Category Archives: Party Ideas

How To Throw A Blind Wine Tasting Party – New And Improved!

A few years back we published a step-by-step instructional on how to throw a blind wine tasting party that featured a selection of red wines. It’s been such a hit – year after year it’s our most popular blog post – we’ve decided to reprise the original with the addition of a few new themes for your tasting pleasure.

The wines in each of our new tastings are related, though distinct enough to allow you to differentiate them from one another. By tasting similar wines side-by-side, you can really learn how to focus your impressions and perfect your tasting chops. By tasting them blind, you’ll lose any preconceptions you have about particular labels and styles, and really allow yourself to understand what you like.

You can use our guided tastings, or you can just select a few bottles that you like, and use our free, downloadable WINE SCORECARD and WINE TAGS to create your own tasting.

1. To get started, pick one of the tasting themes below, make your way to Bottles, and have one of our team members help you select the wines to match the theme and your wallet.

2. Have at least 1 wine glass for each guest, with a bottle of water and dump bucket nearby so they can rise out between tastings and easily dispose of tastes they’re really not into.

3. It’s also a really good idea to have light snacks on hand. Not only will a few bites keep your pals from getting too tipsy, they’ll also provide the opportunity to taste the wines with various flavors. Cheese is the natural wine pairing partner – and it’s easy to find a good selection at most all grocery stores these days. Look for a wide variety of cheeses, such as a mix of something soft (brie), something spreadable (fresh chevre), something aged and hard (aged gouda), sharp cheese (aged cheddar) and a blue (gorgonzola).

4. Put each wine in a brown paper bag (ask for them at Bottles!), and afix our numbered WINE TAGS to identify each bottle.

5. Use our printable WINE SCORECARD so that guests can record their thoughts on each bottle. Be sure to have a few pens/pencils on hand. Share with your guests the theme of each tasting so that they have a general sense of what they’re looking for.

6. Once you and your guests have tasted each wine, take turns guessing what each bottle is before you do the big reveal.

7. Once you’ve unmasked each wine, feel free to use our guide and general descriptions to see if your guests’ impressions are in sync. BUT: It’s incredibly important to note that this is not a graded test! If what you taste doesn’t match what we’ve written – that’s ok! What’s most important is that you and your guests explore different wine styles and enjoy each other’s company.



 

A Rosé Tasting!

This is a great, fun tasting to have with friends at a summer barbecue. Just open a handful of delicious rosés and see if folks can guess which is which! Here’s a hint: with rosés, look for color as a good indicator of weight. Typically the darker the color, the heavier/more bold the wine.

Wines to Purchase
1. A light rosé from the Cotes de Provence – It’s the birthplace of rosé, and experiencing Provence is essential to getting to know good rosé. Made from a blend of grapes, Provencal rosés can range wildly in terms of style and quality, but a good mid-teen priced example should do just fine. Provence is in the South of France, and these wines will be light, dry, lean and minerally.

2. A heavier rosé from Tavel or Bandol – Now Bandol is actually sub-region within Provence, so this may seem silly to be listed in here, however the folks here make a very distinct style of rosé.  Bandol rosés tend to be fuller and more bold. They are, however, somewhat pricey. An alternative that will still deliver the heavier body would be a wine from Tavel. Both Bandol and Tavel tend to be darker in color.

3. Rosé of Pinot Noir – These can be really fun, as they tend to be light and easy drinking. They can be pricey as most pinot noir is, but in a blind tasting they can often act as a curveball.  Look for some out of Oregon or California.

4. A rosé from the Loire Valley – These delicious wines are made from cabernet franc which creates a unique rosé that should stand out from most other styles.  Look for a touch of weight with less acid than the others.

5. Your favorite – Select your ‘go to’ rosé that you already love and see if you can pick it out from the field, and see if you still love it more than the others!

 

White Wine!

Have fun with this tasting, where you and your guests will try to tell one classic white wine from another.

Wines to purchase
1. Chardonnay – This classic white can have many different faces. For this tasting, you’ll want to select one that has been oak-aged. Tasting Tip: You’ll find round, buttery flavors in this wine, all due to the oak-aging.

2. Pinot Grigio – This one may give you the most trouble to nail down. It’s a bit of a chameleon, and can have lots of the characteristics of other whites, but you should be able to place it, given its light body and restrained fruit flavors.

3. Sauvignon Blanc – These tend to have higher acid levels than most, and you will know this because they will make the back sides of your mouth water after your first taste.  New Zealand examples tend to have very pronounced grapefruit-like flavors so may be another give away.

4. Chenin Blanc – There are many grapes you could pick for this fifth spot, but we like to use chenin blanc, the main grape in like Vouvray in France or Steen in South Africa (or just “Chenin Blanc” in the USA). Its floral aromas and light body are delicious — this is a curveball bottle, for sure!

