I’m vaguely aware that my husband, Doug, maintains a list of cheeses that go well with Cabernet Sauvignon. You might imagine that I would be the one with that list, but no, he’s the go-to source. He’s the winemaker, after all.
His personal roster is based on years of tasting alongside me at dinner. I didn’t even know he was squirreling away his impressions, and presumably some of mine, until one evening when he fetched his iPhone to access the list. What a relief that at least one of us is organized, and I can view his archive on a need-to-know basis.
Last week, for a private tasting at Silverado Vineyards, I presented some of these Cabernet Sauvignon All-Stars—six cheeses that, in our experience, never fail to complement good wines from this esteemed variety. Doug makes a lot of Cabernet and we like to drink it relatively young, so we favor cheeses that are adept at handling the tannin.
Powerful red wines with a firm tannic backbone, such as Silverado Vineyards SOLO (100% Cabernet Sauvignon), appreciate aged cheeses with intensity and concentration. At least that’s my theory. Open a favorite Cabernet sometime soon, try it with any of the following cheeses, and let me know what you think.
The cheeses in the image above are in the following order clockwise, with St. George at 11 o’clock.
Matos St. George (California): a sturdy farmstead cheese made with raw cow’s milk, it has a texture that can range from creamy to waxy, depending on age, and an aroma of warm butter.
Beecher’s Flagship (Washington): Made in a rindless 40-pound block and matured for at least a year, Flagship resembles a mellow, creamy Cheddar. The cheesemaker follows a Cheddar recipe but adds cultures more common to Gruyère and Emmenthal, to yield a sweeter, nuttier cheese.
Abbaye de Belloc (France): This dense, firm sheep’s milk cheese has a silky texture and seductive aromas of brown butter, toasted nuts and caramel. The finish is salty and sweet.
“La Oveja Negra” Manchego (Spain): My new favorite Manchego, this one is unusual in several respects: it is a farmstead cheese, made with organic milk from the rare black-skinned Manchega sheep. (Most Manchego is made in large plants, with pooled milk from the white-skinned Manchega.) The aroma reminds me of lemon cheesecake and lamb fat, and the cheese finishes with a lemony note.
Piave (Italy): This firm, brittle cow’s milk cheese from northeast Italy is always a crowd pleaser. It has the texture and sweetness of young Parmigiano-Reggiano and the nuttiness of Gruyère. I often find a fruity, pineapple scent in Piave as well.
Vella Dry Jack Reserve (California): A California classic, for good reason. Aged a minimum of eight months, Dry Jack Reserve becomes highly concentrated, with a dense, firm interior and a caramel-like sweetness balanced with salt.