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Why We Are Fans of Box Wine - and You Should Be Too

 Photo Credit: Haarala Hamilton

Photo Credit: Haarala Hamilton

We're fans of practicality as much as we are of convention and tradition when it comes to wine. Our post in support of screwcaps a while back is evidence: we believe technology has its place in the vinousphere. Wine packaged in a box is just another great example.

In addition to sticking with tradition and buying by the bottle, we’re excited about the affordable flexibility box wine offers us – for many an occasion. Here are a few to get you started:

 

Receptions + Dinner Parties. 

We're starting by giving up one of Rebecca’s hostess secrets: when you need wine for a group, box wine is a great option. A 3L box is equivalent to 5+ bottles of wine. That gives you plenty of bandwidth for your team's festivities.

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Workplace Bliss

The development team prefers red wine and sales and marketing prefer rosé or white wines for your Friday wine down. How about one of each? (Try this trick at home and you'll also have relationship bliss. Bonus – you can drink at whatever pace you like because it doesn't spoil quickly – a single glass on a Monday, maybe three on Friday…)



On a Budget.

In part because the carbon footprint is lower, box wine is incredibly affordable. For about $20/box, you’re getting tremendous value.
 

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Cooking.

If you’re looking for a recipe for success, this is it. Box wine stays fresh for about 4 weeks. That’s because as you dispense, the bag inside shrinks down, minimizing the spoiling impact oxygen can have on an open bottle of wine. If you just need half a cup of wine for your dish, you can dispense what you need (including a glass for yourself, we hope!) and stow the rest for your next endeavor.

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Certainly not all box wines are created equal. (The same is true for bottled wines.) It's always worth asking for recommendations. But you get the idea. Don’t go by the book. Go buy the box!

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How to Disrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Coach Brad Stevens’ Unexpected Move is Your Power-Move

Celtics Coach Brad Stevens' Brand-Boosting Move

It’s May 10th at the very end of the 3rd quarter of Celtics Game 5 in Boston when Washington Wizard Kelly Oubre Jr. finds himself at the free throw line – and MISSES.

Even if you’re not an NBA fan, let alone how *enthusiastic* Boston fans can be, you probably know unsportsmanlike conduct can get ugly. And the well-documented charge by Oubre of Boston's (undeserving) Olynyk two games earlier in the Playoff series was a textbook example.

It's now Game 5, tied at 2-2. The Celtics have returned home and are ready to prove themselves. They do so immediately, establishing a +/- 20 point lead in the first few minutes of the game.

Celtics fans had been charged up from the get-go, anti-Oubre chants further amplifying things well before he was even put into the game in the 2nd half.

It’s easy to argue it wasn’t necessary for Brad Stevens to make a lineup change right after Oubre misses that first free throw. But without missing a beat, right as the Garden explodes with joy over Oubre’s miss, Stevens sends Kelly Olynyk in.

The place detonates.

Timing is often an important part of the equation. You must also know your audience, which Stevens clearly does. There’s also something big to be said for giving people even more of the same (e.g. what they expect or crave from your product) – in this case, another intense emotional charge.
 

And – newsflash Event Managers! – nailing the timing doesn’t mean you have to be 100% planned. You can’t be afraid to be spontaneous when the opportunity presents itself.
 

[Rebecca S.] I know all too well that that lesson can go against the grain. I shocked myself, in fact, at the revelation as I caught my breath and sat back down at TD Garden. The event planning niche my team and I occupy is one that celebrates customization; Pour Favor Wine Events is not the bento-box of wine tasting events. 90% of what we do is carefully orchestrated to reinforce our client’s brand or culture. That takes even more planning.

At the same time, I couldn't help but pause... We’ve been at this for 9+ years. We have an incredible roster of partners, a rich skill-set among our staff members (beyond the obvious wine knowledge required) and have curated myriad events – we have a lot of inspiration to draw from. We could develop and implement a still-customized event pretty quickly.

It seems then, if you:

1)      Know your audience and

2)      Have a great supporting cast, whether your planning team or network of partners, and

3)      Are clear on your brand identity and/or event goals, you are in a clutch position.

 

The Stevens Take-Away?   Don’t hesitate to take advantage of the moment, and strike while the iron is hot to super-charge your own “fan base”, aka customers or guests, with a memorable event. Otherwise, the opportunity might pass you by.
 

We’re HERE when you need us.

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No-Brainer Holiday Wine Ideas: from What to Pour, to Boss & Co-Worker Gifts

Wine is both an entirely festive way to celebrate the holiday season and a winning approach for gift-giving. The trouble is knowing what to pour - when - and what to gift - to whom. Are we right?

This holiday season we're giving the gift that keeps on giving - easy answers. Below, you'll find wine solutions for your party planning conundrums as well as ideas for gift giving - from stemware to great reads.

Remember, there's naturally some overlap - often wine itself is a wonderful solution in and of itself. So take these ideas and run with them. You're sure to hit the nail on the head with a touch of your own personalization.

Sparkling Wines

From hosting to gifting, sparkling wine is a foolproof way to bring a natural, festive flare to bear. If you don't know your recipient (or his/her tastes) well, they are also a great answer to The Personalization Problem. No matter what, they add levity - and New Year's is a built-in opportunity to open and enjoy.

Here is our own Guide for Selecting the Right Sparkling Wine for the Occasion.



