Wine Tasting – Choosing Your Theme posted in: Events, Food and Beverage

So you’ve decided a wine tasting is the perfect event to host this season, but aren’t sure of yoru next step. You have your date, space and guest list, now it’s time to select a theme. Theme related events add both focus and fun your party.

Here are some common themes to consider:

Natural as we, recommended a tasting party as a great option for holiday entertaining.  You can select wines appropriate to the season or opt to host a Christmas in (insert country, region, etc.) for example.

Limiting the selections to a specific grape variety, such Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, etc.) This is also called a varietal Tasting. A broad variation of this theme is to select all ‘Reds or Whites.’

Tasting and comparing the same wine from various vintages vertical tasting is conducted by tasting one wine varietal from the same producer from several vintages. For example, Selecting Cakebread Cellars, Pinot Noir of different vintages.

The Big Eight
the “Big Eight” refers to the world’s eight most popular and influential wine varieties on the market. This can be a good option if you want to get a 30,000ft view of what a varietal is like. However, we recommend, taking a list of the varietals to your local wine store and asking for assistance in making selections to ensure that you choose wines that are good representation of each varietal.

They are as follows:
Reds: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah/Shiraz
Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio

Price Range
Pretty straightforward. Comparing different wines within a set price range.  For example, Merlots under $30 or Cabs from $30-50. There is flexibility in this setup, but the goal is to establish a base and top price to ensure you are comparing “apples to apples”. This type of tasting often results in some surprising discoveries. Many good to excellent wines may be found in the ‘lower’ price ranges.

Country, State or Region of Origin
This option can be a lot of fun, and lends itself well to specific themes that can be expressed in accompanying food, décor and music.

New World/Old World
 Here you compare a grape varietal grown in the “Old World” (i.e. Europe –France, Italy, Spain, etc.) with the same varietal grown in the “New World” (i.e. North America, South America, New Zealand, Australia and so on).

One of the most gratifying themes, the “Dessert Wine” party combines the most decadent of deserts with their accompanying wines. This theme beckons the accompaniment of decadent even sinful sweets.

The above themes are simply suggestions; use your imagination to come up with your own unique ideas.


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Holiday Entertaining: A Tasting Party posted in: Entertaining Essentials, Entertainment, Events

Hosting a wine (or champagne, ’tis is the season) tasting is a fun way to throw a party, and is a great option for entertaining during the holidays. Spirited conversation, flirtatious sharing of foods and lots of laughter all happen when the libations are flowing in a relaxed atmosphere. Whether you and your friends consider yourselves to be novices or oenophiles, a tasting is an ideal way to get friends and family together to learn about wine, experiment with new or unusual varietals, and may even help friends decide on the wines that they would like to serve at their own upcoming holiday parties and feasts.

Sit, sip and let those secrets slip!

Here are our top tips to help you plan your own tasting event:

  1. 1.Who, what, when and where. Party planning 101, first settle on your date and time, guest list, and location.
  2. 2. Select the type of tasting. To begin your tasting party planning, first need to decide on the type of tasting you would like to host. There are several versions of wine tastings, from horizontal and vertical (both varietal tastings), wine and cheese (or chocolate!) pairings to, price point, to name a few.
  3. 3. Determine format.Wine tastings take on many forms, from informal social gatherings to formal, multi-course dinners. For a holiday event, we recommend keeping it low-key and social. Plan a simple tasting on a basic level for more of a low-key, social event. If your friends are wine enthusiasts, host a blind comparison for an entertaining and interesting challenge.

  4. 4. Choose wines.
    When selecting wines, keep in mind that tastes and preference are relative. Within reason, what is considered a “good wine” is one that you enjoy. Some people, however, may turn up their noses when tasting your favorite wine. And vice versa, you might profoundly dislike what the experts consider a ‘top-rated’ vino. Remember, a wine tasting party offers guests an opportunity to discover their own tastes preferences. Don’t be surprised if you find that one person’s prized Malbec may be another’s marinade.
  5. 5. Prepare a light menu. Cheese is commonly referred to as the perfect mate for wine. That being said, all cheeses (not unlike wine) are not created equal. Cheeses differ not only from selection to selection, but also from cheese-maker to cheese-maker, so although there are general pairing rules that one can follow, an aged cheddar from one producer may pair very differently to a younger cheddar from another producer.As a general rule, white, fresh cheeses partner well with a crisp wine, while rich, soft cheeses can be paired with a bolder white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc and some mild reds. Although some believe that the harder and darker the cheese, the heavier and richer the wine, this is not always necessarily true. If you’re unsure of which selections to choose, ask a rep at your local wine store for assistance on what pairings have been successful with the wines you select. Fresh fruits, gourmet nuts and even chocolates also make for great fare.

