With nothing but the names of the four wines I was bringing, L’Apero’s team picked four cheeses to pair — plus a fifth wine and fifth cheese that, when our taste buds had settled, took home top prize. (Prices are for the wine.)
Treana White 2010, with Bucheron Mont Chevre: This 50/50 blend of marsanne and viognier from Monterey County vineyards reeked of honey, tasted toasty, and proved viscous — all qualities that require the soft and smooth foundation provided by this French goat cheese. $20; hopefamilywines.com.
Falcone Family Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay 2011, with Lou Bergier Pichin: Exceedingly pleasant and balanced, this chard walks the tightrope between the richness of oak aging and austerity of stainless steel, playing the straight-man foil to the funk of this raw cow milk cheese with alpine flower-power rennet from Italy. $30; falconefamilyvineyards.com.
Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, with Cave-Aged Gruyére: More tannic and less fruity than California’s typically Rhône-based rosés, the South African wine’s crisp strawberry characters worked well with the French cheese’s salt crystals, aimed to reflect the seafoods commonly paired with this type of rosé in the south of France. $12; mulderbosch.co.za.
Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno, with Villagio Provolone Picante: This organically grown blend of 70-percent sangiovese and 30-percent montepulciano proved a bit lighter than expected, but a nutty nose and zesty flavor managed to tackle the salty presence of this serious provolone. $11; saladinipilastri.it.
Tanner DaFoe Syrah 1er Cru, with Camembert au Lait Cru: Barrel samples of this year-old wine revealed stunning scents of mossy ground — or “armpit” as winemaker Rob DaFoe explained — mixed with beautifully bright red fruit and spice, and there’s still a lot of aging to go. That sense of flux went well with the always-changing creamy camembert, served on toast with walnuts and arugula. $NA; tannerdafoe.com [Site will be live on November 9.]