I peaked during this cheese tasting. WOW I see what pairing the right cheese with the right wines can do! The last cheese tasting I did was tasty, but this was luxurious. I did some research online for some suggested wine-cheese pairings and 3 friends and I went all out. The online article I found suggested pairing Chardonnay with brie, Cabernet Franc with goat cheese, and Merlot with gouda. I love all of these cheeses by themselves, but had never tried a Cabernet Franc before and generally prefer to stay away from Chardonnays. I was looking forward to trying some new wines, and I was not disappointed.
La Crema Monterey – Chardonnay – Santa Rosa, California, United States – 2016 – $20.99
Critic Review: On the nose, the 2016 La Crema Monterey Chardonnay shows Meyer lemon, passionfruit, grilled pineapple and pie crust. On the palate, nectarine, papaya and crisp lemon-tangerine notes are complemented by a touch of spice and complex minerality.
The Velvet Devil – Merlot – Mattawa, Washington, United States – 2015 – $10.99
Critic Review: Balanced, rich and explosive. Think red plums and bittersweet cocoa with hints of smoke and cedar. So smooth, so naughty, and so very, very nice.
LaRoque – Cabernet Franc – Berkeley, California, United States – 2017 – $12.99
Critic Review: A crimson robe, the nose of subtle raspberry, rhubarb, spicy and tobacco aromas. In the mouth the elegant and silky tannins bring a very feminine touch to this wine. Laroque Cabernet Franc is a special wine that defies competition. It is unique in its combination of concentration of fruit, attractive aromatics and body. Serve it with tagines, oriental dishes, pastas, poultry, barbecue, red meat and cheese plates.
I had a lot of fun doing this tasting with my friends. I had never tried La Crema Chardonnay, but it was our #1 selling Chardonnay at the country club I used to wait tables at, so I assumed it is delicious. And it is. Overall, I was more concerned with enjoying the pairings and conversations than taking extensive notes on my experience, but I was sure to make notes of key things I noticed.
Chardonnay: This is my favorite Chardonnay I’ve ever had! It was very citrus-y and refreshing but without a hard acidic bite like other white wines.
- Brie: This is the suggested pairing, and I understand why. This combination was crisp at the beginning of the sip but creamy throughout, which paired well with the equally creamy cheese. This brie was very light and did not overpower the taste of the wine.
- Goat: This combination was very wrong – the cheese was far too sour for the wine. The sweetness of this Chardonnay really clashed with the cheese, but the texture was very pleasant. I love creamy cheeses with wines, because it makes the taste really fluid. However, this isn’t the correct pairing…
- Gouda: This pair was also inappropriate, because I felt as though the gouda was too smokey for this wine. Usually I like smokey, salty cheeses. But, this combination made the flavor profiles very broken instead of integrated and I had to divide my attention between the two flavors instead of enjoying them together.
Cabernet Franc: I had never had a Cabernet Franc before, and this was definitely not what I was expecting. This wine has a burnt wood scent, which is pleasant but unexpected for a glass of wine that is described as fruity. There is a very dry end that leaves your mouth wanting more, which is good for pairing with this charcuterie board. The spicy flavors are like the oregano I cook with and left a hot feeling in my throat and an earthy taste in my mouth. All of this to say, it was a very unique taste.
- Brie: This combination was really tough to taste, because the smokiness of the wine was really accentuated and made it even more shocking than it already is. I think this is because the brie is so light and not very flavorful, so it doesn’t have anything to use to compete with the flavor of the Franc.
- Goat: This pairing was really delicious! The gouda and Franc were suggested together, but I really like this combination even more. The harsh smokiness of the Franc melts away and the raspberry flavors finally come out in this wine. This was such a dramatic difference between the brie and the goat — two similarly-creamy cheeses — that it’s hard to believe that I drank the same wine with both.
- Gouda: This suggested pairing was also tasty because the cheese and wine both offered smokey flavors that didn’t cancel each other out, but harmonized. The focus was shared evenly between the cheese and wine, instead of the flavor of one taking the spotlight. I would definitely taste Cabernet Franc again with cheeses, but I didn’t like the wine by itself – I prefer something a bit sweeter.
Merlot: So supposedly Merlot is really expensive, and I didn’t know that… So this was a Merlot that was in our price range, not $50 like the other bottles we saw. I liked this one though, because it was lighter and not so full-bodied but still retained the smokey finish that gives it dimensions. I detected a slight metallic taste that left a taste in my mouth, but in a pleasant way. Of course there were strong notes of plum and dark berries, and was very well balanced between all the flavors.
- Brie: The creaminess of the brie melted the tannins away from this wine and left the wine super smooth on the palate. A lot of the reason I don’t like wines is because they aren’t smooth and easy-drinking. With this pair, it made it easy. The flavor of the cheese was still slightly too salty to counter balance the metallic taste, though.
- Goat: YUM! This was my favorite pair of the night, and made me want to chug the glass of wine. My friend Hannah noted that this wine is spicy and peppery, complementing the creamy goat cheese well. The sourness of the cheese was kind of in-your-face alone, but with this peppery taste it made both harsh flavors go away and leave room for all the fruits to bloom. This is the suggested pairing with Merlot, and I’ll absolutely pair it again.
- Gouda: Strangely, this pairing brought two very different tastes that actually didn’t blend well together. Other pairs were starkly different but still accentuated each other nicely, but this one seemed choppy – like you taste the wine and then the cheese, rather than the two flavors together. The smokey, salty gouda is better with the Cabernet Franc because it is less sweet than this Merlot.
Overall, my favorite pairings were Chardonnay and Brie, Cabernet Franc and Goat, and Merlot and Goat.