I never knew I liked rice. Then I discovered authentic Indian cuisine with its basmati and jasmine rice, quite a contrast to the glop served up in 1950’s America when I was raised. Next, I discovered Paella with bomba rice, then risotto and Arborio rice. Now there’s always a pot of rice in my ‘fridge ready to transform into whatever flavors I plan for my next meal.
So, when guests in my wine and food classes say something like, “Ick, I don’t like blue cheese,” I get it. I also know, with some simple tweaks, that you may really like blue cheese, you just don’t know you like it yet.
From Ick to Delish
Blue cheese, it’s stinky, it’s fatty, it’s salty, what’s to like? I won’t argue the fat-salt objection but wonder how you feel about high fat-salt French fries and pizza? Otherwise, the fix is my wine and food guideline “opposites attract.” In this case, that’s a sweeter wine with high acidity. The first opposite is sugar (in the wine) and salt (in the cheese), a combo hard-wired into our palates because both sugar and salt are essential to survival. (Not a bad excuse to indulge in sea-salt caramels.) The next opposite is the wine’s acid that rinses the gooey cheese from the palate.
An easy trial is a simple piece of blue with a sweeter wine. Begin with the milder Gorgonzola Dolce or Cambozola. When you’re sold on the combo, try Poached Pear stuffed with Blue Cheese (not as hard as it sounds). Serve both with our TCB selection:
Riesling Spatlese, Huff, 2020, RHEINHESSEN, GERMANY, $28.00: A classic Riesling, “late picked” for juicy peach flavor, mineral accents and refreshing tartness for a sweeter cocktail and complement to foods prepared with fruit, spice and/ or smoke. Delicious with all cheese, especially blue!
Cancel Your ABC Membership
Chardonnay occupies a unique space in American culture. It’s our top selling grape, with its own self-proclaimed haters, the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) Club. Likewise, Chardonnay is victim to its own success and her success is versatility.
The grape adapts itself to a panoply of conditions, like a great actress adapts herself to each role. In frigid Champagne (France), Chardonnay produces wines that are super-model lean, austere and elegant. In California, her wine is buxom and golden. In France’s Chablis, the wine is minerally; in Australia, it’s buttery. Of course, there’s an equally wide range of quality; with all the “bottom shelf” Chardonnay out there, I suggest you aim high.
The first fix is what you serve it with, which should be butter. The grape has an affinity with diacetyl, a flavor compound that makes butter taste like butter. Save your herbs and olive oil for Sauvignon Blanc; pair Chardonnay with foods prepared or served with butter or cow’s milk cheese.
The second strategy is to choose a style that fits your occasion and cuisine. For cocktails and to pair with the lightest dishes, choose Chardonnay grown in cool climates like France’s Burgundy or Oregon, USA. Our TCB recommendations are:
Macon Blanc, Thevenet et Fils "Pierreclos", 2020, BURGUNDY, FRANCE, $29.00: 100% Chardonnay, from this grape’s homeland. Dynamic and dry, with green apple and mineral flavors for a classic cocktail and enhancement to lighter seafood, poultry and many recipes involving butter and cow’s milk cheese, including Brie with Apples or Cheddar Cheese & Mushroom Omelet.
Chardonnay "La Revanche" J. C. Somers Vintner, 2020, WILLAMETTE VALLEY, OREGON, $39.00: Native Oregonian Jay Somers is a 30-year winemaker, devoted to his band (Portland Cement), his dogs (German Shepherds) and to the expression of Willamette Valley's terroir in elegant wine. With the mineral-driven Chardonnay of Chablis, France as a beacon, "La Revanche" is firm, complex and focused. Serve as a rich cocktail and complement to seafood, poulty and vegetable dishes, especially prepared with butter, including Scallops sauteed in Butter or Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese.
For a richer cocktail, richer dishes – even involving a little smokiness – turn to lightly-oaked, warm-climate Chardonnay, such as:
Chardonnay, Raeburn, 2020, RUSSIAN RIVERY VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, $22.50: Layers of tree fruit, brown spice and vanilla flavors, grown in California’s prime Chardonnay region. Serve as a satisfying cocktail and complement to rich appetizers and seafood, vegetables and even meats, especially prepared with butter.
On Friday, November 25th, join me to explore wine and food flavors you never knew you liked during How to Bluff Your Way thru Wine at Lincoln Square at 6pm. We’ll lay the groundwork for all your wine knowledge and practice pairing wines with simple and delicious wine noshes. There are just four spots left, so snag a pair now for you and a friend!
The next step after that class is Unlock the Secrets of Wine on Friday, December 2 at 6pm at Lincoln Square. We'll explore each of wine's primary styles, revealing the wine's face, nose, palate and finish as we go.