My sister's annual wine Challenge started a few year ago, in fact the first one she had I was pregnant with my daughter so there was no drinking for me. But this year I was able to enjoy the huge selection her guests brought as well contribute in the planning of the event.
The only weekend that was available on the calendar was the weekend before Valentine's Day, I wasn't sure how people would respond to that date but it turned out she had a great turn out and of course we had a great theme to run with.
The invites went out through Paperless Post, a great online site for sending stylish invitations for a fraction of the price of snail mail. I also want to plug that they are a sponsor at JSConf this year and we love love love using them!
The rules were simple, bring a bottle of wine of your choice that was $12 or less. I didn't count how many we ended up having but I'm pretty sure it was in the 20 bottle range.
When each guest arrived, I brown bagged and numbered the bottle and entered it into a spread sheet so we could keep track of the bottles and who they belonged to, the numbers were in random order so it wasn't obvious if you were the first guest to arrive that your bottle was numbered 1. The white wine bottles had white hearts and were put in a zip lock bag and then into the ice bucket.
The guests then proceeded to the wine glass table and picked up their glass which was adorned with a heart shaped name tag and 4 voting tickets. At the end of the night you simply wrote your favorite wine/s on the tickets and dropped it in the voting bucket. I was not able to vote since I was the one bagging the bottles.
Guest were also given an index card and mini pencils to keep track of which numbers they preferred, honestly by #5 they were starting to become a blur to me. Oyster crackers and spit bucket were provided but I'm pretty sure I didn't take advantage of either of those.
Desserts and food was all my sister. She made brownies and cut them out with a heart shape cookie cutter and ordered Georgetown Cupcake mini's which surprisingly priced out to be less than other local bakeries, I know crazy right. My mom made us her famous crab and artichoke dip and a variety cheeses were scattered throughout the room, I know how cliche, wine and cheese.
The decorations were left up to me. My sister didn't want to spend a lot of money so we did it on the cheap and used old wine bottles and painted them red and silver. Over all the paint held up great considering it was painted on glass and we did use a primer. We did have a few scratches during transport over to her apartment but they weren't that noticeable.
The bottles were filled with white carnations and mini callas and red parrot tulips. A few of the bottles had candles but we didn't want to use too many candles in fear of starting a fire (lots of wine and fire don't always mix)
I decorated her fireplace mantle with submerged red rose petals and floating candles.
Voting was cut off at 10:30 and we then revealed each bottle so people could see which ones they liked. Chris and I won second place with a wine we purchased at the Wine Cabinet in Reston.