A Perfect Pair

All of this emphasis on cows in Wisconsin obscures the fact that we also produce some of the finest goat cheeses in the U.S. Goat cheeses tend to taste less rich than cow’s cheeses; yet, are generally higher in acidity—sometimes with that characteristic “goaty” flavor that folks seem to either love or hate.

When matching wines with goat cheeses, the key is to find whites that complement their components and reds that contrast their flavors. White wines with high acidity and grassy flavors (like Sauvignon Blanc) tend to mirror and accentuate young goat cheese flavors. Softer reds with ample fruit show a delectable contrast to the tanginess of aged goat cheese.

The following matches represent a range of Wisconsin producers and styles of goat cheese paired with American wines.

Cheese: Dreamfarm Chevre
Wine: Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey, California, 2008, $13

Dry, grassy Sauvignon Blanc and chevre is one of the classic wine and food matches. Dreamfarm’s chevre is creamier than most, which works marvelously with the slight tropical flavors in the wine.

Cheese: Fantôme Farm Chevre Thyme Log
Wine: Ponzi Pinot Gris, Oregon, 2007, $16.50

Fantôme is among the very finest chevres in the world. Adding dried thyme might seem unremarkable, but lifts the level of complexity and deliciousness in this elegant cheese. The wine is herbaceous and dry with a gentle bitter note on the finish; a wonderful complement to the cheese.

Cheese: Mt. Sterling Creamery Country Jack with Dill
Wine: Artesa Chardonnay, Carneros, 2007, $20

Purists may furrow their brow at flavored cheese, but this one is simply delicious—and complex. Chardonnay can be somewhat limited with regard to matching with food (but it seems to love dill and rich cheese), as does this very friendly, buttery bottle.

Cheese: Capri Billy’s Midget
Wine: Bogle Zinfandel, 2007, $11

An English-style cheddar, this smells remarkably like Reggiano parmesan and possesses a similar texture. The palate is unmistakably goat however, with an earthy milkiness that recalls great cheddar. The wine is a monster, with loads of black fruit flavors and oak.

Cheese: Carr Valley Billy Blue
Wine: Pacific Rim Riesling “Vin de Glaciere” Selenium Vineyard, Washington, 2007, $14

Very sweet white wine and blue cheese can be a revelation if you’ve never tried it. This is sweet, but not too viscous with ripe acidity and fruit that weave in and out of the blue’s flavor flares.

The featured vintages are available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

Madison Magazine - July 2009
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