What’s it like to hang out with Nina Dobrev and Julianne Hough? Put it this way: When the two busy actresses find themselves in the same city at the same time, they make a point to co-host elegant house parties.

With a wide assortment of wine varietals.

From their own line.

“That’s the beautiful thing about our relationship,” Dobrev (“The Vampire Diaries”) says of the former “Dancing With the Stars” pro. “Whenever we’re in the same room, it’s like no time has passed and we just go for it. So, of course we like wine parties.” In fact, she adds that after Hough returns to New York City from Nebraska (where she’s currently shooting a film), the two plan on coordinating a Friendsgiving and a holiday soiree. (Dobrev is currently in NYC with her boyfriend, famed snowboarder Shaun White.)

Fresh Vine Wine was a natural extension of the friendship. Officially launched in 2019, the collection features premium low-carb, low-calorie, low-sugar and gluten-free wines produced in Napa, California. “The idea was born because we both have active lifestyles but have a hard time finding a balance between having a good time and then making an 8 a.m. Pilates class,” Dobrev explains. “We learned that you could mix the right grapes and not lose the taste. Now it’s all we serve.”

Dobrev admits she and her bestie of a decade — they were introduced via their mutual hairstylist! — are both Type-A personalities who know that love is in the details. “We both really, really, really love a plan and thinking of every single thing that comes with throwing a party,” she says. “We will prepare and send the e-vites and then follow up and make sure everything is perfect. And if one of us doesn’t have the bandwidth for something, we’ll cover for each other. It’s great to have a partner that’s also your best friend.”

To get the party started, Dobrev and Hough made a holiday party to-do list for CNN Underscored. And yes, they even checked it twice.

Hough chooses this bottle for the season because “it’s perfect for any toasting occasion,” she says. “It’s fruitful, sweet and the long-lasting sparkling nature of the bubbles highlight the bright flavors. It will for sure be a crowd-pleaser.” Dobrev, meanwhile, singles out a Fresh Vine Wine Cabernet Sauvignon for heavier meals like Thanksgiving, as its intense, full-bodied flavor mixes well with turkey, cranberry sauce and other holiday accoutrements.
In the post-pandemic era, a decorative wine charm is a “fun way to make sure that everyone knows whose glass is whose,” Hough says. “My guests love them. Everyone has become more conscious about germs, anyway.” Her choice is a rainbow-hued set of six from designer Joanna Buchanan.
“I have a million of them!” Dobrev confesses. “Somebody needs to do an intervention with me because anytime I go out and see a pretty board, I have to buy it. My kitchen is overflowing.” She plates her Williams Sonoma favorite with various cheeses — think blue cheese, goat cheese, a “sharp” cheddar and a Gouda that she warms up in the oven before guests arrive — plus blanched whole almonds, crackers and jams. This one is made from acacia wood and includes bamboo serving accessories.
To complement all that cheesiness, Hough picks this “beautiful” stainless steel bowl from Michael Aram that also happens to make for an exquisite table centerpiece. “People like to snack!” she explains. But instead of calorie-laden guacamole or ranch dips, she chips in with hummus.
Now hear this: Dobrev insists that her sleek Sonos speakers are essential to capture a distinctive vibe in every room. “You can customize each playlist on your phone and make it easy,” she says. Her go-to: The Spotify Supper curated by chef Mario Carbone (taken from his NYC restaurant of the same name) that includes classics from Tony Bennett, Nina Simone, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Otis Redding.
“A game is a must-have when I host a party because it’s a fun way to get to know people and break the ice while also having a good time,” Hough says. Because Trivial Pursuit is so 1998, she picks this of-the-minute adults-only entry — in which players match a funny caption with a wild photo card. A designated judge picks the winner. The core game contains 360 caption options and 75 thick, glossy photo cards.
Light a candle. Actually, light a bunch of them. “The more, the more!” Dobrev raves. “Adding candles allows you to lower the lighting of your place and set the mood with this romantic ambiance. This is 100% a big one for me.” She has a sweet spot for the Baies/Berries-scented candles from the French brand Diptyque: “They’re very beautiful, smell great and make the room look chic.” Don’t forget to blow them all out before the night is over.
The partners agree that the Riedel wine glasses — used in most high-end restaurants — are the clear winners in this category. “This is the OG!” Hough says. “They set the stage and lay the foundation for what it means to enhance flavors of varietals through glassware.” Seconds Dobrev, “They’re really well made and pretty. It reminds me of good times when I see the logo.” She estimates that she has about 16 of them, depending on the occasional accidental drop.
A post-party cleanup can be a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Dobrev jokes that her sister-in-law is a teacher in Greece and swears by the Greek philosophy that Windex is the ultimate cure-all. “I’ve adopted the whole Windex thing when it comes to surfaces,” she says. But for hardcore carpet and couch wine stains, she sprays away with Folex. As she puts it, “I have found that it is magic.”