When we think of Sonoma we tend to think of wine, and that’s a good thing… but Sonoma has so much more to offer! What could be better than classic Sonoma wines? Well, how about classic Sonoma wines paired with artisanal Sonoma County cheese? Yeah, I thought so.
While Sonoma grows a wide variety of grape varieties, some are simply going to pair well with certain cheese while others won’t. I thought this would be a great opportunity to take a look at some classic cheese and wine pairings, as well as some that you might not expect.
While these cheeses are unique to Sonoma County’s cheesemakers, the advice regarding the cheese and wine pairings can easily be extrapolated across your favorite cheeses, so join us for a look at wine and cheese pairing Sonoma-style!
We should begin with the wines. Sonoma is famous for quite a few wines but the ones that come to my mind first are Russian River Pinot, Alexander Valley Cabernet, and Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. I’ll make recommendations for additional pairings, but this is a fine place to start -- though it’s worth noting that the pairings are based very broadly on the attributes of each individual grape.
Russian River Pinot Noir
Pinot is a pretty easy wine to pair with cheese. With generally soft tannins and good acids, it is really quite complementary to most cheese, but something soft, rich and aromatic is my first thought! Vella Cheese Company’s Mezzo Secco is sort of a cross between fresh Monterey Jack and a dry Jack, perfect for pairing with a favorite fruity Sonoma County Pinot Noir.
If you don’t mind straying from Sonoma, but only to neighboring Marin County, Cowgirl Creamery’s MT TAM has a fantastically earthy, rich flavor that can explode in the mouth when paired with a lighter, elegant Pinot.
Find Russian River Pinot Noir.
Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabs are generally pretty big wines with rich fruit backed up by substantial tannins. The way to go with a good Cabernet is to pair it with a nice dry Jack cheese like Vella's, or the aptly named aged mixed milk Impromptu from the Andante Dairy.
Find Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Zinfandel is frequently paired with barbecues since its rich fruit can stand up to some spice. With so many Jack cheeses produced in Sonoma it’s easy to find one appropriately spiced with red chilies or black peppercorn. I am more partial to the black peppercorns myself, so would reach for Bellwether Farms' Pepato, a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese flavored with whole black peppercorns! A nice sharp cheddar would also be a fine pairing for a good, fruity Zinfandel.
Find Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.
Some specific Sonoma County cheeses worth discussing and the wine pairings to look for:
Joe Matos Cheese Factory St. Georges
A unique Sonoma County cheese, and worth the trip to find. This cheese, the only one Matos Dairy produces, is a rich, lightly nutty cheese that is great for nibbling on its own but is also a perfect cheese to cook with. I like to pair it with Grenache.
Point Reyes Original Blue
A rich and yet mild blue with a fine creamy texture, this just screams out for something with a bit of sweetness yet plenty of acidity. Riesling jumps to mind, though a nice late harvest Zin would work as well.
Redwood Hill Farm Camellia
This Camembert-style goat cheese ripens wonderfully, gaining richness and depth. I like to pair it with a zesty, lightly spicy Pinot Gris.
Achadinha Goat Cheese Company Broncha
Another Portuguese-influenced cheese, this time flavored with the brewer’s grain used to feed the goats here. This is a nice, earthy yet mild aged goat cheese that works well with a nice mature Syrah.
Laura Chenel’s Chèvre Taupinière
This aged goat cheese topped in ash combines a lightly creamy textural note with the dense, tart, fresh flavor of classic goat cheese. A Sauvignon Blanc absolutely highlights the best of both cheese and wine!
Marin French Cheese Mélange Brie
Made with both cow’s and goat’s cheese, this brie is brighter and a bit sharper than most bries, making it perfect for highlighting a fruity style of Chardonnay, and its rich mouthfeel and buttery undertones are perfect for pairing with richer Chardonnays as well!
To view the photos for this article, go to Classic Wine and Cheese Pairings.