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Jun 24, 2004 04:29 PM

Cheese pairings for a California (Carneros) Pinot Noir

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Hi, Chowhound oenophiles.

On a recent trip to the West Coast, we toured some wineries in the Carneros (Napa/Sonoma border) region and bought some bottles of lovely local Pinot Noir.

We're having a few friends over late tonight to drink a few bottles of this wine with us, and I wanted to ask the local cognoscenti about suggested cheese pairings. I've already laid in a hunk of nice ripe Brie, and I have some lovely soft pears to serve. Also some good bread and some rice crackers.

The wine itself (I am not a wine connoisseur, but here goes) has a somewhat spicy taste and aroma, with definite "berry" tones on the palate and a slightly floral aspect to the bouquet as well. (Do I sound like a complete idiot yet? I always feel like such a yutz when I try to talk about wine.)

Anyway, it's a mighty tasty Pinot Noir, and if you've got ideas for cheeses to show it off to its best advantage I would be delighted to hear them. There are a couple of really good cheese shops within easy walking distance of me, so don't be afraid to recommend something a little obscure.

Thanks in advance.

- er

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  1. We recently conducted quite a large wine and cheese tasting. The ratings of cheese and Pinot pairings is linked below.

    Our very favorite matchups with Pinot Noir: Very Aged Cheddar (8 year old), plain Chevre goat cheese, Epoisses, and Roquefort.

    Feta, Havarti, and Parmesan Reggiano are also quite nice with PN.

    Enjoy and please report back!

    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chicago Mike


      This is incredibly helpful, as we brought several bottles of Pinot back with us from our recent trip out West and will be doing this again.

      Last Friday, we served, along with the wine:

      -- Chevre
      -- Farmhouse cheddar
      -- Some lovely blue cheese from New Zealand that my wife found... have to ask her about the exact name.

      Interesting that, basically on instinct, we hit two of your recommendations (chevre and cheddar, though the cheddar was not "very aged.") I can highly recommend the blue as well.

      And, along with the cheese:

      -- Ripe olives and cornichons
      -- Marcona almonds
      -- Sweet soft pears, red seedless grapes.

      Both cheese and munchies were popular; almost nothing was left over. (I am told that it is considered a no-no to serve grapes with wine, but our friends loved it.)

      The wine (a couple of 2001 bottles from the Domaine Carneros winery, and a couple of 2002's from the Larson family's "Sonoma Creek" label) was also highly praised.

      - er

      1. re: enrevanche

        Interesting that, basically on instinct, we hit two of your recommendations (chevre and cheddar, though the cheddar was not "very aged.") I can highly recommend the blue as well.

        You certainly did manage to hit, more or less, three of the "top cheeses" from our Pinot tasting. Do try Epoisses as well as we rated it on the top tier and it is "THE" traditional match with Pinot Noir.

        You will find quite a difference between a young cheddar and an aged one, so next time do try a 7 or 8 year old as well as the younger one that you had in this tasting... note the differences.

        Also re the "blue cheese". While all blue cheeses have some similarities, their differences are profound enough when matched with wines to make quite a difference in the taste matchup. Roquefort and Danish Blue, for example, can have quite a different match with wine. For your next tasting, try the difference between authentic french roquefort and the New Zealand Blue... you will definitely prefer one over the other with Pinot, the question is which.

        Also, do try our 2nd tier cheese winners which are quite nice with PN: Feta, Havarti, and Parmesan Reggiano. FWIW we were tasting french feta not greek but you could certainly use greek.

        The wines you describe sound sensational. Carneros is one of the best Pinot regions in the world and both '01 and '02 were very good years, '01 perhaps the best year since '94.

        If you wanted to go into the Pinot Noir deep end, you might want to compare your Carneros region wines to bottles from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, the Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo County, and Santa Maria and Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County, all sensational world-class Pinot growing regions.