Can you believe there is only one more episode of Insecure left this season? And it's been a whirlwind these last two months. Between the show's Emmy nod, Lawrence's (surprise) return, Kelli peeing her pants, Dro's wife popping up pregnant, Nathan going straight ghost and the show already being renewed for a fourth season, lovers of HBO's hit show have plenty of reasons to pop some bottles. What better way, then, to take the season out with a bang than an epic "wine down" season finale wine tasting watch party?
So why call it a “wine down?” Well, if you're a deep Insecure fan, then you know that there’s a behind-the-scenes after show, hosted by Issa and show creator Prentice Penny, where they chat with the show's cast, employees and execs about the characters and what makes them tick, the previous show's story lines and what we might expect to see next. The vibe of the after show is always relaxed and fun with everybody sipping on a glass of their wine of choice.
The wine down episodes always have a fun and relaxed vibe, plenty of wine (Issa almost always has a flute of something sparkling), plus highly entertaining commentary (the most recent episode had Issa discussing prehistoric "cave b*tches" getting ghosted), which are all elements that incidentally also equals the perfect recipe for hosting an Insecure season finale watch party wine tasting.
The cool thing about this is that hosting a wine tasting doesn't have to be stressful in order to put on, because I'm going to make it super easy for you.
THE TASTING PARTY BASICS "WINE DOWN" STYLE-LIKE…
So here’s what you need to make this wine tasting fully pop off (like that taser in Kelli's back at Coachella):
- A minimum of three to five different wine varieties (or more, if you like!). Scroll down to skip right to the wine picks!
- For a tasting party of eight to 10 people you will need two bottles of each varietal. This means, if you have three different wines (a white, red, and rose, for example), you will need two bottles of each type for a total of six bottles.
- Wine tasting note cards (I love the gold foil ones in the photo above by West Emory — and it comes with a gold corkscrew — for a party of 10 you will need two boxes) and pens.
- One wine glass per guest, plus two extra for every ten people (in case of glass breaks). You can either rent them for the sake of trouble-free entertaining or, if you want to start building your own wine glass collection, get an all-purpose wine glass that is suitable for any wine whether red, white or sparkling, like the "Event Bourdeaux" from World Market (worldmarket.com/product/event-bordeaux-wine-glasses-set-of-4.do).
- A pitcher of water (both for drinking and rinsing the wine glass between tastes)
- One "personal spittoon" (also known as a red solo cup) per guest. The spittoon is used to pour wine glass "rinse water" into as well as leftovers from wines the guest may not like.
- Wine openers/corkscrews and napkins
- Plain chips, crackers and mild cheeses to clear your taste buds/palate in between wine tastes
- Snacks for after the tasting is done to keep the party going and the tipsy-ness at bay
SET THE STAGE-LIKE…
So, when considering what time the tasting party should start, keep in mind that the wine tasting component should begin at least an hour and a half before the show starts. You need to have 15-minute intervals per each wine pour to give guests the opportunity to really taste each wine, take notes, discuss and then rinse their glasses before the next taste. That means, for example, that you'd need an hour and 15 minutes for a five wine tasting.
Set up a small table or area (like your counter-tops) where the glasses and snacks are all in one place so guests can grab what they need and take it to their spot. So, let's get to it!
The tasting should move from sparkling to white to rose to red to sweet (and in that order!). if you decide to deviate from that order, then just know that your taste buds will likely get skewed because heavier or sweeter wines will affect how to perceive the flavors of lighter and drier wines.
Pour it up:
Keep the tasting pour quantities to just two ounces. This way, if a guest doesn't like a particular wine, there won't be a lot of waste. Also, having controlled pours means there will be wine left and this gives guests the opportunity to go back for a glass of their favorite pick of the night to drink while watching the show.
How to taste:
OK, so let's keep things as simple and unpretentious as possible. After all, this is supposed to be fun, and the last thing you want to do is make people feel all weird about whatever their level of wine skills may be. That's where having a tasting notes card comes in handy. You can just go down the category list and fill it based on your own observations.
SEE: Look at the appearance of the wine to see what tints of color you see. For example, if it's white wine, do you see green, gold or yellow, and if it's red wine, do you see red, orange or purple? There are no right answers by the way, it's what YOU see that counts.
SWIRL & SMELL: Gently swirl the glass to get more air in contact with the wine. This allows more aromas to be detected. Put your nose in the glass and gently inhale and take note of what you smell in general terms. Is it fruity, herbs, something spicy, floral, nutty? Again, there are no wrong answers!
