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Mar 18, 2008 05:49 AM

Cheese/Dessert Wine...........

We are not really wine drinkers. My husband is taking me to a romantic dinner on Friday night for my birthday to this place:

I will most likely be having some kind of martini or a gin and tonic with dinner. We would like to have a cheese course after the main meal and also have dessert.

What would you drink with the cheese course? Is there a sparkling wine or not too expensive champagne that you know of that would do well with a cheese course.

I realize you do not know what cheese we will be ordering and you will suggest asking our server but I do not want to spend $20 for a glass of something.

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  1. I generally believe that asking a sommelier or wine steward to pair a wine with particular cheeses is the best option. That said, you needn't worry about finding the right dessert wine at a price you are comfortable with- Xaviar's seems to have a well-rounded list of dessert and after-dinner wines by the glass at a range of prices. If you plan to order one glass and have it last through both cheese and a chocolate dessert (the best combo, IMO), I think a port is the way to go. On the other hand, if you are having a fruit-based dessert, or anything with a tartness to it, I would recommend something in the muscat or sauterne category. I recommend you check out the wine list, if you haven't already.

    1. You can always ask your server for suggestions under a certain dollar amount. You will at least know that they have tasted all of the wines.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. HI Dober... I looked over the restaurant cheese list... they may have something else avail at the time of your dinner that isn't listed here, but just going with this list:

          The 3 most delicious and "versatile" cheeses with a wide range of wines that they have on the list are: Gruyere, Parmesan Reggiano, and the Coach Farms "goat cheese" (akin to a plain chevre by it's description). There's an option for a "three cheese plate" and I'd go with these 3.

          As for matching wines, the following match at least 2 of these cheeses very well: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon (or merlot if you prefer), and Syrah, as follows:
          Chardonnay is great with Gruyere and Chevre and pretty good with parmesan reggiano
          Sauvignon Blanc is great with Gruyere and especially great with chevre
          Syrah is very good with gruyere and parmesan reggiano
          Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious match with chevre and truly incredible with parmesan reggiano...

          SO, since you want to have a great experience, but not spend a ton, and you're on kissing terms with your date, I'd do it so that you order a glass of white and he orders a glass of red (if you don't still have them from your dinner), then the 3 cheese plate and you can sip each other's wine and taste all the cheeses and take notes, etc.

          As for which white and red. The best answer would probably be if the restaurant thinks their glass of syrah is better than the cab by the glass, then I'd go for the syrah, otherwise cabernet would prolly be first choice given it's incredible connection to parmesan reggiano. As for the white, chardonnay is so versatile that it would be my first choice here unless the wine guy says their sauvignon blanc by the glass is even more impressive, in which case I'd take that, especially given that it's connection with chevre is truly delicious.

          As for a bubbly... you could go with a glass of blanc de blancs champagne which is near 100% chardonnay and it matches the "chardonnay" cheeses listed above very nicely.

          FWIW, the st. andre, camembert, and pont l'eveque are on the same flavor spectrum and not quite as interesting or well-rounded matches for a variety of wines as those I listed above. Stilton is kind of an outlier here unless you want to get a pour of port which might be past your budget and IMO there's better matches than stilton and port anyway.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chicago Mike

            Chicago Mike- bowing to your answer which I have printed. Thanks so very much!!! So informative!

          2. I'm happy to offer another viewpoint:

            If you've never enjoyed a blue cheese with a Sauternes-style wine, it's time for that.
            (Provided you like blue cheese.) It's at or near the top of all food and wine pairings.
            The tanginess of the blue cheese mingles with the fruit of the Sauternes, and something fascinating happens: a brand new third flavor is formed -- the Holy Grail of food and wine pairing -- and it's a flavor so lovely, so magnificent, you should try it.

            My suggestion is to order the two blue cheeses, the Roquefort Le Papillon Rouergue and the Blue Stilton, and to accompany those, a glass of the Chateau Lafaurie-Peyreguey Sauternes ($14). I'd also recommend the Sauternes-style wine made in Napa Valley by Beringer, the “Nightingale” Private Reserve ($19). Before you gasp in horror at the price, remember a little bit of this type of wine goes a long way, and you can ask that the glass be split.

