On Monday evening, December 5th, 2011, Sterling Vineyards, one of the brands under Diageo’s umbrella, held the grand finale event for their Ultimate Host competition at Twelve21. The competition began on September 19th and went through November 23rd with a winner being awarded for four different challenges during that time period. Those winners were then awarded a finalist prize, which consisted of a Sterling-themed prize pack and a trip to New York to compete in the final Ultimate Host challenge.

The finalists were given the same blank space and same budget and had to pick a theme that was all their own for entertaining guests that made them stand out as the Sterling Ultimate Host. Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef fame, also served as one of the judges that would be deciding the contestants’ fate.

All of the spaces were a spectacle in their own right and were automatically a party you would want to attend. The first of the four spaces which was decorated with gold accents and floating candles seemed to be a hit with guests because it offered the largest amount of savory bites to snack on. The theme also seemed fitting for a corporate holiday party.

The second entry gave guests an opportunity to make their own to-go candy goodie bag, with items that were mostly homemade. Elements like fake snow on the floor helped to add to the ambiance and was easily a fixture you could see being a part of a Sweet 16 soiree.

For the third contestant, although she was aware that the other finalists were focusing on holiday-themed parties, she wanted to differentiate herself and plan a party that was universal seasonally. She chose an engagement party as her inspiration and used recycled wood furniture pieces to give the space a vintage feel. The theme incorporated final touches like a Polaroid picture wall for guests to take with them upon departure and a “Make Your Own Fairytale” storybook so the married couple to be would always have a happy ending.


The contestants did not make it easy, but Julie Hession from Las Vegas took home the grand prize for her Apres-ski themed space. Attention to details like homemade sugar cookies and an opportunity to take a photo and access it online gave Julie an advantage over the other finalists.

Julie took home $40,000, an all expense paid trip to Napa for four and an opportunity to showcase her talents as the Sterling Ultimate Host.

– Stephanie