Holiday Entertaining: Advice From a Local Wine Expert

It’s that time of year again! ‘Tis the season for hustle, bustle, merry-making, and joy. It’s a time of gathering, community, family and friends. But mainly, it’s the season of gathering.

Our holiday calendars are filled with gatherings of all kinds, from fancy black-tie soirees to intimate dinners with the closest of friends. It’s the most wonderful time of the year and these gatherings are what make the holidays special.

Chances are that in addition to attending these gatherings, at least once in your lifetime you will also host one. Practicing hospitality and opening your home to friends and family is a wonderful thing and brings the warmth and joy of the holiday season right onto your own turf.

Be that as it may, there’s no denying that hosting an event, whether large or small, can be overwhelming. To pull off even a small gathering requires tremendous planning and organization.

The stress of it all can mount, turning party-hosting into a terrible headache – and quickly. While we can’t help you navigate the complicated social and familial maneuvering involved with the seating chart…

We can help with your wine menu.

Sometimes intimidating and often confusing, we all know how imperative good selections can be to the flow of a party. To take some of the guesswork out of the process, we met with the Monaghan S. Cullen, the wine expert at Goody Goody in Little Elm.

After thirty years in the beverage industry, Cullen knows his stuff, so we were happy to pick his brain so we can share some of his time-tested tips and tricks to help make your holiday event pour smoothly.

It’s ok to cheat (in your planning).

Estimating the amount of wine you need doesn’t have to be difficult and stressful. Instead of working with complicated equations and relying on Google, Cullum uses Evite’s party planning app to help his clients plan their wine needs.

It’s simple and effective, helping you gauge your alcohol needs in just a few clicks. Technology is a beautiful thing and this little app simplifies the planning process immensely.

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Know the season.

Unless you’re working within a specific theme for your event (think white party or bubbles only), it’s important to have a mix of red and white wines on hand.

As the months turn colder and the holidays ramp up, Cullum recommends a 60/40 red to white split, though he does advise each client to defer to their own preferences as well. One of the perks of hosting is menu control so be sure to treat yourself to your favorites when stocking up.

Go with the unexpected yet versatile.

Wine pairing is one of the most complicated and often maligned aspects of entertaining. Knowing which red goes well with both turkey and stuffing or which white pairs with prime rib and mashed potatoes is a tall order, even for the experts.

And while we’re all familiar with the beloved Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Cullum recommends something a bit more unexpected and versatile to his clients. Amarone is his favorite “stand-alone” Italian red because it won’t be overwhelmed by anything on your menu. Made from raisins (yes, raisins) this wine has a higher alcohol count and rich, concentrated flavor sure to wow your guests.

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For a versatile white that also pairs well with everything, he recommends Vouvray, a sweet wine with a strong acidity to provide balance. This wine can range from sweet to dry, but at any variety, it is a solid wine that pairs well with everything. Both can be found at Goody Goody and provide you with unexpected simplicity for all of your entertaining needs.

The three-wave plan.

Not sure when to serve your best bottles and when to break out the bargain deals? Cullum has a simple formula to help solve this common party-planning dilemma.

His Three Wave Plan breaks your party down into sections and dictates which bottles to serve and when. Early in the evening, when guests and casual acquaintances are simply dropping by to mingle and say hi, serve your “wine for the masses,” concentrating on your budget-conscious picks.

Your second wave bottles are typically your favorites, good quality standards best served with a full meal and close family and friends. This is your second wave of wine. Your third wave, these are your precious bottles reserved for late in the evening, when your favorite and closest are the only ones left and you’re ready to cozy down by the fire and settle in for good conversation.

Every good event winds down with an excellent nightcap, so be sure to hold the best of the best for this third wave.

Don’t be afraid of dessert wines.

Want to end on a sweet note? Cullum always recommends a dessert wine to close out the evening. From Ports to Sherrys to German Ice Wines. For a general dessert wine that pairs well with everything, you cannot go wrong with either a German Reisling.

For a more specific pairing, Cullum recommends a French Sauterne to match up with the holiday staple Pecan Pie. There truly is a dessert wine for every palate, and Cullum and his team at Goody Goody are happy to help you find the perfect one for your holiday gathering.

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These tips can’t guarantee that you won’t burn the turkey or have zero familial conflict. They certainly can’t help you decide whether or not it’s safe to put opinionated Aunt Edna next to your grumpy neighbor Jim, either. But they can take some of the stress out of holiday party-planning and allow you to feel confident when you’re pouring your cherished guests their first and last glass of wine.

For more helpful wine tips and a selection of over 3,600 bottles of wine, visit Cullum and his team at Goody Goody in Little Elm.

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