Cheese and Wine Pairings from our April 23, 2022 Brie & Camembert Workshop

Posted on Monday, April 25, 2022 | By Nicole Easterday |

 Wine & Cheese Pairing Workshop Bay Area

 1. M. Chevalier, Cava, Spain

This cava is a smokin deal ($8 from Trader Joe’s) and when blind tasted against other Cava’s at a much higher price point it holds its own. This is from Trader Joe’s so we don’t have access to technical information but we do know from the trademark that it is produced by the oldest and 2nd largest producer in Spain. Cava is produced in the same manner as Champagne so some characteristics overlap. It has a similar mouthfeel, medium-bodied with pleasant bubbles and a nice bit of acid on the finish that cuts through the creaminess of brie. 

Cava is traditionally made with three grape indigenous Catalonia varietals

  • Macabeo  - a simple grape with floral notes and slightly bitter lemon and green almond finish
  • Xarello - aromatic with a rich floral nose and a sweet pear and melon taste
  • Parellada - a high acid grape blended in to add zesty citrus notes.

Tasting Notes: The color is a clear, clean, pale gold, with teeny, tiny bubbles. The nose is slightly floral, citrus notes, a hint of honey, and crisp apple.  It tastes of tart grapefruit, green apple, lemon/lime, and Bosc pear. The mid-palate adds a salty, nutty flavor and apricot. The acidity is balanced, which is excellent at this price point.

  • Brillat Savarin - It's almost cliché to serve this sweetheart of cheese-lovers but it really is the silk underpants of cheese. Named for the famous gastronome who said "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are", the triple crème richness leaves no doubt as to who you are. Cow's milk with 75% butterfat and a thin, edible snowy white rind, it's all lactic sweetness which would normally have the slightest flavor of bloomy white mushroom in the rind. It's practically made to be paired with bubbles and we love it with this cava.

2. Bohigas, Xarello, Catalunya, Spain

Having the Cava mixing varietals solo is a bit more rare in the US so this wine is a special treat! This Xarello is from the Bohigas estate that dates back to 1290- and is still not touted as the oldest, but is one of the oldest. This family are long time farmers and wine makers from Catalunya and produce organic still and sparkling wine from local grapes. Xarello is the main grape in Cava and Chardonnay is the main grape in Champagne and no surprise- Chablis (French Chardonnay) and Xarello have lots of similarities. 

Tasting Notes: This wine is mineral heavy with a subtle lemon and green apple nose. The taste is bright and crisp with a briny minerality and subtle citrus and perfect for shellfish or to break up a creamy mouth feel. This is so well balanced that it is good with food…or without.  

  • Fromager D'affinois Plain Brie - This is the most exported cheese out of France and with good reason! With it's very slightly mushroomy rind and truly smooth and creamy paste, it's a real crowd-pleaser. D'affinois tends to be a top seller at most cheese counters, whether artisanal or more of a grocery setting. An easy-to-find cheese, this little brie gets its ooey-gooey texture not by adding additional cream, but by using a patented method of ultra-filtration, which breaks up and dispersed the fat throughout the cheese. While it stands well on its own, try wrapping this one in phylllo dough and baking it with some jam this holiday season.

3. Wente, Nikki's Small Lot Pinot Noir Rosé, Arroyo Seco, CA

Wente is so lovable for its history and commitment to sustainability.Wente Vineyards is the country’s oldest continuously operated family-owned winery that is run by 4th and 5th generations of the family. The winery grows in two regions, Livermore and Arroyo Seco, with a focus on sustainable farming. The Arroyo Seco appellation near Monterey has one of the longest growing seasons, allowing the fruit to develop great acidity and intensify the natural flavor profiles.The coastal growing region also gives an old world quality of minerality and balance- ideal for Pinot Noir.  In 2010 they were one of the first wineries to be certified CA Sustainable Vineyard and have since certified every aspect of the business. We love them for all these reasons BUT when it comes down to it the reason I continue to come back to their wines, they are SPECTACULAR! 

The Niki’s Rose is named  after 5th generation winemaker, Niki Wente. This small lot wine is from a block in the northwest corner of the Arroyo Seco estate. The grapes are hand picked and sorted at harvest time and with a focus on expressing the  terroir, creating a crisp, sophisticated rose with stunning color that is elevated and yet still approachable. 

Tasting Notes: This wine is tasted first with the eyes. The wine is such a stunning color. It's both young and fresh and still classic and sophisticated.  The nose is  beautiful- strawberry, tropical fruits, and florals. The flavor is complex with notes of melons, strawberry, and sweet mandarins.  

Interesting fact: The Wente family is widely regarded as California’s First Family of Chardonnay. In 1912, 2nd Generation Winegrower, Ernest Wente, convinced his father and founder, C.H. Wente, to import Chardonnay cuttings from the vine nursery at University of Montpellier in France to the Livermore Valley. Today, roughly 75% of all California Chardonnay is derived from the Wente Clone. 5th Generation Winemaker, Karl D. Wente, continues to carry on the family’s legacy of Chardonnay with four different styles of the wine.

  • Brebirousse d'Argental - This bright orange French sheep's milk cheese may look like it's going to deliver a punch but it's all sheepy creaminess and goopy brie goodness. Rather than being washed, as its appearance would suggest, this cheese's exterior is rubbed with annatto, offering a bright pop to your cheese plate. The sheep's milk, which is higher in milkfat, delivers luscious goodness and creamy, rich texture. This one is so easy to love! The pairing was a match made in heaven.

