Pairing cheese with Zinfandel depends on the specific wine you're drinking. Lighter Zins pair well with milder cheeses, bold Zins with robust and flavorful cheeses, and spicy Zins work well with smoky or sharp flavors.
Today I tried a 2010 Zinfandel made by Berryessa Gap Winery in Winters. Dry and fruity, this full-bodied wine had subtle notes of mint, citrus, and cherries. With a firm yet not overpowering tannin finish, I sought to pair this wine with a few of the most flavorful artisan cheeses.
From left to right: Beemster's XO, Beehive Cheese Company's Big John's Cajun Rubbed Cheddar, Trethowan's Dairy's Gorwydd Caerphilly
Trethowan's Dairy's Gorwydd Caerphilly, a hard white cheese handmade by artisans in Wales: Of the cheeses mentioned here, Caerphilly paired best with Zinfandel. It had a crumbly consistency when cut with a knife, but was also creamy when eaten. The complex flavor included a definite lemon taste. When paired with Zin, the two flavor profiles complimented each other, providing an experience that was greater than the sum of its parts.
Beehive Cheese Company's Big John's Cajun Rubbed Cheddar, a firm, spicy, hand-rubbed cheddar from northern Utah: First of all, this cheese is delicious. I could see myself pairing this with beer more so than wine. It seems like it would be a great cheese for snacking and cooking. That said, it didn't pair well with my wine at all. It had an interesting contrasting effect, which wasn't exactly bad, but certainly the two did not compliment each other. The spicy chipotle aftertaste was much strongest at the rind, but was apparent with every bite. This sweet and spicy cheese was a nice treat and I'm glad I tried it.
Beemster's XO, a 26-month aged Gouda from Holland: Wow. This flavor is complex and rich, with a butterscotch taste. Beemster describes this cheese as also having notes of whiskey and pecan. I didn't notice these, but it certainly had an intense aged flavor. It paired well with the Zin, although the strong flavor of the Beemster XO dominated my palate. This interesting and delicious cheese is absolutely worth a try.
Be sure to check out The Wine & Cheese Corner next week, for new wine & cheese pairings and reviews. Trethowan's Dairy's Gorwydd Caerphilly Beehive Cheese Company's Big John's Cajun Rubbed Cheddar Beemster's XO