SIP: Take and sip and see if any of the aromas you got from smelling the wine follows through in how it tastes. Is it sweet, bitter, dry, sour, is there acidity? Also take note of whether the wine feels light and thin, heavy or somewhere in-between on your tongue.
Taking notes not only helps you keep track of your favorites of the night, but it also helps you begin to learn more about what your preferences are when it comes to wine. Jotting notes is an easy way to level-up your wine game!
Came Through Drippin' (What to Wear):
It should go without saying that statement tees are a huge part of the wardrobe of many of the characters on the show, so having guests wear their fave statement tee is an easy answer to the, "What should I wear?" question. Guests can also be encourage to recreate one of their fave outfits of the season (Daniel's Playboy sweater, perhaps?).
If you really want to go all-in-hardcore-fan-style, then check out this article with suggestions from the show's first costume designer, Ayanna Kimani (the show's current costume designer is the ever fashionably fabulous Shiona Turini, who came on board after Kimani left to work for MTV). In the article, Ayanna shares the exact names and brands of some of the most notable pieces on the show so that you can cop them for yourself.
Let the Beat Drop:
A good soundtrack is crucial to any good gathering and fortunately for you, creating one will be incredibly easy thanks to all of the new, current and up-and-coming bangers that the show's music directors come through with every single week. The best part of it is all you need is a cell phone, a speaker to hook it up to and a Spotify account, because they have the playlist for season three with nearly 100 songs and over five hours of music. Party music done and done!
"ALL BLACK EVERYTHING" WINE PICKS-LIKE…
Knowing which wines to pick that will be “good” can often be difficult and intimidating, so in case you’re “insecure” about your wine skills (you see what I did there?), I’ve put together a fabulously curated list of wines, all of which are created or owned by African-Americans. After all, Issa once said she was "rooting for everybody black,” so why not carry that sentiment right on over to your wine selections, too?
I’ve also included some tasting notes to help you pick out ones you might like the most. And to take the fun factor up a few extra notches, I've matched up my picks to correspond with the characters of the show and what I think they'd pick to drink.
- We all know Issa is kinda struggling right now from a financial standpoint (no savings, terrible credit score and she just quit her job without another one lined up), but we also know she still wants and appreciate good quality and style. I mean, Issa's style stays on point, yes? Also, if you pay attention, whenever she is drinking something, it's often in a champagne flute — did you peep that she brought a bottle of sparkling wine to the house in Palm Springs? I think I recognized the brand, but we shan't mention it here since we are about "all black everything" right now, but I digress. The McBride Brut Rosé is a good pick because it's got all of the champagne qualities without the champagne price tag, which should be right up Issa Dee's alley.
ABOUT THE WINEMAKERS: The McBride Sisters, Andrea and Robin (@mcbridesisters), are blazing trails in the wine industry. The two sisters — one who grew up in California, the other in New Zealand — didn't meet until they were adults, but the beautiful thing is that they immediately bonded over a shared passion for wine.
TASTING NOTES: "This sparkling wine is 90 percent Pinot Noir and 10 percent Chardonnay … from vineyards certified sustainable by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand. Aromatically, this wine possesses gentle floral notes of rose petals, complimented by strawberries and cream, and bucket loads of freshly crushed red berries. The red fruits carry through the palate, with cranberry, peach, strawberry and raspberry notes taking center stage. There is a hint of toasty complexity, and some creamy richness from the lees leading into a dry finish with lingering hints of spice … [and] is sophisticated, crisp and refreshing."
Molly is a high-powered attorney currently jockeying to try to establish herself professionally. Her income level allows her to appreciate life's luxuries, but for her, it's more about intentional spending and having a specific lifestyle, as opposed to merely wanting expensive things just because they're expensive. We see from her trials and tribulations, at both her former and current law firms, that she's out to prove that she can hang with the "big boys," so she'd definitely be willing to cop an expensive bottle of wine if the situation calls for it (whether to impress her law firm partners or merely treat herself). Since Molly isn't bourgeois and still has edge, she especially appreciates the fact that the Armand de Brignac has an iconic hip hop connection to Jay-Z.
