Festive Cheese + Wine Pairings
One of the easiest ways to wow your guests is with an amazing wine and cheese pairing. So here are some of our favorites. But even if you don’t do the exact pairing, these are all great holiday wines and holiday-worthy cheeses on their own.
Sottocenere al Tartufo (Truffles) + Joan d’Anguera Altaroses Montsant
THE CHEESE: Truffles are the ultimate holiday indulgence, and Sottocenare al Tartufo (truffles in Italian) is a great way to incorporate them into your holiday menu. Unlike many “truffle cheeses,” which just rub some truffle oil on the rind, this cheese has actual truffles IN the cheese as well as truffle oil on the rind.
The taste is mild, but you definitely taste the truffles. This cheese is perfect for adding a touch of luxury to any cheese plate It is also a key ingredient in making the best truffle mashed potatoes ever.
THE WINE: This wine is Spanish Catalan wine in a nutshell. It’s a lighter, traditional style of wines that used to be made in the Montsant region. This expressive, medium-weight wine has soft tannins and nice notes of wild strawberries and stone fruits. It’s a well-balanced, easy drinking wine.
THE PAIRING: The smokiness of the Montsant grape pairs well with the smoked & ash-rinded cheese. The plushness of the weight of the grape also matches the decadent nature of the cheese.
Tete de Moine + Vine Starr Zinfandel
THE CHEESE: This is your party trick cheese if you have the special curler (girolle) to pull it off. (If you don’t, you can get one at our store.) The cheese is a raw cow’s milk cheese developed 800 years ago in the Swiss Jura Mountains by the monks of Bellelay Abbey.
Only nine dairies are registered to make Tête de Moine, meaning it’s made from mountain milk in its natural state by a handful of creameries. It’s a semi-hard cheese with an intense, fruity flavor.
THE WINE: This is not your average California Zinfandel. To begin with, it comes from an urban winery in Berkeley, CA whose cellars are a warehouse in an industrial area.
Nevertheless, winemaker Chris Brockway is producing some of the most interesting wines in California today. He’s acclaimed for his refined wines that show restraint where the fruit is allowed to really express itself.
This wine is a delicate version of Zinfandel; fruit forward with spices that remind you of Zinfandel but with subtle nuances of Zinfandel fruit that are a departure from what you expect. .
The PAIRING: The Zinfandel’s fruitiness brings out the fruitiness of the cheese, and this particular Zin doesn’t overwhelm the cheese.
Delice de Bourgogne + Camin Larredya Juracon
THE CHEESE: Second only truffles as the ultimate holiday cheese is a triple crème cheese. They are made by adding cream to the full fat cow’s milk as the cheese is made. This is unapologetically rich and the closest you will get to eating butter without actually eating butter.
But it’s more than butter thanks to its bloomy rind (think Brie) that adds an earthy, complex flavor.
THE WINE: The wines from Juracon region of southwest France (foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains) may be less known than those from Bordeaux and Burgundy, but they are still worth searching out. To begin with, they’ve been growing grapes there since the 14th century.
There are about 100 producers making estate-bottled wines today, and Larredya is arguably one of the best. Their Jurançon Sec ‘La Part Davant’ is a heavy wine with a nice acidity and notes of apricot, ginger and lemon zest.
The PAIRING: Champagne is a class pair with Delice de Bourgogne, and this dry Jurancon has the same biscuit, yeasty dryness that is the classic hallmark of good champagne.
Jasper Hills Harbison + Mandrake Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
THE CHEESE: Harbison was named Best American Cheese in the World Cheese Awards last year. It’s got the custard, eggy flavor of a perfectly ripened brie, with a woodsy, earthy flavor that comes from the strips of spruce it’s wrapped in.
The presentation on this one is a STUNNER! You slice off the op and scoop it out with a spoon onto a cracker or baguette or straight into your mouth.
THE WINE: Wine geeks typically think of Zinfandel when they think of California’s Paso Robles region. But some of the region’s winemakers are expanding into Cabernet Sauvignon, and, in this lucky, we are lucky for it.
