A wine and cheese party on a budget

Photo Credit: Aprile Sumague / Staff Photographer
Photo Credit: Aprile Sumague / Staff Photographer

Fall semester has already started, but it’s never too late to have an end-of-summer party. Football season is coming up, and with our significant others busy with their buddies watching the games, why not gather a few close friends and have a wine-and-cheese party at the house?

The challenge is this: we have to have a budget. Who doesn’t like cheap-but-fun soirees? And with the recession, not all of us can afford a pricey get-together. So I will show you how to throw a wine and cheese party for at least five people for under $25.

  1. Invite. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are the best ways to communicate with friends. Write on your friends’ wall or tweet about the party. Give them the 411 and have them RSVP at least a week ahead. The best thing about these networking sites: they’re free.
  2. Shop. Once you’ve settled on the guest list, it’s time to generate a shopping list. My suggestion is, go to a wine shop nearby and ask if you can taste different kinds of wine. You can also ask the store manager to help you in pairing the best wines with the best cheese.
  3. Most wine shops are a bit pricey, so go to your local grocery store and check out their promotions. Trader Joe’s has a wide selection of wines and the most popular wine selection is Charles Shaw, also known as “Two Buck Chuck.” You can also buy a bottle of Fetzer Gewürztraminer for $6.99 and a bottle of Schloss Biebrich sparkling wine for $4.99. Most of the bottles range from 650 ml to 750 ml.

    Beverages and More (Bevmo) is also a good place to buy wine. Depending on the season, Bevmo has a promo: “Buy one bottle and get the second bottle for a nickel.” You should take advantage of this promotion and stock up. For your party, make sure you have both red and white wines, unless you want to specialize in one or the other. It’s always good to have an extra bottle or two in handy.

    When it comes to cheeses, offer a variety for your guests. Some may not like the chalky texture of brie, while others may love it. Have at least four different kinds of cheese. Cut them in serving portions for your guests’ convenience and don’t forget to label them.

    At Trader Joe’s, you can get brie cheese for $2.49 for a 4.40-ounce serving. Goat cheese is about $2.49 for 5 ounces and sharp cheddar is $4.99-per-pound. The prices usually run from $2.50-$7.00, depending on the weight of the cheese.

    Aside from cheese, you can also serve crackers (around $3 from your local grocery), olives ($5.00 for a 10-ounce bottle at Bevmo) and fruit. Trader Joe’s sells a pack of four Bartlett pears, which taste good with wine and cheese, for $2.29. Or better yet, visit your local Farmers Market to find good deals on fruit. You can also serve nuts, like walnuts and almonds. The key is to not limit yourself to just wine and cheese. Provide extras to complement your main items.

  4. Serve. Make sure that the wines are chilled and the cheeses are fresh. Place the cheese on different trays and platters, and garnish with crackers, fruit and any other food that you wish to serve. Have all the glassware ready the night before or a few hours before the party. Make sure that you have enough for all your guests.
  5. Have fun!

You can also do a potluck and have each of your guests bring a bottle of wine. That way you can invest more in cheese and other food. A wine-and-cheese specialty store might be too much if you have a budget, so in that case special order a cheese platter at the Village Gourmet.
Located in Studio City, the store allows you to create your cheese assortment platter. Depending on the cheese and the quantity, a platter can cost more or less than $20, which is still under our budget.

See, you can still enjoy a party without having to spend too much. The recession may be depressing, so find a way to have fun without adding to your debt.