Sips and Sweets: Garden Party!

We hosted a lovely garden party–Springtime Sips and Sweets–at Sarah’s house in Old Town, Alexandria to celebrate springtime with our girlfriends.

Here is the invitation we created using paperless post.  We loved that it looked letterpressed and highly recommend using Paperless Post for invitations; they have the cutest designs!

Sneak Peek of Our First Event!

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Colleen and Sarah Happy to Host!

 

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Garden Party Spread

The Decor

We enlisted our party planning consultant, Pinterest, to begin collecting ideas for our party. (Side note, are you following us on Pinterest?  Click here!).  We knew we wanted to incorporate a wine theme with the obvious garden theme, and found this adorable inspiration: tulips in wine glasses!  See below for our inspiration and result.  We cut the tulips down to a shorter length than we bought them, and used pipe cleaners to hold the tulips together.  Any twine or string would have worked well.

Pinspiration: Tulips in Wine Glasses!

Result: Tulips in Wine Glasses!

Result: Tulips in Wine Glasses!

We also loved the idea of using corks as place card holders:

Pinspiration: Corks as place cards/food descriptions

Result: Cork Card Holders!

We used corks we had been collecting from previous sipping nights and cut small slits into them with a sharp knife.  We bought inexpensive place cards at Michael’s craft store and voila!

Tip: We found synthetic corks and champagne corks were most durable!

Wine Cork Game

Another fun idea we found on Pinterest was a wine-inspired game.  We wanted a good way for our guests to interact.  We had our guests guess how many wine corks were in a vase.  The winner won a wine bottle topper.

After dessert, we announced the winner of the cork game. Ellen won with a lucky guess of 35! There were 36 corks and we gained even more after the party we can use for future games and decor!

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Sips, Savories, and Sweets Pairings

On to the “good stuff,” literally.  We decided to choose a white wine, Sauvignon Blanc, and a red wine, Merlot, to pair with cheese and desserts, and a sparkling wine to pair with dessert only.  To be honest, we googled around a bit to come up with our selections, choosing wines that pair well with a nice variety of items to please everyone.  Sarah went to Trader Joe’s knowing the types of wines she was looking for, but relied on the descriptions of the wines to guide her selection.

THE SIPS

The Sauvignon Blanc: Bogle, vibrant, lively, exotic flavors (yum!)

The Merlot: Red Diamond, like a diamond, it “goes with everything.”

The Sparkling: Michelle Brut, not too sweet or dry!

THE SAVORIES: Cheese!

We purchased the cheese at Trader Joes as well.

Tip: Trader Joes has incredibly priced, high quality cheeses.  In some cases, the same size package was almost half as expensive as in a regular grocery store!

Smoked Gouda paired well with the Merlot.

Parmesan- Gouda was the crowd favorite and was delicious with the crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Brie was the second favorite.  The creamy and slightly sweet brie paired with the dry Sauvignon Blanc.

Goat Cheese paired well with the Sauvignon Blanc.

Mild Cheddar went great with the Merlot.

 

Cheese platter with pairing on the back of the name card

THE SWEETS:

Strawberries with Merlot Drizzle paired with Merlot or Brut

& DIY Dirt Cake paired with Brut

Ingredients for Strawberry Merlot Drizzle adapted from Yummly.

  • 1/2 cup merlot
  • 2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsps honey
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups strawberries (sliced)

Homemade Whipped Cream

* heavy whipping cream: whip cream with mixer and add a dash of vanilla and sugar until   smooth and creamy. Be careful to not over-whip!         

Instructions:

  1. Bring merlot, lemon juice, and honey to a boil in a sauce pan over high heat.
  2. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Drizzle over sliced berries.
  3. Top with whipped cream

 

 

Strawberries with Merlot Drizzle and Whipped Cream. YUM!

Strawberries with Merlot Drizzle and Whipped Cream. YUM!

DIY Dirt Cake adapted from Lorie’s Mississippi Kitchen.

We traveled back to our childhood when brainstorming garden themed dessert ideas like Dirt Cake! We have to credit Lindsay Christians’ friend with the wine pairing for this dessert, which we found here.  Apparently a dry sparkling wine pairs perfectly with crunchy cookies and creamy filling, and we completely agree.

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups whole milk

2 small packages instant French vanilla pudding

1 stick butter, softened to room temperature

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 (16-ounce) container non-dairy whipped topping

2 packages chocolate sandwich cookies

Assorted gummy worms

Instructions: 

Whisk the milk and pudding together in a large bowl until smooth.  Let stand five minutes.  In another large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together with a hand mixer on medium speed until fluffy.  Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.  Add the pudding and beat until smooth.  Fold in the non-dairy whipped topping.

Crush 1 package of cookies so that there are some fine crumbs, but also some larger pieces.  There needs to be a variety. Crushing cookies is a great stress reliever!

