Get That Cheddar and Wine Down

Oenophiles are always on the hunt for a new cheese to complement their vino, but it could be a bit tricky. How exactly does one know how to pair their wine with the perfect cheese? Tracey Shepos Cenami, resident cheese guru, helps out, with her tips on how to select the best pairings!

Tracey Shepos Cenami, who is also a three-time winner of Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, has perfected the art of wine and artisanal cheese pairing during her time as chef and leader of the wine & cheese pairing program at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in Sonoma County, California. Her absolute personal favorite pairing is Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir with bacon almonds and Valley Ford Estero Gold cheese, but with so many cheeses and wines out there, one must explore to find their own little slice of heaven.

TO HELP YOU DO SO, TRACEY’S TIPS INCLUDE:

1. Don’t make pairing wine with cheese an afterthought—match the flavors, mouthfeel, and weight of the wine with a like-minded cheese. Think creamier cheeses with full-bodied Chardonnay (like America’s #1 selling Chardonnay for 26 years and counting… Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay!), Chevre goat cheese with a grassy Sauvignon Blanc and more robust, aged cheeses with Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon.

2. Adding in the right accompaniment can turn a good pairing to a great pairing by highlighting key flavors—fig jam with a sharp cheddar and Cabernet Sauvignon, or even adding in texture with smoked almonds aside Pinot Noir. Sometimes it works out that both flavor and texture are accentuated, which is when you know you have a “cloud parting” pairing.

3. If I had to select one wine that pairs with most cheeses it would be Riesling—it offers that perfect sweet/salty flavor combo that most of us love.

4. Think of the pairing in 3 parts: beginning, middle, and finish. For a pairing to work, all three parts will avoid conflict like bitterness or sharpness. A pairing that is pleasing because one item doesn’t conflict with the other is great. However, for a pairing to be spectacular, one or more of the three parts will enhance the pairing in an exciting or unexpected way.

5. Share! When you find a pairing that you love don’t keep it to yourself. Bring it to a party as your addition to the potluck or as a hostess gift. There are so many amazing wines and cheeses, it’s nearly impossible to know all of the great combinations, so spread the wealth! With these pro tips straight out of Sonoma County, California, you’ll be prepared to venture out into the world of cheeses and wines in no time. Buy that bottle of vino you’ve been eyeing, head to the artisanal cheese section, and get to pairing!

Tracey Shepos Cenami | @tshepos