  6. 6. Design a tasting card
    .You’ll want to provide a tasting card for everyone to rate their personal experience with each wine selection. The card specifies the type of wine, producing vineyard, vintage and a brief description of the wine (unless you’re hosting a blind tasting). While there are many variations of cards, generally, there should be space to note each wine’s appearance (color/clarity), aroma (nose), taste and body, and a scale to give the wine an overall rating. You may also include a space for guests to record food pairing observations (such as flavors or characteristics brought out when tasted with a particular food).You can customize your own, or email us at, and we’ll be provide you with a free copy of our form  – there’s one item you can “check” off your party planning to do list!

  7. 7. Atmosphere
    . Keep it simple. Fill glasses vases and bowls with corks, and top with a small arrangement of fresh seasonal flowers (but nothing too aromatic*) to place on a side board. At the tasting table, prepare a place card for each guest. One idea would be to use a simple blank place card, and use a cork to create the card holder, or for a more festive flair, try these holly leaves and attach them to mistletoe at everyone setting. Using plates and utensils that coordinate with overall look is another great and understated way to give a nod to your theme. . Light background music will top off the ambiance.*Pro Tip: Avoid decorating with heavily scented candles or flowers so as not to interfere with the wine tasting experience, which relies heavily on a person’s senses.

Go ahead, tell us what you're thinking

8. The goods. To host a perfect tasting, here’s what you’ll need:
Four to Six Wines
Wine glasses
water glasses – always nice to have available
Pitcher of water – for rinsing glasses and palates between wines
Dump bucket – for discarding wine before next pouring
Small plates
Napkins – clever-tongued designs are always an entertaining hit!
Wine bags – if you opt for a blind tasting
Coffee beans – To ‘cleanse your palate’* (olfactory).
 Ramekins or small bowls for fresh coffee beans
Tasting cards
Place cards

  1. *Pro Tip: The reason you want to smell coffee beans in between tastings is because they help to “reset” your sense of smell. When taking in several aromatics it can become difficult to discern one scent from anotherSo, there you have it, you’re ready to get started. Not sure about the type of tasting you should choose, or feel a little nervous to lead a tasting – no worries, we’ve got you covered. There’s more to come this week – a guide to tasting and a closer look into the various type of tastings you can host.


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Wedding Inspiration Board – Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1 posted in: Weddings

The cult series, The Twilight Saga, and specifically the ongoing passionate love story between characters Isabella Swan and Edward Cullen in the recent release Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 1, was the muse for this inspiration board. This story of star-crossed lovers whom fate has destined to be together is played out in a dizzying and dangerous romance. Their love story is one of deep passion, determination and mystery.

I chose a color story of color story of crimson + smoky lavender + soft gold, to invoke passion, romance and success.

For this couple, not just any red will do. It had to be crimson – a color that symbolizes love, anger, danger, boldness, excitement, determination, desire, and courage. It is a sexy color.The deep hue draws me in like the deep passion shared between Edward and Bella.
The smoky lavender suggests refinement along with grace, elegance, and something extremely special (such as the connection between Edward and Bella). It invokes feelings of romance.
Gold symbolizes wealth and success, and is considered the highest prize. Edward and Bella are rich in their love for one another and in Daybreak, after overcoming much are finally now together.
The setting would be one for romance and classic elegance, but with a rustic charm. Think “the great indoors” (tall white-blossom trees lining the ceremony aisle, tall flowering branches draping to the reception tabletops, the entire setting washed in a warm glow of amber candlelight.

I hope you found this conept inspriring.


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Etiquette: Top Ten Tips for Successfully Surviving Black Friday with Aplomb posted in: Etiquette

The holiday shopping season officially kicks off this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Many people like the excitement of the big crowds and the thrill of the deal. If you are one of these people, then Black Friday can be a fun experience.  However, unfortunately in the competitive shopping frenzy, it’s easy for some people to get carried away.

You may encounter rude or outright obnoxious shoppers in the quest for savings. While most of us, will not behave in such a way, we can still unwittingly become part of the problem rather than part of the solution if we allow our emotions take over in the heat of a moment and momentarily lose sight of our good sense and etiquette.

Here are my top ten tips for successfully surviving the day. And should you encounter a shark in the water, keep your composure, don a smile, remember that you willingly chose to participate in Black Friday, and say to yourself “I never did mind about the little things”.

Soldier up!

1. Make a list and check it twice. Prepare a gift list, so that you know exactly what you are looking for. Write down the people you’re shopping for and what you want to find for them (it’s also good to have alternate gift ideas on your list)

2. Make a Plan. Review your shopping list and write down all the stores you wish to visit. Consider your gift priorities in relation to store locations and traffic patterns then plan your route. If you will be shopping in a city you are not familiar with, get directions in advance. Check stores hours of operation online, in your local paper or give them a call a few days in advance so you can firm up your schedule.
3. Have reasonable expectations. This is not the day to expect sales staff to dote on you—they will be slammed. Certainly ask for help if you need it, but keep your questions short and sweet. If there are items o your list that you expect to need more involved associate assistance , do your research before the big day, or come back another time. It would be wise to shop for the specific items that you need Also because the masses will be shopping on this day, stores may sell out of items. Be understanding, and do not demand miracles from employees.

