Happy Monday, my friends! Phew, I just finished the first of four performance weekends of my current operetta. Each time I perform, it’s incredible to experience the amount of energy that goes into putting on a show of this scale, as well as the intense satisfaction that comes from performing in front of a live audience with an orchestra.
That aside, this week, Chuck the Cheese Sommelier and I have a scrumptious set of wine and cheese pairings for you! Chuck is a member of Copain Wines in Healdsburg, California, and was invited to teach a cheese and wine pairing session there. He very graciously invited me to assist him, and so we started off by finding our perfect pairings several weeks before! The event itself as a success; the attendees asked thoughtful questions about cheese and wine, shared their tasting notes, and enjoyed themselves. Having views like Copain’s always boosts the experience as well!
Take a look at these couplings, and go try them at home! We ordered our wines from lightest to strongest.
2015 Picpoul Blanc + L’Amuse Brabander
This rare wine, whose name means “lip stinger” in French, has a bright citrus flavor, high acidity and minerality, with a refreshing nose of herbs, citrus, and white flowers (I sense jasmine). We paired it with L’Amuse Brabander, a goat milk gouda style cheese from Brabant in Holland. The cheese’s toffee and butter notes softened the wine’s acidity, and really lengthened the wine’s finish. It was a sweet start to the tasting, and one that challenged many attendees to look at goat cheese in a new light.
2014 Pinot Gris + Pennyroyal Farm Laychee
Copain’s 2014 Pinot Gris was a lovely wine with a soft finish and notes of honeysuckle, apple blossom, Anjou pear, peaches, and grapefruit. We found that Pennyroyal Farm’s Laychee, a fluffy fresh goat (or goat + sheep, depending on the season) cheese reminiscent of ice cream made for an elegant pairing. The lush, creamy fromage smoothed out the wine’s acidity and enhanced the wine’s flavors, while the wine sweetened the cheese’s sweet grass notes even more.
2011 Kiser “En Haut” Pinot Noir + 24 Month Comté aged by Jean d’Alos
This was easily one of my favorite wine pairings of the bunch! The delicate pinot noir had notes of apples, dried cranberries, dusty earth, and fresh herbs. Together with the buttery, toasted nut flavors of the Comté, both wine and cheese shone like gems. The cheese’s butter notes brought a new dimension to the wine’s fruit flavors, while the wine’s deeper, dusty notes complemented the cheese’s mushroom notes beautifully. All I could write in my tasting notes was “WOW.”
2013 Kiser “En Haut” Pinot Noir + Gruyère 1655
What a difference 2 years makes! The 2013 Kiser “En Haut” Pinot Noir was significantly darker in flavor than the 2011. It possessed bright, concentrated cherry and red plum flavors, as well as notes of dried herbs and hibiscus. To bring out those deeper flavors, we chose the Gruyère 1655 (the 1655 represents the year this cheese was first recognized by local nobility) with its bright fruity flavor, deep nuttiness, and hefty body (those crunches are little bits of tyrosine!). Together, the cheese and wine made for a full, full-bodied pairing. The cheese’s rich texture accentuated the wine’s finish, while the cheese’s fruity, creamy flavors brought out the wine’s fruity notes.
2013 Les Voisins Syrah + Bellwether Farm Blackstone
This big red wine, with notes of black currant, red plums, dark berries, peat, and white pepper, required a cheese pairing with significant body and flavor. Luckily, we found a local one—the new sheep and cow mixed milk creation by Bellwether Farms called Blackstone. The cheese’s rind is colored black from its coating of vegetable ash, rosemary, and ground pepper, while its rich, pepper-infused paste offers notes of sweet grass, caramel, and cream. I think this pairing worked well in large part thanks to the peppercorns throughout the cheese. The wine’s spicy finish was enhanced by the Blackstone, and the cheese’s savory and creamy qualities brought out the Syrah’s deep fruity and earthy flavors.
I especially enjoyed tasting Copain’s wines because they are not like the usual extremely oaked, in-your-face Napa/Sonoma wines. They are all well-rounded, complex, and food friendly—more like the European wines I have come to love. That also means that they’re cheese friendly. Chuck and I tasted through a couple dozen cheeses to create these pairings, but there are untold numbers of cheeses out there. If you are feeling inspired, go out and taste! There are no rules. This is your chance to be creative on the cheese board!
If you’re 21+, you can purchase Copain’s wines on their website. If you’d like to visit them, please visit their website to make an appointment. Fine cheese shops will carry at least some of these cheeses, although if yours doesn’t, you can put in special requests!
If you’re in the Bay Area or Napa, and are interested in having Chuck teach your group a wine and cheese pairing class, contact me, and I’ll put you in touch!
What’s your favorite cheese and wine pairing? Let me know in the comments below!