4. Wente, Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc, Livermore Valley, CA

When I think of Sauvignon Blanc I think of a huge acid with grapefruit and grass that is challenging to pair though easy to sip next to a pool. What a sweet surprise the Wente Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc is! This is named after Louis Mel who immigrated in 1870 from France. He settled in the Livermore Valley and acquired Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from the owners of Chateau Y'quem. The Livermore Mel estate is very similar to his native  Bordeaux - gravel and loamy soil so it is no surprise that this special wine is much more in line with mineral and subtle fruit French wines than more new world style acid heavy wines.       

Tasting Notes:The color is a traditional pale yellow. The nose is lightly floral with hints of grapefruit, melon and lime. The taste is bright and fresh, and like the nose-  honeydew, mango and sweet herbs - basil. The acidity and the sweetness levels are perfectly balanced, creating a full mouthfeel and long, refreshing finish.

  • La Tur, Caseificio dell'Alta Langa - from the Alta Langa region of southern Piemonte in Italy, this cheesemaker has a reputation for fantastic robiolas and this lovely little is no exception. La Tur boasts three milks - cow, goat & sheep - giving it a smooth, round mouthfeel with cowy butteriness, a bit of goaty piquancy and that smooth lanolin finish on the tongue. The surface is all Geotrichum brainy softness. This pairing was phenomenal and the favorite of many in the room.

5. Fuso Primitivo Calx, Puglia, Italy, 2020

This wine is something we may never have tasted if it was not for an importer, PortoVino, with a program called FUSCO that focuses on bringing organic, small production, everyday-approachable Italian wine to the US. 

This is such a light bright Primitivo that if I stand in the sun I can imagine being in Southern Italy. Filippo Cassano is committed to highlighting the grape and the place with low intervention and eloquent wine making that is also certified organic.

The winemaker is focusing on the fruit shining- there is only naturally occurring yeast,  low intervention winemaking so no filtrations.It is fermented and aged stainless steel to keep things lean. He works with his father who focuses on the vines and he focuses on celebrating the grapes and the place.  The cellar itself is uncommon: excavated into 8 meters of limestone rock, this charming structure allows the aging of wines at a constant temperature.

Things of interest- Primitivo and Zinfandel are genetic twins - they are clones of an ancient Croatian varietal but that is where the similarities stop. Zin is the bold and over the top player to the youthful and easy going Primitivo. Also to note Calx is the Latin word for limestone- a nod to the growing conditions and the reason this wine is so fresh and light.

Tasting Notes: Purple fruit, violets, crunchy cranberry, just-right tannins, juice but without the jam- simple and easy to drink. The limestone imprints the Primitivo grape, giving fresh and taut wines, with notes of zingy red berries and dried figs. Drink with a slight chill.

  • L'Original Paysan-Breton -This traditional Brie from Brittany in France is one of the few that is truly a "lactic set", which means it uses less rennet and takes a longer time to mature. This process results in a stronger flavor due to longer ripening time, resulting in a very traditionally ‘French’ flavor. You’ll find it quite unlike most bries you’ll find in the US. The textured boasts a silky, creamy yet supple paste with a full, cooked cabbage and mushroomy flavor.

    While you won’t find AOC Brie in the US, this cheese is about as close as you’ll get flavor-wise. Pair it with a nice, full-bodied, full flavored earthy old-world-style wine and pretend you’re in Paris. This pairing was really lovely and the wine was something I'd love to enjoy again and again.

6. Domaine Fontaine du Clos Vacqueyras, Southern Rhone Valley, 2018

Fontaine du Clos has been farming for generations. In fact, they run a vine nursery which has become a go-to for vineyards in France. All this translates to farming excellence which comes through in their wines. The winery today is run by second-generation Céline and Jean-François Barnier, a young couple who seek to make wines they like—organically farmed, transparently made, and food-friendly. They've mastered their style by engaging consumers through events at the winery over the years. With their farming expertise and consumer orientation, Fontaine du Clos Vacqueyras has quickly emerged on the scene, landing best-in-class scores from leading critics. 

Fontaine du Clos benefits from a unique location, with Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the south west and Vacqueyras to the north east presided by the peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux. Part of their vines are in Vaccqueyras and part in C-du-P. Altitude, slope, cool winds and well-drained soils with large pebbles make up the terroir on which Fontaine du Clos has built its prestige and trademark quality, for both wines and vegetative stock.

 Tasting notes: Deep ruby purple in color. Black raspberry nose, mocha joined with a bit of spice and pepper. Like the Chateauneuf du Pape of 15 years ago, this Vacqueyras shows pleasing restraint. The palate brings back the fruit from the nose -  black raspberries and sweet kirsch liqueur round, ample, full-bodied fleshy with nice tannins, a silky mouthfeel and a nice long finish. 

  • Harbison by The Cellars at Jasper Hill - Made by one of the best cheesemakers in the country - Mateo Keuhler and the team at Jasper Hill Farms - from cow's milk and wrapped in spruce bark. This big, bold cheese is a show-stopper. People claim to taste everything from cheeseburgers to bacon to hot dogs in this smoky, delectable cheese. It's often served with the top cut off so you can dip right into its gooey interior like fondue.

 Wine & Cheese Pairing Bay Area