Earlier this the year I had an inspired idea to organise a surprise wine tasting event for my Dad on Father’s Day. I wanted it to take place at my Mum and Dad’s home, whose private gardens would be open to the public on that day. I only had an hour slot between closing and the event start time to prepare, so it could prove to be challenging to make it work. The first task was to find the right person to host the event. I already had someone in mind who seemed to tick all of the boxes, but as I’d never organised a wine tasting event before, I wanted to explore the options.
I called the local wine shop that my Dad buys from to find out if they offered private wine tastings. It turned out that they did, but only at their shop and definitely not on a Sunday evening, so unfortunately it wasn’t going to work for us. I also spoke to a London based company who offer tastings nationwide, they charge £300 for their basic package (for 10 people) plus £40 travel costs and it was obvious they wanted to sell wine at the event too, so this seemed very expensive. Another option was a wine merchant and wholesaler who responded to my enquiry and were very helpful, but I had the impression their expertise was mainly with wedding, corporate and larger events.
The final chat was with a company who seemed to specialise in selling wine at shows and private events, covering the whole of the UK via their ‘wine ambassadors’. Their price advertised on the website was only £60 for home wine tasting. When I spoke the local ‘ambassador’ he told me he would do the event free of charge, but in the hope that we would buy wine at the tasting.
My research took me full circle and back to my original plan. Glory of Wine caught my attention on Twitter as we followed each other and well, the guy was tweeting about wine. I eventually made contact with Simon Ward, who runs his own wine tasting events and is based in the West Midlands. Simon offers bespoke packages depending on your requirements, but to give an idea he suggests 3 options on his website which can be tailored. His prices are extremely reasonable and as I would later find out, his events are exceptional value. Simon also wasn’t bringing wine to sell, so there was no pressure to buy or any hidden costs.
Although Glory of Wine do offer cheese, pate and nibbles with the packages, I decided to cater for the food myself. The best food accompaniment for wine is of course cheese, and I may have gone a little over board.
I put together a platter made up of Wensleydale with Cranberry, Long Clawson Shropshire, President Brie, Port Salut, Morbier Ash, Keen’s Mature Farmhouse Cheddar and Epoisses (love this one); which were all purchased from Waitrose. 2 additional cheeses were sourced from La Fromagerie cheese shop in London. These were Challerhocker and Comte d’Estive, selected by the shop as substitutes for our favourite Le Cousin which wasn’t available. Thanks to Mr R’s brother Tom who went and purchased them for us and brought them back to Pershore in time for Father’s Day.
On the same trip to Waitrose we bought some smoked salmon, crayfish, cooked prawns, squid and mini dressed Orkney crab from the chilled seafood counter. For the meat plate Mr R and I chose a selection of Italian antipasti from Marks & Spencer and some Unearthed ham from Waitrose which happened to be on offer. We filled another platter with a homemade asparagus and bacon quiche that I’d baked in advance on the previous day and a selection of deli food from the mix and match offer at Waitrose. The sweet potato falafels were particularly good by the way. Just to be on the safe side we also grabbed some smoked mackerel pate and roast salmon pate. With the 3 French sticks, biscuits for cheese, condiments and dips also thrown in, we had enough food to feed a small army.
All of the guests were confirmed and were very much looking forward to the evening, all we had to do was keep quiet until the big night. I felt a bit guilty because I’d been working with my Dad all day on Sunday and didn’t mentioned anything at all about Father’s Day. He realised something was planned when my Mum told him that he didn’t need to drive anywhere and that I had everything under control. Mr R came up with a sneaky plan to distract him for half an hour whilst I frantically ran backwards and forwards with the food, trying to squeeze it into the fridge without being spotted. Thankfully my Mum was on hand to help with this and we got everything ready in the nick of time.
When Simon arrived we had a brief chat about the format of the evening and had said that he didn’t have any time constraints so was happy to go with whatever we wanted to do. Whilst he was setting up inside, our guests arrived and we gave Mr R the nudge to come out with my Dad. He was ushered outside and greeted by friends and neighbours, some who we’d seen the night before at a BBQ, and had all managed to keep the surprise a secret under the influence of alcohol. We drank a toast to all of the Fathers who were in our company with a couple of bottles of prosecco, and snacked on some nibbles (Twiglets and sea salted crisps).
It was the hottest day of the year so far (32 degrees) so we went indoors in attempt for some relief from the heat, where Simon was ready to get started.
After an introduction about his background, credentials and what we could expect from the evening, Simon asked us individually about the wines that we liked. As per the brief he kept this very informal, although highly professional. As we all knew each other very well I wanted the evening to be as light hearted, relaxed and as fun as possible. We were each given bespoke tasting notes of the wines we’d be sampling, which included 3 whites and 5 red wines. These were all supermarket wines so made it very easy to source if there was anything we were particularly fond of.
Simon suggested that we used the programme to write any comments for remembering our favourites and to guess the price of each wine, but only if we wanted to. We got started with the white wines, each receiving varied opinions from the group as well as encouraging some fun banter and conversation about each one.
It was a natural time to break after the first red, a New Zealand Pinot Noir, which so far was getting the majority vote from the group. We all moved into the kitchen where my Mum and I had nipped out 15 minutes earlier to prepare the fish, meats, bread and deli snacks for everyone to help themselves and take a plate outside. Once we were suitably stuffed, we all headed back inside for the second half of the tasting.
As I’m not so keen on white wine, I’d been passing some of my earlier glasses to Mr R to drink on my behalf. Now it seemed to be my turn to indulge. As we sipped through the next four red wines, Simon had the whole group laughing, talking (very loudly) and asking him wine related questions which he competently and wittingly answered. It really was a hoot. He even offered a few of us a chance to win a little prize for the know it alls.
The final red to be tasted was the Luis Canas Coleccion Privada and the favourite wine of the night by the majority. We clearly all have expensive taste as this was by far the priciest of the evening and I promise I don’t work for Waitrose! All of the remaining wine was left for us to finish and we went back outside for a group photo or 2.
As the sun started to set we strolled around the walled gardens, sharing a few wine secrets of our own with Simon, who I’d like to thank for making my Father’s Day wine tasting evening a success! After bidding Simon farewell, it was time to enjoy some cheese, taste a few of our own wines and reflect on what fun we’d all had.
My experience with Glory of Wine completely exceeded my expectations in terms of price, quality, flexibility and fun. If you’re thinking of organising a private wine tasting event, Simon is your man.
Date of private wine tasting event: 18th June 2017
*disclosure – Every product and/or service mentioned in this blog was entirely funded by myself and Mr R. The purpose of this endorsement is purely to share the positive experience we had.