Monday, August 21, 2017

How to Host a Champagne Tasting At Home

How to Host a Champagne Tasting At Home
Champagne is definitely my drink of choice. It's slightly unfortunate because in certain situations, when I order bubbly, I feel a little pretentious (which I shouldn't!), it's also not available everywhere, and it's usually pricier than wine or a cocktail. 

But I LOVE carbonation. I use to have a bad diet coke habit in high school and college that I totally got rid of (I probably drink 12 a year, not even). But now, my sparkling water habit is in full gear (which I guess is 'better' than diet coke).

Anyway, I'm very into trying all different champagnes, sparkling wines, proseccos, etc. Over the years, I've tried everything from the dirt cheap to the pretty expensive. I've narrowed down my favorites to:

- Moet and Chandon Brut
- Veuve Clicquot Brut
- Chandon Brut 

While I was in Napa, it was fun to be able to taste a bunch of sparkling wines side by side. But they were (obviously) all from the same vineyard/label and I knew exactly what I was drinking when I was drinking it. For years, I have always wanted to do a blind tasting of a bunch of different labels side by side. 

I had toyed with the idea of doing it for my birthday one year, but never executed it. I thought being at the lake would be the perfect fun activity for all of us! 
champagne tasting

After executing this, I couldn't recommend it more. This was SO interesting to find out what I really thought without the influence of the labels, and it was also really interesting to see others opinions and how they totally differed from my own. No one had the same guesses and so many chose different ones as their favorites. 

I plan to definitely do this again with different labels. You can also do this with a bunch of different wines, too. I think it would be so much fun to do a cabernet sauvignon tasting- that's my favorite wine! 

We tasted 7 different labels... one is not pictured because it was a 'wild card' bottle that no one got to know the name/brand before we tasted it. 

Everyone knew the brands we were tasting (with exception of the wild card bottle) because there was no way any of us would be able to identify a brand with just taste. Our palettes are not that refined! 

The lowest priced bottle started with Trance and went all the way up to the highest priced bottle, Dom Perignon 2008. Here is the total list in price order low to high:

- Trance
- La Marca
- Chandon Brut
- Luc Belaire Brut
- Veuve Clicquot Brut
- *Wild Card* (not pictured) 
- Dom Perignon 2008 

We decided to mix it up, meaning we had everything from sparkling wine to prosecco to champagne. I think it could be really interesting to just do a champagne tasting or just do a prosecco tasting, too, to see what you like best from each category. 

In total, this wasn't a 'cheap' activity. It's costly, so if you plan it enough ahead of time, you can grab a bottle here and there if certain ones go on sale in your area. I think in total, it cost around $400 for the bottles/supplies/etc.

You'll need a glass per person per bottle. We had 8 people and 7 bottles, meaning we needed 56 glasses. We certainly didn't have 56 champagne flutes. So we got plastic shot-glass type cups. It's a much quicker clean up!

You're going to want to taste them all side by side so you can compare color, bubbles, etc. It's really interesting to see the variation in all of them, even just from sight. 

You're also going to need someone who is not participating to 'serve' you the champagne. Bailey, volunteered to do this and poured each round into the cups for us and served them to us, so we had no idea which was which. 

We all had the same sheet with 7 numbered boxes and each cup was in order left to right so we could keep everything straight. We also had three categories for everyone to guess: most expensive, cheapest, favorite. In each numbered box, everyone made notes about the color, bubbles, taste, etc. 

We also kept neutral flavored crackers and water on the table so we could cleanse our palettes when needed. 

The key to serving champagne, in my opinion, is keeping it extremely chilled. I find it's best chilled in a bucket with half ice and half water. This gets the bottle extremely chilled and will really make a difference in the way it tastes.

So here are my personal thoughts on each bottle...I'm going to keep it short because this post is already a novel! 

A few people really liked this bottle. This was my least favorite (beside the wild card, which you'll see why). It was sweet and fruity and syrupy. I personally like non-sweet and dryer when it comes to any type of wine/champagne/etc. 

