Sonoma County is famous for its abundance of fresh, artisan foodstuffs, and perhaps most famous of all are the world-class wines and cheeses. Yes, dotting the rolling Sonoma County hills and mighty coastline are some of the finest wineries, vineyards, creameries, and dairies in the country, each contributing to an industry that generates over a billion dollars on-average annually. One could argue that winemaking and cheesemaking are twins, in a way – both draw their flavor from the land and air, and both must age to perfection to develop their depth and nuance. Both depend on talented, creative artisans to give them their spirit, and of course, both wine and cheese are so much more than the sum of their respective parts. It is therefore perhaps a no-brainer that wine and cheese would compliment one another perfectly, especially when they’ve both been made right here in Sonoma County! Like the old saying says: “What grows together, goes together!”
This week, we’ve put together four fabulous wine and cheese pairings, each made right here in Sonoma County. While each wine and cheese may be familiar on its own, we guarantee that these pairings will give you a whole new perspective! Skip to the end to check them out, or keep reading to learn more about pairing wines and cheese, and start creating your own local wine and cheese pairings today!
We Go Together (A Wop Baba Loo-op [A Wop Bam Boo])
Finding the right combination of cheese and wine is like finding a soulmate – you just need that perfect fit. According to the experts, the key is matching intensity; after all, a subtle wine will be drowned out by a bold cheese, and vice versa. For instance, the flavors of a bold red will overpower a soft, fresh cheese like mozzarella, but pair it with something well-aged and concentrated in flavor, and you’ve got yourself a match. If creating several pairings, start with the least intense and increase in intensity with each progressive pairing. Additionally, you’ll want to consider the acidity of the wine versus the richness of the cheese. Certain cheeses will have a higher fat content than others which, though delicious, can become overwhelming in large portions. A nicely acidic wine will cut through that richness and even help bring out some of the alcohol-soluble flavors trapped in the fatty cheese. And of course, we would be completely remiss if we didn’t mention locality! Terroir, or the flavor imparted on a product by the land, plays a key role in the production of wine and cheese; in both cases, everything from the wild cultures in the air and water to the composition of the earth itself contributes to the flavor of the final product. Again: “What grows together, goes together!”
That being said, no matter where your cheese and wine come from, it is still important to consider the flavors and style of the cheese above all. Check some of the different combinations below to get started!
- Fresh Cheeses – Including such hits as Mozzarella and Chevre, these cheeses are rindless, mild, and faintly sour in flavor and are sometimes brined briefly. Pair fresh cheeses with light, crisp wines like a Dry Rose or Sauvignon Blanc. For tangier, saltier varieties, opt instead for a sweeter white such as a Riesling or Gewurztraminer.
- Bloomy, Soft Cheeses – Coated in a layer of magical white mold, these cheeses are known the world-over for their intense richness and bold flavor and include fan-favorites like Brie and Camembert. Pair these funky flavor-bombs with dry white wines like Chenin Blanc or bright sparklers like Extra Brut Champagne. Conversely, these cheeses will stand up well to a light-bodied and fruity red. Give them a try with a young Pinot Noir or even a Cabernet Franc instead.
- Washed Rind Cheeses – Consisting of cheeses like Fontina and Reblochon, washed rind cheeses are bathed regularly in brine, wine, beer, or cider to create their distinctive rind and pungent flavor. Pair these with off-dry whites on the sweeter side, such as a Riesling or Pinot Gris, or bring on the bubbles with off-dry sparklers like Prosecco.
- Semi-Soft Cheeses – Creamy and nutty in flavor, these lightly aged cheeses are often the most familiar and include Alpine cheeses like Gruyere and popular sandwich-toppers like Havarti and Provolone. Enjoy these with a boldly flavored, lightly oaked white like Chardonnay, or dip into the reds with lightly aged options such as a Chianti or a young Bordeaux blend.
- Hard Cheeses – Now THESE are the bad mamma-jammas! This category includes firm, well-aged cheeses like Cheddar or Parmesan, each boasting its own intensely nutty and salty flavor. Pair these bold cheeses with an equally bold red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or even a Zinfandel.
- Blue Cheeses – Neither hard nor soft and shot through with veins of delectable blue mold, these psychedelic cheeses stand in a category all their own. They can range in flavor from mild and creamy to bold and firm, and each boasts the funk that can only be found in a blue cheese. Cut through the richness and draw out some sweetness with fortified dessert wines like Port or Vin Santo, or bring out the subtler nuances with late harvest reds or whites.
This week, stop by Oliver’s to start making your own matches, or check out expert wine and cheese pairings from Sonoma County! Each divine pairing combines two true Sonoma County originals to form a quartet of power couples like no other. Drop by any of our four locations start making pairing magic tonight, and celebrate the bounty of Sonoma County with Oliver’s – check it all out below!
Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam, $22.99/lb.
+Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, NV Sonoma County, $24.99
One of Sonoma County’s favorite creameries, the Cowgirl’s flagship cheese is a beautiful, buttery triple creme with a fluffy white bloomy-rind. Made with local organic cow’s milk , Mt Tam’s heart is dense and rich with a slowly ripening creamline that gets more unctuous with age. Enjoy a classic decadent pairing in Sonoma County Style with a chilled bottle of Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine and let the bubbles and butter bomb dance on your tongue.
Bohemian Creamery Flower Power, $29.99/lb.
+Valley of the Moon Pinot Gris/Viognier – 2018, Sonoma County, $9.99
A beautiful blend of milk and honey, this pyramid of organic jersey cow’s milk crowned with local bee pollen boasts an airy texture that floats on your tongue like a cloud and is just kissed by the sweetness of bee pollen. When young, the flavor is lactic and fresh becoming more pronounced as the thin bloomy rind breaks down the paste into a runny creamline. A true Sonoma County Original, pair with the ripe and aromatic Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc – Viognier blend for a sweet and luscious experience.
Valley Ford Highway 1, $12.99/lb.
+Balletto Pinot Noir – 2018, Russian River Valley, $19.99
Handmade by family owned and operated Valley Ford Creamery, Highway One is a raw milk fontina style cheese with a silky, creamy texture. The wheels are handwashed with brine to develop complex nutty, fruity, and earthy flavors. Cave-aged notes in the cheese will pair perfectly with savory earthy notes characteristic in Balletto Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and further complimented by juicy dark red fruit on the finish. Add some fresh cherries on the plate and enjoy a delicious pairing.
Point Reyes Farmstead Creamery Bay Blue, $18.99/lb.
+Mazzocco Zinfandel – 2018, Dry Creek Valley, $16.99
Crafted from farmstead cow’s milk, Bay Blue gets its distinct flavor from Northern California’s unique microclimate with its Pacific Coastal Fog and lush herbs and grasses. This blue cheese packs a dense, fudgy texture that smacks of Stilton and a rich, buttery paste with a sweet, salted-caramel finish. For a delicious and bold pairing try shaving dark chocolate on top of a wedge of this sweet and earthy blue and pouring a glass of rich and opulent Mazzacco Zinfandel.
Want to put together your own wine and cheese pairing flight? Click HERE to download our printable PDF!
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