A Tisket a Tasket, Put Some Wine In That Picnic Basket

A Tisket a Tasket, Put Some Wine In That Picnic Basket

Ah, the freshness of Spring is in the air. And with Summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to make a habit of packing up the picnic basket, grabbing a blanket and heading outdoors to a scenic spot for a little al fresco dining.

Images of cold fried chicken and potato salad or various salad items layered into a mason jar typically come to mind when thinking of portable picnic food. They’re solid and tasty options. But, with the many California creameries at the forefront of domestic cheese making right now, why not consider simplifying your outing with a cheese board featuring California fromage?

And, of course, you can’t have a California cheese board without California wine, right? Cheese and wine are classic companions to delight any palate. However, if the idea of pairing wine and cheese together is overwhelming, no need to worry. This quick and basic primer can help you get started.


A rule of common sense

The primary rule to remember when putting together wine with cheese is to make sure your wine and cheese match each other in their intensity. When you think about it, it doesn’t seem like a rule at all, just a little common sense. Something bold like a Cabernet Sauvignon would overpower the simple cream flavor of fresh mozzarella. Similarly, a crisp and light Pinot Grigio would be overshadowed by a pungent Roquefort. If you want a more technical approach, there’s another way to think about it. You’ll want to consider choosing cheeses with intense flavor to go with wines that have over 14.5% ABV, while those wines at 12% ABV and under should be paired with more delicate flavored cheeses.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into a few favorite California varietals and the cheeses that will work well with them.


Let’s look at red

Probably the most popular California wine is Cabernet Sauvignon. And if it’s your favorite, you know, that with its full-bodied flavor profile, it will require an equally bold cheese. Try a sharp cheddar or comte. If you’d rather drink something lighter, consider Pinot Noir. The raspberry and cherry notes of a Pinot Noir will perfectly complement a medium-sharp cow’s milk cheese such as gouda or gruyere.


Considering white

Chardonnay is widely popular, with taste differences between the oaky fermented barrel and the buttery unoaked varieties. Pair the oaky notes with a sharp, tangy cheddar and the buttery with Morbier, which is made from milk leftover from making gruyere. If you’d prefer something more  crisp and slightly acidic, think about Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio. Made from the same grape, these food-friendly wine pairs nicely with fresh mozzarella or chevre.

Now that you have a good idea of what wines and cheeses you may want to select for your picnic, you’ll want to complete the meal. Add a little fruit, marinated veggies, some nuts and charcuterie, then round it out with a baguette and you have a simple, yet sophisticated feast certain to impress anyone.

Isabella Crisman