Entertaining Family Party Idea: A Wine Tasting with Friends

High school is an interesting time in everyone’s life….the good, the bad…the awkward. Looking back, it is a blur of names, faces, classes, and events that certainly shaped who I am today….but honestly, I can’t remember much of it. My dramatic 17-year-old self would be both horrified (What? You’ve forgotten these experiences? How could you? This was the pinnacle of your young life!)  and relieved (…thank goodness you were able to move beyond the humiliation of our teen years….). I am sorry and you are welcome!

Thankfully, there is something that has stuck with me since high school. It is a small group of wonderful girl friends who have been by my side for the past 20 + years. They were with me when I had braces and a perm (a glorious time), when I moved to college, when I got married, when my daughter was born, when my dad died – and every other important milestone in between. There is something magical about close friends who have loved you through your worst and celebrated you at your best. It let’s you know that you’re never alone in the world, and that even though it may not seem so at the time, everything will go on.

This year all of these wonderful women are turning 40. It’s hard to believe, because quite honestly we don’t look any older than…38. Tops. But here we are. And loving it!

On Entertaining Family, I recently shared the dinner party that my husband hosted to celebrate this milestone in my life. Today, I want to share my friend Heidi’s celebration, which was so much fun and I hope it will provide some party planning inspiration for you.

Let me start with a little history. Heidi has been my best friend since our junior year of high school. We have always been kind of an odd couple….I’m a little bit square, reserved, and traditional. She pushes the envelope, is outspoken, and adventurous. But somehow that yin yang partnership has always worked for us. In fact, she has inspired me to pursue my passions, be more daring, and live in the moment. In so many ways, she has changed my life and has helped to make me the friend, wife, and mother I am today.

Like me, Heidi is married with kids (our daughters were born just months apart). Her wife Steph is an amazing person who instantly became part of the family….in fact, she’s my husband’s partner in mischief and we can always find these two cooking up hilarious shenanigans. However, beyond her sense of humor, it is her kindness and thoughtfulness that we love most of all – and this was on full display as Steph honored Heidi with a lovely wine tasting birthday celebration. She has my admiration for putting together this impeccably-executed, beautiful event.


The Party

Theme: Secret Wine Tasting

Number of Guests: 7

Advanced Notice: 4 Weeks

Invitation: Facebook

For this 40th birthday bash, Steph planned a surprise day at the Wollersheim vineyards in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. It turns out that wine tasting experiences are not just for those of you living on the west coast anymore! Guests met at the couple’s house in Madison…our nation’s most beautiful state capital…author’s opinion….with instructions to keep our plans hush. A limousine was waiting there  to whisk us away on our adventure (huge thanks to Steph for arranging transportation so we didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving).


On the day of our excursion, Wollersheim was also opening their new distillery, so we started with the hard stuff. A sampling of brandy, gin, and absinthe warmed our bellies and got us in a celebratory mood. I have to say, I am not a distilled liquor gal (it all tasted like rubbing alcohol to me…which is not a reflection on the craftsmanship, but on my own untrained palate…), but I enjoyed learning about the process.

Afterwards, we all had big smiles and rosy cheeks. Then we made our way to the winery. The setting was absolutely gorgeous! There were grapevines growing on rolling hills and stately buildings covered in ivy. It reminded me of the days I spent living in Florence, Italy and visiting the Tuscan countryside.

Steph arranged for us to do regional samplings of the Wollersheim wines, which included both reds and whites. Given our climate in Wisconsin, my preference was the white varietals, with the Prairie Fumé being my favorite. It was incredibly refreshing on a warm summer day.

After a delightful afternoon of sipping wines until our heart’s content, the limo drove us to Lake Mendota where we toasted Heidi’s new age and watched the sail boats come into dock. The final phase of the event was an outdoor party along the waters edge, where many more of Heidi’s friends joined in celebrating the day of her birth.

Milestone birthdays are important. They celebrate who we are and where we’ve come from, but also, where we are going. I have loved Heidi for more than half of her life, and, like a fine wine, she only get’s better with age. I am excited to watch the next 40 years unfold. Stephanie did a great job creating an event that was unique, sophisticated, and fun…just like my dear friend.

Shhhhhakakahn, Heidi.

Heidi and Mara 3

{Thank you to Heidi and Dana for providing some of these wonderful photos.}

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