Need specific ideas?  Some of our favorite sparkling wines this year can be found below, beginning with the most affordable styles (e.g. Prosecco + Cava) to the most baller (Champagne). (Note: These specific wines are available to those of us shopping in the Greater Boston area. You can ask your local retailer to order any wine they don't stock.)
 

Marsuret Prosecco  |  Veneto, Italy (Valdobbiane)
Deliciously quaffable and festive, Prosecco wines have taken the world by storm. Here the Marsura family stays true to their 80-year tradition to produce a particularly winning option: zesty, delicately pear-nuanced with a touch more pizzazz than its counterparts.

When/For Whom? Cost-effective, basic bubbly that delivers a festive element/gesture. Ideal for any and everyday - from a holiday brunch to topping-off a "champagne" cocktail.


Dibon Cava  |  Penedes, Spain
Cava drinkers have gotten the memo for a footloose and fancy free sparkling beverage that’s closer to proper Champagne for its toasty notes and fleshier texture – at a fraction of the price. Frothy and fruit forward, Dibon delivers memorable peach and orange notes, backed by hazelnuts and citrus zest.

When/For Whom? Casually festive and versatile, but with a bit more to it. Appropriate to serve during cocktail hour, offer for a festive toast, or even segway into the first course. An affordable way to thank/appreciate colleagues, or supply a casual host/ess gift.


Cave de Saumur Crémant de Loire "49M"   |  Loire, France
Crémant wines come from elite regions of France - outside of Champagne - and are goldmines for exceptional sparklers. This hidden gem from one of our favorite CO-Ops is both charming and dry - and bursting with familiar fruit nuance. You can't go wrong with 49 Million, tiny, crowd-pleasing bubbles!

When/For Whom? Crémant wines are our Go-Tos because they are perfect for dialing things up a notch, without anyone knowing how much you spent. You'll be winning with a ~$20 budget.

 

Taittinger 2008 Brut Champagne  |  Champagne, France
This is the real deal, and then some. Featuring the 2008 vintage alone, this blend of all 3 legally-permitted Champagne grapes delivers tell-tale orchard fruits, a hint of stone fruits and mouthwatering citrus. Better still, its decadent brioche side makes you wonder if you just stepped into a Parisian bakery. . .

When/For Whom? To make an impression - this is brilliant, baller bubbly! Gift to your boss or open with really, really good friends.


Westport Rivers "RJR" Brut Sparkling Wine   |  Westport, Massachusetts
Massachusetts' own Westport Rivers Winery kills it when it comes to sparkling wine. And the RJR is their flagship - separating itself with a frothy, creamy mousse and giving you flashbacks to an autumnal New England picnic. (Bonus - this wine has been on the White House's go-to list!)

When/For Whom? Whenever you need a secret weapon or a local treat to gift/serve. Typically c. $37/bottle, we saw it recently for just c. $20!


choosing wines: Gifting + Celebrating

1.    Looking to make a BIG splash? Whether throwing a party or looking to impress your gift-recipient, this trick never fails.
 

2.    You can also boost your party vibe with a creative approach to wine selection that mitigates fussiness for you - and ensures guests stay engaged in the fun otherwise. Here's How.
 


beyond the bottle: the Essentials


STEMWARE.   There's no need to geek-out on this one. Simply give a great glass that works perfectly well for wines of ALL colors. Our pick is the Vinum Riedel Extreme Series. We use the (white) Sauvignon Blanc option for ALL of the wines we taste/evaluate - red, white or pink. We love the sleekness of the glass as much as its versatility. (If you specifically know your recipient is a red wine fan, you could opt for their Bordeaux/Cabernet/Merlot glass instead. Don't overthink it beyond that!)
 

DECANTER.   Did you know, there are 5 Good Reasons to Use a Decanter Everyday? And this essential tool isn't in everyone's at-home wine supplies repertoire - yet. You can use the holidays to change that with a lovely gift.

Here's one suggestion - a half bottle size. It won't break the bank - and offers a sweet alternative to decanting an entire bottle (not to mention delivering a user-friendly nudge toward that ideal everyday use).
 

GREAT READS, BY INTEREST. 

for Fans of History, Villains + Heroes, or Fiction/Non-Fiction Crossover Reads:  American Wine: A Coming of Age Story

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Why Your Next Event Needs a “House Wine” + How to Choose

When was the last time you were at an event and you walked away from the bar talking about the wine? It’s hard to get excited about the same old selection you see ubiquitously at every one of “these things,” right?

If you’re like the corporate planners we polled this summer, the last thing you want is for guests to consider your event run of the mill. In fact, if you’re like them, you want your event to be memorable for the right reasons – with guests actively participating, having fun and connecting with each other.

You want your event to be fresh and add value.


Did you know wine selection is a key tool for making your event a success?

If you’re like the corporate planners we polled this summer, the last thing you want is for guests to consider your event run of the mill.

Let’s take one of our venue partners for example, a top-notch, full-service operation that must create stand-out events time and again to be successful.

They rightfully pride themselves not only on their immaculate space and thoughtful approach in planning, but also the farm-to-fork food experience they deliver. Their wine list needed to follow suit.

Called upon to help, we saw a unique opportunity to set them up for success – not only in working with their clients, but also by ensuring their wine list would pay itself forward to guests’ event experiences.
 

Why? Analysis Paralysis is an Event Killer. 
 