Assemble:

We set up a DIY Station for our girlfriends to make their own dessert. We provided bowls of Oreos, Gluten-free Oreos, Pudding Mixture, and Gummy Worms. Our guests  layered the pudding and oreos to their liking in small garden pots, purchased at Michaels, then topped with gummy worms! Delicious and adorable 🙂

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DIY Dirt Cake! Brings us back to childhood!

 

Dirt Cake in Mini Flower Pot! We send some springtime cookies home with our guests too!

Dirt Cake in Mini Flower Pot!
We sent some springtime cookies home with our guests too!

 

We had a great time planning our first party and catching up with our girlfriends. We can’t wait to host again!

Happy Sipping and Sweet Making!!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

 

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Lovely ladies in Sarah’s Garden!

Around the World in 80 Sips Recap

We attended the Bottlenotes “Around the World in 80 Sips” event on March 21 at the gorgeous National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC with a great group of girlfriends.  Before we sipped, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Chef Geoff’s and somehow managed to skip dessert!  We didn’t forget to take advantage of this perfect photo opp with a glass of wine and the top of the Chef Geoff’s dessert menu.

Photo Credit to Marci!

Photo Credit to Marci!

The event was quite popping when we got there–almost a little too overcrowded!  However, we managed to snag a cocktail table to claim as our home base while we each sampled different wines at stations set up by various wineries.

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Crowded! But how great is that?

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The girls at the gorgeous National Museum of Women in the Arts

We used the Bottlenotes Mobile iPhone app  so we could rate and share our impressions of each pour in real-time. Sarah was our Bottlenotes 80 Sips recorder. While we didn’t discuss our love of wine all night, here are some notes on the wines we did try!

Note from Colleen: “Yum! Smooth, taste cherry, and light in body”
Caroline: “Light but not crisp-very smooth and not heavy. You can taste the tannis.
Ellen: “Perfect wine with a steak dinner-fresh on the palatte!”
 

Tenuta di Ghizzano Sangiovese-2001 (SL-94231)

Note from Sarah: Too much strawberry

Château Lamy AOC Corbières -2012(SCH-139232)

Colleen:  ” I taste blackberries. Nice and smooth. Medium to full in body. I could drink this anytime!”
 
Sarah: “Smokey chocolate, yum!! Like a shiraz”
 Marci: “Good for mulled wine-smooth.”
 Sarah: “Taste strong alcohol.”
 
Ellen: “Crisp and very sweet, oaky in a good way: light crispy oak”
 

Los Hermanos Vineyards Chardonnay -N.V.(WS-001)

Marci: ” It’s on the sweeter side, not as dry as I’d like it to be.”
 

Anna de Codorníu Brut Rosé -N.V.(BOS-2000)

Sarah: “Lot’s of bubbles! Can’t taste it because of the bubbles!”

The Bottom Line: We loved our first Bottlenotes event and plan to attend many more!

To check out upcoming Bottlenotes events, visit the events page at http://www.BottleNotes.com!

Happy Sipping!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

Sips: Grand Cru Wine Bar & Bistro, Arlington, VA

We both invited a close girlfriend to share in a fun girls night out at a local wine bar. Four seems to be the perfect number for a group wine tasting in an intimate setting. Often wine bars are on the smaller side, making it difficult to accommodate larger groups. It is also nice to be able to catch up with everyone equally and not have many side conversations with friends.

We selected Grand Cru Wine Bar & Bistro.  It is tucked away in a small courtyard in Ballston, a neighborhood in Arlington, VA. The wine bar was cute and inviting- perfect for a girls night or even date night!  One unique aspect of Grand Cru is that it is a wine store and a wine bar combined, so, as our waiter said, the wine list is “all around us!”  In addition to ordering a glass or a wine flight, you can select a bottle from the shelf and pay a small corking fee to drink it there in the bistro area.

Pre-Sipping

We discussed what kind of wines we prefer. Caroline brought up a good point when selecting a wine when out wining and dining. She told us she tends to look for the region of where the grape was produced. Caroline’s go-to is usually an Argentinian Malbec, but if a Malbec isn’t available she will choose another wine from Argentina. Makes sense!

We wanted to have a fun activity during girls night out, so Colleen printed out ‘A Sweet Tasting Shortcut For The Savvy Girl’ guide for the girls to use as a reference when tasting.

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What We Sipped: 

Sarah and Caroline sipped on “The Primavera” flight.

Elena Walch, Pinot Grigio,  Italy $15/bottle

The Elena Walch Pinot Grigio was fruity and light.  Strong notes of stone fruits–peaches–and some vanilla and oak flavors and smells as well.

Conti Speroni, Barbaresco, Piedmont Italy, $15/bottle

This was Caroline and Sarah’s favorite of the three.  The Conti Speroni Barbaresco was a light red wine.  Caroline and Sarah tasted plums, grass, and leather, and could easily taste the tannins.  The texture was smooth and tannic, and much lighter than we thought it would be.  We felt this was a great option for the wine drinker who doesn’t prefer white wines but wants something light in warmer weather.

