Pairing Wine And Grilled Cheese

Mo Wine Please

Now that I have you all thinking about grilled cheese, I know what is next.

“Mo, what is the perfect pairing of wine and grilled cheese?”

The answer to this question is almost as varied as the number of grilled cheese combinations.

There is perhaps no better friend to wine than cheese. But what about all the other ingredients?

A sandwich made with provolone, pesto and arugala might call for a Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc. A cheddar, short rib and grilled onion sandwich would definitely stand up to a Cabernet Sauvignon or Red Wine Blend.

I guess the answer to the question you posed is that there is no right answer.

Experiment. Try the wines you like and see how each complements your favorite grilled cheese components.

Don’t know where to start? Fear not, I have you covered.

Let’s talk about a few options…


The typical characteristics of a Chardonnay – buttery, creamy, toasty, pear, apple, etc. lend themselves well to grilled cheese sandwiches.

Chardonnay and a purist’s sandwich – made entirely of cheese – or one incorporating pears or apple would be a match made in heaven.

Something like the 2009 Winderlea Chardonnay.

2009 Winderlea Chardonnay

This fabulous Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley in Oregon boasts flavors of pear and toasty brioche with a medium, creamy body. The Winderlea Chardonnay ($38) and an entire array of Winderlea Pinot Noirs are available on their website.

Pinot Noir

As I’ve said many times, Pinot Noir is the perfect “food” wine. It can be a bit of a chameleon, matching but never overpowering.

A Pinot Noir would work well with something as simple as a grilled cheese with bacon sandwich.

It would really shine with a sandwich reflecting the cherry/cranberry/strawberry flavors that are part of the Pinot Noir profile. Maybe a Monterey Jack, turkey and cranberry relish grilled cheese.

A couple of Pinots I’ve enjoyed lately…

2009 Waypoint Pinot Noir

The 2009 Waypoint Pinot Noir from the Brittan Vineyard in the Willamette Valley in Oregon ($50) brings cherry, pomegranate and cranberry notes which would pair well with an applewood bacon, cheddar and colby sandwich.


2014 DeLoach Pinot Noir

The 2014 DeLoach Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir from California ($12) is loaded with bing cherry and strawberry. This great bargin wine was rated 88 points by Wine Enthusiast.

I found it to be better on day two than on day one, but still a solid wine to pair with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Dry Riesling

I know, I know. You don’t care for Rieslings…too sweet.

I’m telling you, Dry Rieslings will rock your world.

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

Several years ago, Peter and I were strolling in the village of La Jolla, killing time before attending 5pm Mass. What does one do when one has some time to kill and finds themselves face to face with a wine tasting room with an ocean view?

We pre-gamed Mass. (Please don’t judge…).

Peter saw a Tatomer Dry Riesling on the menu and decided to give it a try.

Friends, if you ever, ever see a Tatomer Dry Riesling on a menu, in a store, in your neighbor’s wine cellar, TRY IT!

Not at all overly sweet, this wine brings the stone fruit notes of a Sauvignon Blanc (without the citrus acidity) and the honey of a Chardonnay (without the cloying butter).

It is light while still having body. It is magic.

The Tatomer wine sells at about $28 per bottle but I, for one, would pay twice the price. (Shhhhh, let’s keep that as our little secret and not share with the folks at Tatomer).

But I digress. Back to grilled cheese sandwiches.

A Dry Riesling would pair well with a sandwich including bacon or proscuitto and is the perfect foil for any sauce with a spicy kick.

The trick in pairing wine and grilled cheese is to pay attention to the tasting notes of a wine. Honey, pear, apple, lavendar, bell pepper, olive, mushrom, roasted meat, rosemary, thyme and berries of every flavor are terms used as wine descriptors.

Check the back of the wine bottle, the shelf tag at the store or the internet to find a wine whose tasting notes include the same flavors as your sandwich and you will be on the right track.

I love that so many of you shared your ideas on the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. What about the wine? Have you found a perfect pairing of wine and grilled cheese? Have you tried a Dry Riesling?

