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Wine for 120--is this a good plan?

I'm in the process of narrowing down my choices for wedding reception wine. We're doing an open bar for about 120 guests for cocktail hour, dinner, and after dinner. But let's say 20 people won't be drinking at all (designated drivers, children, etc.) so 100.

Most of our guests are new to wine, as in curious but not at all knowledgeable. I thought it would be a complete waste to pour full pours so the plan is to have the servers pull half pours to start, and then full pours for guests whose glasses start getting low. I fully expect some of these half pours to be almost completely untouched, but oh well. We'll do champagne to start, move to white wine with the appetizers (seafood), and a red for the entree (red meat).

My biggest question is guesstimating the number of bottles we need. My fiance and the guy at the wine store both agree that half a bottle of red, a third a bottle of white, and a third bottle of sparkling is a good per-head estimate because it takes in both wasted wine and people who will want to drink more than others.

But that means we'll be budgeting almost a bottle of wine per person, plus a cocktail or two. I can't imagine that more than a quarter of our guests would be such heavy drinkers!

Our wines, FYI, are:

-Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile (a steal at K&L Wines for $10!)
-Silvano Follador prosecco (shockingly yeasty for an Italian sparkling, with an intensely fragrant nose, $13)
-white to be determined, but we have a few rieslings and a gruner veltliner in mind.

We actually replaced two favorites, Seghesio Zinfandel and Piper Hiedsieck extra dry, because K&L was able to find us wines that were excellent if not quite as good for half the price.

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  1. "My biggest question is guesstimating the number of bottles we need."

    I assume you're referring to Hollywood's K&L ( 1400 Vine ).
    They've opened at this location barely 5 months now, and are doing their very best in the customer service dept.
    I assume they wouldn't have a problem with you returning unopened bottles, did you ask?

    1 Reply
    1. re: RicRios

      Thanks for the replies, everyone! Will keep it all filed away in my brain.

      RR, they do not at all mine returns on unopened bottles, but I want to keep it under control because I would still have to haul back any leftovers, they won't take back any bottles that look damaged (like if they've been submerged in ice and water), and there's a 5% restocking fee. I doubt I'll return since there's a restocking fee; we'll just drink the leftovers in the months following!

    2. Personally, I might shy away from Riesling or Gruner Veltliner* -- while I personally thing these would be excellent choices, the fact that (in your own words) "Most of our guests are new to wine, as in curious but not at all knowledgeable," means these may not be the right choice for your guests, even if it is for you.

      Keep in mind that, when I got married, I was still in the wine trade (I retired after 35 years), and many of our guests were well-known winemakers and winery owners from Napa, Sonoma, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. But a good number of guests -- the friends of the bride's and the bride's family -- were not "into" wine; many liked it, but were not knowledgable (like your guests). Our wedding reception wines were a Domaine Grand Veneur Cotes-du-Rhone Villages Vieilles Vignes (with a suggested reail price of, IIRC, $13) and a Kuentz-Bas Pinot Blanc from Alsace (suggested retail of $12). EVERYONE -- novice and professional -- loved the wines.

      This is not to suggest changes to what you have already chosen, but rather to merely suggest something more accessible to the average drinker than a Riesling or Gruner Veltliner. I'd look seriously at -- from France -- Alsatian Pinot Blancs, white wines from the Maconnais (like Macon-Villages or Vire-Clesse), or if you want something with more weight to it, a Cotes du Rhone Blanc; from New Zealand, there are a number of Sauvignon Blancs that are classic without being so high in acidity as to make a novice cringe; and so on . . .

      Jason

      * One GV that would work is the Hofer Niederosterreich Gruner Veltliner -- it comes in a one-litre bottle and is sealed with a crown cap, which may be off-putting to some, but the wine is delicious and a regular at our house in warm weather.

      2 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        Just one person's palate difference... I find riesling to be among the most accessible wines to newbie drinkers....

        1. re: Chicago Mike

          If one is looking to wines like J.Lohr or Kendall-Jackson -- off-dry Rieslings from California -- then I would agree with you. These ARE among the most accessible wines to "newbies." But dry Rieslings from Alsace or Austria, or even trocken-, halbtrocken or Kabinett-style wines from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer are often too minerally, too austere for inexperienced wine drinkers.

          Just my 2ยข-- YMMV. ;^)

      2. I think those are pretty good estimates! Usually, a wedding reception is around 4 hours if each person has a bottle of wine and two cocktails that is 1 drink every 40 minutes. Some will drink more some less. 6 drinks might sound like a lot, but its not unreasonable, especially with an open bar, some people take advantage in those situations.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sweetnspicy

          That's pretty close the the number we use when calculating for banquet/catering events. I generally go with one drink per person per hour (that you're serving drinks) for the event. But I wouldn't subtract any except the kids. Some people always drink more and some (drivers, etc) will drink less, but it'll work out. Good luck! Oh, also, remember, you don't have to provide enough for everyone to get hammered.

        2. Pei,
          First of all, mazeltov!

          I love K&L, love the Follador Prosecco and think you are on the right track.
          Her are a few ideas for whites - but if you are working with either Greg or Jacques - you are in very good hands indeed.

          They are clearing out the stock of 2004 Livio Felluga Sauvignon from Friuli for ~$8/ bottle - is just lovely.

          The '06 Burgans Albarino is fun to drink and seems versatile with food pairings.

          I love Reisling but think it scares a lot of people who are driven to thoughts of horrid, treacly wines.

          One last thought, I have yet to try the Root 1 (hear good things from a friend) but perhaps you want to consider a lighter red or an alternate red if you are dead set on the cab? Just a thought and, as I said before, K&L is unlikely to steer you wrong.

          I recently attended a great, small wedding in Chicago and they had two reds (altos de luzon jumilla and a lighter, french red) and two whites (one was a spanish, the other a gv) available at the bar. It was really nice to be able to make a choice depending on what one liked or what one was eating.

          Best,
          -bodie

          1. Do riesling as your white... it's a good wine with "seafood", but for large gatherings, even more importantly it's one of the very best social wines that are easy to sip by themselves... maybe the very best. Also, your budget of more than one bottle per guest seems a bit high unless these are dedicated drinkers. That's 9 plus 3oz pours per person, seems high for a non-wine tasting event.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chicago Mike

              Thanks Mike, your thoughts on riesling mirror mine closely. We don't have a lot of dedicated drinkers, but we have enough dabblers that they'll be intrigued by the presence of rieslings. And for whatever reason, my friends seem almost to enjoy smelling wine than drinking it, so an intensely fragrant, dry, minerally riesling seems like a good bet for me.

              As for bodie's comments on the cab, we definitely need to have some kind of cab sauv around to appease the crowd, but the idea of adding an alternate light red is a good one, especially for the cocktail hour.