Entertaining on a Budget

Welcome guests in style, while keeping expenses under control.


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Your house is party central—but your budget is strapped. How to welcome guests in style, while keeping holiday expenses under control? No one has more experience entertaining graciously on a budget than COPIA, the nonprofit wine center in Napa, California, which hosts crowds six days a week. We checked in with senior director of wine and food, Peter Marks, who offers this advice:

 

 

 

  • Calculate your wine needs, and buy the right amount. For open houses and cocktail parties, plan on 1/3 to 1/2 bottle per person; for a sit-down dinner, one bottle per person.
  • Leave your treasures in the cellar. They'll be appreciated more at small gatherings with close friends.
  • Hunt for bargains. Big retailers offer deals this time of year. Savvy shoppers can find quality $15 wines discounted to $12 or even $8.
  • Ask for a case discount. Not always available, but it doesn't hurt to check.
  • Buy American. California sparkling wines give French Champagne stiff competition.
  • Try vino. Spanish and South American imports provide excellent value.
  • Think inside the box. Today's packaged wines are vintage-dated varietals. The quality won't embarrass youif the container does, decant it.
  • Serve mulled wine. Spices will overpower the wine flavor, so start with a large jug of something inexpensive and fruity.
  • Opt for 8 ounce glasses.
  • Serve lots of food. Wine consumption goes down when folks are busy nibbling.
  • Encourage responsible drinking. Offer plenty of water and non-alcoholic beverages. Everyone will appreciate it, not just designated drivers and non-drinkers.
  • For large parties, name a bartender. Caterers say consumption rises 10% when guest pour their own.
  • Don't stress. A warm, welcoming, relaxed host helps make any gathering a success. Have fun at your own party, and enjoy the holidays!

 


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