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SANTA ROSA, CA, November 11, 2009 – ‘Tis the season for entertaining across the United States. As friends and family plan their holiday festivities, Sonoma County's celebrated culinary personalities are offering quick and easy entertaining tips and wine and cheese pairings to elevate the ubiquitous holiday party season from now through the New Year.
With more than 60,000 acres of growing possibilities within Sonoma and Marin counties, the destination yields some of the world’s most renowned wines and tantalizing cheeses. According to Bruce Riezenman of Park Avenue Catering, one of Sonoma’s top chefs and creator of the iPhone application PairIt, the key to throwing a memorable holiday fete is to blend exceptional product with eye-catching presentation.
“Sonoma is known for its casual sophistication in its approach to food and wine which parlays quite well in entertaining,” says Riezenman. “Some simple tips include bringing nature in; mixing and matching colors, styles and patterns; serving foods creatively; buying local whenever possible; and thinking through wine and beverage pairings in advance. A wine and cheese presentation is a great place to start.”
The depth of Sonoma County’s climate and terrain is ideal for growing multiple grape varietals, many of which become the best in domestic wines. In addition, a new generation of Sonoma and Marin cheesemakers are continually developing new product to showcase the area’s exceptional milk and to feed rising consumer demand for artisan cheese. Sonoma County’s Wine & Cheese Guide, assembled by award-winning author Laura Werlin, offers these pairings:
Balanced acidity and sparkling bubbles complement rich and creamy soft-ripened cheeses and salty blue cheeses. The sparkling wine’s effervescence dances with the richness and salt to create a mouth-filling and refreshing sensation.
Andante Dairy Acapella Pyramid (goat’s milk), Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company Original Blue, Redwood Hill Camellia (goat’s milk)
The clean, crisp, melon, apple and grassy flavors that distinguish Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc makes this wine a natural pairing for a tangy goat cheese as well as other fresh cheeses such as feta. Blue cheeses are also compatible with this varietal.
Cowgirl Creamery Fromage Blanc, Laura Chenel’s Chèvre Pure Goat Milk Cheese Log, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company Original Blue, Redwood Hill Farm Goat’s Milk Feta
Full-bodied Chardonnays are a natural pair with butter soft-ripened cheeses because of their rich mouth feel and buttery, creamy characteristics while medium-bodied wines go well with semi-hard and some blue cheeses because of the wine’s bright fruit and firm structure.
Bellwether Farms San Andreas (sheep’s milk), Joe Matos Cheese St. George, Marin French Cheese Company Triple Crème Brie, Marin French Cheese Company Le Petit Bleu
Of all red wines, Sonoma Pinot Noirs are the most cheese-friendly. Their relatively light tannens and bright fruit accompany just about any cheese. The cheeses that pair best have nutty, earthy, herbaceous and/or buttery components.
Cowgirl Creamery Pierce Point, Redwood Hill Cheese Gravenstein Gold (goat’s milk), Vella Cheese Company Mezzo Secco
The softer tannins and voluptuous fruit of Merlot make this wine a natural companion for a wide variety of cheeses, particularly aged surface-ripened cheeses. These savory and earthy cheeses perk up the presence of the fruit from the wine. Also excellent are semi-hard cheeses, which are mellow enough to not overpower the wine yet bold enough to hold their own.
Joe Matos Cheese St. George, Redwood Hill Farm California Crottin (goat’s milk), Vella Cheese Company Dry Monterey Jack
“Big” and “bold” are synonymous with Zinfandel. The addition of berries and black pepper are features of Sonoma County Zinfandel. The same types of cheeses will make a perfect pairing, including semi-hard cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses.
Bellwether Farms Pepato (sheep’s milk with peppercorns), Bellwether Farms San Andreas (sheep’s milk), Vella Cheese Company Daisy Cheddar
The king of the red grapes, Sonoma County-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, achieves unparalleled elegance. It’s characteristics are assertive yet soft, fruit-forward yet earthy with dominant flavors or red and black cherries and dark plums, all with an underlying structure. Aged semi-hard and hard cheeses are the best to stand up to the wine’s complexity and power.
Achidinha Capricious (goat’s milk), Vella Cheese Company Romanello, Vella Cheese Company Dry Monterey Jack
Syrah is found in many parts of the world and captures the character of each place it is grown. In Sonoma County, that means black currants and black cherries with a black pepper finish. These elements point to cheeses that are spicy, assertive, yet well-rounded. Semi-hard and hard cheeses make the most memorable pairing.
Joe Matos Cheese St. George, Vella Cheese Company Asiago Pepato, Vella Cheese Company Dry Monterey Jack
The full guide is available at www.sonomawinegrape.org/winecheese. Most of the listed cheeses can be purchased online at www.cowgirlcreamery.com. Sonoma County wines can be purchased at local wine purveyors across the country.
~ Sonoma County Wine, Grapes and Tourism ~
Sonoma County, California, located just 30 miles north of San Francisco, offers world-class wines from over 350 wineries in 13 designated wine regions, cuisine featuring locally grown and artisan products, and destination resorts including 40 spas and 21 golf courses. It is the birthplace of premium California wine more than 150 years ago. As leaders in sustainable farming, two thirds of the 62,000 total vineyard acres follow the California statewide guidelines. Family heritage, community and dedication to the land are what make Sonoma County a friendly first-rate wine and food destination.
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Contacts: Susannah Gregory / Emily Santos
Lou Hammond & Associates
(212) 891-0246 / (212) 891-0241
Sonoma County Tourism Bureau