We have all enjoyed wine tasting and had the experience enhanced by the pairing of cheese with the wine.

Now imagine the roles being reversed and you can sample many cheeses, enjoying the ability to taste the product before you buy. That place exists in The Cheese Shop, a business located next door to Wrath wines in the Carmel Plaza.

The idea for the store came in 1973 when John and Nancy McCormick left the corporate world to build a business that would be fun and enjoyable.

They wanted to look forward to going to work, so they created The Cheese Shop, a mecca for world-class cheeses, gourmet foods and wine. The first store opened in the old Valley Fair Shopping Center in San Jose and they opened the Carmel store in 1975.

The Carmel location became their only venture when they sold the San Jose store in 1979. In 1986 Kent Torrey joined the staff and he remains today as the CEO or the Cheese Eating Oenophile.

The shop is amazing. While on initial glance it may seem chaotic, it’s a well-orchestrated operation. People are everywhere, but the attentive and knowledgeable staff take care of all the customers without a hitch.

We were fortunate to stumble on to Aaron as our host. He has been with The Cheese Shop for eight months and was hospitable and extremely knowledgeable about the number of cheeses offered.

Aaron admitted that until he started working at The Cheese Shop, he was a Kraft Singles kind of cheese person and he had no knowledge of wine either. After eight months, he is now immersed in the cheese culture, as are all the employees.

You would hardly finish your sample of one cheese before Aaron was right there offering another type of cheese with the story behind it as well. Some wineries could learn from service at The Cheese Shop.

It genuinely seemed as if all the employees were having has much fun as the customers. In a day and age where customer service is crucial in the competitive retail market, The Cheese Shop has it nailed.

Of the countless amounts of cheese, we tasted, the Drunken Goat – a cheese soaked in red wine – is one that stood out. The Habanero Dry Jack was another favorite and featured a delayed heat. It was a good 20 seconds after tasting the cheese that the heat kicked in and it was enjoyable!

Finally, the English Cheddar was sensational.

But the store features much more than cheese. There is a wall – yes, a wall – of crackers for purchase to go with the vast array of cheeses. There is also a big selection of mustards, as well as chocolates.

The back of the store is where all the wine is located. It’s a one-stop shop for a nice picnic or night sitting on the balcony of your hotel.

The Cheese Shop also offers a Cheese of the Month Club. Each month you receive a sampling of three exotic cheeses from around the world for $39.95 plus shipping. Each shipment includes tasting notes and instruction as to how to care for your cheese.

There is also a Wine of the Month club at The Cheese Shop as well that includes two bottles a month.

The Cheese Shop came highly recommended to us and it was one of those times that the expectations were met and exceeded. The next time you are in the Carmel area, make some time out of your day to check out The Cheese Shop.

By Dennis Miller

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