What To Drink Now: Wine & Cheese

If you didn’t know, wine goes well with cheese making today extra sweet as it is National Wine & Cheese Day! It’s a day I say is better than Christmas, as life without either would be incomplete.

This morning on KXAS-TV/NBC DFW in Dallas I’ll share some of my favorite wine and cheese pairings, including some of those included in the post below. A link to the segment is here. Cheers!

Some portions of the story were included in West Hawaii Today, July 24, 2019

Wine goes well with cheese, but finding the right mix of creamy or sharp, fresh or aged, red or white can be confusing. Here is a road map to help you enjoy the tasty celebration.

Sauvignon Blanc with Goat Cheese
If you take the idea of pairing the wine and food from the same place, goat cheese, and Sauvignon Blanc are ideal. Throughout France’s picturesque Loire Valley region you find grassy, mineral silex filled Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown near happy goats grazing through the area known as the “Garden of France.” From their milk, tangy cheeses, like Crottin de Chevignol, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre, and Valençay, are born. Production of goat cheese throughout Loire dates back to the 8th Century, meaning they have had lots of time to perfect it.

The region’s racy, high acid Sancerre and Pouilly Fume excels with the zesty cheese, like Pascal Jolivet Sancerre ($38) and Vincent Vatan Pouilly Fume Silex ($25). Or select refreshing options from Napa Valley , like Lail “Blueprint” Sauvignon Blanc ($40), Rombauer ($24), Robert Mondavi Oakville Fume Blanc ($40), Orin Swift Blank Stare ($40). Herbaceous, gooseberry, and citrus filled Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand will also work well with fresh goat cheese, like Whitehaven ($20), Kim Crawford ($15), and Cloudy Bay ($27).

Spanish wines with Spanish cheese
Rueda (Verdejo) and Rias Baixas whites with Manchego
Similarly, looking to regionality, the hard sheep milk cheese of Spain, like Manchego will pair beautifully with the herbal, grassy notes of Rueda’s young Verdejo variety white wines, like those from Beronia ($15) and Torres ($10), and mineral intense, briny, ocean-influenced Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain’s Galicia region, like Martin Codax ($15).

Rioja (Tempranillo) and Priorat (Garnacha) with Iberico
Blending sheep, cow, and goats milk cheese, Iberico is made similar to Manchego, but is subtly different in taste as the blend allows for wild herb and grassiness to meld with tangy, earthy characteristics and a creamy, smooth texture, ideal when paired with Jamon, Chorizo, and a hearty Rioja like Beronia Gran Reserva or Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva.

Chardonnay with Triple Cream and Brie
There is the thought that you can either meld like with like, or that opposites attract. For sipping with Saint Andre triple crème cheese I chose like with like, pairing with a buttery Chardonnay. Well-made Chardonnay, like these selections, ensures there is also acidity, so even though it is a rich pairing, there is also freshness. Opt for Cakebread ($55), Trefethen Napa Valley Chardonnay ($40) and their full-bodied, lemon cream and stone fruit filled Harmony Chardonnay ($50), Rombauer ($45), Grgich Hills ($54), Ramey Sonoma Coast ($45), Jordan ($35), Landmark “Overlook” ($30), MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay ($40), and Wente Riva Ranch ($20) from Monterey aged 8 months sur lie in 90% French oak.

Pinot Noir with Gruyere, Emmental, and Swiss
Fruity and light, yet also earthy, light to medium-bodied Pinot Noir melds harmoniously with nutty Gruyere or Swiss Cheese. Look for fruit-forward options from Russian River, like the superb wines of Ramey ($45), Benovia ($45), La Crema ($40), J Vineyards and Winery ($38), Barnett “Tina Marie” Pinot Noir ($50), and the Central Coast, like Calera ($40) or Hahn SLH. Or opt for truffle and wild berry-filled Pairings from Willamette Valley, like Stoller “Dundee Hills” ($25), Chehalem “Three Vineyard” ($32), Adelsheim “Breaking Ground” ($35), and Dobbes Family Estate Grand Assemblage ($30).

