Wines for Art Receptions: A Primer


Artists provide the wine and nibbles at many gallery venues, particularly co-ops. Picking the wine should be an easy, fun process and not something you agonize over. Here are some basics tips, some reliable but affordable brand recommendations, plus some cool artsy labels and high end options.

First off, know your reception. First Fridays (or Saturdays, or Thursdays, etc.) are all about large crowds, if you're lucky. Often viewers often move from venue to venue en masse for a fun no-cost night out. You don't need to dig into the cellar (or deep into your pockets) for this type of event. Think value, crowd pleasers, and the most basic rule of wine no matter the occasion: You should be happy to drink the wine you put on the table, even if it's for a "First" reception. Know that sometimes it's harder to get reds at a low price point. For your non-First receptions where crowds may be smaller, don't be afraid to step it up a bit.

So how much do I buy? Some galleries will stipulate exactly how much wine you need to bring. If not, visit a reception at the venue before your show time comes up so you can gauge how many people attend. Whoever pours for you, whether an intern or a family member or friend, they should know a good rule of thumb for portion control: 3 ounces is best. Get smaller plastic cups so the pour doesn't look stingy.

Size matters. Some venues encourage you to get the big bottles instead of 750 ml ones. But there are drawbacks to 1.5 liters, like if you need to open a fresh one when the night is winding down, wasting the juice. Also, selection of larger bottles is sometimes limited. Often you can find terrific values that are only available in 750s. And don't forget your pourers' wrists, because 1.5s are obviously heavier for non-stop pouring.

Don't get screwed. Look for screwcaps when possible. You might forget a corkscrew, or the one at the gallery since 1986 may be lousy, requiring an intense bottle headlock move from your junior varsity wrestling days that ends up covering you or the floor in Cabernet twenty minutes before your big event. Many quality wines meant to be enjoyed young are sealed with screwcaps these days. They're faster and easier on the hands--and a breeze to seal up at the end of the night for taking home.

Don't be afraid to stray. Chardonnays, Cabernets, Merlots, and Pinot Noirs are the varietals many folks put on the table, but you can find better value in Pinot Grigio, Malbecs, Shiraz, and various red blends. Now for some specific recommendations...

Full disclosure: My husband Stephen works for Total Wine, so many of these are wines available at their stores. He also helped me write this article.

Good "First" reception choices:
  • Canyon Oaks (available in 750 and 1.5)
  • Low Hanging Fruit (available in 750 and 1.5)
  • Santiago Station
  • Reserve St. Martin

Good "non-First" reception choices:
  • Oak Grove, especially Chardonnay, Merlot, and Zinfandel (red)
  • Radius Red Blend
  • Marietta Old Vines
  • Sexy Wine Bomb
  • Chateau de Nages
  • Quinta de Ventolzela QV
  • Garnacha del Fuego (cool flame label, because you know your art is hot)
  • Cloud Break (my favorite Moscato!)
  • Ask your local trusted wine vendor for great values. Keep in mind you can find fantastic Spanish wines from $5 - $10 rated highly by wine magazines. 
  • And you can't go wrong with Cavas for fizzy toasts or just because. They usually range from $6.99 - $9.99.

Fun art-related wines - cool labels. Can get pricey:
Eye Candy from Adler Fels

Look for wines that relate to your work. Again, we may not be in the cheap seats anymore, depending on your budget:
  • Running with Scissors for all you collage artists.
  • Inkling for those of you who drip or splatter.
  • Eye Candy - bright Lichtensteinesque graphics.
  • Stevens Winery - photography/graphic design/handwritten text. I personally want to get some of their An Artistic Thought for my solo exhibit Evidence in October. Self-effacing, stream of consciousness stuff. Perfect for my show:

Special wines that are art-related, but expensive:

So what are you bringing to your next reception?

Evidence at Studio Gallery 10/31 - 11/24/12


I'm getting excited about my solo at Studio Gallery, now under the direction of Nick Vesco. We're glad to have Nick, and wish a fond farewell to Fawna Xiao. The board graciously allowed Stephen to be my curator. I hope you can stop by!

October 31 - November 24, 2012
A one-person exhibition exploring the power of memory.

First Friday Reception:
November 2 from 6:30 - 8:30pm

Artist Reception:
Saturday, November 10 from 4 to 6pm

2108 R Street NW
Washington, DC 20008

Gallery Hours:
Wednesday - Friday, 1-7pm
Saturday, 1-6pm

Acrylic & Charcoal on Canvas
36 x 36 Inches, 2012