One never knows when goodness will appear.

It all started when I was invited to host a wine tasting at a party honoring a birthday, a couple of near birthdays, a retirement and good friendships.

The wine tasting I could handle but I only knew about half of the people attending and, those I did know, one had to tread carefully around them because of their tremendous sense of humor. Was this going to be one of those events when you fail to reach your objective but still have a heck of a lot of fun?

I met with the grande dame (the hostess) to plan the event and we talked about what wines to pair with what appetizers. The hostess was the connector to all the invitees and I should have realized what was coming.

After accumulating the needed good wines, it was time for me to arrive at the site of the party. The bottles of wine were placed and poised for the attendees, the appetizers were appealingly smiling at us, the view of the prairie was pleasing and soon the guests began to arrive.

It was good to see each person’s arrival and how they interacted with the grande dame. After a good amount of time in which the guests talked about anything and everything (including how names got changed over the years — I still say the “n” should go before the “e”), the wait began. Yes, we had to wait for the birthday person! Can you believe that! Finally, the seriously good business of talking about wines began.

Figuratively speaking, we traveled from Minnesota, to Spain, to Oregon, to Italy, to Washington to California and back to Minnesota. Realistically, the guests only had to walk about 10 feet to the tasting table. I’m sure all of us could have walked farther but the grande dame was good to us.

We started with a wine pairing featuring a Minnesota Marquette from Crow River Winery near Hutchinson going up against a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend from Washington state’s Charles & Charles.

The winner of this pairing was the Marquette which exhibited aromas of spice and tastes of cherry, and spicy blackberries. The blend was nice, was a bit complex with the Cabernet grape appearing at first sip and then the spiciness of the Syrah coming in at the finish. Way to go, Minnesota!

Then we discussed the etiquette of toasting someone. The proper way to toast is simply this: the person being toasted doesn’t raise their glass while being toasted. After the primary toast, then the guest of honor raises her/his glass to everyone – who raise their glasses in reply — and thanks the assembly for their toast. It took a couple of times to get it straight — we had multiple near birthdays that caused some interesting glass lifting interaction — but we finally all got on the same page and the tasting continued. The Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry Champagne was extra good!

The two white wines were brought forward and introduced. There was a very nice Riesling from the Willamette Valley in Washington going up against a California Viognier from Peirano Estate Vineyards. The Viognier gave us very pleasing green apple aromas and tastes but the sweetness of the Riesling won the night. The well balanced Riesling with its appetizing acidity and fruits was very good and there were thumbs up all around the table for it.

We took some time off wine tasting to eat some appetizers and everything was so good! Well done, grande dame!

Then we had a European face off. We poured tastings of an Italian Toscana Sangiovese and a Spanish Granacha called Evodia. The Granacha is a bit drier than the Sangiovese and because they both have wonderful fruity aromas and tastes, the group was evenly divided about which one they enjoyed more. It seemed a good way to end the tasting event but there was a need to revisit Minnesota.

Suddenly a beautiful chocolate cake arrived at the table and a Minnesota Marquette Dessert Wine from Garvin Heights Vineyards near Winona was paired with the cake. It was a sweet time — too sweet for some but fine with others. The wine is delicate, has an aroma like a port but packs an alcohol content of 20 percent. One small glass was enough for the group and that’s a good thing because it was time to bring the tasting to a close.

In retrospect, it was a night full of friendships, laughs, tastings, discussions and singing. Yes, despite the birthday person arriving late for her own party (Again, can you imagine that?!?), we sang her the Happy Birthday song!

Driving home I found myself smiling about the entire evening. Goodness comes in many shapes, sizes, tastes and views. That night I saw, heard and tasted goodness!

As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!