La Marca
I've always said that I prefer sparkling wine and champagne over prosecco because it seems to me that there are less bubbles and they are larger bubbles making it less smooth than other options. However, I was very surprised to find out how much I loved this one (which is great news because it's only around $15 a bottle!!). I specifically wrote 'easy to drink' in my notes and that couldn't be truer. It's just an overall pleasant prosecco and I'll definitely be buying this in the future. 

Chandon Brut
This was my #1 favorite, which didn't surprise me a bit. I've always said that it's my favorite affordable sparkling wine and it can totally hold its own against pricier bottles, and even in a blind tasting, this held true with me. It's dry, flavorful, tons of small bubbles...just all around delicious.  It will continue to be my go-to at just under $20/bottle. 

Luc Belaire Brut
This was really good- but didn't jump out to me in my notes. It's a solid bottle, and not bad for the price (around $36/bottle). 

Veuve Clicquot Brut
This was my BIGGEST shocker. I buy a ton of Veuve and always always always have it on hand. This was one of my lowest rated champagnes on the entire list. I actually wrote 'fat bubbles' in comparison to a lot of the other bottles. I find that the larger the bubbles, the less 'smooth' it tastes. I also wrote 'sour', which surprised me! 

*Wild Card* : Vintage Moet and Chandon 2001
My aunt actually had this in the fridge and Callie really wanted to throw it in. She doesn't drink champagne at all and was given it as a gift and it just sat in the refrigerator. None of us knew we were being served this except for Callie and Bailey- and this bottle was SPOILED. It was SO gross. No one liked it. I can't even describe the taste, but it was nothing you ever want to drink... my notes say 'AWFUL' in all caps, ha! 

Dom Perignon 2008 
I was hoping I didn't love this because of its price. It ended up being my second favorite (second to Chandon). To me, the taste was entirely different from any other bubbly in the tasting grouping. It was very dry, almost musty in flavor (not meant to be a negative), and even strong tasting. I loved that the flavor was so strong. I'll buy this again, but only ever for a very special occasion. 

TL:DR, I guessed the most expensive and cheapest perfectly, the only two I mixed up were the La Marca Prosecco and the Veuve Clicquot which was really surprising and eye opening to me! It was cool to see that my palette was actually pretty correct most of the time. It was really interesting to see that others had totally different opinions! All in all, I definitely recommend this as a really fun group activity! 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Shopping 8/19/2017

Happy weekend, everyone! This weekend is a bit of a low-key weekend for me, which is much welcome. Hopefully the weather is nice so I can spend some time lounging by the pool. It's crazy there are only two weekends after that to enjoy the pool! 

I was given these hydrangeas last Friday, so they are about 8 days old and still look fantastic... I have been following the tips I gave in this post and it seriously makes such a HUGE difference. 

In online shopping news, I'm kind of obsessed with this cardigan... it's a little 'much/over the top, but I really think it would look great with jeans and a t-shirt come fall! Scroll through the above widget to see more of my favorites from this week!

In case you missed it...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Great Transitional Piece: Ruffle Shirt

Lip Balm (in berry)// Chanel Ballet Flats (similar)
Happy happy Friday! Is it just me or did this week absolutely FLY by?! I was super productive this week in both work as well as cleaning up around the house/getting things done. I also went to a new-to-me restaurant, Twelve BBQ. It's located in the Southside, which is a place I don't really frequent, but boy was it worth the trip. The food is fantastic and the atmosphere is lively and adorable. I can't wait to go back! 

Tonight I am headed to an early happy hour at one of my Pittsburgh favorites and I also have a Sunday Funday planned! Here's to hoping the rain holds off! Next week is SLOW for me in terms of meetings/appointments/etc. so I really hope to use that time to get super organized and also get ahead! 

Now onto today's outfit! I wasn't so sure about this shirt online, but when I saw the beautiful bright blue color in stores, I knew I had to at least try it on. Sure enough, it was a winner. I wear a lot of button downs during the fall season and I loved that this was a bit of a funky take on a classic button down. The lack of collar makes it a little less dressy/formal and the ruffle adds some fun and whimsy. 

