NL_COV-low-res-150x180I recently styled a photoshoot for the fall/winter issue of Nashville Lifestyles At Home (on newsstands now). They asked me to show how to throw a dinner party at home. I thought an at-home wine tasting would be a fun fall party that might be intimidating at first, but something that is really simple to plan and the perfect treat for friends and family moving into the holidays.

Whether you are a wine novice or aficionado, a wine tasting party is an elegant, and fun way to entertain and educate. Plus, comparing and discussing vino with your friends at a tasting is an easy way to learn about wines.

Photography by Amy Cherry.


First, choose a small group of guests to keep things simple—six or eight is a lively size, but not overwhelming. Likewise, keep decor understated using wooden and white accents (these are from 2OH: Next and Tin Cottage), fresh herbs and produce in lieu of flowers, and paper table coverings (like these from Hester & Cook) which makes clean up easy and red-wine-stains a non-issue.


Let guests graze on basic but filling, dinner-worthy fare such as cheese, prosciutto, crostini, Foccaca with dipping oils, fruit, and a little something dolce. MStreet Catering & Events will even provide a chef for your at-home party to completely take any food-related woes off your plate.

SetUpChef Luke Senderling, from MStreet Catering & Events, wowed our guests with fresh Italian-inspired hors d’oeuvres including crostini topped with fresh ricotta and goat cheese featuring a mix of toppings that were almost too pretty to eat.


When it comes to choosing wine for your tasting, now’s the time to deviate from your go-to bottles. Lisa Quillman Coviello, owner of The Bottle Shop at McEwen in Franklin, says, “Just like your guest list, the wine selection should be diverse in personality and versatile enough to pair well with a wide variety of flavors.” With that in mind, The Bottle Shop selected wines for our party that introduced guests to wine regions they may not have been familiar with. Lisa says, “When tasting the wines, don’t feel like you need to pass out berets and get out the score cards. This should be a fun, un-intimidating experience for wine-enthusiasts and novices alike.”


Provide your guests a list of what they are tasting with room for notes that they can take home (like the cards seen here custom designed by Hester & Cook).

The Wine (all available at The Bottle Shop, Franklin)

“Effervescence” (Côte-de-Brouilly, France), NV ($35) 
This sparkling Gamay has a lovely full-bodied texture and a woody, herbal quality that compliments the notes of dried fruit apricot with touches of black pepper making it a great partner with a variety of appetizers.

Vaucluse, Blanc (Côte-du-Rhone, France), 2013
 ($16) An unlikely Rhone blend of Viognier and Chardonnay that’s a go to dry white wine for all occasions because it has it all: round-bodied texture, yet tart, stony crispness and knockout aromas of pear, sun-baked apples and a spice hint of anise.

Domaine Lafage, “Novellum” Chardonnay (Languedoc Roussillon, France), 2013, 
92 Points, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate  ($17) A rich and fresh Chardonnay that will please both your Chardonnay-loving and Chardonnay-hesitant guests thanks to its unlikely lush floral notes that meld beautifully with hints of white peach, crème, brioche and a subtle nuttiness.

Vaucluse, Rouge (Côte-du-Rhone, France), 2013 
($16) A lighter Rhone red that’s as versatile as they come with explosive red fruit , notes of violet and enough spice to keep things interesting…like it’s white counterpart, this is a go to wine for just about any occasion.

Alvaro Palacios, Camins de Priorat (Priorat, Spain), 2012
 ($27) The Garnacha based red blend has wide appeal and menu versatility thanks to its complex and highly aromatic nose of zesty red berries, minerals, flowers and Asian spices.

Arianna Occhipinti, Nero d’Avola (Sicilia Siccagno, Italy), 2011 
($35) A hardy red wine that’s screaming for the main course. It’s fresh and elegant with a savory mix of pine, stone, game and tobacco notes that lead to a core of wild cherry and black currant.

Lastly, one must always end the evening with something sweet and a do-it-yourself affogato al caffe served with homemade orange ricotta donuts hits the spot. Let guests scoop vanilla gelato into a glass, followed by a pour of fresh espresso, and serve orange ricotta donuts with chocolate and raspberry dipping sauces.


Orange Ricotta Donuts
Canola oil; for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh ricotta
2 large eggs; beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Confectioners’ Sugar; for dusting
Raspberry sauce
Chocolate sauce


In a large wide heavy saucepan, add enough oil to reach the depth of 1 1/2 inches. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 350°F on a deep-fry thermometer.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt to blend. In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, eggs, milk, and orange zest to blend, then whisk in the flour mixture.

Working in batches, using a 1 1/4 ounce ice cream scoop, fill the scoop with batter and lower the scoop into the hot oil, releasing the batter while the scoop is submerged in oil to achieve a circular shape. Fry the fritters, turning occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are deep golden brown and no longer doughy in the center. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain. Return the oil to 350°F before cooking each batch.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm with raspberry sauce and chocolate sauce for dipping.

Photography by Amy Cherry
Special thanks to my sweet friends (Lauren, Wade, Cherilyn, Ray and Jacobs)  for “modeling” for the party. They were paid in wine and Foccaca.

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