Thank you Cameron Hughes for sponsoring this post on the perfect summer party. Wine and dine your way into summer and raise a toast to everyone’s favorite season!
I've always adored throwing parties. In one of my many former career lives, I worked as public relations director and planned countless events that taught me that the details, truly, are what make any gathering special. Whether it's throwing a huge grand opening gala, celebrating my own children's birthdays (LEGO Friends, My Little Pony Equestria Girls, Skylanders - we covered so many themes!), or putting together wine tasting parties with good friends, I've picked up some great tips along the way that can help you create the perfect summer soiree.
How to Throw the Perfect Summer Party: Beat the Heat!
With the sunshine comes heat. You want your guests to feel comfortable, so one of the things to consider is the time of day you are hosting the party, and the location.
The best time to throw the perfect summer party is a brunch in the morning, between 9am and 11am, before the high noon heat hits. Or, throw a later dinner party when the sun begins it slow descent and temperatures start to cool down. Think around 7pm or so.
Sometimes you need/want to have a soiree in the middle of the day. If that's the case, make sure there are plenty of options for shade -- think large umbrellas over tables and shaded areas by trees. If it's a baby or wedding shower, or birthday party, I like to offer up inexpensive mini fans that people can use as needed.
Use What You Have
If you're putting together a party at home, there is NO need to go out and spend a bunch of money on new decor or tableware. I'm a big believer in using what you have in terms of serving trays and bowls, plates, utensils, tablecloths, napkins, and glasses.
Remember: creating a cohesive look and feel for each gathering doesn't mean everything has to be matchy-matchy. In fact, summer soirees feel more natural when things don't all match exactly!
For the perfect summer party, try following these general party planning guidelines:
- choose three main colors, and have the large or more colorful items - flowers, napkins, coasters - fall under one of the three main colors.
- decide on a general theme: modern, country, romantic, etc, and
- mix and match textures by including a few shiny items, a few matte, some glass, ceramics, wood, etc. For the recent summer soiree I threw photographed in this post, you can see the textures in the glass items which are a nice contrasting compliment to the wood boards & bowls and the patterned plates on top of solid colored chargers.
While you shouldn't have to go out and spend a fortune, but with summer in full bloom, the one thing I suggest purchasing if you don't have any in your garden, is a big bouquet of fresh flowers. Choose colors that compliment your party theme. You can usually find a couple of bunches at your local grocery store. Be sure to cut off about an inch off the ends before placing them in water to keep them fresh longer.
Food and Wine for the Perfect Summer Party
Keep the food simple but delicious. For a gathering of 6-10 people, I like to serve 2-3 different appetizers, a large charcuterie & cheese board (always!), one or two main entrees, and at least two desserts. That's right: at least two desserts. That way, everyone leaves with a sweet smile on their face!
(I won't lie: I was recently at a food & wine event where there was NO dessert. Do you know what we all talked about afterward? How there was NO dessert! Always serve dessert at events, even if it's just a single cookie or after-dinner chocolate. Always!).
For a recent summer gathering with a few couples we're friends with, we served:
- Berry Crostini with Honey and Ricotta
- Charcuterie & Cheese Board
- Chipotle Chicken Salad
- Basil Butter Corn
- Blueberry Galette
- Honey Lavender Ice Cream
I'll be sharing recipes for each of these dishes throughout the next month!
I love to serve a different wine with each course, which may sound completely opulent (read: expensive!), but trust me: you can do this without spending a ton of money! Our friends are all wine lovers (we do live right on the edge of Oregon wine country, after all), so serving a sip of a different wine with each course is a fun way to keep the conversation flowing.
Here are some food & wine pairing ideas to get you started.
Kick it off with bubbly or a bright summery white wine. The Cameron Hughes Lot 622 Riesling ($12) is a citrusy white wine with lively acidity made with grapes from Washington's Columbia Valley. It pairs perfectly with fresh summer berries, so it's a great wine to kick off the perfect summer soiree.
Next, move onto a medium-bodied white wine, like a Chardonnay.
Most people I know say they either love or hate Chardonnay, but I've learned that there is definitely a Chardonnay for everyone. I prefer the stainless steel, crisp Chardonnays, but some California friends prefer their big oaky Chards. This Cameron Hughes Lot 549 ($15) is made with grapes from Oregon's Eola-Amity Hills, so like most Oregon Chardonnays, it's more of a Burgundy style white wine. It was awarded 92 points and a Gold Medal, and as a normally non-Chard drinker, I heartily approve of this one. The lovely lemon and pineapple notes and smooth, luscious finish make it a great pairing for chicken salads -- and most summer salads, really.
Charcuterie and cheese boards tend to be something that guests return to and munch on throughout the party, so I like to have both a medium-bodied white (like the Chardonnay above) and a red wine blend available to pair with this.
The Cameron Hughes Lot 566 Red Wine ($14) is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah. True to the style of Washington's Columbia Valley grapes, this 90-point red wine is a lush, bold red that has a velvety finish. Perfect to pair with a charcuterie and cheese board.
Finally, you can serve either white or red wine with dessert, depending on what you serve. The Blueberry Gallette I made called for a nice Cab, so I served the Cameron Hughes Lot 588 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15). This wine also pairs nicely with the charcuterie board, by the way, and would be fabulous with barbecued meat!
It's also delicious when you add a scoop of honey lavender ice cream. YUM. Recipe for both the galette and the ice cream coming soon!
Cameron himself actually samples thousands of wines a year (tough job, but someone's gotta do it!) and then selects the best wine to produce under his label.
How are their prices so low? The company basically eliminates the costs of distributors, which can drive up prices. It's one of a few direct-to-consumer wine brands out there (like Warby Parker, Everlane, Dollar Shave Club). This means they source wine and sell directly to the customer; this is how the company can sell, for example, a normally $80 bottle of Cabernet for $30 or less.
Curious about the wines featured here? Try Cameron Hughes Wines and get free shipping when you purchase 3 bottles of wine! The special code is: INEEDWINE18.
Cheers to the Perfect Summer Party!
I hope you enjoyed these tips for your next perfect summer soiree! Remember: it's all about the people you are with, and the laughs and special moments you share together. The details in planning just help make those moments all the more enjoyable once you are in them.
If you use any of these party planning tips, or any recipes from my site, please share them! I'd love to see your creations! Tag @UrbanBlissLife and #UrbanBlissLife on Instagram.
More summer party recipes coming soon!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.