Wine and cheese classes at Cheesetique in Alexandria
Setting the table: The gastronomic pleasures of cheese and wine often feel like the tips of culinary icebergs. As soon as you learn something new about either, you realize just how much is hiding under the surface. Cheesetique owner Jill Erber taps into this food-lover's fascination with classes that alternate each month between the curiosities of cheese and the wonders of wine. Forty students pack into the tables and barstools in the shop's cozy cafe for these evenings of sipping and nibbling. (This being a cheese shop, cheese gets its fair share of the attention even on a wine class night.)
What you learn: Misunderstood wines -- Chablis, Riesling and merlot among them -- were the subject of March's class. Erber enthusiastically kicked things off with a discussion of the six cheeses she had selected to pair with the wines. Then James Kellaris from importer Roanoke Valley Wine took over to offer a spirited defense of the varietals, including tasting notes and pairing tips. The latter was particularly well received at my table of six. "It's not just black and white with red and white," said Judi McGarvey, 66. Kellaris suggested pairing rosés with olives and Beaujolais with chicken. Oenophiles will know most of this already, but the class gave even wine-savvy folks unfettered access to an expert. One couple asked about cellaring and aging certain types of wine.
During the cheese-focused classes, Erber said, she offers 10 to 12 cheeses that are thematically linked. Past classes have examined the background and flavor of raw-milk varieties, stinky cheeses and kinds of cheddar.
Perks: Bottles of wine featured in class are 15 percent off on the night of the tasting. A case of wine is discounted 20 percent. Handouts with tasting notes of wines and cheeses are provided.
Nice to know: Interested parties must sign up for the shop's online newsletter at Cheesetique.com to find out about classes.
What's up next? Classes on Monday and April 19 will focus on individually wrapped cheeses. In May, classes will focus on wine. Dates and a topic have not been determined.
Price: $50 for 1 1/2 -hour wine classes; $35 for one-hour cheese classes.
2411 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.703-706-5300. http:/
-- Julia Beizer