Our Favorite Summer Wine + Cheese Pairings
There’s already a chill in the air in the morning and the evening here in Colorado. But as far as we are concerned, summer isn’t over until Labor Day! And thanks to warm days, we’re taking advantage of this week to enjoy some of our favorite, and sometimes unusual, summer wine and cheese pairings.
Want to join us? Here are our suggestions for our five favorite pairs.
Burrata Di Stefano + Casteller Cava Rose
The Cheese: Burrata might be one of the best things about summer. The name comes from the Italian word for butter. And here’s why. Think of it as mozzarella but on steroids.
It starts with Mozzarella, but the cheesemaker leaves a hollow pouch that he/she fills with fresh cream and soft stringy bits of curd. The Italians call those stringy parts ritagli, or rags. They are the bits remaining after mozzarella making. Burrata is ubiquitous now, but it hasn’t always been.
Mimmo Bruno, raised in Puglia Italy, was the first artisan cheesemaker to recreate Burrata in the U.S. When he left Puglia in 1986, Burrata was still very much a regional cheese – if you went 100 kilometers out of Puglia, no one knew what it was. Today, he handcrafts the Italian delicacy at his family-owned plant, Di Stefano Cheese in Pomona, California.
The Wine: Casteller Cava Rose is a fabulous Spanish sparkling wine. Cava is made the same way as Champagne, with a second fermentation in the bottle and aged for 12 months, even though Cava law only requires nine months of aging. The winery only makes wine out of the best 40% of its grapes; the rest is sold in bulk to neighboring producers.
Why the Pairing Works: The wine has delicious strawberry notes that the rich creamy Burrata brings out. We also tasted elements of pink peppercorn + rhubarb that we couldn’t taste before trying the cheese. This pairing also demonstrates why sparkling wine is always an easy pair for cheese. The bubbles in the wine cut the fattiness of the cheese.
Baetje Farms Fleur de la Vallee + Ipsum Verdejo
The Cheese: This cheese comes from one of our favorite American cheesemakers. It’s made by Veronica Beatje, a Mennonite in Missouri who wanted to live off the grid and got a goat to produce goat milk. Then she had to much goat milk, so learned to make cheese. Duh, of course!
It wasn’t long before she had 75 goats and was making award-winning cheese. In fact, the The New York Times wrote a full two-page article about her and her cheese.
When we read the article, we knew she was exactly the kind of cheesemaker and story we wanted in our case. We reached out to her and placed an order and became her first retailer in the state of Colorado.
We ended up ordering so much cheese from her, that she came, at her cost and her idea, to come visit the shop and do a VIP tasting for some of Denver’s best chefs and food writers. It was a total blast.
As you may have guessed from the names of her cheeses, they are French-inspired. This one is a washed-rind, made from a mix of goat and sheep’s milk. It’s bathed in brine and has a sweeter, milder “funk” than your typical washed-rind cheese.
The inside is like diving into a vat of cream – it’s smooth, fatty and rich on the tongue. But it’s also got complex and full-bodied flavors that remind us of toasted bread butter or a rich meaty taste. This one has won several awards in the annual Cheese Oscars.
The Wine: Ipsum Verdejo: This is by far one of our best-selling summer wines in the shop. It’s produced in the high elevation plateaus about two hours northwest of Madrid. The word Ipsum means “itself” in Latin. And that’s what this wine is. It’s all about expressing the flavor of the grapes.
Many Verdejo wines are improperly “enhanced” during fermentation by using commercial yeasts that change the flavor. Ipsum highlights the bright flavors of the Verdejo grape in a naked form. It’s 100% unoaked, made of organic grapes.
The “pure” nature of it brings out a fresh, crisp, vibrant and mineral taste. Even though it’s easy drinking, it’s still complex in flavor. This is honestly the classic wine for the hot summer months.
Why the Pairing Works: The wine brings out the natural bready, yeasty notes already apparent in the cheese and enhances and highlights them to a greater level. A washed-rind isn’t a classic summer cheese, but this one is mild. And while we wouldn’t have normally paired it with a summer wine, once we did, we knew it had to be on the menu.
In fact, sometimes we love highlighting pairings that break the rules. Because by breaking the rules, you sometimes discover pairings that you would have never discovered otherwise, but are amazing. That said, the hot summer days are coming to an end so don’t wait too long to come test it for yourself!
Baetje Farms Coeur de le Crème + Barnard Griffin Sangiovese Rose
The Cheese: This is another one from Baetje Farms and our friends in Missouri. This is a fresh goat cheese with organic Herbs de Provence, a classic summer cheese. This one took first place in the American Cheese Society “Cheese Oscars” in 2013.
The Wine: Barnard Griffin is located in south-central Washington at the confluence of the Yakima, Columbia, and Snake rivers, in the heart of Washington State’s wine country.
