A Good Pair

Aug 6, 2013

There’s no better place than Napa Valley to cultivate your love of cheese and wine and learn (through delicious experience) how to pair the two to great effect. Add eminent Napa Valley cheesemonger, John Raymond, into the equation and you’re in for a real treat.

Raymond has been orchestrating wine and cheese pairings for guests at Calistoga Ranch for over eight years, and he has yet to meet a varietal he couldn’t nurture. Every Friday one of Calistoga Ranch’s Vintner Members brings a selection of signature wines to pour for guests. Raymond, armed with several wedges he feels might be appropriate, tastes the wines and tailors a lineup. Ideally, the food won’t overwhelm the pour. Not unlike wine, cheese boasts a complex flavor profile that unfolds in layers. The goal is harmony, and the effect is heavenly.

Short an expert cheesemonger and master sommelier? Not to worry – here are a few suggestions for successful pairings:

  • Try a big, fruit-forward wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel with a rich, artisanal cheddar. You’ll find that the sharpness of the cheese can stand up to the bold flavors of these wines.

  • For a white, try balancing the crisp bite in a glass of Chardonnay or sparkling wine with a viscous, low-acid sheep milk cheese.

  • As you begin to experiment, taste the cheese by itself first and then with the wine  to see how the flavors marry.

  • Looking for an excuse to enjoy your friends’ company? A  wine and cheese party is a great one. Visit your local cheese shop for inspiration and recommendations.

  • Be sure to serve wine and cheese at their proper temperatures so their flavors can emerge. According to Wine Spectator, light dry white wines, rosés and sparkling wines should be served at 40° to 50° F, full-bodied white wines and light, fruity reds at 50° to 60° F, and full-bodied red wines and ports at 60° to 65° F. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes prior to serving.

Remember, this is a subjective pursuit – trial and error encouraged!