The New Year’s Eve (NYE) parties I remember best have all taken place in Central Coast wine country where they couldn’t help but be Bacchanalian. I’ll never forget a killer NYE dinner celebration at Laetitia Vineyards when my husband Dan and I were among a group of 10 friends, and we had arranged for a safe ride to and from the winery alongside Hwy. 101. With a worry-free travel to and from the event, we could drink a few glasses of bubblies without worries over who’s driving home.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
New West Catering prepared the multi-course dinner that began with exquisite, delicious lobster cocktails and Laetitia bubblies, and it seemed to go on and on through multiple courses and excellent wines. The ambiance was beautiful with all of the sparkling lights and candles in the barrel room. The theme was New Orleans, and we were provided loads of colorful beaded necklaces, noise makers, and we danced the night away—what a blast!
Other outstanding NYE celebrations over the past 20 years cost us dearly for the privilege of attending. They were particularly expensive when we lived in San Francisco and attended concert parties that featured musical stars, including Van Morrison and Chuck Berry—the latter not so fun. The singer was a “born again Christian” and didn’t allow alcohol to be sold during the concert. I said to the doorman, “You are kidding me—New Year’s Eve without Champagne?” I was not happy. It’s just not NYE without adult beverages. Honestly, no matter where you go to celebrate, this night is usually way too expensive. That’s why I found some fun alternatives to the usual pricy events in wine bars from Cayucos to Arroyo Grande and Avila Beach. I can guarantee you’ll find adult drinks and very good food at very reasonable prices in these great wine bars.
The Full Moon Bistro in Cayucos, always a festive tasting room, offers an NYE masquerade party with no cover charge, starting at 7 p.m. You can bring your own unique mask or you can borrow one of their handcrafted masks to celebrate the night in style. Owner Jeannettie Lorraine and her loyal assistant Mihaela “Mika” Toke will feature a flight of local sparkling wines you can buy, or you can order a glass or bottle of the wine you prefer. Among the good choices are J Cuvee and J Brut Rose. The mixologists will also be making bubble cocktails that include fruit juice or Port, like the tropical with bubbly, grapefruit juice, and olallieberry syrup or the Eclipse with bubbly and Port/late harvest wine. A menu of their “special nibbles and noshes” will complement the wines offered during the party. There will be the obligatory midnight toast for anyone who can make it through the night. The ladies will carry on their tradition of the “release and ring in,” where everyone writes down what they want to let go of from 2011 and what they plan to welcome in 2012. For more info or reservations, call 995-0095.
Gather Wine Bar in the Village of Arroyo Grande has been a popular meeting spot for South County locals since it opened two years ago. Here, you can find some outstanding wines from local artisan producers and enjoy them with foods from the house chef Tim Flickwir. For NYE, from 6 to 10 p.m., proprietor Kari Ziegler will feature live music by Michael Shelton and Nataly Lola and be serving Central Coast bubblies by the glass or bottle. Chef Tim will prepare a four-course tasting menu with amuse bouche, soup, appetizer, choice of holiday flatbread, and a glass of Central Coast sparkling wine, all for $35 per person. Kari will be making some fun Champagne cocktails you can order if you prefer your bubbly adulterated. Try the jingle bell with bubbly, cranberry, and peach juice and a sugared glass rim. You can also reserve space without food to celebrate NYE and a choice of great wines for sipping. That’s not all they’re offering: On the first Sunday of every month, which happens to take place on New Year’s Day in 2012, Gather Wine Bar offers unlimited pancakes and mimosas for only $20 per adult older than 21. Advance reservations for NYE and brunch are required as space is limited (sorry, no children allowed). Call Gather at 474-4771 or visit eventbrite.com/event/ to buy tickets.
At Cuvée Champagne Bar in Avila Beach, owner Starr Hall is providing a pre-party NYE for those who like to stay home on this crazy busy night. It begins at 1 p.m., there’s no cover charge, and they’ll have live music. You can order wines by the glass or by the bottle, and they’ll have special drinks like Champagne punch and mimosas. The celebration menu, which starts at $7, will include Champagne-friendly savory and sweet treats. Or, for $50 per person, she’s offering one glass of Champagne (the real deal from France), one glass of sparkling wine, paired with appetizers that will be passed around by servers. Starr offers some great choices in Champagne and sparkling wines, including Krug, Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon, and our great home town bubbly, Laetitia. There will be party favors with the purchase of bubbly by the glass or by the bottle. During the month of December, five percent of sales will be donated to the SLO Women’s Shelter. For more details, call Cuvée Champagne Bar at 727-4144.
It’s easy to find great celebrations to welcome in the New Year on the Central Coast. There are still many NYE celebrations available at wineries (sorry, but Laetitia’s event is already sold out) and restaurants. I love the ones that take place in hotels where you can get a room for the night, too. But, on the other hand, these savvy wine tasting rooms make it affordable for everyone to toast 2012 in style. ∆
Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.