<p>(BPT) - Planning a get together with close friends or family this holiday season and fretting over what to serve? Regardless of theme or guest list, a delicious artisanal cheese and wine platter is a great way to start off any gathering. By following these simple guidelines, creating the perfect pairings can be one of the simplest things on your to-do list this holiday season.</p><p>Step 1: Vary your cheese choices</p><p>Lindsey Jessup, cheese and wine pairing expert and wine ambassador for Bridlewood Estate Winery, suggests that balancing a variety of flavors is a good place to start. The key is creating a diverse platter that offers something for all your guests to enjoy.</p><p>“Contrast your tastes and textures by offering a number of different cheeses,” suggests Jessup. “By balancing the different flavors, you’ll have a dynamic and complete holiday cheese plate that can be the perfect complement to your wine selections.”</p><p>Jessup recommends a selection of four cheeses to build a crowd-pleasing and wine-friendly cheese plate: an aged, hard-rind cheese, a soft-ripened cheese, a blue cheese and a mild cow’s milk cheese.</p><p>Step 2: Select your wine</p><p>Along with a variety of cheeses, consider the range of wine options to offer your guests. A good rule of thumb is to have at least two red options and two white options to match the versatility of your cheese selections. If you are offering artisanal cheeses, balance them with handcrafted wines.</p><p>“Bridlewood’s critically acclaimed Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Blend 175 and Cabernet Sauvignon display unique, adventurous, yet approachable flavors that make a perfect accompaniment for artisanal cheeses during the holidays and beyond,” adds Jessup.</p><p>Step 3: Begin pairing</p><p>Personal preference plays a large role in all wine pairings. In general, Jessup recommends some general guidelines when pairing artisanal cheeses and wine:</p><p>* Mild and hard cheeses match a wider range of wines than soft, ripe or mature cheeses.<br /> * White wine may pair more easily with a wider range of cheeses.<br /> * More tannic red wines pair better with harder cheeses.</p><p>Step 4: Set up the display</p><p>Now that you have the cheese and the wine, don’t forget the presentation. First and foremost, it is important to serve your cheese at room temperature to maximize flavor profiles. Be sure to take the cheeses out of the refrigerator at least one to two hours before guests arrive. When considering layout, place cheeses from mild to strongest and accent them with colorful fresh and dried fruit, artisanal breads, and nuts. When displaying the cheese, pre-cut some while leaving larger pieces for a backdrop and have a dedicated knife for each option.</p><p>Once your cheese is laid out, place your selected wine pairing next to each cheese option along with enough stemware for guests. Keep the white wine on ice so that it’s appropriately chilled throughout the evening.</p><p>Whether you are planning a large party or a more intimate gathering, creating a simple and elegant artisanal cheese and wine platter is a delicious way to create a memorable and enjoyable experience this holiday season.</p><p>Photo Credit: Michelle Warren Photography</p> <img src='http://www.brandpointcontent.com/printsite/ImageWriter.ashx?articleid=18860&memberid=8729' border='0' width='1' height='1' />
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