entire prize pool of all bottles entered.
Now for the menu! Since white and rose were the wines of the day, we stuck with light lunch fare- think fig, manchego & prosciutto; pesto, roasted pepper and mozzarella; and rosemary ham, garlic jam, and camembert sandwiches, which only required assembly just before serving. Be sure to set out plenty of water, which you can easily make look like a million by adding some berries and mint! We filled our other Pier 1 drink dispenser with a lavender honey lemonade (recipe for lavender simple syrup here). And don't forget to stock up on a few red bottles and some beers for those non-wine drinkers, who I suppose might exist;) As if there weren't enough adult beverages on the menu, we rounded things out with a cocktail as well, my personal favorite, champagne mixed with lavender honey syrup.
And finally, the winner! An entry from left field swept the contestants and won by overwhelming majority: the Edelzwicker from Navaroo Vineyards. Say what? It's a white blend traditionally out of Alsace, that contains Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Muscat. Delish is all you need to know. Sante!