Sometimes you have a craving for a good glass of wine and a selection of fine cheeses on a wine country patio on a beautiful summer day. It should be an easy fix if you’re in the middle of Okanagan on the Naramata bench.
Sadly, however I transversed the bench searching for such a combo and at winery after winery I came up empty handed.At the last winery on the bench I came up with the jackpot at Upper Bench Winery where I meet with winemaker Gavin Miller and cheese maker Shana Miller. The main building is divided between the cheese making facilities and the winery itself. A fabulous and very tasty cheese platter arrived as I sat down with Gavin.Gavin explained that as winemaker for Painted Rock for four years he was searching for a winery to call his own. A former winery, Stone Hill was in receivership and Gavin and partners were lucking in outbidding everyone for the new winery they renamed Upper Bench.
Gavin inherited an unusual combination of nine different varietals on seven acres. The perfect scenario for blended wines you may conclude, however Gavin had other ideas, utilizing minimalistic winemaking techniques to craft premium, single varietal wines.
Gavin crops his yields very low and his team of dedicated vineyard workers takes great care in the vineyard which provides outstanding fruit for these premium selections.
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One of my favorite activities is to plan a wine and cheese gathering. I traveled to one of my local cheese maker, Golden Ears Cheese in Maple Ridge to purchase some cheese for a tasting. When I thought about matching wines it occurred to me that there is a lot of information on the web regarding ideal matches but because they are typically from the US or Europe they feature suggestions that are not easily available here in British Columbia.
To assist fellow British Columbians I have created wine and cheese selections that are widely bought at most grocery stores and local wine shops. After all it’s very frustrating to have a list and find that most are not available with 100 kilometres of your home.
There are four basic categories of cheese and so I will recommend the cheeses in those categories and the matching wines that are easily purchased:
Soft cheese: These include goat cheese, Camembert and brie which are the perfect foil for Sauvignon Blanc, a lightly oaked Chardonnay or a refreshing Prosecco.
Semi-soft cheeses: Cheeses in this style include popular selections such as Swiss, Colby, Fontina and Havarti. Riesling, Pinot Grigio and sparkling wines like Spanish Cava and German Sekt are value driven wines that will deliver great taste.
Semi-hard cheeses: favorites like Cheddar, Sonoma Jack, Gouda and Blue reside in this category. Look to reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti Reserva or Ruby Port to impress guests at your next gathering.
Hard cheeses: Gruyere (look for the Swiss version), Edam, Manchego and Asiago pair well with Sauvignon Blanc (yes, a white wine!), Rote du Rhone (a value blended French wine) and Rioja from Spain.
These selections will make it easy and fun to plan your holiday party and as a note many of these wines and cheeses are crafted right here in our own province. More reason to shop and buy local.