Some people belong to book clubs – which we all know is the international code phrase for “drinking wine with girlfriends.” I say, ditch the book club and just have Ladies Wine Night! On the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m., my friends and I gather at one of our homes, or sometimes at a BYO restaurant to taste wines and catch up.
I think the brilliance behind it is this: wine is the triple threat: it’s a party starter, a conversation starter and a food starter. We love tasting wines and learning together and comparing notes, and we all love eating! And while social gabbing sometimes dominates, we always take time to focus on each wine and discuss our impressions, likes and dislikes. You want to start your own Ladies Wine Night, don’t you? You do! Here’s how:
How to Start Your Own Ladies Wine Night
1) Create a Crowd: Make a list of friends who like to drink…wine. If cocktail or beer drinkers swear to ditch their swizzle sticks and suds for the night, you could invite them if you like. It’s good to keep it to no more than about a dozen people (few people have more than a dozen wine glasses!) Handy Tip: a dozen cheap but decent wine glasses can be found at stores like Party City or Bed, Bath & Beyond for about $10.
2) Book It: Pick a day every month – like the “Third Thirsty Thursday or “First Wine Wednesday” – whatever works for you. Our group is 12 people and it would give anyone a hangover to try to find a new time every month that we can all meet, so it is what it is – if you can come, great. If you can’t, we’ll see you next month. We like Thursday, because if you’re really enthusiastic in your wine consumption, you only have to struggle through one more work day before the weekend!
3) Theme It: If you’re a wine geek like me, this is the fun part. What do you want to explore? Pick a grape (Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, etc. ) or a type of wine (Rosé, California Red Blends, Champagne, Chianti), or a region like Burgundy reds or Greek whites. Or, if you’re going to a BYOB restaurant, ask everyone to bring wines that go with the food. We went to Cai, a fabulous, traditional Chinese restaurant in Chicago known for Pekin duck, so several people brought Pinot Noir (so great with duck), but we also had some sparkling, and some Riesling because it’s awesome with salty foods. One time we went to a burger place so everyone brought their dream wine to go with burgers -we had Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah and others.
Do an email invite, and tell everyone to bring a bottle. We keep it $20 or less, but yours truly has been known the bust through that limit more than once. The host puts out wine glasses and a dump bucket and everyone brings food. Buh bam – Ladies Wine Night is underway!
I’ll share one of our most fun LWNs: I suggested Chardonnay. Everyone looked at me with horror. I in turn looked back at them and said, “Shut up! You only think you don’t like Chardonnay because all you’re thinking of is one style — big, buttery, California oak bombs. Chardonnay is made all over the planet. We’re doing Chardonnay and you’re going to fucking like it.”
So everyone brought a Chardonnay. We had Burgundy (yep, if it’s white and it’s from Burgundy, it is most likely Chardonnay), we had Chard from South Africa, we had Chablis (yes, Chablis is part of Burgundy, and yes it is Chardonnay), and of course, someone brought a big, buttery, oak bomb from California. We tasted through them all and it was FASCINATING! They were all SO DIFFERENT! The Burgundies were crisp, acidic and structured with subtle notes of saline, and even oyster shells (Chablis is known for that).
And yes, the California one was big, kind of flabby, buttery, oaky – which – important note here in Italics — is not to say all California Chards are like that. There are delicious Cali Chards of all styles. But it was the Hamilton Chard from South Africa that blew us all away – so perfectly balanced, so gorgeous in texture, flavor and fruit — we wished we had more than one bottle of that. So, yeah, the Chardonnay-hating came to a full stop that night, and it was about time!
4) Cook It: Everyone usually brings something delicious to eat. I say “usually” because when I worked sooooo far away and had a terrible commute, I was often known as Liz “Cheese & Crackers” Barrett. In fact, sometimes, I couldn’t even get that together. But it’s always okay, because we all love to cook so there is always plenty of food. Whoever hosts often makes an entrée, but sometimes we just snack all night on charcuterie, cheeses, side dishes, etc. And Denise always seems to bring something insane for dessert (she crushes it in the baking department!)
5) Taste and Talk: Line up all your wines. Think about the order you want to taste in – maybe oldest to youngest vintage, or lightest to heaviest. Everyone gets a pour and you taste and talk. Who likes it? Who doesn’t? Why? Which food makes it really pop? And if you’re really diligent, someone will keep notes, recording the wines and peoples’ thoughts. Sometimes we remember to vote, to see what everyone’s faves and less-faves were.
I hope this inspires you to start your own Ladies Wine Night! And I have to give a shout-out to my friend Liz Sorrentino who started LWN – first in New York, then here in Chicago, and now she’s moved to London and is keeping it going there! We toast her every time we meet! Cheers!