A key networking and guest-engagement opportunity is lost.

People (guests) who find themselves in unfamiliar territory are overwhelmed by too much choice. And people who consider themselves in the know become distracted by too many options (whether good ones, or more often, stuck determining the ‘best of the worst’). At an event, while the bar line grows and grows, conversation among party-goers becomes awkward as people fight their decision demons. Guests become stressed and just want to get back to the people they already know and the larger festivities. A key networking and guest-engagement opportunity is lost.

So we retooled their custom list aiming to:

a)  Streamline offerings, which even novice clients (like many guests) could comfortably choose from;

b)  Offer wine options that would stir the interest and enthusiasm of guests when they saddled up to the bar – and as they headed back to the festivities;

c)  Creatively reflect their brand.

From here our partner was ready and able to work with their own clientele to create a winning guest experience. In effect, their custom wine list became their secret weapon.

In effect, their custom wine list became their secret weapon.

As in the example above, you can – and should – use your wine selection to bring additional creativity to bear, get people engaging (in and outside of the bar line) and underscore your brand or event in a fresh, subtle way.
 


How do you go about it?
 

Streamline Selections, aka Operate in Technicolor.   While guests may not know the ins and outs of wine, they do know which color they prefer. Offer just one of each style: a white and a red, with one festive sparkling wine for good measure. That’s your flight of what we call “House Wines” – Analysis Paralysis abated.
 

Pique Curiosity.   Skip the Italian Pinot Grigio, California Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and the Argentine Malbec. You get the idea – these are the predictable options. Offer choices that have familiar nuances, but that guests might not ordinarily come across. Guests who consider themselves in the know try something new (or are excited to enjoy something they recognize isn’t often an option) while novices just enjoy for the sake of enjoyment.

Hint: Blends from France, Spain and Italy are often a wonderful starting point, or seek out wines from lesser-known countries like Austria (whites) or Lebanon (reds). Don’t hesitate to ask for guidance, or get outside help. Your local wine shop is a great resource to solicit input on lesser known crowd-pleasers.
 

. . . make things less fussy – and more fun – for guests.

Unleash Your Creativity.   Once you’ve decided on the wines, facilitate fun organically by renaming each selection in a spirited or meaningful way that will get folks engaging in line – and afterwards, with their choice in hand. Try playing-off of branding or corporate culture elements. Or use the excuse to celebrate (or roast?) particular staff members or departments. Want to detach a bit from work? Give the selections personas – like “Nuanced & Daring – Red” and “Lively & Luxe – Bubbly” for the sparkling wine.

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Bottom Line: Wine naturally adds levity – and a traditional bar set-up offers an opportunity for guests from all corners to connect as they make their way to your Libation Station. By being both more deliberate in choosing a focused selection of your own House Wines and more playful in how you present them, you make things less fussy – and more fun – for guests.

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Are You Maximizing Your Event’s Impact? Tricks to Turning Things Inside - OUT

image c/o LinetLinen.com

Whoops! You’ve just pulled your favorite top out of the delicate cycle and it’s inside out – fresh and loveable, but not quite ready to turn heads. With one quick adjustment you’re all set.

Culture becomes real, such that employees often will share their company experience with others – hint: your (potential) customers.

We've discovered companies that develop and reinforce a collaborative, fit culture from within are better positioned to pay it forward. Their approach internally allows them to turn what they do inside out, too, to reach customers—engaging them more memorably—because it is rather effortless to do so.

Aligning events with your values and the type of culture you have (or would like to have) means employees leave proud of what they do, who they do it with, and what they do it for. Values become more than a quip on a mug. Culture becomes real, such that employees often will share their company experience with others – hint: your (potential) customers.

Internal events then are also external, whether intrinsically or more deliberately (in terms of your guest list).
 

Let’s take a growing tech company in Boston for example.

Despite finding an exciting new space to relocate their operations, the custom buildout was faced with myriad challenges. What was set to be a late spring move-in became an autumnal hope. The leadership team tasked their support staff with reimagining their holiday party. Rather than taking things off-site to a well-vetted (aka trusted, surprise-free) venue, they embraced their core values of innovation and experimentation:

1.   The event would be hosted in-house, no matter how finished, in the new space.

2.   Rather than keeping their invite list internal, the company leveraged the event as an Open House celebration that included customers, prospects and partners as well as employees.

3.   They embraced the (on-going) element of surprise, making that core to the event. Invited to help, we proposed curating a truly unique, experimentation-rich wine tasting experience that not only underscored their event goals, but showcased their culture in a hands-on, unforgettable way. [Ask us how.]


How can you dial things so that your event can’t help but WOW?
 

Be Deliberate.  
Just like an architect builds from the ground up, so should your event. If your employees are sharing their day-to-day worklife experience, make your event a reflection of that experience, too.
 

Be Subtle.  
Events that maximize the opportunity to pay themselves forward, are authentic – culture-infused and value-based, but not overworked. Don’t be creative for creativity’s sake. Find natural ways to reinforce your culture through your event. In our experience, less is often more.
 

Get Personal.  
Creating an experience that can be personalized is a technique we use to help folks engage on a meaningful level. An attendee's event experience should be organic and seamless, or about them. Customers or prospects included in your events shouldn’t feel like they are being sold – whether a specific product, or your brand as a whole. And if it’s an employee event innately (not necessarily directly) celebrate your team first, their work and their accomplishments. This is not a time to promote the company.

