What to serve when entertaining at home this New Year's Eve

House party

It’s time to celebrate the passing of another year. What are you doing this New Year's Eve? Out of the thousand invitations you received, may I suggest you stay in this New Year’s Eve?

Staying in not only allows you to control your spending but offers you and your family and friends a chance to enjoy yourselves without unruly crowds, mass-produced appetizers and the biggest audacity of all — the over-priced drinks.

First, you need to figure out whom to invite. Keep your headcount down to just those folks you really want to spend the last hours of the old year and the first few minutes of the New Year with. My Cuban grandmother always told me that the people you celebrate the New Year with are the ones that will surround you for the next 12 months. So if you don’t want cousin so-and-so dropping in all 2012 long, then don’t put them on the invite list.

The next “to-do” is the menu. Keep it simple. Serve a variety of cheeses, fruits and cold cuts and cured meats. Place a baguette on a cutting board and let your guests cut the pieces as they wish. Fill a martini or wine glass with mixed nuts or trail mix and another with an assortment of olives and pepperoncinis. Many seafood departments sell cocktail-ready shrimp and Nestle Toll House has cookie dough you can just pop in the oven. Don’t be shy about asking your guests to bring something either.

Finally, it’s time to decide on the libations. In the “keep-it-simple spirit,” I suggest three bottles of wine that should cover a variety of tastes and celebratory needs.

We’ll start with an interesting Cabernet from Washington State: the Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($28). Cold Creek Vineyard is 35 years in the making and offers wines with intense black fruit (think blueberries, blackberries, black raspberries). Your guests will enjoy this with Monterey Jack and extra sharp cheddar cheeses. This wine also goes well with cured meats such as salami and jamón Serrano (Spanish aged ham). Try this Cabernet with still slightly warm chocolate chip cookies. A great way to start the New Year!

Next pick: the Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto ($18), a fun and, believe it or not, versatile wine. Versatile is not a usual port adjective but read on. Obviously, you can drink the Sandeman’s as-is, and it can be paired with blue cheese or Gorgonzola, mixed nuts or trail mix; or if you like chocolate chip cookies with pecans, this is the drink for you. But you can also make cocktails with the Sandeman Founders Reserve. Fill a rocks glass with ice and pour port to cover. Garnish with an orange wedge and a sprig of mint. Make mulled port wine by heating wine up with sugar, orange slices, allspice, mace, nutmeg, cloves and a cinnamon stick. Or toast the passing of autumnal equinox by blending 2 ounces port, 1 ounce Grand Marnier orange liqueur and 1/2 ounce of amaretto almond liqueur over ice.

It is New Year’s Eve so we need a sparkling wine that can be a part of the evening as well as a part of the midnight cheer. A bottle of the Riondo Prosecco, Punto Rosso DOC 2010 is all you’ll need. For about $18, this sparkler will give any champagne at double the price a run for its money. The bubbles are generous and give little explosions of doughy and refreshing fruit flavors. This sparkling wine is perfect with Brie or goat cheese and foods on the spicy side like horseradish sauce for the shrimp cocktail. If you decide to serve fresh veggies with the obligatory Ranch dressing, you have the perfect pair with the Riondo Prosecco Punto Rosso.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2012 filled with lots of laughter, song and good wine.

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