            Additionally, since you also would like dessert, there is a "Classic" Creme Brulee on the menu, which is also one of the very best pairings with a Sauternes-style wine. So you could have both a small cheese course, and a dessert course with the same wine. It will turn out to be a few bites of each when you both share.

            P.S.: I see that the restaurant offers a plate of three cheeses at a special price. You could ask for a touch more of each of the two blue cheeses to make the third selection (what I would do, because it won't be a lot of cheese in any case), or you could order the St. Andre, also to have with the Sauternes. Not as profound a flavor experience as the blue cheese with the Sauternes, but the St. Andre and Sauternes together are still quite lovely. Moreover, they both have this soft, smooth texture, and the two together create a silky textural experience in the mouth.

            Have a lovely birthday and dinner with your husband. Let us know what you tried, and how it all worked out. Best, M.

            11 Replies
            1. re: maria lorraine


              Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post. People on Chowhound boards can be so helpful.

              I love blue cheese-I actually never met a cheese I didn't like.

              Printed out your suggestions as well. There is a large Food & Wine event in my area next week that we are attending and I will be sure to taste and ask questions to broaden my knowledge. I would love to have a wine and cheese pairing party next year.

              1. re: doberlady

                Oh and as a side note- how many glasses in a 1/2 bottle?

                1. re: doberlady

                  For a regular (750 ml), five 5-oz. glasses.

                  For a half-bottle (375 ml) four 3-oz. glasses.

                  So, two glasses each. Three ounces is a nice-sized pour for a dessert wine,
                  because of that "a little goes a long way" maxim.

              2. re: maria lorraine

                I missed the roquefort on the list... only saw the stilton in the blues...

                Roquefort and Sauternes is one of the great food and wine matchups, let alone cheese and wine, so I'd absolutely recommend it.

                Since you're looking to maximize your food and wine dollars, one way to do it is as follows:

                1) Pair up a great white and red with appropriate cheeses as I've laid out above... and for example, let's use chardonnay and cabernet... THEN...

                2) Work BACKWARDS to your entrees and find a couple of great entree selections that are wonderful matches for these two wines...

                SO, with this, you don't have to buy extra wines for the cheese course... you merely keep your entree wines on the table and bring out a properly selected cheese plate... THEN

                3) Add the Sauternes as a cheese/ dessert wine.... add the obviously appropriate cheese selection for it (roquefort) to your cheese plate (you now have a 4-cheese plate, which they'll accomodate you and give you a price between the 3 and 5 cheese rate).... THEN...

                4) Carry the sauternes over into your dessert course... Which desserts match Sauternes brilliantly? The Banana Walnut Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, the Classic Creme Brulee, the Lemon Meringue Tart, and the Panna Cotta with Orange peel...

                Since you probably want two desserts, one other matchup caught my eye as potentially mind-boggling... try the Espresso Mousse in Chocolate Cup with Cinnamon & Cardamom... Espresso, Chocolate, and Cinnamon are all awesome matches for Muscat... they have 3 offered by the glass, you could just get one glass and share over this 2nd dessert.

                So you see that you don't have to buy a special round of wines just to match the cheeses... instead match the cheeses that you're already drinking with your entrees and/or intend to drink with your desserts!

                Keeping with the wine examples of Chardonnay and Cabernet, what are your great Entree selections to match these wines?

                FOR CHARDONNAY: Wild King Salmon, Maine Diver Scallops

                FOR CABERNET: Beef Wellington, Angus Skirt Steak, Grilled Porterhouse,

                Looking even earlier into the meal, since you're going to have a Sauternes on the table anyway, why not also order another phenomenal pairing with it as an appetizer... the warm foie gras with fig... then just keep your glasses of Sauternes on the table right on through dessert... (chicago mike style gluttony here).

                Appetizers that match beautifully with chardonnay: ALL the seafoods, the grilled shrimp salad, the spaghetti chitarra with crabmeat...

                With the apps if you wanted to do a champagne that doesn't break the bank look at the half bottle of Gimmonet Blanc de blancs which matches all the chardonnay matchups listed here... you could have it with the chardonnay-friendly apps mentioned and do the Sauternes and the foie gras....

                then with entrees, roll into a glass of chardonnay and cabernet (keep in mind that if you and hubby are just sipping, then just order one glass of each and share it... then keep the chardonay, cab, and sauternes for the cheese course ... roll the sauternes into the dessert along with muscat to match the espresso mousse (or other choc dessert that catches your eye...).

