Over the weekend, Adam and I sat down with our calendars, pens, and glasses of Pinot and got organized on our holiday season schedules. We penciled in dates for each of our company parties, taking the kids to see Santa, dinners with our families, and the couples dinner party we look forward to throwing each year. It may feel premature, but I’ve learned through the years that come December, if something doesn’t make it onto my calendar early, it’s likely to get squeezed out by the other demands of the season. My goal this year is to have an intentional holiday, which means doing a little less but making sure those things I commit to are in line with what I really care about. One of those priorities is to spend quality time with my girl friends, and the challenge is how to get everyone together in a way that’s low maintenance but still feels special. Enter the wine and appetizer party we threw with La Crema just in time for holiday party season. Keep reading for the decor, recipes, and wine pairing tips you need to pull this one off like a pro during the busiest time of the year.
*photos by kate lesueur
One of the beautiful things about a wine and appetizer party is that, with a little extra care put into the presentation, it looks much fancier that it actually is. This spread of food took me less than an hour to put together, but I made sure the simple flavors each packed a punch. Weeknight party, anyone?
A big vintage-inspired champagne bucket is one of my holiday hosting hacks: filled with white wine, it looks so festive on the table and lets guests open another bottle and help themselves.
A few minutes before party time, I poured a glass of Monterey Pinot Gris (my fave) and enjoyed a few minutes to myself. The crisp, minerally flavors are the perfect way to kickoff an evening with friends.
Lots of greenery and metallic details are the quickest way to make a space feel festive and chic. This year, I’m adopting a more-is-more approach when it comes to shine; from the ornaments on the tree to my gift wrap palette, a mix of silver, gold and bronze feels both warm and sophisticated.
My unofficial drink of winter 2017 is La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. I used to be more of a white wine gal, but this one’s fully converted me to Team Red, especially as the temps have dropped into full on sweater weather.
With notes of red cherry and pomegranate and a little spice, the Pinot Noir has that warm coziness everyone’s looking for on a winter’s night without feeling heavy.
Since all of my appetizers can be served at room temp, I was able to set out everything before guests arrived. Which means I was actually able to eat, drink, and be merry right along with them!
On our appetizer menu:
- maple-glazed brussels sprouts skewers
- endive leaves with chèvre, candied walnuts & pomegranates
- crostini with prosciutto & strawberry preserves
- crostini with butternut squash & crispy sage
- sweet potato chips & beet chips with herbed yogurt dip
- citrus-marinated olives & peppers with orange zest & herbs
Carmen created these “wine-stained” pairing cards to provide suggestions on wines to complement each appetizer. The Monterey Pinot Noir‘s balanced acidity and juicy fruit flavors paired perfectly with my citrus-marinated olives and peppers.
It’s hard to find an appetizer that’s easier than crostini, which is really just a fancy way of saying “grilled bread topped with yummy ingredients!” These flavor combinations are delicious for the holiday season, but you can change them up based on whatever you’re craving.
For the first crostini, I topped grilled baguette slices with butternut squash, blue cheese and sage, and paired it with La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. The richly textured floral aromas and citrus flavors of the wine will impress even the pickiest of wine drinkers, and I love this handy guide that shares expert tips on pairing Chardonnay with food.
Our other crostini served up a sweeter option with strawberries, thin slices of prosciutto, chopped basil, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
After everyone had filled their plates, we moved the party to the living room for some major relaxation and catching up around the fireplace.
We also indulged in my favorite activity of the season: a Secret Santa gift exchange! I know, I know — kinda corny, but there really is no better way to celebrate the season with your closest crew than by surprising each other with personal gifts. Plus, drawing names eliminates the pressure (and expense) of getting a gift for everyone.
Carmen sips her Pinot by the tree and savors those magical Christmas vibes.
Jenn can’t wait to see what her Secret Santa wrapped up this year.
Hope that y’all find some time to host a little gathering this year – and remember that it doesn’t take loads of prep (or cash) to make an evening unforgettable! A few bottles of wine, delicious small bites that you could totally pickup from the grocery store, and (most important) great friends are the not-so-secret ingredients that make this season magic.