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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Oregon Wine Tasting

It’s true. I’m a very lucky gal.

Immediately after my glorious girlfriends’ trip to Montana, Peter and I headed to the Willamette Valley for an anniversary weekend of Oregon wine tasting.

(By the way, I learned that the correct way to pronounce Willamette is “wi-LAM-it, rhymes with dammit.  You’re welcome.)

You know the old saying, “The one thing better than owning a boat is having a friend that owns a boat.”?  Turns out, the same thing is true for wineries! Peter used to work with a couple who, after years of study, savings and detailed planning took an early retirement to start their second careers as makers of kick-ass wine in Oregon.  Donna and Bill own Winderlea where they make truly outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  More on that later.

This is the kind of trip I love. We told Donna and Bill that we were coming and they sent us a list of where we should stay, where we should dine and which wineries we should visit. I made a couple of phone calls, a couple of online reservations and – VOILA! – done!

We stayed at The Black Walnut Inn. I have not yet been to Tuscany, but the look and feel of this inn is what I imagine Tuscany to feel like.

Plus, we could see Mt. Hood from our window.

After a delicious, “farm to table” breakfast at The Black Walnut, we headed out for our first day of tasting.

Our first stop was Archery Summit where we took a little tour and tasted a variety of Pinot Noirs. The setting was lovely – a great way to start our day.

Next we headed to Domaine Drouhin. The Drouhin family has been making wine in France for years. It turns out that the Willamette Valley of Oregon is the exact same latitude as Burgandy, has a very similar climate and therefore was the perfect place for the Drouhin family to build a U.S. winery and vineyard.  We joined a fun family of 7 (mom, dad, two daughters, one son, and two sons-in-law) for a tasting that included the opportunity to compare the Domaine Drouhin wines from Burgandy to those from Oregon.  Peter LOVED that!

At that point we figured we should take a break, hydrate and grab a quick bite to eat.  We headed to The Red Hills Market.  This is Dundee’s equivalent to the fabulous Oakville Grocer in Napa. It was the perfect place to grab a quick gourmet sandwich without taking too much time away from the real purpose of our day – wine tasting.  Plus, they have a gift shop and you know how I feel about those!

Next we headed over to Winderlea. The tasting room is a stunning structure, built into the slope to give the best views of the vineyard and beyond. Its design is clean, simple and gorgeously functional.  There are windows everywhere and huge, windowed garage doors offer the opportunity to provide a wide opening to the terrace.  It is not a huge space but so well designed that it feels open and spacious. Plus, the wines as previously mentioned are KICK-ASS!

Winderlea makes an estate Chardonnay which I love.  I’m not a big fan of California Chardonnay but the Winderlea Chardonnay…yes!!  They also make a variety of single-vineyard Pinot Noir wines.  It was a blast to taste a wine and then be able to see the exact block of vines it came from.  Winderlea donates all tasting room fees to Salud which provides health care to seasonal vineyard workers. A very cool thing to do.

After Winderlea, we screeched up the road to Alexana Winery. Alexana is owned by a Houston cardiologist who also owns Revana Winery in Napa.  The guy knows how to make wine!  We arrived at 4:40, just before closing at 5:00.  One great thing about tasting at the end of the day is that often the winery staff will share some special wines, ones that perhaps were opened for a fancy-pants tasting event earlier in the day.  No need to waste the wine! Let’s finish it up! Of course we are always mindful to not overstay our welcome, understanding that, as much as the winery staff may love their job, it’s still a job and at the end of the day they want to go home.

We had dinner at Donna and Bill’s house.  The food was delicious and it was super, super cool to have each course paired with one of the wines that they had created from the vine to the bottle. Their stories about the business side of the winery business were fascinating. It made me think of people who have a dream of retiring to open a bed and breakfast.  The reality of the amount of work required is WAY different than that romanticized view.  Donna and Bill knew this about owning a winery, went in with their eyes wine open and are working very hard in their labor of love.

Day two started out in the kitchen of Mo Ayoub (of course I loved him instantly!).  The Ayoub Winery offers tastings of their high scoring array of wines by appointment in the kitchen of Mo’s house.  Talk about cozy! And Mo was a warm and engaging host.

At this point we were joined by my Nephew who lives outside of Portland and is studying vineyard management and winemaking in college. (Peter is extremely jealous.)  At Brickhouse Vineyards, our sweet host took us out to the vineyards and let us tromp through the rows.  Oh, and the wines were delicious!

In the afternoon we did a seated tasting at Soter Vineyards where the star of the show was a sparkling rosé.  We were lucky enough to get to taste this gem because a couple, two lovely gals celebrating their first wedding anniversary, loves this particular offering from Soter and asked if any bottles were still available for purchase.  Score! We were the last group of the day and – POP! – a bottle was opened!

Our final stop was Penner Ash Wine Cellars.  Peter knows a lot about wine but is always anxious to lear more. He asks smart, interesting questions and the winery staff always loves him.  Because of this, because he is informed, interested and not even a little obnoxious, we often find ourselves being rewarded with special tastes. It’s pretty awesome.

That night we dined at The Painted Lady to celebrate our anniversary. When we sat down, who should be sitting at the next table but the couple we met at the Soter tasting who were also celebrating their anniversary!  We toasted each other and all enjoyed a memorable meal.

Yesterday, some of the wine we collected from the trip arrived.  Looks like we need to get drinking.  It’s a dirty job, but I’m up to the challenge.

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