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Highbrow holiday

Try these handpicked wines and cheeses for your holiday happenings.

Jenn Scott November 9th, 2011

Holidays are on the horizon, and a crowd-pleaser is always cheese. Pair that with the right wine, and your guests will dub you “master of the holiday hors d’oeuvre and all things persnickety.”

One of the most time-consuming parts of wine and cheese pairing is the preparation.

“It’s all about experimenting and trying new things,” said Adam Duffy, co-owner of the family-owned and operated The Wine Gallery, 12000 S. Western, where you can find all three suggested wines.

Although the experimenting part is arguably fun, holidays don’t always lend enough time to devote to the grapes and cheese wheels of the world. Don’t worry: All the research was done for you. As tedious and strenuous (read: enjoyable and delicious) as the task at hand seemed, I recruited knowing palates to concoct some fantastic pairs. From the six cheeses recommended by Bailey Schreier, education coordinator at Forward Foods, 5123 N. Western, along with six wines tasted, a trio of holiday starters emerged.

right, Angela Chase of Forward Foods

If you can’t remember anything else once you get to the liquor store, then remember this: “Sparkling wines and cheese are a good fit,” said Clayton Bahr, wine broker and local wine savant.

Sparkling wines are fizzy, which naturally occurs from the fermentation process. This effervescent choice is fun for several reasons: 1. It looks elegant in a glass. 2. It has a clean, lively taste. 3. It pairs well with most anything.

Sparkling wines are great to have on hand, especially during the holidays.

The first cheese to consider for your holiday soirees is the Tomme Fleur Verte from France. This is made from goat’s milk, which produces a creamy cheese. It’s bright white, and the wheel is covered in a spicy, tangy blend of tarragon and pink peppercorns. Not only is this cheese easy to handle, it looks gorgeous when plated. The green and red outside look almost too pretty to eat. Aesthetically, it’s spoton. Taste-wise, this wheel can be temperamental when paired with wine because of the intense flavor from seasoning.

When paired with the Francoli Cava Brut Rosé (Spain), Duffy, Bahr and I agreed it was a hit. This pair is perfect for the prelude to a traditional Turkey Day meal. The two complement one another and provide a refreshing and creamy finish that’s not lacking in spice.

Another fantastic pair with the brut rosé is the Beeler Gruyère. The Beeler brings out the strawberry tones of the wine. This cheese is nutty and complex, boasting a little bit of a crunch from the calcium deposits. It’s Swiss, made with cow’s milk, and didn’t have a terrible show with any of the tasted wines. It was exceptional with the brut rosé, Regis Minet Pouilly Fumè (France) and Domaine La Tour Vielles Banyuls (France).

Speaking of the Banyuls — this French beauty shows wonderfully when paired with the Rogue River Blue, a raw cow’s milk cheese. This cheese is only released during the holiday season, and the wheels are wrapped in grape leaves that have been soaked in pear eau-de-vie. This gives the cheese a sweetness on top of its robust flavor. The pair produce a delicious bittersweet flavor.

Schreier of Forward Foods recommended buying cheeses as close to the time of serving as possible to ensure ripeness.

“If you need to plan in advance, let us know. We’ll give you a younger wheel, and it can ripen for a few days in your fridge,” Schreier said. “There’s a lot of value in having a local full-service cheese counter to come in and get a piece cut fresh for you. It’s important to have a cheesemonger, especially when there’s so much out there.”

Schreier suggests 2 ounces of cheese per person. If you have leftovers (as long as it sits out for less than four hours), re-wrap it with the special paper it came in, and put it back in the refrigerator.

Now, go enjoy your holiday libations and cheese!

Photo by Shannon Cornman

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