Whether you throw a Crush Party during Fall Harvest, or a food and wine pairing any time of year, it’s a fun and flexible party idea that works for a small group or a large gathering. Of course, it’s up to you if, like Lucy, you want to make grape stomping part of the fun!

Celebrating Harvest is a rich tradition among the viticulture community. The “crush” period begins when the grapes start to change color in mid to late summer. The actual picking of the grapes usually happens between August and November. The grape harvest in the state of Washington this year will be the largest ever according to The Washington State Wine Commission, so there’s a lot to celebrate!

This year, TheBrownLounge hosted a Harvest and Crush Party at our winery (being married to a winemaker has advantages). We were able to show our friends the inner workings of the winery during it’s busiest time of year. But you can include activities at home that are just as much fun, and educational too. You can do a food and wine pairing, a wine tasting, or simply share great stories about the best wine you ever had and where you discovered it.

Here’s some fun ideas for your next Harvest, “Crush” or Wine and Food Pairing Party.

Step 1 – Start with the Wine Selection

Wine selection for the party can be anything that suits your taste.  You can focus on locally made wine, boutique, or small batch wines.  Or you can ask guests to bring their favorite varietal and do a taste test.  You can also try a variety of imports like Spanish or French wines, or focus on specific regions.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can organize a tasting in order of grape Harvest. In general, sparkling wine grapes are harvested first (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) to ensure lower sugar levels (brix). Next, most of the white wine grapes make their way to crush. Viticulturally speaking, the red wine grapes are typically next in the harvest line, as they take a bit longer to reach full maturation. Finally, the ice wines make their way to crush after undergoing some serious dehydration on the vine to produce a raisin-like grape with highly concentrated sugars – perfect for dessert wines.

You may even want to ask guests to bring a wine that reflects a great experience they had discovering a particular label or vintage. Or have them bring a food and wine pairing to the party. There are so many ways to make wine tasting and storytelling the focus of the event.

Step 2 – Menu Planning

The key to success is to offer  finger foods that can be served at room temperature either prepared by you or potluck style, and to pair foods with wine. If you do this party during Fall Harvest, choose dishes that include seasonal ingredients like squash, pears, figs, beets, and of course cheese.

Some of our favorite pairings include:

Pair Fresh Figs and Goat Cheese with Champagne, Sparkling Wine or Prosecco

Pair Feta and Basil Cheese Balls with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, or Beaujolais

Pair Squash and Kale over Puffed Pastry with Chardonnay or Viognier

Pair Mushroom Topped Rustic Toasts with the earthy textures of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy or Barolo

Pair Prosciutto and Basil Wrapped Bread Sticks Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir

Pair a Pear Hazelnut Tart with Chardonnay, Sweet Sparkling Wine or Sauterne

Step 3 – Let the party roll

All you need to do to set the stage is to give your party a winery or tasting room feel. Low light, candles, music, and decor can set the mood, and create the ambiance of a “cellar.” Decorate with Fall colors, grapes, corks, dried leaves, etc. Good stemware is also essential.  Depending on the size of the group you can taste and pair one food and wine combination at a time, or put tags on the wine bottles or near the food items suggesting which food should be paired with which wine. Let guests serve themselves, or play sommelier, especially if you happen to be a wine connoisseur and know your stuff.

Friends always enjoy gathering around, drinking and tasting together, and sharing reactions to each wine. Most importantly, be creative, add your own personal flair, and have fun with your wine inspired party!

Watch our FoodieTV show and see how we throw a Harvest Crush Party at TheBrownLounge.

Here’s to your next gathering with food wine and friends.

– Holly Brown, Publisher, Foodie