5. Riesling – Look for one with a medium sweetness level so as to further differentiate this wine from the others. You’ll likely find floral notes and ripe fruit flavors like peach or lychee.  

 

Old World vs New World – A Red Wine Tasting

This is a classic blind tasting that can really sharpen your skills. The idea here is to take two wines made from the same grapes, though from different regions of the world, and taste them blind, side by side, and to guess which was made where.

Here are a few clues:

Old World Wines are typically from countries that have been making wine for millennia, and adhere to strict wine-making rules (Italy, France, Spain). The wines are usually drier, earthier, with balanced fruit, acidity and tannins. Old World wines dazzle you with elegance and finesse.

New World Wines are generally from countries that discovered wine making during a more recent century and are not typically bound to traditional wine-making methods (USA, New Zealand). They tend to be bigger-bodied, and have much bolder fruit flavors. New World wines blow you away with their power.

Wines to purchase:
1. Pinot Noir from the Old World. We suggest a relatively youthful ‘Bourgogne’ style from Burgundy, France. The trick here will be price point, as Burgundy can get expensive, but you should be able to find a good bottle for around $20 – Bottles is a great place to look! Tasting Tip: In the Old World pinot, you’ll find more earthy, leathery and restrained notes.

2. Pinot Noir from the New World, either California or Oregon would be great picks, as long as the wine is made from 100% pinot noir grapes. Tasting Tip: In the New World expression, you’ll find brighter, fruiter notes.

3. Old World Red Blend. The classic to look for here would be a Bordeaux blend, ideally one from the Left Bank, which will tend to be more Cabernet Sauvignon based.  All Bordeaux wines are blends, and each sub-region has its own style, but for your tasting here that shouldn’t make a difference. Tasting Tip: This wine will be more fuller bodied than the pinot noirs, with lean fruit flavors, balanced by fresh tobacco and earthy notes.

4. New World Red Blend – California has a tremendous amount of red blends, but Australia and South Africa will have lots as well. Try to find one that has a good amount of cabernet sauvignon if you can. Tasting Tip: This wine will have more pronounced fruit flavors than the Old World red blend.

5. Old World Nebbiolo-based wine. This is a fun curveball, as it has flavor profiles similar to both Old World and New World styles. You’ll find fruit notes, as well as earthy, floral aromas.

We hope you have fun with your party – tag us with your photos!

Cheers & Enjoy!

Rosé Popsicles!

It’s mid-August and summer is nearly over (don’t shoot the messenger). We might be sick of tomato sandwiches, sick of already seeing Halloween decorations and sick of seeing school supplies (why does that still make me anxious when I’m not even a student or a teacher?!) One thing that we are definitely not sick of, however, is rosè. It’s been the star of the summer and for these last couple weeks of sweltering August heat, we recommend serving it up all icy and on a stick, or in a good ‘ole push-up bag.

Below is a recipe for our rosè popsicles. Since the batch we make yields a large amount, we should tell you to serve them at your next BBQ or picnic, but there is no reason you couldn’t scale this down and whip up a batch to keep in your freezer for any night of the week. You deserve it.

PS. Any leftover unfrozen rosè juice makes a delicious drink to sip over ice!

Alex’s Famous Rosè Popsicles

Ingredients

One 750ml bottle rosè of your choice (we recommend something dry but with a good boost of fruitiness. Ask a Bottles team member and they’ll steer you in the right direction.)

One 750ml bottle sparkling water

8 oz. simple syrup

16 oz. fruit juice (we recommend watermelon, berry or grapefruit. Take a sip of your rosè and see what flavors you think would match best.)

Tools

Mold of choice (we’ve used things from loaf pans to muffin tins to plastic cups to inexpensive plastic bags easily found on Amazon.)

Popsicle sticks, if using

Instructions

Combine all ingredients and stir vigorously. Pour your concoction into your desired molds, freeze for at least12 hours (it’ll be worth it). If you’re using the push-up bags, be sure to leave an inch or more at the top, as the popsicle will expand as it freezes.

Serve ’em up and enjoy those last licks of summer.

xoxo Alex

How to Spike Store Bought Eggnog

If it isn’t the most asked question at Bottles this time of year, it’s the second for sure: “How do I spike the carton of eggnog that I just bought at Eastside Marketplace?” Here’s where we come down on the matter:

What To Use to Spike:
Brandy is the most traditional, but we love a mixture of dark rum and Cognac. Some folks will add to that duo a third spirit: bourbon. We find that the trio is a bit too boozy – the ‘nog gets lost. But if you like that sort of thing, go for it.

Because you’re using the spirit as a mixer, there’s no need to break out the most expensive bottles on your bar (unless of course you want to – it is the holidays after all). Dark rums we like include The Real McCoy 5 Year, Privateer Amber, and Ed Hamilton 86 Proof. Great Cognacs that would work well, and won’t break the bank are: Pierre Ferrand Ambre, Germain-Robin Craft Method and the Marie Duffau Napoleon (an Armagnac). 