... folks invest in you/your brand because it feels natural; employees offer their best because they want to.

All those who participate are simply along for the ride, and it should feel that way. Later, folks (continue to) invest in you/your brand because it feels natural; employees offer their best because they want to.

In other words, shared experiences are a wonderful way to dial things in personally, and leave a winning impression.

 

Certainly events are a wonderful way to celebrate, boost company culture, and reinforce camaraderie – and there is value in this alone. But why have the value end there or the impact expire with the evening? Let what you stand for become your muse, your WOW factor. Then invite folks in to experience organically why your company is unique.
 

Remember, attendees should leave the event feeling connected to the experience – and your team and your brand – in their own way. By setting the tone with subtle reflections of your culture, you can then create organic opportunities for people to connect. In so doing, your event will go from a single time, day and place on your guests’ calendar, to a memorable experience that leaves them wanting to participate and engage again and again.

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Champagne or Sparkling Wine? How to Select the Right Bubbles for the Occasion

If you’re confused about Champagne and Sparkling Wine you’re in good company. Questions come up at nearly every event we host, regardless if sparkling wine is even one of the wines we’re sharing.
 

  •    Can you call this Champagne?
  •    What is Cava?
  •    What about Prosecco?


Today we take things sip by sip, exploring Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Sekt, and Crèmant sparkling wines in turn – so you will not only know the differences between them, but also which style is best suited for the occasion at hand. Let's dive in!
 

Champagne | Champagne, France
 

ONLY sparkling wine from Champagne, France is Champagne, and can be called (or labeled) as such. The northern most region in France, this incredibly temperamental, cool-climate locale with its chalky soils ensures grapes with very high acidity – exactly what you’re after when it comes to producing exceptional bubbly.

There are also only 3 legally permitted grape types that can be grown and included in a Champagne wine: Chardonnay (white), Pinot Noir (red) and Pinot Meunier (red). These can be blended (most often) or fly solo.

In addition to the tricky, cool climate (i.e. while you want ripping, fresh acidity, you also need grapes to ripen enough to give the wine some balancing fruit-mojo), the technique employed in making Champagne (méthode champenoise) is incredibly labor and time intensive. Winemakers must induce a second fermentation inside the bottle which, suffice to say, takes many, many steps over an extended time including, at the end, freezing the neck of the bottle to later disgorge unwanted sediment (key for flavor development, but not desired in the final product). The result is a bright, complex, layered and toastier/creamier style of wine.

Often Champagne is Non-Vintage (NV). Winemakers prefer to blend fruit from different harvests to achieve the “House Style” for which they are known. Only in exceptional vintages will wine be dedicated to a vintage year bottling.

INSIDER TIP.   While most of the Champagne we drink is dry (Brut), there are sweeter styles available. Extra Dry is actually slightly sweeter than Brut, followed by demi-sec and then, rarely, doux.
 

Cava | Penedès, Spain
 

Cava is the Spanish term for their own style of sparkling wine, and named after the cave cellars where the wine was aged.

It came into being in 1872 when Don José Raventos found himself tromping through Champagne, France and encountered their specialty. He was rightfully fascinated. Soon enough he had decided to employ the traditional French méthode champenoise technique at home, but wanted to put a uniquely Spanish spin on it.

First up, he used local, indigenous varietals: Macabeu (the dominant grape), Parellada and Xarel·lo – all white grapes – contribute their own unique characteristics to the blend and create a uniquely Spanish sparkler. (Producers today are also permitted to use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Garnacha and Monastrell in the blend.)

Next was his approach to aging: Cava is aged for only 9 months on the lees (this technique helps give Champagne its famous toasty character).

The differences go on, but the important thing is the result: Cava is a cheery, slightly less robust, citrusy/fruity, sometimes slightly nutty alternative to Champagne.

INSIDER TIP.   Wander off the ubiquitous Cristalino or Friexenet paths and you’ll often find even more value, while supporting smaller producers.
 

Prosecco | Veneto, Italy
 

Venetians, for their part, turn to Prosecco – aka Italian sparkling wine – daily. And whether you know Prosecco yet or not, you’ve probably noticed it is certainly an affordable bubbly option.

What makes it different than its counterparts? This wine is named for the largest proportion of grapes used to produce it, Prosecco. It is widely considered more straightforward, lemon-limey and leaner than traditional Champagne.

Why? It’s snappy flavor and texture result because it is made using a different approach than its French and Spanish cousins. The Charmat method ensures the secondary fermentation (necessary to “trap” the CO2 and create the bubbles) occurs in large, pressurized tanks rather than in the bottle. This means the wine is oxygenated and bottled “on demand,” without a long aging regiment. And, since the wine is made in batches if you will, rather than bottle by bottle, this helps keep the price low.

INSIDER TIP:    Gravitate toward Prosecco if a sparkling cocktail is on the menu, too. It’s perfect for both sipping solo and for adding a little unobtrusive sparkle to your cocktail recipe.
 

Sekt | Germany & Austria
 

Fun Fact:   Germans drink more Sparkling Wine per capita than any other country. They also produce the most variety of options, all under the larger umbrella term “Sekt”.

