Have friends bring over a bottle of wine they love for a wine-tasting party. You'll learn about new grapes and vineyards -- and might even find a new favorite vino.
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 for me 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 the vino is from an overlooked wine region; other times it's an unusual version of a well-known varietal -- like a drier, crisp Gewurztraminer from California or a funky, effervescent Txakoli from Spain.
Not too cold, not too warm—just right! Discover the proper temperature to serve any wine.
Though a wine-tasting gathering technically falls in the "cocktail party" category, which lets 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 generally 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.
No fall holiday party is complete without a plate of crackers and a cheese ball. As a bonus, you can make and freeze any of these variations up to three months ahead of your party!
Get the recipe: Make-Ahead Dilled Onion Cheese Balls
Of course you can still place a few bowls of olives out for appetizers, but including this spread won't hurt, either. You can make and freeze it up to 3 months in advance, so it's one less appetizer to make the day-of.
Get the recipe: Triple-Olive Tapenade
Give hummus a healthy twist by sneaking sweet potato, parsnips, and carrots into the mix. You can make and chill this easy app up to 3 days in advance, so it can be a no-stress snack at any party.
Get the recipe: Roasted Roots Hummus
This appetizer might look fancy, but it's ready to serve in an hour. Plus, your guests will love scooping up fresh, gooey brie with apple and pear slices.
Get the recipe: Baked Brie en Croute
These rich meatballs have a surprise inside -- gooey feta cheese! Start slow-cooking these meatballs in a thick tomato sauce in the morning so they're ready to eat when your guests arrive.
Get the recipe: Greek Stuffed Meatballs
Make your appetizer spread a little heartier by including these pork and veggie skewers. If cucumbers and grape tomatoes aren't for you, mix it up and create your own combos.
Get the recipe: Mini Souvlaki Skewers with Fennel-Yogurt Dip
Make your own masterpiece! Click for more inspiration for mix-and-match souvlaki.
Your guests will love snacking on this fresh, cheesy bruschetta. You'll love that it only takes 15 minutes to prepare and 5 minutes to bake!
Get the recipe: Two Tomato Bruschetta
These recipes aren't your only options. Mix and match your favorite party appetizers to pair with your glasses of wine. Or invite your guests to bring an appetizer and host a potluck-style party!