We recently held a hosted pairing event with Natalie’s Estate Winery in Newberg Oregon. We found that we share similar philosophy with Natalie’s owners – that locally produced small batch goods are the best complement for locally grown wine. COVID has us staying safe at home, so we’re sharing the pairings here so you can recreate these perfect pairings in your own home thanks to online shopping and shipping!
Wine and Cheese Pairing Helpful Tips
Pairing cheese and wine can be a challenging and intimidating task. If done correctly, a perfect match can be an exquisite experience. While a wine or a cheese by itself may be spectacular, that does not necessarily mean that pairing them is a good idea. Most people have not had years of experience focusing on tasting many wine and cheese options to become familiar with the characteristics and qualities of each. Here are some ideas and then specific Face Rock & Natalie’s pairings that will help guide you into creating successful pairings in the future:
- The harder the cheese, the bolder and darker the wine.
- The softer the cheese, the lighter the wine.
- Try to keep characteristics alike (mild wine, mild cheese.) Although exceptions do occur. For example, Pinot Noir is food friendly and pairs great with mild cheeses too.
- Serve cheese at room temperature.
- White wine should be served chilled and red wine should be served just below room temperature.
Natalie’s Estate Winery and Face Rock Creamery Pairings
Pinot Gris and Apricot Honey Fromage Blanc
Natalie’s Estate Pinot Gris is a light-bodied, dry white wine that has refreshing pear and melon flavors. Its high acidity acts as a palate cleanser that prepares you for having mild yet sweeter cheese.
Fromage Blanc is a delightful fresh, spreadable cheese that has a lot in common with cream cheese and ricotta. Made with milk instead of cream, Fromage Blanc is creamy, bright, and has a slightly tart flavor. For our Apricot Honey Fromage, we mix in honey and a dash of apricot preserves, which makes it perfect to slather on any cracker, bagel, toast or muffin you might have handy.
Estate Pinot Noir and Face Rock (12 month) Aged Cheddar
Face Rock Aged Cheddar needs to be paired with a wine that has earthy notes, such as the Natalie’s Estate, Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir which is a dry medium-bodied red wine with these characteristics along with ripe red fruit flavors.
The 12 Month Aged Cheddar is creamy with a slight nutty flavor that is a signature of our milk’s Coquille Valley Terroir profile. At one year, this is our medium cheddar, full of classic cheddary flavor, yet with more depth than a mass produced brand. This one also lacks the bite you’ll find in older, sharper versions. Did you know that cheddar ranges from white to yellow cream in color when left in its natural state due to varying amounts of beta carotene in pasture grass? When paired with a wine rich with raspberry and spice with hints of earth on a lingering finish, this is a winning combination.
The Pines Vineyard Merlot and Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar
Vampire Slayer garlic cheddar has sharp and tangy flavors and is one of Face Rock’s top selling cheeses. Garlic enrobed in creamy cheddar has smoothed out edges, and will not overpower the taste buds.
When paired with Natalie’s Estate Pines Merlot, a dry red wine that is medium to full-bodied, the cheese brings out notes of black cherry, plum, and black tea. Vampire Slayer’s flavor is more heavily emphasized because of the Merlot’s dry black cherry flavor and hints of spice. The firm tannins and good acid structure on finish complement this cheddar beautifully.
Sangiovese and Pizza Cheese
A creamy Monterey Jack cheese with tomatoes, black olives and garlic already loaded in? That’s right its pizza cheese! Enjoy the “deep dish” goodness found in Face Rock’s Pizza Cheese paired with the smoky undertones of plum and cherry in Natalie’s Estate Sangiovese. This Italian, medium-bodied wine pairs well with Mediterranean flavors such as tomato and the basil. The wine’s strong structure with red raspberry mingled with spice and a touch of leather on a lingering finish paired like a summer day in Chianti!
Monterey Jacks are in the “melter” class of cheese. With more moisture than cheddar, and a shorter time to the shelf, Monterey Jack cheeses are a bit more protective of flavors that are mixed in. If this same flavor was blended with cheddar, you would have a different experience of flavor. Face Rock takes twice as long as big cheese companies to make its Monterey Jack. Why? We don’t want our cheese to ever fit in the commodity cheese mold, so we skip the shortcuts and enjoy the long road to quality. The result is smooth meltability, rich texture, and more flavor.
Tempranillo and Pepper Alpine Cheddar
Our Pepper Alpine aged cheddar is fully encrusted in black pepper for a wonderful savory flavor and fantastic display when sliced. Black pepper is one of the oldest and most widely used spices in the world. It adds both heat and depth. When paired with our rich, creamy cheddar, the flavor profiles combine into a warm smoothness that keeps you reaching for just one more slice.
Given its low acidity and fruitiness, Tempranillo wines pair well with many types of cheese, often Spanish or spicy ones. Natalie’s Estate Tempranillo has leather and spice on the nose leading to dark earthy flavors on a smooth, lingering finish, and a unique black pepper encrusted cheddar works particularly well as a pairing.
Syrah and Smokey Cheddar
Syrah holds up well in this pairing with Face Rock Smokey Cheddar because it is dry, medium to full-bodied, and has dark fruit and herb flavors. A Syrah with tobacco notes works particularly well with smoked cheeses and the flavors are enhanced significantly.
We have taken our signature aged cheddar and smoked it for hours with Northwest Applewood Smoke for the pinnacle of smokey flavor! This cheese is cut into small blocks before smoking to ensure that every ounce is permeated with smoke. The Syrah taste profile of currents and spice with a hint of blackberry on a lingering finish goes especially well with the cheese.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Extra Aged Cheddar
A full-bodied and dry red Cabernet Sauvignon has hints of herbs and dark fruits. When paired with the extra sharp, two year aged cheddar, the red wine draws out the bold cheddar flavors of this strong cheese. Cabernet Sauvignon also works well with other intense cheeses, particularly ones that are firm and salty.
Our Extra Aged Cheddar received the 1st place ribbon at the 2015 ACS (American Cheese Society) Awards in the “Aged Cheddar” category – one of the most competitive fields every year. It is sharp and luxurious with a smooth buttery flavor and creamy texture enhanced by cheese crystals that indicate a quality aged cheddar. When paired with this wine with dark raspberry and hints of white pepper spice on a rich juicy finish, the combination definitely deserves 1st place!