How to Host a Wine Tasting

Photo by Talia Galvin

written by Megan Oliver

Planning a wine tasting is a fun endeavor with many moving parts. I contacted dozens of Oregon wineries to request wine submissions for 1859’s inaugural pinot noir tasting, trying to represent as many AVAs and price points as possible, only considering vintages that would be available for consumers to purchase during the 2014 holiday season. Even with harvest time looming, the hardworking people of the majority of wineries I contacted took the time to submit a vintage. The final tasting list consisted of twenty wines.

Next was the challenge of finding an appropriate venue. Centrally located in downtown Portland, Kate Bolling’s shop, Oregon Wines on Broadway, was the perfect fit. Stop in for a glass of local wine during your next downtown visit, and browse the wall of Oregon wines that Kate has curated. I found a few wineries I hadn’t heard of (always exciting) and saw some vintages that would make any pinot lover weak in the knees.

To make sure the wine would be tested fairly and by experts from various walks of the wine-loving life, I recruited a wine shop owner, a sommelier and wine writer. Jeff Woodard owns McMinnville’s only independent wine shop, Woodard Wines, and has a zest for Willamette Valley wines that is contagious. Ryan Mortimore is a sommelier for Fox Tower icon, RingSide Fish House whose palate and wine knowledge are inspiring. 1859 wine blogger, Tamara Belgard, knows the Oregon wine industry well—from vineyard equipment- building to wine glass.


photo by Talia Galvin

Everyone involved made the tasting a success. Here are a few tips for anyone who wants to host their own wine tasting party.

  • This is the wine tasting spreadsheet we used. ***Click to view PDF***
  • Tasting in groupings of five wines is a manageable number.
  • It takes about an hour per ten wines tasted. This includes tasting, making notes and tallying scores.
  • Put stickers on your wines and sequentially number them. Then you can put them in paper bags to hide the labels when you pour. If possible, it’s better to hide the bottles from view of the tasters, pouring glasses and relaying them out to tasters. Use little cards to keep them organized or write numbers on the glasses with a marker made for writing on glass.
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