Thank you Julie Pedroncelli and Jon Brown for inviting us to be part of Pedroncelli Winery’s annual Holiday Open House in their wonderfully intimate tasting room in Geyserville, California. We had a great time greeting Pedroncelli’s tasting room visitors and “coaching” them as they experimented with pairing three of Pedroncelli’s sixteen impressive wines in combination with four excellent local artisan cheeses and one imported cave-aged cheese from Switzerland.
In this report we will tell you about Wow! pairings discovered by visitors to Pedroncelli Winery during these two party-atmosphere days. In other words, we had a lot of fun, sharing the insights about cheeses, wines, tasting techniques, and pairing techniques from our book Wine & Cheese Pairing Guide: Your Exciting Search for Wow! Combinations. We took notes of nearly 200 comments about the tasting experiences expressed as guests tried various combinations of the wines and cheeses. There were many Wow! experiences described to us and, of course, the variety of wines paired with the variety of cheeses produced the Wow! exclamation from a variety of people. Yes, it is fun to experiment and discover YOUR Wow! combinations. As we like to say, with over 1000 wines in the world and over 1000 cheeses, that makes over a million potential pairings.
We continually assured Pedroncelli Winery visitors that there are no wrong answers since each person’s taste buds, olfactory senses, and state-of-mind are different; so a Wow! discovery for one person may not register that way by someone else whose Wow! may be a completely different wine-cheese combination.
The five excellent, intriguing cheeses:
(1) Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery at Point Reyes Station, California. Smooth, elegant, triple creme, cow’s milk cheese.
(2) Laura Chenel’s Chabis from Sonoma, California: A fresh goat’s milk cheese with mild flavor and spreadable texture.
(3) Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove Chevre in Arcata, California. Elegant, soft, surface ripened cheese which is creamy with a subtle tangy flavor. It features a ribbon of edible vegetable ash in its center and a coating of ash under its exterior rind. A distinctive ripened goat’s milk cheese.
(4) Toma from Point Reyes Farmstead (California): A unique farmstead semi-hard cheese from the milk of cows that graze on Certified-Organic pastures. Creamy texture, buttery flavor and subtle, grassy tang finish.
(5) Cave-Aged Gruyere imported from Lucerne, Switzerland: A rich, spicy firm cow’s milk cheese that’s slightly salty and spicy, yet sweet with interesting complexity.
(1) Pedroncelli 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, East Side Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Made from grapes grown in a perfect vineyard microclimate for Sauvignon Blanc (maximum sun exposure plus fog and excellent soil). The resulting wine is very aromatic with citrus and herbaceous notes. It is crisp and has many layers of flavor, including honeydew melon, grapefruit and tart apple.
(2) Pedroncelli 2008 Zinfandel Mother Clone, Dry Creek Valley. Grapes from 100-year-old “Mother” vines blended with grapes from 50-year-old vines (95% Zinfandel) and 5% Petite Sirah (which provide nice color and tannin) resulted in a full bodied and intense classic Dry Creed Valley wine. Aromas of ripe blackberry and spice, jammy fruit flavors, subtle black pepper and a long, lush finish are exquisite.
(3) Pedroncelli 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Three Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley. This rich, full-flavored blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec is highlighted by bright acidity to showcase the fruit of plum, raspberry and cherry, toasted oak notes and warm clove spice.
Our estimate is that we conversed with about 200 people about pairing these wines and cheeses. As we encouraged visitors to experiment with different combinations of wines and cheeses, and to tell us about their experiences, we enjoyed discussing the various sensations and evaluations with them. Here are some of the many Wow! pairing comments by visitors that we jotted down. It was particularly fun when a venturer would try a specific wine with a specific cheese and involuntarily exclaim “Wow!” — a scenario that happened many times.
(1) A visitor pairing the Zinfandel with the Toma cheese said she got a Wow! sensation from the “burst of flavor” she experienced.
(2) Another visitor had a Wow! sensation from pairing the Gruyere cheese with the Sauvignon Blanc. An explosive Wow! with the combined flavor of the wine with cheese. He described an accentuated cherry with a very long, pleasing after-taste. A Wow! discovery.
(3) In pairing the Sauvignon Blanc with the Toma, one venturer said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”
(4) One person said the Zinfandel with the Gruyere gave her an elongated new flavor … pleasingly spicey.
(5) An enthusiastic lady combining the Zinfandel with the Humboldt Fog simply said, “I Love It!” That was obviously a Wow! experience for her.
(6) When he paired the Sauvignon Blanc with the Gruyere, one man opined that the cheese added more zest to the wine, producing an effervescent mouthtaste.
(7) Another person found a Wow! in combining the Cabernet Sauvignon with the Humboldt Fog. He said both wine and cheese were bold and worked well together to produce a very interesting flavor.
(8) The Sauvignon Blanc with the Humboldt Fog led one woman to exclaim, “The combination dances in my mouth. I like it a lot!”
(9) “Excellent balance. Both strong with long aftertaste” was a lady’s evaluation of her Wow! experience from pairing the Zinfandel with the Humboldt Fog.
(10) In pairing the Sauvignon Blanc with the Chevre, this man found a nice balance with the wine and cheese both maintaining their flavors, with a lingering pleasing aftertaste.
(11) Another visitor said the Zinfandel with the Chevre was a Wow! with “just the right balance”.
(12) In combining the Cabernet Sauvignon with the Toma, a man described his Wow! as “the cheese softened the wine and produced a good integration of flavors.”
(13) “Balanced perfectly, wine acidity offset by the cheese,” declared a woman pairing the Cabernet Sauvignon with the Mt. Tam
(14) “Wow!, that’s good!” was the exclamation of a lady pairing the Zinfandel with the Mt. Tam
(15) One visitor pairing the Sauvignon Blanc with the Toma had a one-word description of his experience: “Awesome!”
Summary of Wow! Experiences
The notes we took regarding our fellow-venturers’ descriptions of their experiences demonstrates that sharing the search for Wow! combinations is great fun because everyone can enjoy different pairings with a variety of taste sensations. Here is a recap of most of the Wow! comments on these two days with these enthusiastic visitors:
Sauvignon Blanc with Gruyere = 27
Sauvignon Blanc with Humboldt Fog = 18
Zinfandel with Toma = 16
Cabernet Sauvignon with Gruyere= 14
Zinfandel with Gruyere = 12
Zinfandel with Humboldt Fog = 12
Cabernet Sauvignon with Toma = 12
Sauvignon Blanc with Mt. Tam = 12
Sauvignon Blanc with Toma = 10
Cabernet Sauvignon with Mt. Tam = 9
Zinfandel with Chevre = 9
Cabernet Sauvignon with Humboldt Fog = 9
Zinfandel with Mt. Tam = 8
Sauvignon Blanc with Chevre = 8
On to future Wow! pairing discoveries
So there you have our report on this terrific venture. We continue to thoroughly enjoy our Wow! pairings of specific wineries’ wines with specific cheesemakers/cheese vendors’ cheeses as we experience these pairings in picturesque locations around the country. Once again we encourage you to venture to your favorite locations, to new beautiful and exotic locations, or at a party in your home. Wherever you and your family and friends experience special Wow! wine and cheese pairings, we would enjoy hearing from you about them.
Here’s to your next exhilarating quest!