While many Paso Robles Cabernets can be heavy-handed and overly ripe, this one is bright and soft without aggressive tannins and heavy oak flavors. Just because it’s lighter, doesn’t mean it’s light on flavor. Think blackberry, plum and a hint of cocoa powder.
THE PAIRING: The deep umami and woody notes in the Harbison are the perfect foil for the dark, woodsy Cabernet, and its tannic structure offsets the fattiness of the cheese.
Stilton + Niepoort Ruby Porter
THE CHEESE: Stilton is one of the best known and loved British cheeses, and it’s a holiday classic. It’s a blue cheese, and only six dairies are licensed to make it. Like all European protected cheeses, there is a committee that examines every wheel determine whether it’s good enough to earn the Stilton name. By the way, the first reference to Stilton occurs in 1722!
Traditionally, this cheese has been paired with sherry and port wine so we like to pour port over the cheese. It’s a delicious and impressive display technique.
THE WINE: Five generations of the Nieport family have been making wine in Portugal since 1842. The current family leader, Dirk Niepoort is considered one of the legends of the Portuguese wine scene. But he isn’t rooted only in old word traditions. Niepoort’s mission is to produce distinctive ports that combine centuries-old traditions with innovation.
This wine is an example of that. Niepoort Ruby is fresh, young and fruity. It’s ideal with cheese–we do it the traditional way. We pour Port over the cheese and then enjoy a glass of port with it.
THE PAIRING: This is a holiday classic. The stone fruit flavors of the port plays a contrasting role to the blue bite of the cheese, and the sweetness of each is complimentary.
Baked Brie – A Delicious Mess + Domaine Roger Perrin Cotes du Rhone Blanc
THE CHEESE: Brie is a holiday classic, and you can make it even more indulgent by baking it. But don’t buy those pre-packaged baked Brie packages at the grocery store. The cheese is subpar to say the least. Buy a nice Brie, add spices and flavorings and bake it in a Brie baker.
We have pre-packaged savory and sweet spice blends—savory for appetizers, sweet for dessert. And, of course, you can find many recipes online. We call it a “delicious mess,” with gooey cheese that we can spoon out or drizzle on bread or fruit. For this pairing, we used a savory Herbe de Provence blend that we sell in the shop.
THE WINE: Domaine Roger Perrin is a relative newcomer to the French wine scene, having just been established 47 years ago. But they’ve made a name for themselves. This family affair is committed to producing wines the respect the grapes.
That sounds like “wine speak,” we get it. But it’s really true the best way to describe the wines coming out of this producer. This one is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. You get the tastes characteristic of Viognier and its floral notes, with incredible freshness and great depth. This is a food friendly wine.
THE PAIRING: The leanness and acidity of the wine counterbalances the richness of the baked brie, plus the herbs used on the cheese come from the Rhone region where the wine is from.
Baked Chevre + “Foiled Cucumber” Gewurztraminer
THE CHEESE: This is your no-brainer appetizer. Take a log of fresh chevre, add some herbs and bake. For this one, we used a garlic and thyme herb mix that we sell in the shop and is specially designed to be used on baked cheese. We chevre all year long and add it to salads, but it’s a crowd pleaser during the holidays.
THE WINE: A really tall biker dude with a handlebar mustache starts a winery with his wife, but decides to make wine from grapes that are hard to grow and hard to say. Sounds like an episode of Portlandia, which is appropriate since this wine does indeed come from Oregon.
Barnaby and Olga Tuttle are bucking the “big oak, high alcohol” trend and making northern German-style wines that have a lighter body, lower alcohol content and higher acidity.
Their Gewurztraminer is classic Gewurz. A little spicy, a little sweet. It’s a fabulous food wine. Oh, and the name, like all their wines, comes from their favorite movie, Spinal Tap. It’s a reference to Dereck Small’s embarrassing moment in airport security,
THE PAIRING: This pairing relies on the same principles as our baked brie pairing, the acidity of the wine cuts through the richness of the warmed cheese. Plus the citrus notes in the mirror the lemony notes in the chevre, which are heightened as it is warmed.