Cabernet Sauvignon with Extra Sharp Cheddar
Robust tannins of full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon diminish with hard, sharp, salty extra sharp white cheddar, drawing out a slightly bitter, distinctive character. Look for “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar” coming from a farm in Somerset, England where the cheese originated over 1000 years ago. To pair, consider Stags Leap District Shafter One Point Five, ($95), Clos du Val, or Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon ($78), earthy Rutherford options like Raymond Generations ($145), or Freemark Abbey Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($70), or a classic Napa selection from Frank Family Vineyards ($58), Ehler’s Estate ($55), ZD Wines Cabernet Sauvignon ($75), or LVE by John Legend ($85).

Rhone Valley vineyards

Syrah and Shiraz with smoked and aged cheese like Gouda
There is a meaty, smoky, bacon-fat note to many Syrah and Shiraz wines of France, Australia, and America. These wines meld beautifully with smoked and aged cheese, like smoked Gouda, or aged Parrano and Beemster. Pair with a medium to full body, the wines of the Rhone or Rhone blends, like Columbia Vision Red Blend ($40), Hickinbotham Brooks Road Shiraz ($80), Yalumba Signature Barossa Valley Shiraz ($58), M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf du Pape La Bernardine ($70) and EPOCH Veracity ($65) Southern Rhone-style blend from Paso Robles crafted by SMU grads Liz and Bill Armstrong who started their Central Coast winery close to the Pacific, benefiting from the maritime influence, to celebrate the beauty of Rhone varietals.

100 year -old-Zinfandel vines

Zinfandel with pepper cheese, like Pepper Jack, Horseradish or Wasabi
Juicy, fruity, savory Zinfandel shines when paired with spicy cheese, like hot pepper filled jalapeno, horseradish, and pepper jack cheese. Dry Creek wineries, like Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel ($26) and Dutcher Crossing Proprietor’s Reserve ($33) keeps the fruit at the forefront, layering blackberry and blueberry with spice. Frank Family’s 16 months aged Napa Valley Zinfandel ($38) highlights toasted spice and cedar, thanks to the oak aging of the fruit. Winemaker David Ramey blends 14 varieties with Zinfandel in his complex Russian River Sidebar Zinfandel ($28), adding distinct texture and power to the pairing.

Blue Cheese and Port
Perhaps the most classic wine and cheese pairing. The French often finish their meals with a cheese course, looking to the profound Portuguese producers of Ruby, Vintage, and Late Bottle Vintage Ports to pair with their Roquefort and Camembert, or my favorite Rouge River Blue from Oregon and super pungent English Stilton. LBV Port in particular, like Warre’s ($25) or DOWS’s Late Bottle Vintage Port ($25), or Vintage Port, like Graham’s 2000 Vintage Port ($100) meld seamlessly with blue cheese. As Port ages the robust tannins of the varieties, including Alicante Buchet and Touriga Nacional, soften with age, allowing the strong character of the cheese to shine, melding with the ripe and dried berry characteristics of the aged wine.

If these suggestions still have you in a pairing quandary, Champagne and traditional method sparkling wines will go with everything. I like a classic house-style Brut, not necessarily a Vintage wine, produced very dry ensuring that the sparkler has refined fruit notes, like apple, lemon, and lime, with toasted notes of brioche, almonds, and hazelnuts. These sparklers act as the gift wrap: beautiful, stylish, elegant, and refined, persuading even the most ordinary cheese to shine. I like Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne ($60), Domaine Carneros Estate Brut ($36), sophisticated Sea Smoke “Sea Spray” Sparkling Wine ($80), and Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava ($14).

For Parmesan and Prosecco fans, opt for an Italian method sparkler from Prosecco Superiore DOCG, like Adami Bosco di Gica Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore ($20).