Jaclyn Stuart, the owner of wine and fine foods retailer Vintage Elkhart Lake, knows wine.
She is the co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairing and a certified sommelier with accreditations from the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and the French Wine Society. In 2011, she won the title of TopNewSomm in the Great Lakes Region from the Guild of Sommeliers, and in 2016 she became the second person to ever earn the WSET Diploma in Wisconsin.
Prior to opening Vintage Elkhart Lake, which features more than 250 handpicked wines from around the world, Stuart owned wine consulting company WineVentures. She has worked for many prestigious restaurants throughout Wisconsin and California and offered wine education classes throughout the Midwest.
Known for her down-to-earth style of wine education, Stuart has appeared on several television and radio news programs to discuss food and wine pairings, and she is an annual presenter at Kohler Food & Wine and the Osthoff Big Cheese. A California native, Stuart has a Bachelor of Science degree in hospitality management and business from San Jose State University.
To learn more about how to pair wine and cheese, we asked Stuart about her favorite combinations that you should serve at your next dinner party.
Blue Cheese and Zinfandel Red Blends
Deer Creek “Blue Jay” Blue Cheese pairs wonderfully with Orin Swift 8 Years in the Desert and many other hearty red blends that contain Zinfandel. The natural spice and jamminess of Zinfandel pairs wonderfully with the juniper berry component of this unique, quintuple crème blue cheese.
Cheddar and Pinot Noir
Sartori Montamore Cheddar tastes like parmesan-meets-cheddar with its complex blend of nutty, fruity and salty flavors. This cheese can pair with just about any wine, but it really comes alive with a nice Pinot Noir—like Helioterra from Oregon—thanks to its natural acidity and berry notes that complement the intricacies of the cheese.
Colby Jack and Prosecco
Hennings Colby Jack is a simple but wonderful mild cheese that tastes fabulous with a fruity, dry prosecco. Torresella Prosecco Extra Dry has a tiny touch of sweetness that melds with the natural creamy flavors of this cheese without overpowering it.
Triple Crèmes with Sparkling Wines
Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam is one of Stuart’s favorite cheeses that works wonderfully with sparkling wine. The acidity of Sokol Blosser Bluebird Cuvée cuts through the rich buttery quality of this triple crème cheese. But because it isn’t completely dry, it plays well with the creamy sweetness of the cheese.
Goat Cheese with White Wines
Fresh chèvre or feta is rather tangy, and pairing it with a tangy wine like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can play that up. But pairing it with a softer Chenin Blanc like Picard Vouvray can balance it out. Depending if you like the zing or not will determine which white wine would work best.
Mozzarella with Sangiovese
Fresh mozzarella begs to be paired with tomatoes and basil. So if you are combining those ingredients or enjoying mozzarella on its own, it’s great with Sangiovese-based wines like those of Tuscany, like Chianti and Montalcino. La Mozza I Perazzi Sangiovese may encore the pairing based on the name, but the flavors also complement mozzarella wonderfully. For a more neutral pairing, Pinot Grigio is a great match, too.
Spicy Cheese with Sweeter Wines
With spicy cheeses like Sargento or Tillamook Pepper Jack, pair a contrasting sweet wine like Frisk Prickly Riesling or Saracco Moscato d’Asti DOCG. The light sweetness helps mellow out the heat of the peppers without overpowering the cheese or the wine.
Manchego and Tempranillo
Manchego and Tempranillo go so well together. Pairing wines from the same region as the cheese is usually a slam dunk because each is crafted to complement each other and the regional cuisine. Beronia Crianza and a Manchego aged for one year make a lovely pair.
Gorgonzola and Ruby Port
Creamy gorgonzola has a rich, robust flavor that is well matched by an equally robust wine. Ruby Port can agree with the intense flavors while also playing up the sweetness and cutting through the creaminess of the gorgonzola. When you pair Niepoort Ruby and “Dolcina” Gorgonzola from Sartori (or a traditional Italian gorgonzola), it makes for a delicious dessert.
Washed Rind Cheese with Riesling
Washed rind cheeses like taleggio or Limburger are rather potent, and no wine pairing really holds up to them. But a crisp white wine like a dry or semi-dry Riesling works nicely. For a less potent washed rind cheese like Gouda, Cabernet Sauvignons—like those from Bordeaux—can offer a nice contrast—though it also works wonderfully with Riesling.