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Wine and Grilled Cheese Pairing Tips

Laura Werlin on the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival

Last weekend was the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival. Since we couldn't make it, we asked cheese expert Laura Werlin to give us a behind-the-scenes look! Here she discusses her seminars and provides some pointers on how to pair wine with her specialty, grilled cheese.
When you think of Pebble Beach, you probably think of golf. But not me. All I can think of is that it’s the home of the utterly, completely, amazing over-the-top Pebble Beach Food & Wine event. The fourth annual extravaganza, which featured chefs like Tom Colicchio, Anne Burrell, Tim Love, Daniel Boulud, Stephen Pyles, Christopher Kostow, Chris Cosentino, Michael Chiarello, Gary Danko, Ming Tsai, and approximately 85 others, took place over a sunny weekend in April. I was lucky enough to be one of the presenters to do what I do — say cheese, of course. I gave two seminars, each with a different theme. One was grilled cheese and wine pairing (yep, you read that right) and the other was cheese paired with the über impressive wines of Oregon winery Domaine Serene.

For the cheese and Domaine Serene presentation, I paired six American cheeses with five wines that included Chardonnay, Pinot, Rosé and Syrah.

To see what cheeses she paired with the wines from Oregon, keep reading.

The seven spectacular cheeses I featured were mostly of the hard-to-find-but-worth-the-search variety.

  • Coach Farm Triple Cream Wheel (goat; New York)
  • River’s Edge Sunset Bay (goat; Oregon)
  • Willamette Valley Cheese Company Aged Gouda (cow; Oregon)
  • Tumalo Farms Rimrocker (cow/goat combo; Oregon)
  • Rogue Creamery Aged Raw Milk Cheddar (cow; Oregon)
  • Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Flagsheep (cow/sheep combo; Washington)

As for the pairings, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Chardonnay with creamy and/or somewhat milder yet mouth-filling cheeses
  2. Pinot noir with semi-hard not-too-strong cheeses
  3. Syrah and other big wines (think Cabernet) with English-style cheddars

For the grilled cheese and wine seminar, all I can say is that it’s an awesome combo when you get it right including the venue itself. We were at the breathtaking Inn at Spanish Bay, where Chef David Duron did my sandwiches proud. Among these was my double cheddar with tomato jam in which I used the delicious and unique Kerrygold Dubliner. Think cheddar-meets-parmesan-meets-Swiss and you’ll get an idea of Dubliner’s flavor. For the sandwich itself, cheese and butter goes on the outside and cheese and tomato jam go on the inside. That cheese coating makes for a crispy, toasty, and utterly delicious sammy.

This photo, taken by seminar attendee and friend Karen Schuppert, is of my sandwich called The Californian. Sliced almonds coat the cinnamon raisin bread on the outside, while the inside is filled with iconic Humboldt Fog cheese, Monterey Jack, and chipotle chiles. Sweet, spicy, tangy, delish.

Maybe the best part of the seminar was when two of the attendees strolled in with their own beverage: bloody marys. I suggested that the drinks were their nod to grilled cheese and “tomato soup,” adult style. The wine I matched with it was the unparalleled 2006 Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Wanna go next year? Mark your calendars for April 12-15.

If you enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches, check out Laura Werlin's new cookbook, Grilled Cheese Please! It's amazing! To get more of the cheese lady, check out her website and follow her on Twitter.

Image Source: Getty
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