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Christmas cheers

Wine-tasting party is classy choice for winter gathering

Holiday get-togethers can be lovely for the time you spend with people, but after a while, the themes can get a little tired. Do you really want to have to come up with something funny but not too embarrassing for that white elephant party? Do you really want to have to buy an ugly Christmas sweater?

Why not put together something a little classy? Why not put something together that can teach a person something?

Home wine parties can be a perfect way to celebrate the holidays – or it can simply provide something fun to do when the weather’s too cold to go outside, points out Kevin Geeting, a wine-maker at Country Heritage Winery in LaOtto.

Require cocktail attire or dress-down in jeans; have rating sheets for guests or let them free-for-all taste.

Geeting and Gary Buschman, an owner of Hops & Harvest, a home wine- and beer-making store, share their tips for throwing your own wine-tasting party.

What to serve

The wine menu can serve two purposes: It can span a range of wines, from dry whites to sweet dessert wines, or it can focus on one particular type of wine: reds, for example, or fruit wines. If a host or hostess knows the guests’ tastes, he or she can make a better judgment about what to serve, Geeting says.

If the tastes are unknown, or if they span the wine spectrum, stick with a variety of wines.

“You definitely want a merlot, a cabernet, some very traditional chardonnay,” Buschman says. “Port wine is always interesting. I like some of the mist wines, which are more of your sweeter, flavored wines – strawberry and styles like that.”

How to serve it

Geeting suggests the tasting have some sort of structure, determined by the host.

“You always try lightest to heaviest, driest to sweetest,” he says. “Dessert (wines) would be last, dry whites first.”

So a sample wine-tasting menu might go like this:

•Start with a dry white wine, such as chardonnay. A completely dry wine will have less than 0.1 percent residual sugar, according to California Vineyards, a website for California wine country.

•Follow it with a semi-dry white, such as a semi-dry riesling.

•Then a dry red, such as merlot or cabernet

•Keep the sweeter wines toward the end, such as white zinfandel, port or sweet rosé.

•Finish with a dessert wine, such as a fruit wine. Geeting says that Country Heritage has a blueberry wine made from the winery’s own berries.

What to serve it with

Buschman suggests having cheese and crackers on hand. Breads can also be handy, as they will soak up a lot of the alcohol.

Here are some cheeses to try from About.com’s wine page:

•Camembert pairs well with a variety of wines, including cabernet, chardonnay and merlot.

•Brie pairs well with rieslings, merlot and chardonnay.

•Blue cheese pairs well with zinfandels and port wines.

•Mascarpone and crème frâiche pair with dessert wines.

jyouhana@jg.net

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