If you’re looking for an easy entertaining idea for an impromptu gathering, a wine and cheese pairing menu is a winning option.
Either as a light meal for oneself or an impressive entertaining centerpiece for friends, wine and cheese are the ultimate culinary companions. But how exactly do you best pair the two?
To help home chefs and entertainers, cheesemaker Lisa Gottreich of Bohemian Creamery, who creates high-end, quality cheese for some of California’s top four-star restaurants, has paired up with St. Francis Winery to offer some delicious suggestions.
“Think of a wine and cheese tasting experience as having a beginning, middle and end,” says Gottreich. “In other words, pair your lightest flavors together in the beginning of the meal and work your way towards more robust flavors later. This avoids palate fatigue and allows you to best experience all of the nuances of each wine and cheese pairing to its fullest.”
Gottreich advises that a good way to begin is with a light and refreshing white wine, such as St. Francis Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc. Priced around $17 a bottle, the bright flavors and crisp acidity of this style of wine pairs well with light style cheeses, such as Bohemian Creamery BoDacious chèvre, a fresh and tangy goat’s cheese that doesn’t override the delicate fruitiness of the Sauvignon Blanc. Together, they evoke simple, fresh flavors of spring and summer. Serve the spreadable cheese with a plain, crusty baguette or an herb cracker that matches nicely with the slight green notes of the wine.
Moving on to fuller flavors, Gottreich pairs a smooth and nicely balanced red wine with soft tannins and hints of cherry, plum and chocolate, such as St. Francis Sonoma County Merlot, (at around $21 a bottle), with more complex cheeses. For example, Bohemian Creamery’s The Bomb is a sheepgoat blend washed rind cheese, washed in beer and aged in old Cabernet wine barrels. The result is a cheese with slight tannin in the rind, along with a very rich, creamy center that offers a good match to the elegant Merlot. Gottreich suggests serving this pairing with Marcona almonds to add in nice, crunchy texture.
She recommends saving your heartiest wine for last. A great option, which costs only about $22 a bottle is St. Francis Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel, made from grapes grown on 50 to 100 year-old vines that produce small quantities of concentrated fruit. The result is a full-bodied wine with deep aromas and flavors of ripe black cherries, spice, and toasted oak that pair best with a pungent cheese. Gottreich’s Boho Belle, a semi-soft cheese with hints of vanilla and made from cow’s milk, offers pungency that isn’t overwhelming for the wine. Pairing the combination with onion focaccia adds to the rich, earthy flavors.
More pairing ideas can be found at stfranciswinery.com.
Overall, remember to have fun with your wine and cheese pairings. With delicious, high-quality food and drink, you simply can’t go wrong.