ABOUT THE WINEMAKER: 12th and 13th generation wine growers, Jean-Jacques Cattier and his son, Alexandre, craft the "prestige cuvées" of Armand de Brignac. As for Jay's involvement with the brand, although he has never formally indicated his ownership in the brand, in 2014 the following statement was released by part owner of the champagne house, Sovereign Brands: "Sovereign Brands, a New York-based wine and spirits company owned by the Berish family, has sold its interest in the Armand de Brignac ('Ace of Spades') Champagne brand to a new company led by the globally-renowned Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter."
TASTING NOTES: "Peach, apricot, red berry aromas, followed by crystalized citrus, orange blossom and hints of brioche. Palate is rich with exotic fruit, cherry and a touch of lemon, vanilla and honey." — Armand de Brignac website
Kelli is that friend we all have — wish we had! — that is both hilarious and gives the truth to you raw and uncut. The fun thing about her is that you never know what "explosive" thing might come out of her mouth, but what you DO know is it’s going to be some good, entertaining, down-to-earth sh*t that you will feel "lucky" to have experienced. Horseshoes equal good luck and Grenade equals explosive, thusly making this wine the perfect choice for Kelli.
ABOUT THE WINEMAKER: André Hueston Mack left his “desk job” as an Investment Banker to pursue his passion for wine, eventually working as a sommelier in San Antonio. He was awarded the prestigious title of Best Young Sommelier in America by the highly regarded wine organization Chaine des Rotisseurs which resulted in his working first as a sommelier at Thomas Keller’s world-renowned The French Laundry in Yountville, California, then as Head Sommelier at Keller’s equally famed Per Se in New York City. Winemaking has always been a dream of his and came to fruition when he set up shop under the moniker of Maison Noir Wines.
TASTING NOTES: "Horseshoes & Handgrenades is fruit-driven, full-bodied complex red blend sourced from Southern Oregon and Red Mountain Washington. The rich, ripe, voluptuous fruit comes from Oregon Syrah with just enough Washington Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to give it complexity and structure. Think cherry pits and leather whips!" — Maison Noir website
Tiffany is hella pregnant this season and we saw from the shower that, true to form, Tiff is SO MUCH about appearances (the re-imagining of her pregnant self in art form as Serena, Beyonce and Cardi? Seriously?), so clearly for her, how things "appear" is BIG. Having said that, a great quality wine with a celeb pedigree is right up her alley. I mean can't you just hear hear Tiffany saying something to the crew like "Gabrielle probably told D. Wade to send these to me — you know Gab and I have the same hair stylist …" You lie if you say you can't envision that.
ABOUT THE WINEMAKER: In 2014, three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star Dwayne Wade teamed up with Napa Valley's Pahlmeyer winemaking family to start his own project called Wade Cellars. His first wine, the Wade Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012, was launched and released in China in 2015 with the wine landing stateside soon after. Wade Cellars comprises two labels: the flagship, Wade, and Three by Wade, which includes a California red blend, a Napa red blend and a Mendocino rosé.
TASTING NOTES: "Light in color, with fresh cherries and raspberries bursting from the glass. Pair with honeydew melon, fried chicken sliders, or gazpacho. Fresh, vibrant, and light, this wine is bright and energizing, with loads of red fruit and a fine dusting of minerality." — Wade Cellars website
So, was I the only one trying hard to root for Daniel to win in life only to watch his unnecessarily implode in a burning mass of passive aggressive acting out rooted in pride and insecurity about his music career? Ugh.
While I applauded his desire to remain artistically true to who he is musically, he was passive aggressive as hell by not actually telling Khalil prior to hitting the studio that he was going to stick to his original arrangement and production. The smug look on Daniel's face when he saw that Khalil was shocked showed that Daniel allows pride, jealousy and ego to impede his progress. Daniel would pick the LVE to drink because in his mind surely an artist as great as John Legend would understand why Daniel did what he did for the sake of artistic integrity, right? Riiiiggggghhhhttt. Plus, Daniel would be drawn to the wine and winemaker's musically-themed description, too!
ABOUT THE WINEMAKER(S): The perfect harmony of passion, eloquence, and Napa Valley tradition, LVE Collection by John Legend is considered a unique series of "rich, soulful and complex notes inspired by true love, produced in collaboration with Napa Valley's renowned Raymond Vineyards."
TASTING NOTES: "Toasty and balanced, its rich nose delivers aromas of Bosc pear, star jasmine, and cardamom. Full, rich, and long on the palate, its reminiscent of caramelized butter and toasted almonds."