Their bubbly can be made with any method described already herein. Naturally, pricier selections are made in the traditional méthode champenoise while cheaper offerings are bottled with the Charmat method. Stylistically you will taste the characteristics that each of these respective approaches imparts – leaner for the latter and toastier and richer for the former.

They can also be made from a wide selection of grapes, with the grape-type used also helping to dictate the flavor experience in the final product. E.g. Riesling Sekt tend to be more zippy with trademark high acidity; Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris deliver a fuller-bodied, rounder experience; and Pinot Noir rosé styles deliver more tang and berry fruit, with pretty aromatics.

While less widely known/imported, a German (and Austrian) sparkling wine experience is quite diverse – and certainly worthy of your interest.

INSIDER TIP:   Use your wallet as your guide. Spend more than $15 to avoid the plonk.
 

Crèmant de [Fill-In-The-Blank] | Non-Champagne Regions, France
 

You didn’t think France was having all of the sparkling wine fun in just one of its wine growing regions, did you?

Truth be told, French Crèmant is perhaps our favorite alternative to Champagne. Most often made in the same traditional method, each region in France has go-to varietals. These same grapes are pressed into service for their sparkling wines. For example, the Loire Valley is known for their Chenin Blanc. So Crèmant de Loire tends to be made from Chenin. In Burgundy they are world-famous for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so that’s what you should expect in bubbly forms.

INSIDER TIP:   Artisanal or small production winegrowers that decide to produce sparkling wine make a BIG commitment. They need the resources – economic and otherwise – to do so. If they are going down this path, they are doing it for a reason. In our experience, passion pays. Crèmant wines are an uber-affordable alternative to Champagne, with many exceptional selections falling in the $16-$22 range.

 

What’s the moral of the story?
No matter which country floats your boat, sparklers are not just for toasting and gifting; with the variety of styles available worldwide they can be for every day. And perhaps they should be! With their essential, naturally high acidity, sparkling wine pairs superbly with any cuisine. Plus, they’re just F-U-N.

3 Killer Venues Perfect for Spring Meetings and Summer Outings

Getting out of dodge is often a necessary, savvy way to keep the workplace love – and the business itself – alive. Kind of like taking a vacation.

Here in Boston and the surrounding communities there is no shortage of restaurants, hotels, conference centers – and beyond – for offsite meetings and events. But especially for those who already enjoy an optimal work environment, the million dollar question is:

Can you find a space that delivers all of the amenities you’re used to, while delivering a refreshing spin on the familiar?

From our perspective, you can.

Here we spotlight 3 venues around Boston we want to be sure are on your radar: Babson’s Executive Conference Center (Metrowest); Willowdale Estate (North Shore) and the Battery Wharf Hotel (Boston’s North End).

Let’s take a peek at each:
 

BABSON EXECUTIVE CONFERENCE CENTER.    It goes without saying Babson College is a known quantity, certainly a leader in the business community and particularly well-regarded for its MBA program, which is rooted in entrepreneurship and values innovation.

Just this year, when the College expanded their presence in downtown Boston, President Kerry Healey touted the new facility and it’s “innovative convening space for networking, co-working and much more.” Certainly such an approach was grounded in valued experience. According to Sales Manager Nancy Lorusso, the Executive Conference Center on the main campus in Wellesley offers “many untraditional spaces that create a more relaxed setting to foster creativity and collaboration”.

One of our personal favorites is one we share with Nancy – their Woodside Living Room, which really is a living room. Nancy says that “clients looking for a warm, inviting area for a social gathering are immediately drawn here, and the attached walk-out patio is a huge draw for the additional flexibility it lends.” We argue the natural beauty doesn’t hurt either!

Meanwhile because of the school’s reputation, the Center “attracts companies and groups because it’s a place where accomplishment happens – there are no distractions.”

In truth, there are a few “distractions”. All good ones. The inherent energy in the place is one. The food is another. Having worked with their culinary team on wine dinners for clients, we can attest that their team is not only wonderful to work with behind the scenes, but our experience is equal to the feedback Nancy receives: guests regularly report how surprised and excited they were to find the food on-site is delicious.

With over 200 guest rooms, too, Babson’s Executive Conference Center lends itself naturally to an overnight company retreat. Certainly, there is no scarcity of amenities or possibilities in their almost 20,000 sq. ft. of space.

If you can see your coworker tucking into a casual nook to catch up on some work after a morning rich with discussion, or you can see a couple of teammates high-fiving a great idea during an afternoon ‘wine down’ reception in the courtyard, Babson is worth checking out.

Oh, and an impromptu game of soccer? That can happen too.

 

WILLOWDALE ESTATE.   While Babson may be a known quantity, Willowdale Estate is not only a greater Boston “hidden gem” but also a surprise to many familiar with the North Shore. And according to Sarah Boucher, Marketing Director, that’s part of its allure.

Located about 30 miles north of Boston in Topsfield, MA, the property is surrounded by hundreds of acres of state forest along the Ipswich River. (Care to add canoeing or lawn games to your summer outing?) When you wind up the long drive, it’s a wonderful surprise to find the gorgeous, fully renovated and restored property atop the gentle slope at the end. The giant, bright red door with green trim is the happiest of greetings – and behind it lies the friendliest, most capable staff around.

These guys are the real deal.

Whether your team is a bunch of foodies (or just likes to eat!) or you’re focused on the basics, like AV for your PowerPoint presentation, all of the bells and whistles of possibility are at your beck and call. Their full-service operation makes planning a snap. (Case in point: don’t miss this video of Land Rover’s product launch event!)