How to Spike:
We recommend a ratio of 1 part spirit to 5 parts prepared eggnog. Which means if you buy a one-quart container of ‘nog, use 6.5oz of spirit, total. We top each glass with a grating of orange peel, which adds a vibrancy to all of that creamy richness, as well as a short dash of freshly grated or powdered nutmeg.

Enjoy your eggnog – and Happy Holidays!

###

 

Bottles’ Hot Spiked Cider

Cider Drinking. It’s a rite of passage for us New Englanders. It pairs well with football watching, apple picking, pumpkin carving and post leaf-raking relaxing. Bottles’ go-to version is a grown-up affair, made strong with a slightly-boozy cider and a few drops of allspice dram*. Fill a thermos of the warm concoction before heading to the game, or let it simmer in a crockpot when your house is full of friends.

We’ll be making a great big batch of it in-store on Saturday, October 15th for you to enjoy, alongside crazy good cider donuts from Greenville RI’s Appleland Orchard. We hope you can make it in, between 1-3pm, for a Bottles’ taste of fall!

*Allspice dram is a slightly bitter, strongly spiced rum-based liqueur. It’s infused with the allspice berry, which lends the spirit warm, winter-spice nutmeg-y/cinnamon-y flavors. St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram is a Bottles’ best seller.

cider_blog_1013

Bottles’ Hot Spiked Cider
Yields ~ 4 cups

1 btl (22 oz.) Doc’s Original Apple Cider
1/4 cup (2 oz.) St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1 cup (8 oz.) apple cider (non-alcoholic)
1/2 cup (4 oz.) water
1 diced apple
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
Have fun with these ingredients, and adjust to taste. You could add maple syrup or brown sugar for sweetness, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom for pumped-up spice, or more dram for a more bitter-herbal flavor.

Stovetop method:
Simmer the chopped apple in allspice dram until the dram begins to reduce and thicken. Add Doc’s (or another hard cider of your choice), non-alcoholic cider, cinnamon stick, and water. Turn heat to high, stirring often, until liquid is just about to boil. Set to a simmer and cook uncovered for at least 15 minutes. The longer it simmers, the richer the flavor!

Crockpot method:
All of the ingredients can go in at once with your crockpot set to low for 3 hours or high for 1.5 hours.

###

The Caprese Cocktail

Listen, we were skeptical at first, too. Really skeptical.

caprese_web (1)

But then we remembered how much we love James Beard’s Drunken Cherry Tomatoes*, and just how much basil is in the garden already this season.

And that we can’t really resist cheese. Really fresh, really good mozzarella cheese.

And then we tried it. And loved it. And drank pitchers full of it on Father’s Day with la familia.

Don’t think we have to say much more.

Oh, except that our Square One Basil Vodka – ideal for this drink – is on sale through July 4th. And that you may want to double or triple up on the garnish. We did.

Cent’ anni!

The Caprese Cocktail

2oz Square One Basil Vodka
1/2oz tomato juice
1/2oz lime juice
1/2oz lemon juice
3/4oz agave nectar or simple syrup
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Garnish: fresh, sweet cherry tomato, small mozzarella ball, salt & basil leaf

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve with a “Caprese Pick” or two: dredge the tomato and mozzarella ball in coarse salt. Skewer with basil leaf, and serve.

*aka an Adult Crudite: spear a fresh sweet cherry tomato, dip it in good vodka, run it through coarse salt and pop it in your mouth. Also serve it, as Mr. Beard reportedly did, with gin, and perhaps small bowls of other seasonings, such as cumin or hot pepper, ground or flaked.

###

A Simple Michelada

Times are crazy. Keep things simple. Learn how to make a no-frills Michelada tonight. Thank yourself all summer.

michelada3A Simple Michelada:

Rim a tall glass with lime juice and salt.
(A pint  glass is traditional, and you can do this by running a lime wedge along the lip of the glass and dipping into a plate of coarse salt.)

Add a handful of ice cubes to the glass along with 3oz or so of tomato juice, and fill the glass with an ice-cold Mexican-style lager.
This year we’re using 21st Amendment’s “El Sully.”

Squeeze a fresh lime into the lager, and, if you like a touch of heat, splash with a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce. Sit back and enjoy.

###

So, You’re Having A Seder

A Wine Buying Guide

Don’t let your guests’ wine glasses run dry. Follow our handy guide to ensure you have enough for the 4 cups of wine for each of your Seder guests.

Our math is based on each Seder participant having 4 cups of wine, each containing 3.3oz.

Bottles is stocked with a huge selection of delicious wine from all over the world that just happens to be Kosher for Passover. Call or visit the store to let us help you select the best for your Seder table.