Since I'm totally one of those people that has to wear their newest purchases *immediately* (anyone else?!), I paired it with these white shorts I got this past spring. They're stretchy and super comfortable. My favorite thing in the later summer and early fall is rock shorts and pair it with a long sleeve top/sweater/sweatshirt. Honestly, I would wear an outfit like that every single day if the weather permitted.

Has anyone else checked out the other J.Crew new arrivals? I've been loving what they have been releasing the past few months and the newest arrivals are just as good! I'm particularly smitten over these deep emerald velvet pumps and this navy and white rollneck sweater

More J.Crew New Arrivals I Love:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lately 8/17/2017

abercrombie boyfriend tee
Tee// Shorts (old, similar)
Chanel Ballet Flats// Louis Vuitton Speedy 30

Wearing: I basically wore this outfit all weekend. It is so amazingly comfortable and basically feels like I'm wearing workout clothes but feels a little more put together for errand running! I've been getting a lot of questions as to what size I am wearing in the tee. I am wearing a size small. It's mean to fit a little roomy, but overall, runs true to size!

Eating: You all know how much I love Trader Joe's! This week I stumbled upon their Maple Chicken breakfast sausage and it is delightful! Savory with a tiny hint of sweet, it's amazing. I actually have eaten this for both breakfast and lunch.

Drinking: I totally want to try this rose tequila

Sale-ing: Club Monaco is just my absolute favorite. I seriously stalk their website weekly. They typically always have a decent sale going on, but they just added a bunch of new stuff to their sale section and the discounts are pretty darn good! 

 Nancy Meyer's latest creation is coming SO SOON. I cannot wait. It stars Reese Witherspoon and is in theaters 9/8. You better believe I'll be seeing that ASAP.

Watching II: Did anyone else tune into the Real Housewives of New York reunion last night? I did, and was underwhelmed, but hoping next week is better! I've been watching this show since season one and it is totally my guilty pleasure. 

Listening: Obsessed with the new Avicii song, Without You , I've been playing it nonstop! It's so upbeat and feel good! You can follow August's playlist, here

Loving: The Tula Kefir products are my latest skincare obsession. Which I guess should be a big 'duh', because I've never met a Tula product I didn't like. The two new products are the moisture serum (which is almost like a lip balm for your face), and the cleansing oil. If I had to choose a favorite, I think I'd choose the moisture serum so far... I've only been using the products for about a week, so I'll report back as I continue to test them out! Use code SYDNEY for 20% off and free shipping on your order of $30 or more.

Wanting: Oh my goodness, new arrivals are rolling in from some of my favorite retailers and it makes me giddy with excitement for cooler weather! J. Crew's has some really great transition pieces that are still hot-weather appropriate and Tory Burch's stole my heart with the gorgeous blue and white floral print (dying over this dress). 

Wanting II:
 A big LOL to this prosecco pong kit. It's intriguing, no? I'm thinking you can totally make this a DIY and skip the $25 charge. I'll have to try it sometime and let you all know how it goes ;)

Pittsburgh-ing: There is a 5k coming up this weekend in Pittsburgh that is benefitting a great cause. If you are a runner, it's definitely worth checking out! The Yinzer 5k (love the name, haha!) is this Saturday, August 19th. All proceeds benefit Light of Life which helps to provide a home for the homeless as well as food for the hungry. As always, let me know of any local charity events. If I believe in the cause and have the editorial room, I'll be happy to include it in a Thursday post!

Pittsburgh-ing II: 
It's Restaurant Week this week here in Pittsburgh and the menu and restaurants weren't the best, in my opinion. Tonight I'm going to dinner for restaurant week, but it's the only one I'll go to this year. I'll report back on my experience because this is a new-to-me restaurant! Here's to hoping next year has a better selection. 

Smelling: Smelled this peony and blush suede scent recently and fell in L-O-V-E. It's soft and subtle. The perfect late-summer/early fall scent. 

Traveling: Did you guys see this post from Tuesday? Thank you to everyone who submitted your Paris recommendations, they are SO helpful and I am beyond appreciative!! Many of you even went as far as to send me full on Paris guides via e-mail!! You're all the BEST! 

Quoting: 'If you don't like who I am or what I'm doing with my life, that's alright, I am not living for you; I am living for myself.'// See more of my favorites, here. 

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