They like to say that they are serious about Rose and that quality Rose starts with grapes grown specifically for this purpose and aren’t an incidental byproduct of red wine production. Their founder, Rob Griffin, studied winemaking at the prestigious U.C. Davis, but (wisely) ignored his professor’s advice that Washington had too cool a climate to sustain wine grapes.
He arrived in Washington in April 1977 and won awards with his very first Chardonnay. They’ve been winning awards ever since. This wine is crisp, lean and fruity. It’s got a luscious array of strawberry, melon and cranberry notes backed up by crisp, palate-cleansing acidity.
Why the Pairing Works: The creamy, almost whipped cream like cheese brings out the natural strawberry notes in the wine, while the subtle herbal notes in the wine, which go almost unnoticed when drinking it alone, complement the herbs in the cheese wonderfully.
Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy Sunset Chipotle + Vera Vinho Verde
The Cheese: This is one of our favorite cheeses to enjoy in summer and not just because it comes from Colorado. This one is from Jumpin’ Good Goat Farm in Buena Vista. Dawn Jump founded the farm in 2002. She now runs it with her daughter, Sadie.
Together they create award-winning cheeses that are adaptations of old-world cheesemaking traditions. We also have a special place in our hearts for them. Sadie was one of the cheesemakers we included in our grand opening event in December.
Why this cheese? Well, for one, Colorado is the land of the chili. Or at least we consume a lot of them. So why not in our cheese? In this case, a chipotle chili core and rub gives this cave-aged cheese a smoky kick, but it’s not so strong that the chili adverse can’t enjoy it (that’s the creamy cheese working its magic). It’s surprisingly mild thanks to the flavor of the sweet, light goat’s milk. If you love spice and a bold flavor without the burn, this is perfect.
And if you are ever in Buena Vista, Dawn welcomes farm visits. We recommend going during kidding season (early Spring) because who doesn’t love baby goats? Oh, and if you want to feel better about the cheese, know that Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy has won several awards at the prestigious Cheese Oscars.
The Wine: When Portuguese winery Vera launched its Vinho Verde in 2010, they were looking to make a better quality Vinho Verde than was typically available in the market. They did this by using 100% estate fruit, making it drier and less carbonated. The result is a medium bodied and better-balanced wine.
This all goes against the norm for other Vinho Verde’s offered in the region. The final wine combines a bright acidity with clean flavors of lime and grapefruit and a little bit of effervescence.
Fun fact: In the 50’s and 60’s, the Portuguese government, under pressure from the wine industry, resisted the arrival of Coca-Cola and soft drinks. Vinho Verdes, with their light alcohol and slight carbonation, were the soft-drink du jour.
Why the Pairing Works: The chipotle rub on the cheese brings out a meaty taste as well as some Banh Mi flavors (cilantro, basil, bread, jalapeno) in the wine that were not apparent when just drinking the wine alone.
Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve + Columna Albarino
The Cheese: Most people don’t think about artisan cheese when they think of Wisconsin, but they should. Because the most-awarded cheese in American history– Pleasant Ridge Reserve – comes from southwestern Wisconsin.
Andy Hatch, the cheesemaker behind this award winner, is a true artisan. Cheesemaking only takes place when the pasture is at its best between May and early October because that’s when the milk has the most flavor. In addition, he only makes cheese on days when the pasture conditions and milk composition meet his quality standards. That selectivity shows through in the final product.
Andy is a passionate advocate of raw milk cheese. He visited our shop earlier this year and when talk turned to raw milk versus pasteurized (that’s the kind of thing cheese geeks talk about), he told us:
“Raw milk is the key to making cheeses that taste like themselves; cheeses with distinctive character and depth. The flavor complexity made possible by raw milk adds another dimension, like listening to music in stereo instead of mono.”
Pleasant Ridge Reserve is a gruyère-style cheese, with a sweetly nutty taste and an earthy bite. It’s a terrific melting cheese, although we generally just enjoy it with a glass of wine.
The Wine: This 100% Albarino comes from Galicia in Northwestern Spain. The area is known for making the best white wines in the Iberian Peninsula. Out of the 200+ indigenous grapes found in this area, Albariño is the queen.
Columna is a very unique expression of this queenly grape due to its southern and interior location. This results in a style that is bright, floral, mineral and at the same time rich.
The vineyards that produce this outstanding expression of Albariño are tended in the Emparrado trellis system, which was invented by the Romans during the 2nd century to maximize air circulation allowing for a better, drier ripening season.
Columna’s goal is to showcase the purity of the Albariño grape in a 100% unoaked style from a unique micro-climate that produces richer, fuller, and often more balanced Albariño wines. Quite simply, Albariño wines this good at this price point do not exist.
Why the Pairing Works: The wine highlights the hidden tropical notes of pineapple and mango in the cheese. The synergy between the young stainless steel aged wine and the 24-month old aged cheese gives the young wine more depth.