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The easy way to host a dinner party

The easy way to host a dinner party

I recently read an article about the death of the dinner party. It was an interesting read but it left me with mixed emotions. The article argued we have veered away from hosting sit-down dinner parties in our homes to instead gathering with friends at restaurants. And I agree, my husband and I find this form of entertainment effortless. But, at the same time I couldn’t wait to host my next dinner party!

There are many reasons why the classic dinner party isn’t as popular as it used to be — the obvious is the ease of meeting at a restaurant; but also time and planning; logistics of having enough dishes, glassware, flatware or chairs; limited cooking ability; and perhaps most tragic, that conservation and hosting may be becoming lost arts.

Another reason? Traditional dinner parties are viewed as stuffy, formal affairs. My suggestion is to move away from the formal setting and make the occasion casual.

An easy way of doing this is making the wine the central conversation piece of your gathering. Consider hosting a dinner with only three courses. Nothing complex, just a salad to start, main course and end with a dessert. I will leave the preparation to you but remember there is nothing wrong with picking up your courses from a local restaurant and serving them on your dishes. Pair each course with its own wine.


Most salads will have high acid ingredients such as tomatoes, citrus and certain cheeses including goat, feta or cheddar. They pair best with high-acid wines like sauvignon blanc, riesling, Champagne or sparkling wines. To make this course an easy match avoid serving the salad with an assertive vinaigrette.


  • BV Coastal Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $11 retail)


  • Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $26 retail)


Let your main course be an easy dish you have already mastered. Remember, the goal of your dinner party is just casual conversation and a relaxed setting. If a pasta dish is one of your specialties or you are a grill master, then that’s what you should serve. Just use your cooking confidence to prepare a main course stress free to you. Keep it simple with a light bodied red wine.


  • Aime Boucher Pinot Noir, France (about $13 retail)


  • A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $21 retail)


There is nothing wrong with grabbing a dessert from your local grocer. And remember your wine can also be your dessert.


  • Chateau Hallet Sauternes, France (about $20 retail, 375 mL)


  • Jackson Triggs Vidal Icewine, Canada (about $28 retail, 187 mL)
Tips for selecting the right wine for a party while sticking to your budget

Tips for selecting the right wine for a party while sticking to your budget

One of the questions I get most often during December is “what wine should I buy for my party?” but with the added request that the wine be inexpensive.

There is no one-wine-fits-every-party answer, but I do have a few tips to make your party planning easier, while keeping your budget in mind.

Tip 1

If it’s a large party, the wine must be a crowd-pleaser. This is the most important point and possibly the most ignored. The wine you serve needs to be widely popular and familiar to most people. This is not the time to champion your favorite varietal. Readers are aware of my love for Rieslings and know it is an an ideal choice for pairing with food. But this wine is not a good option for serving at a large party because most guests will avoid it — no matter how exceptional the brand or enthusiastic the hostess — simply because they are unfamiliar with this grape. Instead, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc are good white choices. They both offer refreshing acidity excellent for a range of food pairing. For red wine, merlot and pinot noir are familiar and the tannic structure is generally more restrained than a full-bodied high alcohol cabernet sauvignon. Because these grape varietals are popular among consumers there will be many saving opportunities with retailers.

Tip 2

Take an objective look at your guest list before making your choice. This is an important aspect for small gatherings. Does the guest list include only fellow wine lovers or is it a mix of your friend who is vegan and only drinks vegan wine, the couple you’ve never seen drink anything other than beer, even that friend who only drinks chardonnay no matter the occasion? Plan your beverages accordingly to save your budget.

Tip 3

Keep it simple. During the holidays many of us have a tendency to over think our celebration and offer too many options ranging from sparkling punch, cocktails, wine, beer and now trending sake. Offering one red wine, one white wine and one beer option along with nonalcoholic beverages will make it much easier to stick to a budget, set-up and clean up.

Tip 4

Your wine retailer should be your next best friend. With thousands of wine choices lining retail stores it’s reassuring to have an expert on hand to help. Take the time to find a staff member, explain the number of people, style and most importantly your budget and let them guide you. There are exceptional savings in most stores during the holidays and your retailer can direct you in finding these bottles based on your party needs and their stock.