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1 Fresh Approach to Event Planning Your Colleagues are Begging For

From food trucks to Food Network, phrases like “liquid nitrogen” and “farm to fork” are becoming part of regular conversation and sought after by more than just foodies. Our food interests are not only piqued, but our tastes diversifying. Craft beer is a ‘thing’ (whoop!), Mixology an art form (finally!), and creative ideas for mixing up the party the norm.

Have The Guts to Pour Outside the Lines
Have The Guts to Pour Outside the Lines

A-typical is the new typical. And it’s awesome.

But there is always an exception to the rule. There is one thing you can pretty much count on when it comes to conferences and receptions: the same-old-same wine “selection”.

Even with testaments like demand for Pour Favor's services and the least expected folks mixing it up to tap this growing, wine-curious market, networking events and conferences we attend are like megaphones for the status quo. The tension between innovation and typicity is palpable!

Why don't more of these events push the wine envelope? Here's our educated guess:

  1. Something has to be “safe”. Going with generic, dime a dozen offerings takes the ‘white gloves’ off of a category that historically is perceived as unapproachable –at least what’s on the bar is familiar and has the social stamp of approval, right?
  2. When it comes to planning big events at hotels and conference centers in particular, you have to fight to work with any wines NOT on the venue’s official wine list. This is a big deal, a giant practical reality for us planners. Event planning is hard enough!

Safe + Easy = Status Quo

Offering fresh ideas and working them to fruition always takes more effort. You know that. You also know the reward is so worth it. Creativity and the element of surprise is key to staying relevant, drawing a crowd and… trending! It’s time to push back on what is offered and let interest and enthusiasm for Imagination infiltrate this aspect as well.

Here’s how:

  • Research.   Even if (or, perhaps especially if) you are into wine, solicit the help of pros. Your palate and preferences are still your own, and you’re still catering to a crowd. Wine Buyers can help you identify non-commercial wines that are: a. Crowd-pleasing by nature; b. Budget-friendly (whatever budget you are working with – a wine’s price isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality!); and, if you aren’t hosting at your office, c. Easily available to restaurants and venues alike. Choose a fine wine shop (or two) with a reputation for being approachable. Let them know you want to mix things up at your next event and the criteria (above) that you have. Talk with them about the wines they then recommend – bring them home to taste them (ideally opening/tasting the wines with them also, if they allow it). Be sure to ask what about a given wine makes it party-friendly, why their customers get excited and keep coming back for more.
  • Explore.  Don’t be afraid of wines/grapes you’ve never heard of. This is often where the fun really begins; offering guests wines they are (also) unfamiliar with means they have no preconceived notions, and can just enjoy the experience. This is what makes your research so valuable, and gives you bonus Creativity Points!
  • Apply your findings.  If you aren’t hosting at your office and can’t just have your new favorite wine shop deliver the wines you need, push back with the Hotel/Conference Center Sales Manager you are working with. S/He will be your best advocate to ensure the Food & Beverage team secure the wines you want for your affair. If the wines are available in your market (as your research should have confirmed!), they should be able to bring them in for your event. Push them to do so – the customer is always right, right?

Like any event you’ve planned, doing the legwork up front and finding partners you can trust – from the wine shop who knows their stuff, to the venue(s) that will support your creative approach – will make for even easier planning down the line.

To be any kind of trailblazer, it only takes one thing: Guts! Seek out unconventional, approachable wines. Your guests will thank you. #trending

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temperature, temperature, temperature!

As much rose and white wine as I've been enjoying all summer long, the last several weeks - quite sticky/warm ones, we all agree - I've dipped my toe in the red pond more and more. I've found a renewed affection for Nebbiolo in particular (La Kiuva, Devorville, etc.), a light-skinned Italian red grape with an I-can't-stop-smelling-it rusticity and a bout of structure that makes it a grill-lovers dream. I've also had a blast revisiting the big, bold reds of Washington State, and dabbled in Pinot Noir from the worlds most prized area, Burgundy, as well as Oregon and California. The key to my success enjoying each of these wines on even the stickiest, thickest of summer days? Serving temperature.

When you go out to eat, do not be surprised if you have to ask for an ice bucket to chill your red down to actual "room" temperature. If you get a dirty look, throw one back. Sadly few restaurants have enough foresight (or the facilities?) to ensure red wines are served at the optimal temperature. (Sometimes you may even see the wine bottles high up on shelves or racks behind the bar - where hot lights are adding a little extra not-so-welcome 'magic' to the wine.) At home, all you need is 30 minutes of fridge time; so when you walk through your front door after work, grab your bottle of choice and stick it in the fridge. Then putter around, opening mail, letting the dog out, putting away your CVS purchases, etc. 30 minutes will be gone in a second, and your wine experience will be delightfully happier for it.