Their secret? Sarah says that “when your staff has the opportunity to pursue their passions, think creatively, and contribute their own unique strengths to the team you can only continue to improve on your work.” Cheers to that!

With so many of us cooped up throughout the workday (regardless how cool the space), perhaps what makes company meetings and events even more ripe with possibilities at Willowdale is “Tent Season”. Rightfully boasting a custom, handcrafted, Sperry Tent (yes, it breathes!) upheld by spruce center poles, a Willowdale experience is possible outdoors rain or shine. They can even heat the tent if El Niño threatens – and, ladies, there is a covered walk to the restrooms inside.  

Prefer to be under the stars and bistro lights? The Butterfly Garden offers additional possibilities. You can “just” host an intimate reception here or opt to follow it with a 4-course wine dinner that’s not only farm to fork, but curated to your specifications by the inventive, award-winning Chef Ben Lightbody.

Trust us, you’re in exceptionally capable hands here.

 

BATTERY WHARF HOTEL.    If your crowd could use a little Boston-culture infusion on top of stunning harbor views and modern amenities, consider what the Battery Wharf Hotel offers.

Located right on the waterfront in Boston’s North End, it’s hard not to add a scavenger hunt component to your company retreat when planning meetings and events at this boutique property. When the U.S. of A. was just getting its legs in the 17th Century, this was where the action was. The nearby Freedom Trail celebrates this past as it gets folks exploring key moments of the American Revolution, by foot, from the North End all the way to Boston Common.

Indeed, today the hustle and bustle of the city is at an arm’s length – easy to access by land and by sea (there’s even a water taxi to/from Logan Airport). And yet, according to Director of Sales & Marketing, Efren Aponte Cortes, the Battery Wharf is the Hub’s own “Urban Oasis”.  We couldn’t agree more.

Maybe your colleagues are the sort to hang their legs from the Battery Wharf’s private dock after a day of meetings. Or perhaps they’d prefer to stretch their legs meandering through the parks and past cafés along the Boston HarborWalk. Maybe neither. The thing is, here there’s something for everyone.

Inside the fully renovated property the feeling of ease transcends their partnership with Exhale Spa. The abundance of natural light throughout and the clever development of spaces certainly caught our attention – imagine segwaying from a modern meeting room (surrounded by glass) to a wine reception under the atrium.

Want to step outside?

Try one of their intimate patio spaces. Better yet, enjoy s’mores on the Terrace sitting around the Fire Pit. For those who appreciate a little wow-factor on top of wow-factor, we admit we’re taken with the exclusive Maritime Museum space – perfect for casual exploring while taking part in a sunset wine reception before dinner at Aragosta Bistro.

If you’re looking for something even more custom, that’s possible, too. We’ve witnessed Catering Sales Manager Carolina Villela work with Chef Adamo to come up with a cocktail-hour menu followed by a multi-course dinner that couldn’t help but impress. Their attention to detail starts the moment you begin working with them.

 

Surely you agree, discovering venues that not only offer those lovable workplace health “creature comforts” but also do so in their own unique ways is hard not to get excited about.

After all, any fully-loaded, flexible space surrounded by natural beauty that excels at satisfying our every craving is hard not to work-ate to - right?

 

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The Secret to Holiday Entertaining – Celebrate Magnum Style

We shouldn’t need an excuse to pull out all of the stops when it comes to entertaining, but then what would the holidays really be for anyway?

Whether you’re a wine geek or not, our secret to dialing things up a notch is to Go Big – literally. A “magnum” of wine is what you call the super-sized bottle of wine you may have started to see more often since Thanksgiving. Said bottle contains the equivalent of two “normal” bottles of wine. It is a sight to behold, and certainly makes that statement we never mind to make.

No contest, magnums make for a fantastic gift for wine lovers. But how often do you have enough of a crowd to warrant actually opening a large-format bottle? Our staff relishes the chance.

Here are ten wines available in magnums we think are perfect for celebrating. Make an impression this holiday season!
 

Sparkling.

Adriano Adami Bosco di Gica Valdobiadene Superiore Prosecco| Veneto, Italy
The wonderful world of sparkling wine is global – you don’t always need to travel to Champagne, France for an enticing or satisfying selection! Here Adami over-delivers for the category, producing a lively, quaffable sparkler.
 

Billecart-Samon Brut Rosé  | Champagne, France
Behold, one of our absolute favorite producers of Champagne, let alone sparkling rosé. Seeing this wine packaged in a magnum – well, we caught our breath! Here the devil is in the details: tiny beads of joy oh-so-delicately deliver tangy red fruits first to your nose, and then to your palate. Notes of chalk-board erasers are a time machine back to less-harried, wonder-rich times.
 

Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Quality Brut | Champagne, France
Where Billecart-Samon scores high in the ‘delicious-subtlety’ category, Ployez-Jacquemart does so with equal enthusiasm in the ‘delicious-decadence’ category. Generous orchard fruits are lifted by citrus and quince – and that’s just the beginning! Toasty and lush with gratifying brioche elements, we just love how this wine wraps itself around your senses….
 

Rosé.

