By Rachel Thralls

Hosting a holiday party this season? I have some tips and tricks for hosting fabulous holiday parties all incorporating great wine ideas. The holiday season is the perfect time to expose your family and friends to new wines from Sonoma County! 

White Elephant Wine Dinner Party 

Instead of doing a traditional white elephant gift exchange with the usual silly stuff nobody needs, why not do a white elephant wine gift exchange. I recommend having a budget between $25-$40 and tell everyone to bring a bottle of their favorite Sonoma County wine. Have fun running a traditional white elephant exchange and let people steal away those bottles of wine. Two wines that everyone will love are Inman Family Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir and the Rodney Strong Vineyards Red Blend. Both wines are smooth, easy to drink, pair wonderfully with a variety of foods and fan favorites of those visiting Sonoma County. For this fun themed holiday party, I recommend a potluck and asking everyone to bring an appetizer or fun finger food.  


Wine & Food Pairing Station Party 

Everyone loves appetizers and small bites which are perfectly sized dishes to host with, especially when you have a larger crowd. Your guests can spend more quality time mingling and visiting with friends while trying different bites of flavorful foods and sipping wine. The key to larger dinner parties is crowd control. Set up individual tasting stations around your house with a dish and a select wine. Choose a variety of sweet, savory and healthy bites so there will be something for everyone which also lends itself to a broad variety of wines to pair.  

For a wine and food pairing party, it’s important to have a myriad selection of wines to go with the various food flavors. Stock up on a variety of popular, food friendly wines from Sonoma County such as Iron Horse Winery Classic Vintage Brut to pair with the cheese station; the Bricoleur Vineyards Kick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc to pair with vegetables and hummus dips as well as small salads; the Gary Farrell Russian River Chardonnay to pair with bite size quiche, deviled eggs and grilled chicken skewers; and the Nalle Winery Dry Creek Valley Classic Zinfandel or Dutton Estate Cherry Ridge Vineyard Syrah to pair with a pizza station. 

Not sure how much wine to have on hand? Depending on the size of your party, prepare for over a half-bottle per person. 20 people? Make sure and have 12 bottles on hand. 40 people? At least 2-3 cases of wine, 12 bottles per case. 


Holiday Pigs & Pinot Dinner Party 

Arguably, one of the best pairings out there is a pork dish with a delicious Pinot Noir. This holiday season, do something different and host a Pigs & Pinot Noir dinner party. You can choose from a variety of pork dishes including a roasted pork loin, grilled pork tenderloin, slow cooker mini pork sliders, stuffed pork loin, porchetta, or honey glazed pork chops. I recommend having 3 to 5 different Pinot Noir’s to choose from, all from different AVA’s in Sonoma County.  

A few favorites for a holiday dinner party: 

West Sonoma Coast: Peay Vineyards Pomarium Estate Pinot Noir, West Sonoma Coast 

Russian River Valley: MacRostie Winery Russian River Pinot Noir 

Green Valley: Dutton-Goldfield Emerald Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir 

Petaluma Gap: Trombetta Wines Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir 


Holiday Cookie Exchange Wine Party  

What are the holidays without cookies? There’s nothing quite like a holiday cookie exchange party, but why not make it about wine too?! Invite your guests to bring a plate of their favorite holiday cookies, enough to nibble on at the party and for guests to take home too. As the host, provide the wine for guests to sip on as they try the cookies.  

Here are some favorite holiday cookie and wine pairings: 

Chocolate chip cookies paired with Merlot 

Sugar Cookies paired with Sonoma County sparkling wine or a Late Harvest Semillon  

Spicy Ginger Bread cookies paired with Riesling or Gewürztraminer 

Shortbread cookies with Chardonnay 

Peanut Butter cookies with a vintage Port wine