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arts and crafts

I'm going to break with tradition today and start from the bottom up (i.e. with my question of the day): What do you do with your corks? I started out with a drawer, moved on to a fish bowl, supplemented with a giant, glass brandy snifter and - as of this weekend - have upgraded to a serious, 18" high, glass mason jar. When I started saving my corks several years ago, I saved them because I wanted to remember certain bottles of wine I quite enjoyed. Then it became a habit and all corks became part of my collection. Then when I was on the wine trail out west, my brother and I started asking for corks at the various wineries we visited. Once we even found a bag of them hidden somewhere and he proceeded to take handfuls of them off their hands and stuff them into my decent sized hand bag. That's when I knew I had crossed over.

Now that I'm in the industry professionally, I have the idea that I'll soon be equipped to make cool things with my corks. I have need for new trivets, for example. I also could use a 3" x 4" door mat, a message board, a serving tray, some coasters.... the list could go on endlessly. My challenge is two fold, however. First, I lack the creative genes my nieces are so lucky to have. When it comes to arts & crafts, I'm not at all endowed; (I even struggle with food presentation, which is a talent I really wish I had given my passion for food/entertaining). Second, I'm not yet at the point where I have enough corks (frighteningly) to make more than one item. A girl can only drink so much!

Peering around on-line here and there overtime, I've bookmarked some pretty cool cork art/stuff. Check out Fistera Studio to see how they managed the rug. Or pay a visit to Gabriel Wiese's website to see what he's managed! Furniture... who knew? The possibilities truly are endless for the creatively enabled. The only item I've ever managed was a cork wreath for my brother (same one referenced above), and it now hangs in his home wine cellar (I appreciate his priorities!). I wish I had a picture. That wreath is probably a foot in diameter and took me about 5 hours to put together using wire (wrapped around each cork) and two needlepoint hoops. My fingers were fairly raw afterwards from working the wire.

I'm not sure why I'm so happily obsessed with my corks. Perhaps it is because they are a dying tradition? Perhaps it is because they each have a story? I'm not going to over-think it, as I'm apt to do being a Virgo and all. Suffice to say, if you're in the Boston area and know of some cool places I can go to pick up a cork item or two, I'd appreciate your comments!

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recreating "the moment"...

You are sitting at a little table in Provence. You have found a quaint cafe, where a small bowl of salted almonds is at the ready before you even have a chance to ask for a glass of water or rose to quench your thirst on a hot day. You quickly find you and your partner are nibbling on local fare - the cafe's own tapenade and a bit of bread seemed like a good starting place - while you wait for your Nicoise salad to arrive. The St. Andre de Figuerire Vielles Vines rose is taking the edge off, too. Ahh... not too shabby. No, better than shabby. "Now, THIS is summer luv'n", you think! Your journal reflects the experience perfectly - even the name of the wine you were drinking... is it possible to have such sensual, tasty goodness at your fingertips again? Once home, you call your local shop and discover they - somewhat shockingly - can get the St. Andre rose you had at that little cafe. Success! The wine buyer agrees to purchase a case for you, just in time to spend the remaining weeks of the summer with your feet up on your own porch patio after a long, hard day back in the daily grind, drinking through that lovely case. And it's guilt-free drinking too, as you know the 2007 rose won't last 'til next year - and who knows what next year's batch will bring?! No need to save it - you're more than willing to dive right on in.

A couple of weeks later you pick up your much-anticipated case. You quickly return home to prepare a bouillabaisse and whip together a little appetizer of pan bagna so you and your honey can snack a bit sipping on your St. Andre and reminiscing about Provence before you dive into the main course. The wine is already chilled and you pour two glasses enthusiastically. The evening is warm, the bugs aren't biting and the tapenade is one of your best concoctions yet. Plus, you've both had fairly easy workdays and even made it to the gym.

The wine - and moment - is pretty fabulous; and yet somehow it isn't quite as mind-blowing as what you had remembered. What the !@#?$???

The last time I had a wine I loved during a memorable occasion was the last game of the 2007 (Boston Red Sox) World Series. We were drinking the Winner's Tank Shiraz. I'll never forget it. First, it was darn good wine that paired well with our homemade pizza; and second, we won (again)!! And yet I haven't been able to pick up that bottle of Shiraz again. I'm afraid it just won't be quite the same...

When's the last time you savored a bottle and dared to try it again, or couldn't quite bring yourself to do so? For all of you hanging out on the Pour Favor blog sidelines, this is your moment to "dish"! ;)

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