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. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What to Wear to a Late-Summer Wedding

lilly pulitzer junie dress
 lilly pulitzer junie dress

tuckernuck straw half moon clutch

les bon bons earrings

how to style a lilly pulitzer dress
Junie Shift Dress (available in 3 colors)// Heeled Sandals (available in 14 colors)
Lip Color (in 006 Berry)// Bubble Earrings 
Shop the Look:
Is it just me or do you still have a few weddings left on your calendar for the year? I even have one in December, so looking forward to all of them!

Anyway, I think that August/September weddings are kind of hard to dress for. It's most likely still super hot, and also still somewhat summery- especially August and the earlier half of September.

My take on dressing for a wedding during that time period? Go for something with a punch of color! While I try to avoid things like seersucker or bright prints, I think a pop of color is a really great way to still feel summery without being over the top!

I'm a huge fan of the Junie dress that I am wearing in the photos above. It comes in three bright colors- one is more subdued in navy (great for later September/October weddings), though, and the gold embroidery detail is stunning. The fabric also has a beautiful texture to it making it look luxe!

I am wearing a size 2- it runs true to size and really has a great form-fitting silhouette. I paired it with my go-to summer clutch (under $40), neutral sandals (under $100), and minimal jewelry to really let the dress be the showstopper.

I'm also always sure to bring a wrap. You never know how chilly it might get at night, if the wedding is outside and tented, or if you are in an air conditioned room. This is my go-to cashmere wrap. I bring it everywhere!
 More Lilly Pulitzer Pieces I Love:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We Were Staying in Paris

In less than 3 months, I'll be sitting in a cafe in PARIS! I am so excited you wouldn't even believe it. This will be my first time.... a dream is finally turning into a reality! 

So as I am just now deep into the research/planning process, please let me know what you recommend and what to skip!

We will be going mid-November before Thanksgiving. We chose this time because we found a great price for airfare and also because it is known for being a less touristy time. I've been reading a lot and it seems like we may not have to deal with lines to things like the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower. Major win. Also, there will be Christmas decor everywhere since France (obviously) doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving. I. Can't. Wait. 

I am going with my family friend Peyton (we went to Nantucket together and go to the lake every year together) and my high school friend Ava (who also lives two doors down from me!). 

Paris has been one of the places I've always longed to visit. Peyton and I started to talk about/plan a Paris trip back in 2015 for 2016 and with all the terrorism and bad things happening, it kind of spooked me a bit. I hate that it did, but it did. 

I'm so glad our flights are booked and there's no turning back now! We will be there for a full week, but since travel basically cuts out two days, we will have a total of 5 nights in Paris. 

I know 5 nights isn't a ton, so I want to know what is really worth our time. I really do want to do popular things like the Eiffel Tower, but I'd also really like to do something a little less typical, too. And I definitely want to check out places like Hermes, Chanel, Goyard, etc. 

And lastly, I don't want to exhaust myself. We will be back just in time for Thanksgiving, and I want to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends without falling asleep in my mashed potatoes. I know I'll be back to Paris in the future, this is just the start of many trips!

So if you had to pick just one thing in Paris, what would it be? What is your must-do, must-see, must-eat? And if you have any random information like what is the best travel adapter, what are the best shoes for all the walking, what phone plan you used, etc. let me know! I am a a sponge and ready to soak up any and all info you guys throw my way!! Thank you all!!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Wear To Work: The Best Pants for the Working Woman

Lip Color (my favorite neutral, ever!!!)// Sunglasses
Similar Necklace// Louis Vuitton Speedy 30
You just saw this blouse (runs big, size down) last week and today I'm styling it in a totally different way: a wear-to-work outfit! I've partnered with Nordstrom again to show you how you get a lot of wear out of the same pieces in your closet! 

Each week, so many of you reach out and ask me to post some work outfits. Last week I shared some of my top workwear staples, so this week I thought I would style a workwear staple of mine: The Callie Pant.  They are hands down the most flattering work pant I have ever come across and are well worth the higher price tag. They have a slimming seam down the front of each leg, they are cropped for just the right look with almost any shoe, they have a flat front that sucks you in and are made of a breathable and comfortable fabric. 

They come in 3 neutral color options. I have both the black and the navy. They run true to size. I am wearing a size 2. For this pant, you are going to want to get the perfect fit. This is a tailored pant and has very little stretch. They will look their absolute best on you if you choose the right size... in fact, I'd err on the smaller side rather than the larger. Reason being, if these pants are too big anywhere, they could potentially look frumpy.

In the photos above, you can see how I styled the blouse both tucked in and let out. I like it both ways, but think I prefer it tucked it. It's a little more professional looking. 

