Ring in the New Year with a Wine Tasting Party

With the busy holiday season coming to an end, who has the time or energy to plan an extravagant New Year's Eve affair? Rather than dinner at an overpriced restaurant or partying at an overcrowded club, celebrity party planner Polly Onet suggests a cozy, yet elegant soiree at home with family and friends to celebrate this season.

"Many people that I speak to feel that going out to celebrate is often a disappointment -- especially on New Year's Eve, when they find themselves toasting to the New Year in the company of strangers," said Ms. Onet, an event planner who coordinates glittering events for organizations such as the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation and the Princess Grace Foundation. "If done right," she said, "An evening at home with family and close friends can be a wonderful, intimate way to celebrate simply and with style."

Onet suggests giving your party personality with a theme. Hosting a New Year's Eve wine tasting party is a perfect way to spread holiday cheer, and you don't need a big budget to do it! Gather glasses, a corkscrew, tasty hors d'oeuvres and a variety of wines, and then invite your close friends. "People love parties that are entertaining and fun, plus offer the opportunity to learn something new. We are a society consumed with self-improvement, but we like to have some fun along the way as well," said Ms. Onet.

Here are her ideas for a creating a wine tasting party this New Year's:

Plan ahead
Whether you are having four guests or 40, keep it simple and prepare as much in advance as possible. To alleviate those last-minute trips to the store, begin your list-making as soon as you set your date. Create a detailed list of the food and beverages you want to serve.

Keep it simple
As a time saver you might consider a local caterer for some of the more complicated menu items. Or, buy prepared dips and spreads from a supermarket or gourmet shop. A simple plate of delicious cheeses and quality crackers go great with wine.

Wine Tasting Party Option 1
You can preselect wines from a winery or region that interests you. You'll need to be prepared to give some general information about each wine. Call upon the expertise of your local wine store or search online for information.

Wine Tasting Party Option 2
Invite each of your guests to bring a bottle of wine that interests them. Prior to the evening, they become "the expert" and share their thoughts and insight about the wine with the rest of your guests. "I prefer this format because it allows for more interaction, making your guests feel more involved," said Ms. Onet.

Send Your Guests off in Style
Give each guest a wine-related item as a party favor: "Get some pretty little bags and wrap up a few bottle openers, decanters, attractive wine stoppers and coasters. Another idea is to write each guest's name and the year on a wine glass that she can take home as a memento of your New Year's Eve celebration together," said Ms. Onet.

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