A Cheese Plate for the Yuletide Season

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A selection of cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont
A colleague asked me recently to help him design a cheese plate for his company's holiday party, based on the wines he had already picked out. I suggested the following:

Sparkling:

  • NV Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine, Brut/ Anderson
    Valley

This would be fantastic with a lush triple-crème like Brillat-Savarin or Pierre Robert. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it! It will also be a hit at the party, people simply love triple-crèmes (just don't let them get a cholesterol test afterwards).

Whites:

  • 2004 Clos Des Rochers Riesling, Luxembourg
    Dry, lean, racy.
  • 2005 Karthauserhofberg Riesling, Kabinet
    Racy, elegant, more fruity, hint of sweetness.

I like to pair Rieslings with both French goat and stinky washed rind cheeses. For the goat, I recommend Chabichou du Poitou--expensive but well worth it. For the stinkers, two favorites of mine are Cato Corner's Hooligan and Cowgirl Creamery's Redhawk. Either of those two would be good, but if you wanted to branch out a little more, Durrus from Ireland is really fantastic. Or if you're feeling really bold Époisse de Bourgogne (you may have to hand out nose plugs with this one).

Reds:

  • 2002 Chofflet Valdenaire, Dom Burgundy, Givry
    The earthy/funky one.

This might be a tough one to pair with, given it's funkiness, but I would try maybe a nutty sheep cheese. Vermont Shepherd, Berkswell, or Ossau-Iraty might work well. Even it doesn't pair well, a nice pressed sheep's milk cheese is a great addition to any cheese plate.

  • 2004 Catena Malbec, Argentina Mendoza
    The polished safe bet.

This wine will also go with the sheep's milk one above, so instead of recommending a specific pairing for this one, I'll just round out the plate with a blue cheese. Also a cheese plate without blue cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye. I've been really into the French blues lately, and I had an amazing one recently called Persillé de Malzieu. Similar to Roquefort, and melt-in-your-mouth good. Fourme d'Ambert is also very good. If you want to stay local/domestic, the Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue from Vermont is a perennial favorite.