Sooo, the consensus on social media seems to be that Nathan's shadowed past may have plenty of secrets, including the possibility that he has a criminal history. I mean, doesn't he sort of remind you of "Prison Bae" a little bit? But I digress. Whatever the case, what we do know is that he seems to have had a rough go at it, claiming to to have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey when it wrecked havoc on his hometown of Houston (and the Gulf Coast) last year. PLUS, there's the Lyft incident, and no mention of a job or car. Perhaps his troubles are why he seems to have ghosted Issa? I can't think of a better wine to describe his current situation than "Hard Knock Life."
ABOUT THE WINEMAKER: Chrishon Lampley co-owned a popular Chicago art gallery and event space in the early 2000s where she made a name for herself curating the wine list. She launched a wine blog and radio show soon after, inevitably launching her wine brand in 2014. "Lampley is a negociant, wine enthusiast and founder of Love Cork Screw wines, a lifestyle brand that launched six varietals in the fourth quarter of 2013. Since its inception, the LCS brand has acquired over 50 locations including, Target, Mariano’s, Whole Foods and other Chicago land area stores, restaurants and bars. "
TASTING NOTES: "An American Red Table Wine. Love Cork Screw Red is a light sweet summer wine made from 100 percent Concord grapes. The delectable wine is airy and clean with hints of bold just enough to satisfy the palate. This wine is to be enjoyed with light meals, appetizers, or pizza and pasta dishes." — Love Corkscrew website
Whoopi Goldberg said in best in the movie Ghost: "Molly, you in danger, girl!"
Even though she claims she is moving on from Dro, Molly was clearly crushed to find out at Tiffany's baby shower that his wife was pregnant. On top of that, Dro showed that he was playing no games when he fully brushed Molly off when she tried ot make friendly overtures towards him. It's still not quite clear what the full situation is yet, but love him or hate him, there's one thing you can't deny about Dro: he has a suave, confident, seductive and sexy quality that makes him dangerously appealing. Interestingly, that's also a spot on description of the Brown Estate Chiles Valley Zinfandel.
ABOUT THE WINEMAKER: "In 1980 our parents purchased an abandoned ranch in the eastern hills of the Napa Valley. They rehabilitated the crumbling homestead and planted viniferous grapes — which for a decade we farmed and sold to local winemakers. In 1995 we kids got the notion to make our own wine … We established the Brown Estate label officially in 1996 when we harvested what would become our first bottling of Brown Zin. Fast forward to September 2016 … when we bottled our 20th vintage!"
TASTING NOTES: "Deep, dark, and decadent with intense garnet core and scarlet rim. Nose bursts forth with an alluring bouquet of dried hibiscus, rose petals, and black currant shadowed by cedar and bay laurel. Following closely is a medley of blackberry, boysenberry, and huckleberry commingled with savory herb and smoky underbrush. Exotic spices, the hallmark of this wine, are present in cascading Juniper, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, vanilla, pimiento, and subtle anise leading to baked red and black cherry with Venezuelan chocolate shavings. Superb, opulent mouthfeel and bold fruit expression benefit from excellent acidity and exceptional structural integrity. " [side note: See? Seductive wine, right?] — Brown Estate website
Frieda and Issa have definitely had a difficult relationship the entire time they worked at We Got Y'all. While they were still working together, Freida desperately seemed to want to tap into or have some of Issa's #BlackGirlMagic in order to alleviate her discomfort from some of the awkward, racially-tinged situations they often found themselves in. Well intentioned or not, Frieda never actually took a real risk in order to stand up for herself nor Issa — but she seemed to always expected Issa to do so.
Drinking some of this magical elixir from the McBride Sisters may be about the closest she'll come to having black girl magic in real life. And as delicious as this wine is, I can't even be mad at Frieda for trying.
ABOUT THE WINEMAKER: See the notes for the McBride Sister Brut Rose above
TASTING NOTES: "… intensely aromatic with notes of honey, apricot, and white flowers. Refreshing when ice cold, it opens up as it sits in the glass – tangerine, jasmine, and coriander seed appear in the nose, as the palate turns to tropical flavors evocative of guava and pineapple. Mild sweetness is balanced by a bright core of tangy citrus for a mouth-watering, sweet/sour finish." — The McBride Sisters
This is just barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wines created by people of color, so if you're interested in continuing to #DrinkForTheCulture then make sure you follow @wakandawinefest on Instagram for wine reviews, wine tips and wine knowledge featuring people of color!
One last thing: Unless you want to end up being unintentionally cast in your own, homemade Insecure episode this season called "Drunk-Like …" make sure you and your guests drink responsibly!