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Cheese & Wine on a Dime

Cheap cheese: Ick.  Cheap cured meats: No thank you. Cheap decorations – ok, well, maybe, or maybe you have your own…regardless they all add up.  And so where is your best chance to save when you’re planning a wine and cheese event?  Well, the wine of course!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m a BIT of a wine snob.  And by that, I mean that I know a bit about wine, I love my wine, and yup, you guessed it; I have a cellar and will sometimes spend a decent amount on certain bottles and age it to the ‘perfect year’.  HOWEVER; I will NOT generally spend more than $50 on a bottle of wine (unless, you know, it’s an incredible Barolo or something) and I take GREAT PRIDE in finding those exceptional ‘value’ wines that cost $10 but taste like they cost at least double.

In the not-too-distant past, I helped coordinate a little UsedOttawa focus group event when the head honchos (What up, Jenn? What up, Erin?) were in town from UsedEverywhere that was masquerading as an insight-gathering event, but c’mon – was really an excuse to eat and drink good stuff.  The budget to put on the wine and cheese? $100 bucks.

Yup, my eyebrows DID go up, I admit, but then, like the perfectionistic masochist I am, I was titillated at the idea of trying to make this happen for so little.  The result?  Done and done, for $102!

The cheese

I said it before: don’t scrimp on the cheese.  My strategy was to get some delish big bold cheeses from around the world to pair with the reds, and some creamy goodness for the white.  Kept it nice and simple – I had no budget for rosés, sparkling wines, ports…nope – red and white.  With a cool selection of nice cheeses, no one would miss ‘em.

For the white, I picked up a triple-cream brie.  But as luck would have it, the grocery store had some on for half-price.  Guess it was getting a bit old, but I was serving it up the next night, and so no worries, right? And to make the brie a little special, (and spice things up), I decided I would use two jellies I just happened to already have in my pantry – a sparkling wine and basil jelly and a meyer lemon habanero jelly  – that my contact, and old next-door neighbour Derryl at West End Chilies  had given me. (P.S. His BBQ rub is incredible too.)

To complement and enjoy the red, I had some fun.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • Manchego  – A Spanish cheese, and you know…anything from Spain is okay in my books.
  • An aged Gouda – A dutch staple…I got the oldest possible and boy, was it yummy!
  • Grana Padano – very similar to a parmigiano reggiano with a grainy texture.  Italian.
  • An applewood aged smoked cheddar – this was my fave. The smoke was just so delicious infused throughout the cheddar. Yum.
  • A regular aged cheddar – Once again, chose the oldest they had (think it might have been a 15 year) and asked the deli to cut the chunk for sale about half the size and repackage. Saved a bundle, and really didn’t need ALL that much so…

The extras

Ya gotta have more than just cheese and wine, if you are going to be the person everyone looks at and goes – “Holy COW – YOU did this?!”. So here’s what else I picked up:

  • Lindt 70% dark chocolate (I’m a woman. Enough said.)
  • Three types of bread
    • Art-Is-In Garlic Rosemary loaf (OMG good, and if you are an Ottawaan and haven’t headed there for their sandwiches; go. GO NOW.)
    • A ½ price cranberry and walnut ciabatta loaf
    • A standard French baguette
  • Cured meats (salty goodness)
    • prosciutto
    • hot and regular Genoa salami
    • A Hungarian cured pork of some kind (another salami). Was yum.
  • And I picked up a roasted red pepper & artichoke antipasto that was also ½ price – turns out it was great.

The setup

It was so easy, and looked (I think) so good AND it was so cheap.  Here are a few shots:

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What do you think?  I was in inspired by a post I saw online, and harkening back to my days as an editor of a magazine, I happened to have an old roll of paper hanging around (had an ‘in’ with a printer dude who hooked me up).  The fun part is being able to customize the layout of the table, connect the foods to the wines they would go best with, and make notes to let people know what they are eating. And in this case? Also to list the cool, low price tags on the wines!  So without further ado, the WINES….!

The wines

Those of you reading from Ontario will be super-stoked, as these wines are CHEAP and available at your local LCBO.  They were hand-picked by a personal and dear friend of mine, Stacey, who is a sommelier and works, alongside her hubby on their fantastic business, Groovy Grapes  (Nothing but the best for the UsedOttawa focus groupers. Betcha wish you had made it now, eh?)

  • The full-bodied red: TRAPICHE RESERVE SYRAH | $10.95 | Argentina
  • The medium-bodied red (this is now a total fave of mine): PASSION OF PORTUGAL RED | $7.85 | Alentejo, Portugal
  • White: KWV CHENIN BLANC | $7.95 | South Africa and
  • White: CASAL THAULERO PINOT GRIGIO IGT LCBO 73163 | $7.95 | Abruzzo, Italy

Three of these delicious wines were under 8 dollars.  EIGHT DOLLARS.  And that included a red that is now on the top of my “must have on hand for parties” list.

And I’ll say this again… All the above only cost me $102.  So, what do you think?  What are your favourite inexpensive wine finds in your neck of the woods?  Please share.  Pretty please with wine (and a little cheese) on top?

Mom of twin toddlers, social media strategy gal, public servant, athlete when there’s time, amateur sommelier and lover of food. Passionate about life. Twitter: @usedottawa | @paminottawa

3 Responses to “Cheese & Wine on a Dime”


Highlight wine list, paste into Pam’s contact info. Always love your wine recommendations!



LOVE how you have set the table on white paper with all the labels!!!!


Pam Stewart

Amber, this was a VERY rushed job with only black marker – with more time and effort, it would look even better. The white really sets off all the colours of the food too. I’m going to do this often now. Ramona, let me know what you think of them – I was very pleased!


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