December 2006 Archives

By Jamie Rushing

Well it is officially December and if you are like me, you are getting geared up for holiday parties and guests. There are a number of hip things you can do this year to spruce up your typical party motif. Many of my hostess tricks were learned from numerous wine tasting events and special occasions out in Wine Country. And when it comes to wine for the season, I have three words: never enough sparkling!

It’s true, there is something about this season that transforms your big red drinkers and beer devotees into champagne toasting fiends. I know this from personal experience at my holiday party last year. And my ratio of bubbly beverages was quite a bit off. My cabs took a back seat and my zins got zero attention. The minute I popped the first cork, the reaction was infectious:
“Oh that looks good! I’ll take a glass of champagne.”

I zipped through my first case of sparkling in about 1 hour (again "sparkling" not champagne- as it was not from the specified region in France.) And I have to believe my signature champagne cocktail concoction further swayed guests to venture from their usual glass of chardonnay.

I had always wanted to impress guests with a little creative bar tending…and now was my chance- seeing as it involved my favorite beverage of!
My “Afternoon Delight” was a delightful blend of first raspberry liquor- enough to fill a thimble in the bottom of the glass, topped off with sparkling wine, a dash of bitters and a large meyer lemon slice floating on top. The idea was to bring a ray of sunshine into the winter season.

Well, plain or mixed in unique drinks, the bubbly goes over well this time of year. And it pairs quite well with any of the usual suspects on a seasonal party platter. Especially mild cheeses, classic shrimp cocktail, honey roasted ham and sugary vanilla cookies.

From my past experience, one little party appetizer that always disappears quickly is the famous finger sandwiches.... but all decked out in a much cooler way. Pile up slices of nice delicatessen roast beef or smoked turkey, some quality balsamic mustard, a shaving of gruyere and colorful arugula (also adds a little peppery kick) on pre-packaged pastry dough. Bake up in oven at 375 for 15 minutes and serve! They actually come out pretty as wrapped packages and are easy to manage with wine in one hand.

The secret to my holiday wine gatherings is in the savory condiments and the sparkling cocktails. So stock up on plenty of both.
In fact, quite a few unique sauces and spreads can be found here on

Happy Holiday Entertaining!