At this point in the holiday season you’ve probably attended one or two holiday wine and bites party. Be strong, there are a few days left, and at least three more parties to go!

We’ve planned some memorable wine tasting events this season. One of my favorites was a Holiday Wine and Bites Party I co-hosted with Heartfelt Catering. Instead of a traditional menu, Chef Cecelia Hamilton created small bites which I paired some unique wines. This party was so fun and fresh! Guests loved being able to try an array of different pairings.

Instead of a traditional party, you can recreate this event in similar fashion for your own holiday party and give your guests a new experience in the comforts of your own home!

First, you want to create five food and wine stations in your space. One station could be in the foyer, another in the dining room and the last three in the living area. At each station, feature a wine paired with an appetizer. Your guests will move around the space enjoying various food and wine pairings. To make it easy on yourself and your guests, provide a short description of the pairing (see the next photo).

We love this idea, because it’s an adventure for your guests, but allows the hosts time to enjoy the party. Everything is set. Sounds like a lot of work – don’t worry, we’ve got you! Here are 5 wine and appetizer suggestions you can utilize for your event.

Station 1: Sparkling Wine

Wine: Nothing says the holidays like sparkling wine! Great sparkling wines are made in various regions of the world. One of my favorites is Franciacorta. Franciacorta is a sparkling wine from Lombardy, in northern Italy. The sparkling wines are made in the traditional method (same method used to make Champagne – but please don’t call it Champagne). The grapes used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and or Pinot Blanc. There are some amazing Franciacorta wines available in the U.S. One of my favorites is the Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta Brut. I visited the winery in December 2019 and was blown away by these wines. For your event, I am recommending the Ricci Curbastro Brut. This wine is gorgeous, rich, creamy with fresh fruit flavors.

Appetizer Ideas: Crab cakes (recipe included below), Shrimp with aioli, Fried Chicken   

Station 2: Brachetto d’Acqui with Sweet and Spicy

Wine: Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG. Of the wines tasted at this event, the Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui was the fan favorite. Brachetto is the name of the grape and Acqui Terme is the region in Piedmont, Italy (Northwest). This wine so pretty! It smells of rose petals and berries. The wine is a frizzante (denoting small bubbles), sweet on the palate with notes of sweet blackberries, strawberries and rose petals. I had the opportunity to visit the region last month. One of my favorite pairings I tasted while there was Brachetto d’Acqui with curry.  Chef Cecelia created this curry shrimp appetizer that I had to match with this wine.

Appetizer Ideas: Grilled shrimp with red curry sauce; served on sweet potato chip, garnished with cilantro (recipe included below), Barbecue pork sliders, Spicy sausage

Station 3: White Blend

Wine: I love introducing my guests to something new. One of my recent wine discoveries is the 2017 Clos Des Lunes Lune d’argent Bordeaux Blanc. This white blend is 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is rich and deep with flavors of grapefruit, pear and orange. There’s a little oak, which gives the wine a caramelized, lemon peel flavor which was perfect for this wine and bites party. .  

Appetizer Ideas: Bruschetta with feta cheese, Onion Tart, Sushi Rolls

Station 4: Crowd Pleaser Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine: A fruit forward Cabernet Sauvignon is always a crowd pleaser! One of the best values I tasted this year was the 2016 Hoopla Cabernet Sauvignon, California. This fruit forward, medium bodied Cabernet is a great party sipper. Light tannins, black cherry, berry and baked spice flavors.

Appetizer Ideas: Beef tenderloin medallions (or beef tenderloin sliders), Five spice ribs

Station 5: Port, Cheese and Chocolate

Wine:  It’s time to reintroduce dessert wines into our lives. Dona Antonia Tawny Port is one of my go-tos. This gorgeous wine with a ruby red tint has notes of plum, chocolate, and nuts. Goes great with a cheese tray and desserts.

Photo from Cantina Gorgo Winery

Cheeses and Desserts: You have many options that will pair well with this Port. Create a tray that includes chocolate, brownies, and your favorite nuts. For cheese, try Parmigiano Reggiano, an Aged Cheddar, and a Blue Cheese. Enjoy your wine and bites party.

Let us know how the party goes!

Recipes from Heartfelt Catering

Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce

Yields 10-12 – 1 oz crab cakes

Equipment needed

  • Mixing bowl
  • Sheet pan
  • Portion scoop or measuring tablespoon
  • Skillet
  • Spatula for turning cakes


  • 1# fresh lump crab meat
  • 1/4 cup green onions minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced mint
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 large egg
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

Method of Preparation 

  • Mince green onions, mint and jalapeno pepper, set aside
  • Zest lemon into small bowl, add two large eggs and whisk together, set aside
  • With spoon combine mayo, Dijon mustard and breadcrumbs in small bowl set aside
  • In large mixing bowl, add crab meat. Pick through to remove any residual shells
  • Add green onions, mint, jalapeno pepper to combine, then add egg-lemon zest mixture and mix with gloved hands, combining all ingredients
  • Add mayo mustard breadcrumbs, combine all ingredients
  • Add crab cake mixture to tablespoon, forming a ball and put on lined sheet pan
  • Wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight
  • When ready to eat, sear crab cakes in clarified butter and finish in 350-degree oven for approximately 5 minutes or until 150-degree temperature reached

For Remoulade Sauce

Yields: approximately 1 cup 

  • 1 tablespoon minced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 tablespoons horseradish
  • dash of Tabasco sauce

Method of Preparation

  • Add all ingredients to mixing bowl, mix thoroughly
  • Clarified Butter
  • Add 1# butter to small pot, low heat to allow milk solids to come to surface. Skim milk solids until clear, continue heating the clarified butter until it turns brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool
  • Garnish
  • Chopped flat parsley to top of crab cake then a dollop of remoulade

Grilled Shrimp with Red Curry Sauce

Yields: 12 – 2-piece servings

Equipment needed

  • Small bowl
  • Grill or grill pan
  • Tongs


  • 1-1/2# of  medium sized peeled and deviened shrimp
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed
  • Zest & juice from 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Method of Preparation
  • Thaw shrimp, cut bottom to butterfly
  • In mixing bowl add zest, fresh lime juice, garlic and vegetable oil (shrimp marinade)
  • Add shrimp to mixing bowl (small batches recommended) and coat thoroughly, let it marinade for no more than 15 minutes
  • Grill on well-oiled grill until pink
  • Red Curry dipping sauce ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 – 13.5 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 – 8 oz bottle clam juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Method of Preparation

  • Stir red curry paste in large skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes
  • Add coconut milk and clam juice, scraping excess paste off skillet. Bring to soft boil, whisking until paste dissolves
  • Continue cooking until sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes
  • Stir in cilantro