                This should be quite a meal and I will look forward to your report on it!

                Happy birthday, Aries

                1. re: Chicago Mike

                  Ughhh maybe this is why I drink gin, good gin but gin nevertheless.

                  So confusing. I do not like red wine at all. I will drink white wine if there is nothing else (at a party etc). I do like sparkling wine and champagne. I wanted to try the 1/2 bottle of the Blanc de Blancs and wanted to have it with the cheese course leading into dessert.

                  Will that pair with the cheese and dessert? I do not want to look like an idiot ordering something that clearly should not be ordered with the cheese/desserts

                  Sorry to be such a novice but we all have to start somewhere :)

                  1. re: doberlady

                    the blanc de blanc will pair with anything described in this thread that pairs with CHARDONNAY... that's the key...

                    As for matching desserts, not quite so well, IMO... the Sauternes and Muscats are going to be better dessert pairings, depending on which desserts you're looking at.

                    As for your distaste for red wine, that's entirely understandable, and this could be a great chance to change your impressions... what you could do is have one glass of an appropriate red between both you and your husband.... a red that matches your entree well... and you may find that it's delicious with that food/wine combo...

                    It's very possible that you don't like red wines to this point because 1) there's alot of bad wine out there and/or 2) you haven't been matching it with the appropriate entrees... and this dinner would be a chance to correct both those mistakes!


                    1. re: Chicago Mike

                      I believe I am going to order: Might change my main course to the diver scallops.

                      Lightly Smoked Salmon served Warm
                      Dashi Broth & Lime Crème Fraiche Foam

                      Roast Rack of American Lamb
                      Garlic Custard, Haricot Vert & Rosemary Jus

                      Truffle Potato Puree


                      A Selection of Three Cheeses-
                      Pont L’Éveque Levasseur Normandy

                      Warm Tahitian Vanilla Cake
                      White Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream

                    2. re: doberlady

                      Jeez. You like good gin. It's your birthday. Drink good gin.

                      Your birthday is not the day, if any day is the day, for you to go outside your comfort zone unless you truly desire it. Stick with what you like.

                      Your thread initially asked about cheese and a dessert wine. I've recommended the blue cheeses and a Sauternes, but I'm A Winehead.

                      Champagne works fine with runny, perfectly ripe, "oozy-goozy" cheeses. Not so well with desserts because it tends to taste a little sour with sweet things. But since bubbles are what you like, and bubbles are fun no matter what, and birthdays are supposed to be fun, order it. Drink it. No one will look askance at you if you do.

                      I'd be tempted to start the meal with Champagne, though, because nothing kicks off a party (even a party of two) like bubbles. You could also order the cheese course to start -- even if it's out of sequence in the traditional order of courses. Make sure the cheeses are ripe, not young, though I would guess that any restaurant with this specificity in their cheese selection would also have properly aged them. BTW, the salmon appetizer sounds like it would also be lovely with the Champagne.

                      I'm inferring from all your posts here that you do not want a specific wine pairing for your desserts. So be it.

                      Here's to you [clinking glasses].

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Thanks for the birthday wishes. :)

                        I will post a full report on the dinner. Other then dessert wine there doesn't seem to be any wine by the glass. Unless they do not list that and use a standard house wine for per glass consumption.

                        I love to try new things and as I get older (my 45th) my tastes are changing. We were vegetarians for 8 years and last year started eating meat again.

                        Hope you won't tire of my newbie questions. Will post on this after the weekend.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          OK, now that I have READ the post completely, looked at the link and read CM's, yours and several other posts in the thread, I have to say that I did not see a demi-sec Champagne on the list. These are great with many "oozy-goozy" (hate to use technical wine terms, but hey!) cheeses, AND go with a lot of sweeter desserts, including chocolate. Maybe the restaurant has more, than is on the list.

                          We do a similar salmon dish and bubbles definitely go well. It's also one of the only times that I grab a Pinot Gris/Grigio. Depending on the exact prep, we'll do a Pinot Noir too.