Don’t forget: we offer generous case discounts, 5% back on every purchase, and statewide delivery!

A special thanks to Rabbi Barry Dolinger of Providence, RI’s Congregation Beth Sholom, who double checked our information to ensure that it’s all …well… kosher. Thank you Rabbi Barry!

Happy Passover from your friends at Bottles.

###

Three Whites & a Rosé for Easter

Springtime celebrations, Easter being among the first this year, call for sprightly wines that revive our taste buds after a winter of more weighty flavors. In spring, we look for zing and zest, bright fruit and floral aromas to match the young season’s flavors of lamb, fresh greens, ham and fish.

Here are the three white wines, and one of the many rosés we have in store, that are perfect for your Easter and spring celebration tables.

drpaulyDr. Pauly Bergweiler, Dry Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Proof positive that not all rieslings are sweet. Gobs of ripe peach flavors with an unbelievable amount of zingy freshness will make your taste buds sing with glee! The good Dr. pairs really well with ham, lamb and spring-y vegetable side dishes.

joseJosé Pariente, Verdejo, Rueda, Spain
Perhaps the best white wine to come into the store in a long time.  Ethereal and sublime, this falls under a “sensation” rather than a wine.  A slam dunk with ham or anything else that marries salty and sweet.

firesteedFiresteed, Pinot Gris, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Fun and light but expressively zesty with flavors of ripe lemon/lime and fresh melon. Mouthwatering and enticing, this will be right at home with any spring dish, especially first-of-the-season asparagus, ramps & fiddleheads.

rosatoTintero Rosato, Red Blend, Langhe, Italy
A wine that is as fleeting and beautiful as spring flowers.  Bright, tart and lively with zippy acidity & a peek-a-boo raspberry flavor that weaves in and out of a mouth-watering, fresh citrus zing. If that isn’t enough to convince you, it’s also Frizzante — just a touch fizzy! A great picnic wine, and a terrific way to kick off Easter dinner!

Next week we’ll share our picks for the top reds to go with ham, lamb and the glorious springtime weather.

###

Drink Your Chocolate

Skip the chewable chocolate this Valentine’s Day and give your sweetie the sippable sort. We’re crushing on a few bottles made with real chocolate and genuine skill, those that are good enough to be enjoyed year-round.

Meletti Cioccolato
Thick, dark, creamy, this Italian liqueur is pure pourable decadence. It’s made in Italy with milk and Dutch chocolate, sugar and alcohol, and is intensely rich and smooth with a balanced sweetness. We’re crazy for the Cioccolato any way it’s served: cold & neat (think adult pudding pop), warmed, over ice cream, or as a mixer in any number of cocktails.
vday_meletti

 

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
This full-flavored dark beer made with chocolate malt and real chocolate is luxurious without being overtly sweet. It’s certainly a satisfying treat on its own, but for something special, consider combining it in a frosty mug with vanilla ice cream and bourbon for the ultimate grown-up float.
vday_stout

 

Nickle Creek Decadence
A Rhody original, from Foster! This beautiful bottle, reminiscent of Port, has warm flavors of cherry and plum that make way for a dark, bittersweet chocolate finish. It’s a delicious way to end a romantic dinner.
vday_decadence

Cheers and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Super Bowl Party Pairings

So your team hasn’t made it to the big game. So what. We can think of at least one reason why this could be a good thing: You now have more time to pay attention to the food on the table and the drink on the bar than the action on the field. And sure, yes, ok, your standard suds will be just fine with traditional game day fare. But put in a touch of extra effort, people – it’ll make game day that much more delicious.

Here are the brews we’ll be drinking when watching the two teams vie for their big fancy rings.

superbowl_snack_sausage

Smokey Sausages with Doppelbocks. The German beer’s big, strong and dark maltiness is a natural fit with the smoky meaty flavor of cocktail sausages & pigs in a blanket. We’re reaching for the  Weihenstephan Korbinian Doppelbock for its figgy, nutty roastiness.

superbowl_snacks_chili

Bowls of Chili with Big IPAs. A classic marriage of a hot-spicy chili with the hop-spicy IPA. We’re going for the sticky, hoppy, bold Lord Hobo Boom Sauce IPA.

superbowl_snacks_wings

Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese Sauce with German Pilsners. The crisp, floral and refreshing German pils will balance out the wings’ addictive cheesy, spicy goodness. And the classic Bitburger Pilsner fits the bill for us every time.

superbowl_snacks_dip

Potato Chips & Onion Dip with Saisons. Nothing’s easier than ripping open a bag of chips and dipping them into a can of good old creamy, herbal onion dip. Nothing, that is, except cracking opening a bottle of a saison, whose herbal and spicy notes will balance that creamy dip. Allagash Saison, anyone?

Enjoy the game and may the best team win!