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Thanksgiving Wine

By now you have likely finalized your Thanksgiving dinner menu and compiled your grocery list.

Have you given enough thought to the most important component of the meal? More crucial than the turkey or stuffing or cranberry sauce?

Have you given enough thought to the Thanksgiving wine?!

Sometimes this can be tricky. You will want to select wines that appeal to a wide variety of palates and that pairs well with the range of dishes on your Thanksgiving table.

Pinot Noir

My “go-to” red wine for this type of situation is Pinot Noir. Usually a crowd favorite as a flavorful but not too heavy red wine, this varietal is a real chameleon when it comes to pairing with food.

Pinot Noir goes with just about anything.

Here are a few of my favorites. These should be available at your local wine store. I’ve even found them at our grocery store.

2012 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

2012 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir

This yummy wine is a blend of Pinot Noir grapes from a number of different locations (including the Bien Nacido Vineyard) in Santa Barbara County. The winemakers kept each vineyard’s wine separate for 6 months to let each develop their individual flavors before blending them into this gem.

The wine has notes of red berries and a hint of clove making it a great wine to go with both the tangy and sweet Thanksgiving dishes like cranberry sauce as well as the savory dishes like sweet potatoes and stuffing.

The 2012 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir retails for about $22 per bottle.

2012 Byron Pinot Noir

2012 Byron Pinot Noir

This is another great Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. At $19 per bottle, it brings lots of great cherry flavor that is balanced by some minerality. In my opinion, this yin and yang of sweet and savory notes, along with the medium body, explain why Pinot Noir goes so well with all kinds of food.

While the 2012 Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir won’t necessarily knock the socks off your family’s wine aficionado, it has a good, crowd pleasing flavor.

2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Let’s say you got off easy this year and get to be a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving table. In addition to your assigned dish for the pot-luck dinner, perhaps you want to bring a special bottle of wine that you hope (fingers crossed!) the hosts will open on the spot and share with you and the other guests.

The 2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($45 per bottle) would be a very good choice. You might remember that I told you about this wine as part of my Pinot-Palooza post.

Although climate challenges made 2011 a tough year for winemaking, Robert Parker of Wine Advocate awarded the Flowers Pinot Noir with a score of 91 points. This is what he had to say:

A model of total elegance and class, the 2011 Pinot Noir from Flowers is absolutely gorgeous. Savory herbs, crushed flowers, licorice, salt, orange peel, mint and plums are all woven together in the glass. Today, the 2011 is impeccably crafted and flat-out gorgeous. Although very much a medium-bodied wine, I would not at all be surprised to see the 2011 blossom with more time in bottle. This is an impressive effort. Unfortunately, the Sonoma Coast was the only 2011 Flowers Pinot I was able to taste, but based on this effort, 2011 is certainly shaping up well here. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2021.

Think about it. Savory herbs, orange peel, plum. Wouldn’t these complement Thanksgiving dinner’s variety of flavors very well?

Just be sure you are first in line to grab a bit of this wine before the bottle is empty!

White Wines

I’m not much of a fan of Chardonnay so I’m going to lead you in a different direction for the white wine to go with your white (and dark) meat turkey dinner.

Perhaps a little non-traditional, I think that these wines will bring an element of lightness and brightness to offset the inevitable turkey coma that we all feel at the end of our feast.

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

This is another wine I have mentioned in an earlier post.

I just love this wine. It is not too pricey ($20 per bottle) but brings a lot of flavor and body.

Some people have a bias against Riesling because they expect it to be sweet. This dry Riesling would change their mind.

It would be interesting to serve this wine to some of your white wine loving guests without telling them which varietal you were pouring. I’m guessing you would have some Riesling converts.

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

Another great Santa Barbara wine, the 2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Dry Riesling ($23 per bottle) is the wine that opened my eyes to the fabulousness of a dry Riesling.

Steven Tanzer of International Wine Cellar awarded this wine 91 points; Robert Parker gave it 89 points. Both mention the nice, medium body and great finish. Hints of honey and Meyer lemon would match well with a dish of candied yams or glazed carrots.


