Few people have influenced my husband’s life like Stanley Tucci. The character actor, whose mischievous charm, love of food and drink, and onscreen reputation as a willing second-fiddle to many of Hollywood’s strong, leading women have garnered him a cult status. That's definitely true in my house, where his cookbooks are prominently displayed in our kitchen. So it’s no surprise that his short-lived 2011 PBS show Vine Talk inspired us to go on a journey of self-discovery and boozy antics.
The Vine Talk format is simple — Tucci invites his famous friends to sample several bottles of one varietal while they discuss their latest projects and careers (Nathan Lane really tears up the Riesling episode). The catch is all the wines are obscured, so no one knows the labels, how much they cost, or where they’re from. In the end, they all vote on which one they think is the best and the winner is revealed.
We decided to copy this formula with Wine Night. Our guests each bring a secret wine (because we’re financially insecure millennials, nothing costs more than $20) and, after a system involving numbers written in Sharpie and switching bottles around like a cup-and-ball game, the fun begins. We pass around each bottle, all of them sheathed within their brown Wine and Spirit bags, and proceed to taste, comment, and write down our thoughts. Then we vote, which can get playfully heated depending on the ABV.
So far, we’ve tried pinot noir, rosé, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, syrah, malbec, and, most recently, pinot grigio. Adjectives like “peppery” and “fruit-forward” are often thrown around. A variety of cheese and other fine snacks are served (malbec pairs surprisingly well with Cheddar Jalapeno Crunchy Cheetos). And each night ends with a drunken round of Jackbox games, Mario Party, or, in one instance, karaoke.
While my husband’s parents have always enjoyed wine, the closest my family gets to vino is my sister popping open a bottle of Red Cat, so my palate was indifferent at best. Most of my wine experiences involved indiscriminately filling a plastic cup with Bota Box at a party, where it was more chugged than sipped. But Wine Night has made the world of wine less intimidating, redefining it, not as a drink consumed only by snooty Frasier-types, but as accessible and unpretentious. It’s also taught me patience — over time, a wine that starts out as smelling like “baby diaper” breathes into something more complex and pleasurable.
More than anything, though, Wine Night has shown that, no matter what you’re drinking, it’s best when shared with loved ones and friends.Have our drinks coverage sent directly to your inbox by signing up for our Eat Drink Watch newsletter here.