Pairing Wine & Cheese at San Antonio Winery!
For the past few weeks, I have been smelling gorgeous flowers in bloom all around, taking peaceful strolls at 6, 7pm, while watching the sunset, and taking in a lot of sun as I wear T-shirts and my favorite maxi skirts. This can only mean one thing: It’s Springtime in Los Angeles!
When we are finally graced with the lighter, longer days and the city slowly converts into the Summer haven it is, there is nothing like a day at the historic San Antonio Winery. If you’ve followed me for a while, you clearly know that this is one of my favorite places in SoCal. Filled with such history, and not to mention some of the best wines in California, I was thrilled to once again head out to San Antonio to be their guest at their latest weekend event: Wine and Cheese Pairing.
When I heard “Wine and Cheese”, I knew it would definitely be more than your average pairing of Gruyère or a young Cheddar with Pinot Noir. Little did I know just how incredibly elaborate the menu would be and would be co-hosted with resident Chef, Corey Arballo, who was the master mind behind such pairings as The Pear Boat (Pear Halves, Scooped center filled with Roquefort Blue Cheese, Walnuts and drizzled Honey ) and The Ballpark Veggie Style (Veggie Hot Dogs, Spicy Mustard, Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar, Sauerkraut on a Hot Dog Bun) to San Antonio’s Manager, Dominic Menton’s, exquisite wine selections.
As we made our way through the 10 pairing (Yes, I said 10. Thank goodness we had a 20 minute break!), something became very clear and brought some giggles to the room: Chef Corey is Vegetarian! While he created such white meat and seafood offerings as The Charlie (Sourdough Bread, Gruyere Cheese, Simple Tuna Salad, Mayo, Pickles, Celery and Onions) and Buffalo Sticks (Underworld Chicken Spread on a Celery Stick, accompanied with Castello Blue Cheese and Mikes Red Hot Sauce), the rest of his creations were meat free and he allowed the cheese’s to shine on each of his bites.
Arballo is an absolute gem. An avid Star Wars and pop culture nerd, he went through his explanations of the cheese and wine pairings comparing them to the similar matches in the far off galaxies; like Han and Leia, Extra Sharp Canadian Cheddar with a 2014 Maddalena Pinot Grigio is the ideal match! When I mentioned to him I was un-able to try everything that was available (darn gluten), Corey let me know that for my next visit, let them know I am gluten-free and they will happily accommodate. This will be perfect as I have been wanting to grab dinner at their home style restaurant, Maddalena.
The highlights for me was our first course, The Tatooine Cheesecake. Boasting lemon curd, extra sharp Canadian cheddar and honey graham crackers, it paired beautifully with a 2014 Maddalena Pinot Grigio. The lemon curd was tart with just enough sour while the Pinot Grigio delivered bright, floral notes on both my first nose and sip. The bright, sweet notes of the Pinot paired expertly with the lemon curd and sharp cheddar.
The third course was one I could have had many seconds of, The Pear Boat. Pear halves, scooped center filled with Roquefort blue cheese, walnuts and drizzled honey with a 2014 San Simeon Pinot Noir. They had me at Pinot Noir, yet I had no idea just how much I’d enjoy the blue cheese with it. Upon my first sip, the Pinot Noir delivered all the elements that I love to this red (smooth, a little spice, full-bodied) and once I experienced The Pear Boat, it made the wine “pop” even more. While revealing the strong cherry notes, it was the honey to the dish that brought out the subtle cinnamon notes to this Pinot.
For our 7th round, I was intrigued to try The Veggie Sink (fresh cauliflower and broccoli, accompanied with an olive oil potato chip and topped with melted Cotswold English Cheddar). These ingredients seem like a no brainer…veggies, potato chip and melted cheese?! Somehow, this has escaped my radar. Paired with an incredible and bold 2013 Opaque Darkness, the mellow veggies and chip played an important supporting role while that English cheddar brought out just how rich the wine was. Perfect new entertaining appetizer, no?!
Something that I really appreciate at all of San Antonio’s special events is the opportunity to truly learn about the wine. This is more of a lively workshop while you enjoy everything you are learning about. An event to catch up and be silly with friends and family while you sip vino and eat small bites while chatting? Not so much. That being said, it was frustrating to see our incredibly talented Menton and Arballo have some struggles with keeping the crowd attentive to the event. As the pairing courses progressed, each was a chance to learn just why certain cheeses go so well with particular wines, and also, learn from Menton how historic San Antonio Winery is.
With events always happening (Next up is a Barrel Tasting on April 22nd), visit San Antonio Winery HERE and plan your day in Downtown LA! xo
(*Disclosure: I was a guest at this event on behalf of this feature. All opinions are my own.)