Nothing establishes your credentials as a host/hostess with the most-est or A-List guest better than a well-spoken quote.
The term "toast" originated in merry olde England. Before the modern refinements of squeaky-clean winemaking, a slice of toasted bread was tossed into the wine goblet to sop up murky sediment and undefined solid matter. Draining the goblet in another's praise involved eating the wine-soaked bread, or "drinking a toast."
Ross' choiceName: Semi-dry
Producer: Right Bee Cider
Availability: At major groceries and wine and spirits chains, $9.99 per six-pack.
(Distributed by: Town & Country Distributors, Itasca)
America's bounty of apples is the gift of John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed, 1774-1845), who cultivated orchards throughout 100,000 miles of Midwest frontier, not for our symbolic apple pie, but for the cider that homesteaders required in the absence of safe drinking water. By all accounts, he spread kindness and generosity along with his seeds, with sayings such as, "Do not worry at being worried; but accept worry peacefully. Difficult but not impossible." You may toast Johnny and your favorite worries with this dry, unfiltered cider which is created, packaged and distributed by Chicago-based Katie Morgan and Charlie Davis. When they met in 2011, Charlie brewed a symbol of his lasting love, and Right Bee Cider (get it?) was born.
"The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette" (Tuckerman, N. and Dunnan, N., 1995, Doubleday, New York) provides detailed instructions on toasting, but the basic procedure is simple.
As host or hostess, the first toast is up to you. Well in advance, prepare, write down and rehearse a few appropriate words of thanks, congratulations or downright flattery for your guest-of-honor or company at large. After the main course, gently rap your wineglass with an unused utensil. As all eyes turn to you, take a deep breath, stand and speak. When the toast is complete, hold your glass aloft towards your guest(s), offer a few final words such as "To Harry!" and drink. Finally, sit and bask in the admiration of family and friends.
Original comments are always appreciated, but if Mother Wit leaves you in the lurch, you may borrow these toasts of the ages, along with a few complementary wines:
Are you the host? "By the bread and the salt, by the water and wine,/ Thou are welcome, my friend, at this board of mine." (Anonymous)
The guest? "Let's raise up our glasses and make this fair toast: short life to our liquor, long life to our host." (Anonymous)
Is there a lawyer in the house? "Say it with jewelry, say it with drink, but always be careful not to say it in ink." (Anonymous)
Are you drinking to a new friendship? "May our friendship, like wine, improve as time advances." (Anonymous)
Bruno Giacosa, "Le Rocche del Falletto" Barolo Riserva DOCG, 2008 (Italy): Alluring aroma of pine forest, dried rose petals and ripe fruit, with powerful (never heavy) mouthfeel supported by precise tannin. With only 10,000 bottles produced, the wine is hard to find but impossible to forget. ($400)
Or to golden relationships? "What though youth gave us love and roses/ Age still leaves us friends and wine." (Thomas Moore, Irish poet, 1779-1852)
Is the guest of honor an overseas visitor? "Water separates the people of the world. Wine unites them." (Anonymous)
From Spain? "Water for oxen, wine for kings." (Spanish proverb)
Vall Llach "Embruix" 2014 (Spain): A plush and chewy blend based on Garnacha, with juicy, extra-ripe berry flavors accented by chocolate, licorice and brown spice, beautifully-integrated tannin and refreshing acidity. An exceptional value from Spain's pricey Priorat region. ($24)
Or the good old USA? "Kiss French, drink American." (Anonymous)
Gary Farrell, Pinot Noir "Russian River Valley," 2015 (USA): Rich, raspberry red, with succulent, nearly jammy raspberry-cranberry-pomegranate flavors sprinkled with exotic spice. Serve with Asian barbeque, grilled salmon, pork fillet and roast turkey. ($45)
(This just in: Farrell's Chardonnay, "Russian River Selection," 2015 has been named "#1 Wine of the Year" by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.)
Many toasts celebrate the world's most celebrated beverage: "Here's to Champagne, the drink divine, that helps us forget all our troubles. It's made from a dollar's worth of wine and three dollar's worth of bubbles." (Anonymous)
Charles Heidsieck, Brut Reserve Champagne, Non-Vintage (France): Apple and brioche aromas bounce from the glass, introducing round texture and endless, mouthwatering finish. Will reward cellaring but delish to enjoy tonight. ($59.99)
On Dec. 31, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., you can practice your toasts with some of the world's finest sparklers in a tasting/seminar, "Cheers to Bubbly" at The Chopping Block, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago. We'll discuss "the night they invented Champagne," taste Champagne and other international bubblies, paired with classic appetizers and new taste sensations. Registration ($95 per person) required. thechoppingblock.com/take-a-wine-class
And you may always quote our Founding Father Benjamin Franklin: "Wine is constant proof that God loves us wants to see us happy."
So, "Good wine and good health to you!" (This one's my own.)
• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers), a Certified Wine Educator (Society of Wine Educators) and recipient of the Wine Spectator's "Grand Award of Excellence." Her classes on wine and food are offered through The Chopping Block, Chicago. Write to her at food@daily herald.com.