During the holiday season, take it easy and let guests build their own panini from a host of flavor combos. Serve it all on a large cheese board for one big moveable feast.

Wine & (Grilled) Cheese Bar
Take it easy and let guests build their own panini from a host of flavor combos. Serve it all on a large cheese board—one big moveable feast. Wine & Grilled Cheese Bar Menu
| Credit: Photo: Iain Bagwell

Cooking Instructions
Spread outsides of sandwiches with butter. Cook in a preheated panini press 2 to 3 minutes or until golden.

Pick a sturdy bread

  • Raisin-nut bread
  • French bread
  • Slider buns or dinner rolls
  • Challah or brioche
  • Pumpernickel, rye, or hearty white bread

Choose a cheese

  • Brie, Gruyère, or Swiss
  • Sharp white Cheddar
  • Creamy goat cheese
  • Blue cheese
  • Cream cheese

Spread some flavor inside

  • Apple butter
  • Coarse-grained, Dijon, or honey mustard
  • Herbed butter (for outsides of sandwiches)
  • Fruit preserves or pepper jelly

Add a favorite topping (or two)

  • Caramelized onions
  • Sautéed apples or pears
  • Sliced fresh fruit or vegetables
  • Dried apricots
  • Fresh herbs
  • Thinly sliced deli meat
  • Cooked bacon slices
  • Smoked salmon
  • Chopped toasted nuts

Five Combos We Love
We particularly love these inspired, melt-in-your-mouth concoctions paired with these affordable wines recommended by wine director Richard Robinson of The Wine Shop at Western Supermarket in Mountain Brook, Alabama.

  • 1. Salty-Sweet Bacon Panini
  • Brie with apple butter and bacon on raisin-walnut bread.
  • Wine suggestion: "For white, try a Chenin Blanc, such as Champalou Vouvray from the Loire Valley ($17) or a California version such as Ballentine Vineyards ($17). If you just have to have red, then try Beaujolais or California Pinot Noir."

2. Fruit-and-Nut Sliders
Sharp white Cheddar with honey mustard, thinly sliced Golden Delicious apples, and toasted pecans on slider buns or dinner rolls.
Wine suggestion: "A good cool-climate Chardonnay would be great with this one, but I would encourage giving white Rhône a try. Rich and exotic, these wines possess wonderful food affinity and crowd-pleasing versatility. Try La Vieille Ferme from the Luberon ($8), Côtes du Rhône Blanc from Famille Perrin ($11), or E. Guigal ($14)."

  • 3. Caramelized Onion Bliss
  • Blue cheese with caramelized onions and sautéed pears on brioche or challah bread.
  • Wine suggestion: "The intense complexity of ingredients calls for a wine of equal complexity, but one that will complement, not compete. Leitz' Dragonstone Riesling ($16) would be a great choice, but any good-quality Spätlese or even Auslese-level Riesling would be wonderful as well. A village-level red Burgundy or an Oregon Pinot Noir such as Stoller ($21) would be fine choices for red."

Related: Turkey Panini

4. Fancy Ham and Cheese
Gruyère with coarse-grained mustard, thinly sliced ham, dried apricot halves, and toasted pistachios on French bread slices.
Wine suggestion: "A vibrant rosé comes to mind, such as exhilarating Bandol ($29 to $34) or slightly softer version from Cassis ($29). A less expensive option is the fruity-yet-dry Tempranillo version from Cune in Spain's Rioja region. Domaine du Fonsainte 'Gris du Gris' from Corbieres ($13) would also work beautifully."

5. Creamy Dill and Salmon Bites
Creamy goat cheese with smoked salmon on hearty white bread brushed with dill butter.
Wine suggestion: "The obvious choice here is Sauvignon Blanc, such as Neil Ellis ($14) or Southern Right ($13). The smoked salmon element opens the door to a top-flite Pinot Grigio, such as Jermann ($22)."