Bodegas Muga Rosado| Rioja, Spain
Nothing says party-perfect more effortlessly than a magnum bottle of sacred (read: somewhat scarce) rosé wine! Here the historic winery Bodegas Muga blends Grenache with white Viura grapes and a splash of Tempranillo. Aging the wine briefly in large oak vats adds body and nuance, while lees aging contributes subtle milk chocolate notes. The result is supreme – a dry but lifted, round-edged, winter-ready but refreshing style that can elevate holiday meals just as easily as it can coolly welcome friends. (Grab one if you see one – Rebecca did!)
 

White.

Chateau Montelena Winery Chardonnay | Napa Valley, California
This wine packs both a delicious and historic punch: established in 1882, Chateau Montelena is one of the oldest wineries in the United States –  and the 1973 vintage of this wine won the famous Judgement of Pairs in 1978! Is it still worth its muster? In a word, YES. The fruit for this wine was selected literally grape by grape. With only 10% new oak used and a cool growing season in play, this white is as dramatic as it is crisp!
 

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spätlese Riesling| Rheingau, Germany
There’s just something about colder days that beg for a glass of something decadent, something you can cozy up to, something that somehow also rouses your spirits and delivers a surprise. Here one of our absolute favorite German winemakers, Josef Leitz, delivers all of that in one uncorking. Minerality creates a snappy tension with the fruity, sappy, layered flavor profile of this wine – and it is delivered in an abundant(ly), delicious package.
 

Red.

Buena Vista Winery “The Count” | Sonoma, California
A blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, “The Count” shows its innovative roots while showcasing the bold potential the Count himself saw in California wines. Medium bodied, this wine is as packed with purple and black fruits as it is with earth-driven nuance. Burnt caramel and cedar notes give it that touch of winter-time pizazz we all crave this time of year. Easy drinking and velvety smooth, this toothsome wine is a crowd-pleaser!
 

Burgess Cellars Library Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2002) | Napa Valley, California
Properties like Burgess are what put the Napa Valley – and Cabernet grown here – on the map. Determined to make a style of wine expressive of terroir, Tom Burgess was wise to snap up this plot of land in the Howell Mountains. Here above the fog, vines 60+ years old have become one with the mineral-rich, volcanic soil. Opulent yet still ‘pretty’, this wine is a teenager, packed with dark berry fruit, dusty earth and just a hint of mocha.
 

Chateau de Saint Cosme Rouge | Cotes du Rhone, France
For (at least) two of us on staff, our love affair with European wine began with Syrah from the Rhone Valley, France. Wines like this iconic one are the reason why: fresh, purple-floral aromatics awaken your senses first, followed by a decadent palate rich with dark fruit, hints of spice and notes of saddle leather and bacon fat (yes.. bacon!). Welcome to the club!
 

Domaine Serene Vineyards Pinot Noir | Evenstad Reserve | Willamette Valley, Oregon
Oregon's Willamette Valley is thought “the Promised Land” for producing acclaimed, Burgundian-styled reds, aka exceptional Pinot Noir. And Domaine Serene is one of the darlings of this young yet heralded wine region. We were downright gleeful to discover their award-winning, flagship wine is available in magnums. Buyer beware: the Evenstad Reserve is a super-silky, complex wine that delivers a wallop of delight!

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Serving Rosé, Red and White Wines at the Right Temperature

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“What temperature should I drink rosé?” is the no. 1 question we’ve been fielding at wine events this summer. As a sort-of “cross-over” option between white and red and as perhaps the newest curiosity in wine, there’s no wonder there’s confusion.

The spectrum of rosé wine styles is as broad in variation as white and red wine styles can be. Rosé wines range from crisp and lively to bold and brooding – with a LOT of variation in between. That’s a fair bit to contend with and each has its own respective “ideal” serving temperature.

And wines (regardless of color) are INfrequently served at the appropriate temperature, even at restaurants. This can be due in part to infrastructure or practical reasons (e.g. cold glass-pour bottles are in/out of the cooler too frequently to maintain ideal serving temperature; and you may have noticed bottles sitting on the counter in staff-accessible locations, which are not temperature-friendly…). As a result even the so-called experts miss the mark, and you don’t get a proper taste-bud education or quality experience to reference.

Does it really matter anyway?

YES. A wine that’s served too cold is wearing a mask – none of its personality has a chance to show, let alone shine. It's frozen! You need to massage a given wine to do your taste buds a favor and otherwise honor the dogged work of the folks in the vineyards and winery who toil for your greater good.

Meanwhile, wines served too warm can burn you; the alcohol packs a punch and none of the fruit or earth nuances that make it unique (or delicious) come to bear.

At home you have the ‘luxury’ of being Goldilocks and getting it just right, even if you don’t have a temperature-controlled wine cellar. There’s a simpler way for optimal enjoyment whether you’re uncorking a white, rosé or red wine.

Here’s our rule of thumb:

Put said desired bottle of wine in the fridge – or the freezer – for 30 minutes. That’s your basic starting point for ALL styles (except Sparkling, which needs another hour) and about the time it takes to kick off your shoes after your day, flip through the mail and get dinner started. Simply grab the bottle off the rack and get it chill’n before you start your Unwinding Process.