Cataldi Madonna, Montelpucciano d’Abruzzo, Italy, $17/bottle

Sarah’s favorite wine while studying abroad in Italy was Montelpucciano, and the Cataldi Madonna didn’t disappoint.  It has red berry and vanilla flavors, and was just a bit sweeter than the Barbaresco.

Colleen and Christine sipped on “The World of Reds” flight.

Honestly, both Colleen and Christine found it a bit difficult to figure out what all the third selections smelled like.  We both laughed and said, “Smells like grapes!”

2008 Lomalta Crianza

The Lomalta Crianza wine was creamy and balanced. Flavors included blackberries, plum with hints of oak.

Noble Hill 1674 South Africa 2008- Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot – Petit Verdot

The wine was dry and very full in body. We tasted blackberries with hints of oak and toast.

Troublemaker California 2010 Syrah Blend

   The third selection was the favorite in this flight. The wine was smooth and medium in body. We tasted blackberries, oak, and vanilla. Colleen is a fan of Syrah and would have gladly poured a full glass.

Tips

  • Keep your group on the smaller side.
  • Check if there are any happy hour specials. We missed HH, but there were specials!
  • Check if your local wine bar takes reservations. Grand Cru gets bonus points for being able to making online reservations via their website.
  • If possible, try to have the group try different wines.  We found it worked to have two girls try the same and the other two girls try the same so there was someone to compare thoughts with!
  • Have fun!!!! Don’t take it to seriously when comparing different wines! Everyone has a unique taste.

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Happy Sipping!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

Bottlenotes: The Daily Sip and ‘Around the World in 80 Sips’

Bottlenotes is an online community for wine lovers to share tips, stories, and even buy wine! The vino enthusiast site was founded by entrepreneurs Alyssa Rapp and Kim Donaldson.  We can’t believe we are just hearing about this site and we are excited to use Bottlesnotes as an educating tool!

Sign up for the Daily Sip– We have both signed up for the The Daily Sip, a free e-newsletter that lets you know what’s new in the wine world. Each day we will receive an email about a cool new wine, a helpful gadget, an enlightening book or an interesting interview with a key figure in the wine industry.  It’s a great way for us to learn more about wine. You should sign up, too!

Around the World in 80 SipsThe Sips&Sweets girls are also excited to attend a Bottlenotes event!

‘Around the World in 80 Sips’ 

When: March 21

Where: The National Museum of Women In The Arts In Washington, DC.

We found a great deal on Gilt City for $37. We’ll be tasting 80 of the finest wines, from Greece to South Africa and New Zealand.  While 80 seems like a lot, we think we can handle the challenge!  Bottlenotes even created a Mobile iPhone app  so we can rate and share our impressions of each pour in real time—and see what everyone else is drinking.  How fun is that?! We can’t wait to share our impressions at girls night out next month!

Happy Sipping!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

 

Blind Wine Tasting: Learn to Sip

ImageWe booked a Living Social deal for a blind wine tasting class at the fabulous 918 F Street space in downtown DC, and had a great time learning a few tidbits about what to look for in a good, affordable bottle of wine.  Special thanks to the Food and Wine Diva, Summer Whitford who led the class and shared the sipping tips.

The Summary: Colleen started early with a pre-class drink of Pinot Noir. Pre-class drink is always necessary acceptable in this case. We learned how to open a bottle of sparkling wine, tasted several wines, and learned some useful tips on drinking and tasting the flavors of a wine.
The Tips:
  • Champagne is a specific grape that comes from the Champagne region in France.  All sparkling wine is not Champagne!
  • Opening a bottle of sparkling wine with a cork flying and a loud POP is not the “right” way (We beg to differ, as this is the most festive/fun part)
  • Smaller bubbles=less likely to have a hangover and the flavor is better!
To Open Sparkling Wine:
Remove foil and wire cage.  Tilt the bottle at a 45° angle, obviously facing away from you and your guests.  Hold the cork firmly and twist the bottle. If you aren’t coordinated (Colleen usually hands the bottle off for someone to open), you can set the bottle down on a flat surface. You will have opened the bottle correctly if there is barely any noise.
  • Temperature matters when serving wine.  We tasted the same wine at two different temperatures, and each tasted like a completely different wine.  Wine that is too cold will not have as much flavor as wine that is the correct temperature.
  • Flavors you smell and taste in wine (grapefruit, florals, earthy, tannins, Band Aids?? (yes, someone said they smelled Band Aids! EW!) vary by person.  We learned that just because you may taste a certain flavor,  doesn’t mean the person next to you will taste the same flavor.  One could taste blackberries, while another could taste a more earthy flavor.
  • What are tannins?! Tannins refer to the textural elements typically found in red wines.  Summer described it as the component which dries the mouth out.  She compared it to “cotton mouth.”tasting
The best part: All the wines we tasted and Summer suggested were under $30 a bottle! You don’t have to break the bank for a fine bottle of wine.  View the list of wines from our blind wine tasting here:

Happy Sipping!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah