Where Cheese Meets Wine & Falls in Love

So, gentlemen, for once, you have had the presence of mind to make dinner reservations ahead of time for Valentine's night, the second busiest day of the year (after Mother's Day) for restaurants.

What are you going to do if you know she prefers wine, but you know absolutely nothing about it? Will you ask her, "Why don't we go for two pints of Guinness?" Wrong! If your dining partner is truly important to you, it is definitely to your advantage to whisper the three magic words, "Let's have wine". Since you have to start somewhere, here are some easy steps to finding the right wine, and perhaps a key to her heart.

Bone up. It doesn't take more than a few minutes to prepare by absorbing the introduction of a wine book. It's called a bookstore or library. If you don't want to leave the comfort of your desk, there is always the "Net".

Now that you've done some homework, here's what you do when you make it to the restaurant: Plan to order a full bottle of wine. Why? Bottles are much more romantic than glasses. Do not, under any circumstance, ask for a doggy bag for any leftover wine -especially since a cultivated man is aware that in most states (including SC) it is against the law to leave a restaurant with an open bottle of wine. Bottom line is to drink slowly and as much as you safely can.

Do take a good look at the wine list, whether you know what you are looking at or not. The important thing is to look good doing it. This is romance, after all, not a driver's test. If you are hopeless, and can't navigate through a wine list at all, then ask for help! Most women will be impressed by that as well, like asking for directions on the road. Again, the idea is to look good doing it. Call over your waiter and ask for any recommendation for a good, medium priced wine.

Once you have ordered your wine and the waiter brings over the bottle, look him straight in the eye and ask, "Is this the wine we ordered?" This will make him read the label himself and tell you yes or no, and all you need to do is nod knowingly. You can ask him to do this simple favor. "Please open the bottle and leave it on the table" (or in the ice bucket, if it's a white). Once he has departed, you can go ahead and do the honors for her and pour, then for you. The proper amount to pour, by the way, is no more than half-a-glass at a time. Raise your glass with an appropriate, or even rakishly clever, toast.

Finally, the finishing touch: how many women don't like chocolate or sweets in general? Do not automatically order coffee with your chocolate dessert. Order a small glass of Tawny Port from Portugal. Tawny Ports are sweet red wines bolstered with a little extra alcohol and intensity of flavor, which make them absolutely divine with chocolate. There is a good reason why food and wine matches are often described in terms as passionate as love. In this day and age, it's often as good as it gets!  Cheers!

Wine of the Month
Biltmore Reserve Russian
River Valley Pinot Noir 2008

Biltmore Winery is a project created by North Carolina's famed Biltmore Estate.  Originally, Biltmore wines were produced solely from vineyards on the historic estate. As the wines gained popularity, so did the project. Biltmore's CEO, Bill Cecil Jr., began sourcing grapes from fine vineyards outside of North Carolina under the Biltmore Reserve label. The 2008 Pinot Noir is made in a light-bodied, easy drinking style with bright fruit and fine tannins. Although it is not a wine made for aging, it is a Pinot you can buy and know it is ready to drink now. Aromas of raspberries and cherry candy, on the mouth the wine offers more red fruit flavors, as well as hints of baking spices and vanilla on the finish. Drink now.

Cheese of the Month
Jarlsberg Light

Technically defined as a reduced fat Swiss cheese, Jarlsberg Light was introduced in the late 1980s. It carries most of the mellow nuttiness and creaminess, plus the nutritional benefits, characteristic of classic Jarlsberg. It is also completely natural, crafted and aged like any other real cheese. This semi-soft cheese melts readily, without lumps or stringiness. It can be substituted in just about any everyday or party recipe calling for Jarlsberg or Swiss. The flavor is at its best when served at cool room temperature.   

Recipe of the Month
Chicken with Jarlsberg

Light Cheese
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 oz. Jarlsberg Light cheese, very finely sliced
1 can cream of chicken soup
º cup apple juice
1 cup Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Dry Stuffing
º cup butter, melted
Yields:  6 servings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Place in 9 x 12 baking dish. Place a piece of cheese over each breast. Mix apple juice with the soup. Pour this mixture over the chicken. Sprinkle stuffing over breasts. Drizzle melted butter over stuffing. Bake for 45 minutes.

I trust you have enjoyed part 33 of our journey. Please feel free to email me with any comments or queries at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or drop by in person at Piggly Wiggly Shelter Cove. I can be found in the wine, cheese or deli departments. A native of South Africa and the Deli, Cheese and Wine Manager of the Piggly Wiggly at Shelter Cove on HHI, Kent Zimmerman is a Licensed Sommelier and Fromager Master.

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