Here’s where you go from there:

WHITES.   Especially in the summer and if you’re eating outdoors, put your white wines in the freezer for that half hour, not the fridge. Then use a wine bottle chiller to keep the bottle more/less at that temperature while serving it. Fuller bodied wines like Viognier and Chardonnay will be just about spot-on in that 30 minute window, depending how warm the bottle was before you got started. Crisper, leaner wines benefit from a little extra time. Shoot for more like 40 minutes. Unsure what style is in your glass? Err on the longer side of the spectrum. Wines can warm up pretty quickly, so you’re better off starting too cold than not cold enough!

ROSÉS. To start, apply the same thinking and preparation as you would a white wine as described above. If you know it is a more bold or brooding style, ease up on the freezer chill time. If it is leaner, or more crisp, give it that extra bit of time. And from there, enjoy what makes rosé perhaps the most fun category of all – the chance to taste it on its journey! I typically start with the wine chilled to its coldest potential point and then enjoy the experience tasting it overtime, as it warms on its own. The wine’s flavors shift and evolve in turn, which is a BIG part of experiencing rosé’s special magic!

REDS. “Room Temperature” is a concept of the past, when we didn’t have central air. Then room temperature was around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or today what we think of as ideal “cellar temperature”. Most often reds are served way too warm, regardless how bold or lighter-bodied they are. Here you want to stick your wine in the fridge for said 30 minutes, with maybe 10 minutes less for bolder styles.

For wines that fall into the “Chillable Reds” category, if you offer up 40 minutes of fridge treatment, the wine will virtually frolick in your glass! French Beaujolais and Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, Italian Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese, Sciava and Frappato, and even youthful, un-oaked Spanish Tempranillo are all chill-loving.

In a pinch for time? Give any given wine an ice bath for 10+ minutes (you do the math given the above reference points) and you are good to go!

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Choosing Wine for Any Big Event - Made Easy!

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Perhaps the biggest of them all, there's little more personal than planning your wedding - and, for many, when it comes to what you're serving you want to nail it. We get it! What's more, we know you're not the only one. Beginning around Memorial Day each year we get numerous inquiries from couples who care about what wines they will serve at their wedding asking for help. They are often stressed to the max about choosing wines for their big day. In another week the emails with the same burning questions will emerge, this time to ensure company outings and family reunions are well cared for.

While some events have specifications which call for a one-on-one consult (or Pros like us behind the tasting station ;) many others are more streamlined. For the latter case, let's start with the most common criteria hosts present:

1.  User-friendly.   We want wines that everyone will enjoy, whether they are “usually” an X-wine drinker or not.

2.  Food-friendly.   We want the wines to work with what we’re serving, whether someone opted for the fish, BBQ chicken or tenderloin.

3.  Cost-effect.   We don’t want to serve anything “cheap”, but if we could keep things under(?!) or around $15 per bottle, our budget will thank you!

Good news - you can address all of these concerns in just 4 deliberate steps!

Streamline your offerings. There are reasons (yes, plural) themed, or “His and Her Cocktails” are so popular… It’s festive, for sure, and fewer options for guests tightens up your liquor order (read: budget), focuses consumption, AND expedites service! So approach wine offerings similarly and CHOOSE YOUR OWN “HOUSE” WINES: offering a sparkler plus a crowd-pleasing white and red (with maybe a beautiful dry rosé thrown in for good measure) will satisfy the majority (if not all!) of your guests. Remember, these distinct options offer enough variety themselves. So have fun with it! You could even come up with creative, personal or company-culture-derived names for each choice.

Pick a Perky White.  Wines with higher acidity are food-friendly by nature; and their mouthwatering effect also comes in handy when your boss' boss is bending your ear about that big project you're working on, or your best friend just got stuck talking to crazy Aunt Edna. Sauvignon Blanc works, sure(!), but one of our other party tricks is to select grape varietals  guests may not have ever heard of, let alone tasted. Case in point: as popular as Austrian Gruner Veltliner and Spanish Albarino are becoming, these are not grapes that everyone knows (though they should!). Offering something people have no expectations about means they just simply sip and enjoy.

Select a Smooth Red.  When it comes to selecting your red offering, you want something that strikes a middle ground – something not too bold and dry, and something not too light. You also want something that goes down smooooth – something with nice fruit and soft edges. Here again, a way to work around the grape varietal fatigue (aka I only drink Cab, Syrah, Merlot…) is to choose wines that are named for their region, with no varietal labeling evident. Smart picks are red wines from the Cotes du Rhone or Languedoc (fabulous, food-friendly, people-happy, French red blends) or wallet-friendly Spanish Rioja (the more expensive options often mean the wine has spent more time in oak barrels, which puts the wine into the “too bold” camp). These regions have prolific, 100% delicious options that are exceptional values!

Save on Bubbles.   Some say you should splurge in this category; we don’t necessarily agree. While you certainly can go all out, remember that the nuances a higher-priced bubbly offer could be lost in the equation. More often sparkling wine is consumed to add an additional festive flare.  And there are many great (dry, aka Brut) options from beyond Champagne, France that lend exactly the helping hand you desire, with plenty of Delight on offer at oh-so reasonable prices. For some suggestions beyond the usual suspects Cava and Prosecco, check out alternatives here and see below.

Have faith! Less is more, especially when you trot off the beaten path. With this approach you’ll be setting yourself up for success!

Dying for some specific recs in each of these categories?? No problem! For the next several weeks you can find some widely available wines that check the above boxes via the Pour Favor Wine Events list available on the DRYNC wine app.Need more ideas? Get in touch directly!

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