Have friends bring over a bottle of wine they love -- you'll learn new labels and might even find a new favorite table wine.
I love wine, but I don't know a lot about it. Sure, I can tell good from terrible, but that doesn't make me a connoisseur. Since I learn best through the immersion method, throwing a wine-tasting party twice a year is the best way to get friendly with more labels and add to my short list of reliable table wines.
I'm not talking about an exclusive gathering of sensitive palates, swirling and sniffing ad nauseam. How it works is simple: every couple brings two bottles of wine. One is a wine they already love, something easygoing and affordable but worth introducing to others. The second bottle is a wild card, a wine new to that person. This is the fun part, branching out into the unknown. I rely on the wine buyer at my local market for suggestions. Sometimes it's an overlooked wine region, other times it's an unusual version of a well-known varietal -- like a drier, crisp gewurtztraminer from Anderson Valley, California.
Though a wine-tasting gathering technically falls in the "cocktail party" category, letting the host off the hook for dinner, I always put out enough appetizers to fill up my guests. Instead of going on to dinner, the trend is for friends to linger, talk and sip wine, and a table brimming with lovely appetizers encourages guests to settle in.
Since this is my first party of the fall, I'll make a centerpiece for the table, perhaps even a wreath for the door, and I will have candles burning throughout the room.
For the perfect accompaniment for these appetizer meatballs, sprinkle finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese on slices of French bread. Bake in a 425-degree oven about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.
No fall holiday party is complete without a plate of crackers and a cheese ball.