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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