During the holidays, we all have the honor of preparing wonderful meals for our family and friends, and as any good host knows, every great feast has to start with a cheese spread. We want to really wow our guests during holiday get-togethers, so we wanted to share a few expert wine and cheese pairing tips from Tracey Shepos Cenami, chef and cheese guru at La Crema Winery in Sonoma County.
Tracey Shepos Cenami grew up in a family that was always cooking. She knew she had found her calling. After years in the culinary world, Tracey was drawn to the wine industry, which she found to be a natural transition. She loved the prospect of living in wine country and having the opportunity to create food to pair with specific wines. Tracey played a pivotal role in developing the culinary program at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard, including introducing a VIP wine and cheese pairing experience – a lesson in the fundamentals of wine and cheese pairing which expertly pairs local artisan cheeses with La Crema wines. Her recipes have been published in magazines and newspapers, and she is a three-time winner of Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games.
Below are Tracey’s tips and tricks for successful wine and cheese pairing this holiday season (and throughout the year!).
Question: What are the three things you always consider when pairing?
Balance: A pairing is meant to enhance the flavors and characteristics of the wine and cheese, not be overwhelmed by either.
Taste: Obviously, I am doing a great disservice to both the cheese and the wine if I serve a pairing that doesn’t taste good. My goal is to create tasty pairings that are memorable, inspire guests to try new things, and share their favorite pairings with their friends and family.
Texture and Weight: How does the pairing feel on the palate? Is the cheese too rich for the wine? Does the wine overwhelm the cheese? It’s important to create pairings that complement and enhance each other.
Question: What do you pair with La Crema’s two most popular wines?
2017 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (SRP $23): This wine is richly textured with balanced acidity that gives a long-lasting finish. This wine is best paired with a creamy, rich and mouthwatering cheese like Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam.
2017 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (SRP $25): This Pinot Noir showcases red cherry, plum, pomegranate, and sweet tobacco. The bold red fruits in the Pinot Noir pairs nicely with Vella Dry Jack, which highlights those great nutty, earthy flavor and excellent balance of salt. The structure of this cheese balances well without overpowering the intense layers of the wine.
To find just the right wine and cheese pairing there are intricate details that one should pay attention to. Think of your wine and cheese pairings are a beautiful love story, cheese and wines from the same region come together naturally. But remember to use your creativity as opposites do attract, as long as it tastes good, your guest will love it!
As a bonus, we were sure to have Tracey spill on her favorite wine and cheese pairing. It wasn’t so much the wine and cheese pairing but another small detail that sealed the deal for her, “the temperature of the wine (outside of the obvious chilled whites and tempered reds) affected the pairing in such a sensational way. It was extremely eye-opening.”
Be sure to pair the gorgeous wines of La Crema with your cheese platter this holiday season.