Todays engagement parties are more a reflection of the times and people of this age, and not the “stuffy” and “proper” attitudes of the past. Gone for the most part are the days of gowns, formal attire, or even the suit and tie. It used to be that the engaged couple would not engage in any type of alcohol unlike those in attendance.
Today, with the vast amount of wineries, and event centers in them, you can actually find Engagement Parties, Rehearsal Dinners and even the wedding itself being held at one of the local vineyards. Another positive result of a growing awareness of wines to the younger generation, is the plain fact that they are showing up in droves to wine functions, and including great wines at social functions, along with designer brews, instead of hard drinks.
But back to the subject of the engagement party, and serving wine. Now it’s a fact that engagement parties are becoming more fun, and yet can still be either formal or informal. For the formal, full dinner whether you decide to have it at home, a rented hall or a restaurant, you have a choice in the wine served. At a restaurant, you may negotiate with the owners on wines that they have on hand. If you hold the affair at a rented hall or at a home, then you can shop around at your local wine supplier, or visit local wineries if available.
The best of all worlds if having wineries in your area that you can visit and taste the wines available. Hopefully at that time, you will already have a pretty good idea of what foods you will be serving, whether formal or casual, and you and the winery staff can probably work out what wines would be best to serve. An added benefit to purchasing directly from a winery, and in some cases a wine distributor is that you sometimes can get cases or bottles “on consignment”. This means that any that you don’t use at the function, you can return for a refund.
Because this is usually a smaller party with relatives and close friends only, your budget will determine where you go with food and beverages. However, today’s engagement parties are more often at a home, with hot and cold food plates being served, and a choice of beer or wine. This not only keeps it simple, but also makes the decisions easier to make. With the great micro beers out there, a trip to Costco gets you sleeves of some great beers for a great deal.
For your wine choices, you should probably have on hand both white and red wine, with both available at the correct serving temperatures. Having a good Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay will satisfy any white wine drinker in the group. For reds, a quality Pinot Noir will pair with almost anything, and is always just a fine wine to sip and socialize with in hand. You will find that the Oregon Pinot Noirs are smooth, velvety and not as heavy as their neighbors in California. At a function like this there really isn’t a necessity for a big “in your face” Syrah or Zinfandel, however one of the mellower and milder California Cabernet Sauvignons might work well for that “I only drink red” guest in the bunch. A superb selection would be bottle of the 1999 Sonoma “Los Chamizal” Cabernet Sauvignon from Mayo Vineyards in California. This is an elegant jammy, clean and mild tannin Cabernet, with a nice smooth finish, and a real pleasure to sip for around $40 per bottle. Or for a few dollars less there is Sebastiani Vineyards “Cherryblock” a 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, on the more subtle side but with excellent flavors, and available in the mid $20’s.
For your choice in whites, you can never go wrong with a bottle of King Estates Pinot Gris, from Eugene, Oregon. Their 2011 Pinot Gris is fantastic, and priced at $17 per bottle.
For a great Chardonnay, a favorite of many and found on some of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists is La Crema, and their Chardonnay. If your tastes and budget will allow, go for the Nine Barrel at $70 per bottle, and worth it. To stay cost conscience and in a lower budget, you can’t go wrong choosing La Crema’s 2011 Sonoma Coast.
Another possibility for serving your guests, so the decision of red or white goes out the door, the “Sparkling Wines”. Consider having a few bottles of say the Korbel Champagne Cellars on hand chilling in an ice bath, and of course a supply of champagne Flutes (glasses) for serving on hand.