2013 Hendry Albariño

If you really want to go non-traditional, how about going with an Albariño (pronounced Alba-reen-yo)?

Similar to a Viognier, this wine (with roots in Spain) is an excellent food wine. Albariño has great body and high acidity which means it can stand up to hearty foods in a way that many white wines can not.

I’ve told you about our visit to Hendry Vineyards. I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for Hendry wines because our experience tasting with George Hendry was so memorable.

The 2013 Hendry Albariño ($20 per bottle) brings floral notes and a hint of Meyer lemon with plenty of body and finish. It is bright without being wimpy.

No one wants wimpy wine.

This Albariño would be a great first-course wine but I’d also love it with a savory starch dish like potatoes or stuffing.


With the wide range of flavors and textures in your meal, there is no single right answer to the Thanksgiving wine pairing question. Why not try something new this Thanksgiving?  Oh, and be sure to let me know what you choose!

In case you missed it, here is my Thanksgiving wine post from last year which includes some tips on choosing and serving the wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A Dry Riesling You Say?

Earlier this week I came across a recipe for Asian Shrimp Noodles by my friend, Kim of Day With KT.

I love pasta and make it pretty often but I usually go in the Italian direction. This recipe looked and sounded very interesting and very delicious.

Asian Shrimp Noodles from Day With KT

Delicious recipe from Day With KT

Spoiler alert: It was amazing! Super yummy! We licked our plates clean.  As a bonus, this dish can be served hot or cold so we enjoyed the leftovers as a cold pasta salad the next day!

While I was at the grocery store picking up some of the ingredients, I stopped in the wine section to choose something perfect to go with the dish. (Sadly our wine collection lives a couple thousand miles away so we need to do this sort of triage wine shopping. Boo hoo!)

After snooping through the selection and texting my wine consultant/husband, I settled on the 2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling.

In wine-speak, a wine is described as falling somewhere on the spectrum from sweet to dry. I’m not sure why “dry” was chosen to characterize the opposite of sweet but it probably has something to do with the fact that no one would want their wine to be described as “sour”. Can’t blame them.

Actually, “dry” is a technical term in the wine biz meaning that essentially all of the grape sugar was converted to alcohol during fermentation. Because taste is a subjective thing, you can have a “dry” wine that tastes a little sweet to some people. Confusing, eh?

When we think of a traditional German Riesling, we tend to think of a sweeter wine, too sweet for some palates. This selection from Trefethen is on the other end of the spectrum – a Dry Riesling.  And it is from the Napa Valley.

Dry Riesling has been around for a very long time but is still thought to be a bit misunderstood and overlooked by consumers.

Enter The International Riesling Foundation whose goal it is to spread the good word about “the world’s most noble white wine”. They have developed a Riesling Taste Profile graphic which now appears on over 26 million bottles to help consumers understand where that particular wine falls between sweet and dry. Brilliant!

Riesling Taste Profile from the IRF

From The International Riesling Foundation

Anyway, back to the scrumptious 2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling. At about $20 – $25 per bottle, this award winning wine was the perfect pairing to go with our Asian Shrimp Noodles.

Here is how the wine is described on the Trefethen website:

Aromas of jasmine, orange blossom and lime lead to light tropical and floral notes on the palate. The wine has delightful acidity and minerality and ends with flavors of ruby red grapefruit and peaches.

This wine is delightfully smooth with great body. It would pair very well with a variety of dishes including other shellfish and any Asian dish that wasn’t too, too sweet. The Trefethen website suggests pairing the Dry Riesling with Southwestern dishes. I’m going to have to try that!

The 2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling is also a wine that can be enjoyed on its own, say while sitting on your porch with friends or gathered around the kitchen counter as you watch someone else prepare dinner.

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

Have you tried Dry Riesling? Do you have a favorite?

Before I go, two very important things.

  • The opinions stated here are all mine and I have received no compensation from the (sure to be) fine folks at Trefethen.
  • Always, always remember to drink responsibly.

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