And lastly, you have all seen these shoes about a million times here on Summer Wind. I have them in a plethora of colors and swear by them. They are so lady like, a timeless wardrobe staple, and are beyond comfortable. They're definitely pricey, but I promise you, you'll love them! Thank you to Nordstrom for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own. 

More Workwear Pieces I Love:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Shopping 8/12/2017

Happy happy weekend, friends! I hope you all had a great week! Last night was date night at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Lidia's located in the Strip District. I went there for the first time back in February with my parents and sister and we had such a lovely time, I was so excited to go back. It's a bit fancy, which I also like, because you get an excuse to dress up. My favorite thing is their pasta trio. It's all homemade and you get to choose from three and they give you unlimited portions. Absolutely amazing. 

Now onto Saturday shopping (scroll through the above widget to see some of my favorites)...One of my favorite skincare brands, Tula, just launched their latest line featuring the benefits of Kefir. The launch included two new products: pressed serum and cleansing oil. I've tried almost every product from Tula and nothing has ever let me down, so I really trust this brand wholeheartedly. I received both products and have been using them for the past few days. So far, so good, I am loving both, but will do a more in-depth post after a few weeks. I always like to test products for a while before fully recommending! Use code SYDNEY when shopping on for 20% off your entire purchase and free shipping for orders over $30.

Speaking of skincare, dermstore, one of my fave sites for skincare, is offering select items with code HAPPY18. There are TONS of products included in this, so definitely check it out if you have been needing to stock up on a favorite. I was sent the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, Phlorentin CF,  and H.A. Intensifier. All are part of the sale. I've only been using for about a week so far, so I want to keep using before I report back. I like to use skincare products for at least 2 full weeks (it's usually at least a month) before I report back.  SkinCeuticals as a brand has a cult following and so many people rave about these products (everywhere the products have 5 starts and thousands of reviews), so I am really excited to be able to try them. 

You guys, I think Adidas is trying to empty all of our bank accounts. I swear, every single day, I see a new sneaker that I L-O-V-E. I mean truly absolutely love. I have held off on purchasing anything, but I really do want them all! This week it is this sneaker- I love all of the color options but the white with pink detailing is my favorite. 

I haven't purchased anything from Last Call in a while, it always falls off of my radar. If you didn't know, Last Call is Neiman's outlet type store. They carry a bunch of designers at major discounts. It's great for closet staples like cashmere crewnecks  (seriously under $90!!) and pajamas. I've ordered many times before and am always happy with my purchases.

Right now Last Call is having an up to 85% off designer sale. The prices are super low- there's a ton of inventory, so it's definitely worth the browse. These neutral Stuart Weitzman wedges are a steal at well under $200 and there is an entire page of Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choo. And for my high school readers, there are so many gorgeous dresses to choose from- perfect for homecoming!

I stumbled upon this athletic top- it looks a lot like Lululemon's swiftly tech top but for a lot less. I'm curious about the fit in quality. Going to order and I'll let you all know (there are other colors on sale, too!). 

Is anyone else swooning over this gorgeous burgundy bag? It looks so luxe and the larger size makes it the perfect day bag!

Doesn't this hair bow remind you of Gucci? Thinking of ordering it- I'm not a huge ponytail bow person, but this is just so cute! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

How to Dress Up Boyfriend Style Jeans

Lip Color (my favorite neutral, ever!!!)// Sunglasses

Today I'm partnering with Nordstrom and coming at you with a way to dress up your boyfriend jeans/distressed jeans. Since, overall, they have a totally relaxed casual vibe, it can be hard to know what to pair with them to make them a little more appropriate for things like dinners out! 

The jeans I am wearing are the ex-boyfriend jeans by AG. They are something very new in my wardrobe and I have to say, they are the most comfortable pair of denim I've ever worn (pretty true to size, meant to fit looser, size down if unsure!). I also love the wash in that they are not too dark and not too light. The distressing is definitely apparent, but not too overdone. They are a bit pricey, so I've also included another pair that will give you the similar look, but for less. 

To dress it up, I added one of my favorite pieces that I have gotten for fall, this tie cuff blouse. It's a little oversized and relaxed, so it pairs nicely with the boyfriend jeans, but the fabric really dresses it up! I'll share with you how I styled it for a dressier/wear-to-work outfit in another post! It runs really big, so definitely size down. 

To finish off the look, I added heels. I usually go without heels during the week, but I tried flats on with this outfit and it made everything look frumpy. The heels add the bit of polish the outfit needs, don't you think?

In terms of quality, each piece I am wearing is very high quality. The fabrics are higher end, the fits are great, and the little touches to each piece are much appreciated! Thank you to Nordstrom for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own. 

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