I was sent a powerhouse of a care package courtesy of Valley Fig Growers. Four fig spreads paired with four cheeses plus a lovely piece of slate to show off all this goodness on? Damn! Thank you. Naturally, as I began to unpack and snack, my thoughts turned to wine.
I broke out a few sample bottles of red showcasing a range of styles and grapes: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. And just because it’s a little crazy, a (non-sample) bottle of Pinot Gris made by mingling the skins of the grapes with their juice for some extra-long love and togetherness. The resulting wine takes on a rosé-esque hue (thanks, colorful Pinot Gris grape skins!) that the cool kids call “orange wine”. Here are the four wines:
- 2012 Raptor Ridge Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, OR (Pinot gets a rap for being light but this one has some oomph to it.)
- 2011 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley, CA (Killer cab, not chunky, great olive/herbal notes.)
- 2012 Tin Barn Vineyards Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA (Buckle up for this red.)
- 2014 Fossil and Fawn Pinot Gris, Crowley Station Vineyards, Willamette Valley, OR (Savory/salty/cloudy/funky/fruity/cool…kind of a white wine for red wine drinkers. Though I’m not the first person to say something like that regarding this style of wine.)
The cheeses were each paired with a fig spread (Organic Mission, California Orange, Balsamic Pepper, Port Wine). And though in the above photo you see all the wines lined up, I wasn’t operating under the assumption x wine will go with y/z cheese/fig combo. It was more like trying to find which wine works with each combo.
Before I get too deep if someone asked me to pair wine with figs and cheese and I could only pick one bottle I’d select…
(Or a high-quality sparkling wine.)
When you have everything from light goat cheeses to strong blues, balanced nicely with the sweetness of each fig spread, Champagne is like the Swiss Army knife of wines. It has enough tools to get the job done in a variety of situations. Maybe sometimes you wish you had a full-size set of tools, right? Or an entire wine cellar at your disposal. But when confronted with cheese and fig-induced palate survival situations, reach for a bottle of bubbles. Is it going to be perfect? No. I say this to pre-empt any nit-picking.
Also, whenever there’s a wine and cheese party the majority of folks will bring a bottle of red and if you like to be a contrarian like me, bring a sparkling wine. Or a white. Or a rosé. Or (maybe you saw this coming?) a sparkling rosé.
HAVING SAID THAT…
Let’s have a quick #FigFYI interlude, courtesy Valley Fig Growers Facebook page:
And now my thoughts on the red wines:
The Pinot Noir was best with the Organic Mission Fig spread and the Sierra Nevada Cheese Company Organic Jack Cheese. Like fine Pinot Noir, the unadorned classics never go out of style. (Shout-out to Raptor Ridge Tempranillo and Grüner Veltliner.)
If you had a more rich, sweet(ish) Cabernet, the Triple Creme Brie from Marin French Cheese with the Balsamic Pepper spread would be awesome. The Smith-Madrone, however, is just too sleek for that. It’s one of my favorite Napa Cab because it’s not over-the-top. It tastes like Cabernet should.
My second favorite match was the Zinfandel with the Point Reyes Blue and Port Wine fig spread. Now, could you have had Port with this? Absolutely. But the Zin is burly enough to handle the strong cheese and the sweetness of the fig chills it out enough so that you can have a dry (but very rich and fruity) wine like the Tin Barn Vineyards. (They make really excellent, age-worthy Syrah, BTW.)
But the numero uno award goes to my #winecrush, Fossil & Fawn Pinot Gris. (Hey, check out a review in comic panel form.) It was sensational with the Laura Chenel Chabis Goat Cheese and the California Orange fig spread. Damn, what a dynamite match. The tart, pillowy goat cheese combined with the orange peel flavor and sweet/savory fig? POWERHOUSE.
So what the heck am I going to do with all of these leftover Valley Fig Growers spreads? Well you could swirl some into vanilla ice cream. Uh, yum. Or if dairy isn’t your thing, I’m thinking pork of the tenderloin or chop variety might benefit very nicely. Maybe swirl it into a pan sauce and punch it up with a little mustard? Check out the VFG website for some sweet and savory recipes and ideas.
Let me know what you come up with that’s fig-tastic. And call me.
I’ll bring the wine.