4. Remember to use your inside voice. A volume of traffic doesn’t mean that we need to turn up the volume of our voices in turn. While whatever you are doing is very important to you, it is rude to force others to hear it. Talking on the cell phone loudly in line, or even talking loudly to a friend who is standing next to you, is a sure way to get the people around you thinking that you have no manners. Of course, it goes without saying that you should watch your language, and never yell at an employee if you are upset about something. Ask to speak to the manager in a firm, quiet voice if you have a complaint. You will get far better and quicker service, and the employees will appreciate your restraint.


5. Don’t cut in lines. It’s simply rude.

6. Wait Patiently. Anticipate lines, and quite possibly long ones. Eye rolling, sighing and exclaiming that cashier’s are moving at a snail’s pace will not make lines move faster (but can make those around you uncomfortable). Be sure to pack plenty of patience and allow extra time for likely lines. If along the way should become irritable, please don’t push yourself to suffer through the rest of the day. Feel good about what you did accomplish and allow yourself to enjoy lunch with a friend or simply go home.

7. “Holding spaces” is a No-No. Please do not stand in line for others or allow friends and families to cut in line at the last minute. Everyone should be kind, take their own place in line when ready to check-out and wait their turn.

8. Bring your “A Game”. This is not your average shopping day with friends. This is shopping bootcamp! Prepare yourself and gear up. Eat breakfast, stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes (give your stilettos the day off) and carry a small cross-body bag with your essentials (cash, credit cards, place to stash your receipts, keys, etc.). Have purchases and cash or credit card ready when you reach the register, and remember to ask the cashier for a gift receipt.

9. Shop need, not greed. There are other people who are trying to afford Christmas for their families too, take only your fair share.

10. Be considerate. It’s going to be a day of large crowds, but try to be mindful not to stand right upon others, step on toes (literally or metaphorically speaking) or move in reverse without looking back first. Pushing and shoving is not appropriate and not worth saving$10. Also, it’s a long day for store employees, an extra effort to give a warm smile along with a “please” and “thank you” may mean more than you know.

I for one do not have the patience for such an event, so I’ll leave this one to the pros. May you brave soldier shoppers enjoy a fabulous day and score some serious deals!

I sincerely wish everyone a safe, peaceful, love-filled Happy Thanksgiving!


Photo credit: Soldier girls courtesy of Martijn Mulder

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Hot Hairstyles for 2012 posted in: Events, Fashion, Trends, Weddings

You’ve found the perfect gown for your big day or upcoming holiday fetes, now it’s time to pair it with your perfect hairstyle. Here are the hottest hairstyle trends that will be gracing both red and white carpets in 2012:

Braids. A look that has become very popular. Braids can be worn in a variety of ways that can easily become elegant for you’re a special event or even for your wedding day. Wear one braid to the side that falls over your shoulder, add one small, single accent or accessory, or go for the dramatic with a multiple-braid style.

Parade of Braids


 All Tied Up. This everyday style can be trés chic when done right. For a modern look try a sleek wrapped chignon or a glammed up pony with a knot or loop accent. Opt for a long, loose style with floral hair accessories to keep the look fresh and held together, if your vibe is more on the Bohemian side.

Chic Chignons

Long Locks. If you have healthy beautiful hair, consider showing it off. All-down and half-up hairstyles are back in a big way. Think loose, glamorous waves. If you have high cheek bones, consider showing them off by wearing your tresses half up.

Lady Lovely Locks


Glam Updos. Think thick ballerina buns (worn high on the head), large, French twists, or go with finger waves or pin curls for a retro vibe. Accent your look with the appropriate flowers or sparkle to personalize the style. Again if you’re going for a period or vintage look, opt for a chic small hat for an unexpected twist.

"Up"town Style

Accessorize. Hair accessories are very big this wedding season and can be incorporated into your wedding hairstyle in the form of flowers, hats, tiaras, vintage combs, bejeweled clips, and my personal fave—the fascinator.

Posh Pretties


Tips & Tricks. Among the best out there, Joe Whittaker, owner of Platinum Salon in Beckley and one of my favorite stylists, offers these tips for selecting your perfect wedding day hairstyle:

· “When it comes to trends, choose a style that is still authentic you. Don’t be too trendy or you’ll look back at the pictures and say, ‘What was I thinking?’ Try to keep it natural to show off how gorgeous you and your hair can be!”

· “Stay true to yourself—don’t let anyone else choose for you unless you totally trust them. It’s your day! Try the veil or accessory in multiple places and look at pictures of yourself at past events to see what hairstyles have worked best.”

· “Don’t go too stiff or stuffy, but make sure your look stays fresh and fab by packing extra bobby pins, some light hairspray, and a curling iron. And make sure your ‘maids stay on the lookout for any imperfections!”

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