The Cheese Insider

People that come to our cheese shops, or visit us online, are always asking us what wine pairs well with the cheese they are buying. I will go through a few of our cheeses to offer wine pairings that you may enjoy.

The most celebrated cheese made in America is Pleasant Ridge Reserve by Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, WI. Why is it the most celebrated cheese in America? Very simple, it is the only American cheese to win “Best of Show” three times, (2001, 2005, and 2010) in the annual American Cheese Society competition. This competition attracts the top cheesemakers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and in a typical year there will be over 1,700 cheeses entered in the competition.

This raw milk cheese is modeled after two very famous French cheeses, Comte, and Beaufort. Rare among American cheeses, Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made with milk from Uplands own herd of cows and only during pasture season, late spring to early fall. The lush grasses and wildflowers that comprise the cow’s diet enhance the flavor of the milk, far more than cows that are eating hay and prepared feed. The wheels of this cheese are rubbed by hand with brine and turned regularly during the aging process, a minimum of 4 – 6 months. The brine keeps undesirable molds at bay while allowing flavor-and-aroma-imparting bacteria to do their work.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve has a thin, hard natural rind, and a firm, smooth, yellow-gold interior. The younger wheels of this cheese smell wonderful, with hints of roasted peanuts, bacon, and caramel. The flavor is mellow, nutty, and moderately salty. The “Extra-Aged” version of this cheese is aged at least a year and has a much bolder, full flavor. The interior of the cheese will become darker as it ages and the flavors will intensify, creating a very unique, special cheese. The “Extra-Aged” Pleasant Ridge is only available in the fall and winter.

Here are a few pairing suggestions you might like to try.

Wine: Because this cheese is so well balanced it is easy to pair with wine. Try it with a Vouvray, Pinot Gris or Riesling, or a unoaked Chardonnay. If you prefer a red, look for a medium weight wine, such as a Pinot Noir. The “Extra-Aged” variety of Pleasant Ridge can take a more robust wine.

Beer: I have always been a bit impartial to beer being the best beverage to pair with cheese. With Pleasant Ridge Reserve, try a good amber, red or brown ale. A good amber lager, bock, dopplebock, porter, stout or saison all pair well with this full-bodied cheese.

Be adventurous with your pairings, it is what tastes good to you…not something that a wine, beer, or cheese snob tells you.

Source: Cheese and Wine, Janet Fletcher, 2006; Beer and Wine, Janet Fletcher, 2013