Francis Ford Coppola’s grandmother, Maria Zasa, spoke four languages – English, Italian, Arabic and French and with each sip of wine she would offer a toast, “À votre Santé” – to your health. Today, Grandma Zasa Coppola’s memory, and her celebration of family and togetherness, is honored with Coppola’s Votre Santé collection of wine. Inspired by the story behind these wines, I hosted a pre-holiday get-together with a few close friends and family at a gift wrapping party that celebrates tradition… and delicious food and wine, of course. In addition to a decked-out gift wrapping station, I set out the makings for a build-your-own grilled cheese buffet and all the wines to pair them with. Click through for all the fun, and I’d love to hear: how do you and your family toast the holidays each year?
*photos by kate lesueur
A table of sips and sweets invites guests to dive right in when they arrive (because during the holidays, it’s totally okay to eat dessert first.) Three of my favorite wines from Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Votre Santé collection and a selection of holiday cookies made up the welcoming spread, and all that was needed to complete the decor was a simple boxwood wreath and oversized pine cones.
For the dessert spread, cute decorated Christmas cookies are always a winner (these are from Eleni’s), and we dressed up a store-bought brownie mix by cutting the brownies into Christmas tree shapes, frosting with chocolate icing, and then sprinkling with crushed peppermints.
Standard white linen napkins become super festive when tied up with long cinnamon sticks, red and white baker’s twine and sprigs of greenery snipped from the tree.
Bottoms up! I pour the first few glasses, then let guests help themselves to the self-serve bar.
Jessi gets festive with a glass of Chardonnay and a plate full of sweets — one of each type, of course. The chardonnay’s crisp acidity, brimming with apple, peach, and pear flavors, pairs perfectly with apricot-glazed chicken or a fruit and cheese plate.
Moving on to the main course (and what might be my favorite party spread to date), I set up a build-your-own grilled cheese station with everything needed to make a perfectly pressed sandwich.
Guests won’t mind doing all the work when they have these ingredients to choose from:
- Bread: Seeded, Sourdough, Cranberry-Walnut
- Cheese: Gruyere, Brie, Shredded Mozzarella, Gorgonzola
- Toppings: Prosciutto, Apple, Pesto, Tomatoes, Fig Chutney, Caramelized Onions, Thyme
Suggest a few great topping combinations, then let everyone play chef and build their own sandwiches exactly to their liking.
My favorite combinations of the day:
- prosciutto, apple, thyme, honey
- pesto, tomato, mozzarella, arugula
- fig chutney, caramelized onions, gorgonzola, fresh figs
I then brushed sandwiches with melted butter, pressed on a panini pan, and served them hot off the stove.
Chanel paired her tomato, mozzarella & basil pesto grilled cheese with Votre Santé Chateau Red — the perfect complement to this medium-bodied wines’ fragrant aromatics and smoky notes.
A party with your closest friends and family often doesn’t require a formal table setting. During this busy season, there’s something refreshing about hosting a super laid back holiday bash: guests came and went as they pleased, we ate and mingled while standing, and we lounged around the living room while some got started wrapping their presents.
With a build-your-own grilled cheese bar, seconds are probably mandatory.
I set out a low coffee table with all the materials you could ever possibly need to wrap the perfect present: wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, tape, ribbon, twine and tags.
Don’t worry about keeping things neat and tidy. It only took a matter of minutes for our entire arrangement to turn to chaos, and guests instantly spread out on the floor to use as their gift-wrapping workspace.
Flowing wine means flowing creativity! We kept our glasses filled and refilled throughout, making the mid-day get together truly feel like a party.
… and the crafternoon was in full swing.
My favorite thing about this new tradition: getting to share it with Phoebe. Since this is the first Christmas that she’s really been able to relish the season, I was set on throwing a party that she’d enjoy, too — grilled cheese and presents for the win!
These berries were snipped from a neighborhood tree, and it seemed no matter what paper or ribbon we used, they added a gorgeous natural color and texture. I love to look out in my own backyard for inspiration on creative seasonal trimmings — pine branches, rosemary, acorns, and interesting leaves all make gorgeous gift toppings.
Have a friend or family member with killer handwriting? Put them to work! My cousin Sarah handwrote names on each of our gift tags.
In addition to giving a thoughtful gift, the outside of a wrapped present can be just as personalized. With each invitation, I encouraged guests to bring photocopied family photos that could be adhered to the packages, instantly transforming a plain kraft paper box into a celebration of family and tradition.
My mom always encourages me to take a break from the holiday madness to kick back, relax and look through old family photos. The only tricky part at this gathering was concealing my gift for each one of them while I attempted to wrap it in secrecy!
Having kids around for during the holidays has definitely made it more magical this year. Phoebe can’t get enough of Santa (and has lots of strong opinions about what she wants him to bring him!)
And if you’re planning to host a gift-wrapping party this holiday season? Be sure to double knot those bows to keep little hands from breaking into their presents prematurely!