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Grate Insights: Friendly Cheeses & The Oddball Wines That Love Them

Photos by Hillary Ehlen

I recently changed my wine list up at Luna, which means that there are all kinds of intriguing new cheese and wine combinations to play with right now. I went a little kooky with my list and took off all wines that over-promised (needlessly expensive) or under delivered and replaced them with things that may be a little off the beaten path, but they are really going to knock your socks off. There are so many cool wines out there that sound a little intimidating but, in reality, will surprise you with their friendliness.

To counteract any fears you might have about trying something new, I’m pairing all four of my featured wines this month with cheeses from our friendly Minnesota and Wisconsin neighbors. And even though these are some pretty fantastic wines, you won’t find any for much more than $15 on your liquor store shelves. It really doesn’t get friendlier than that, now does it?

RELATED: Classic(ish) Cheese & Wine Pairings

$15 wine with cheese

1. Capriko with Petraio Vermentino
This award-winning hunk of deliciousness from Westby, Wisconsin, is made from a blend of fresh goat and cow milk. It is firm with a creamy mouthfeel and a sweet, nutty flavor. This wine sounds frightening, I know, but it is not scary in the least when you try it. It is light, citrusy, easy to drink and works incredibly well with the freshness of this cheese.

2. Prairie Sunset with Ronchi di Pietro Friulano
This approachable cheese from our buddies in Monroe, Wisconsin, is an original, described as a “cheddar-gouda” blend. Friulano is a floral white Italian wine that tastes like pears. In this case, the creaminess of the wine stands up nicely to this cheese named for the beautiful sunsets of Wisconsin. An added bonus is the fact that it also looks beautiful on a cheese board.

3. Marieke Golden with Chateau Recougne Bordeaux
If you have some basic wine knowledge under your belt, you know that you generally associate Bordeaux with expensive luxury wines from France. This means that this isn’t your usual casual weeknight glass of wine … except that it is. This wine is amazing while somehow still being affordable. The Marieke Golden is a farmstead style Gouda from Thorpe, Wisconsin and also happens to be one of my favorite cheeses that we carry. It goes great with just about anything but pairs especially well with a good food friendly red wine such as this one.

4. Widmer 8 year Cheddar with Feixa Negra Priorat
If you love a good aged cheddar, this is one you need to try. And as far as the wine goes, this Spanish Priorat is definitely one of my new personal favorites. Although the name may sound intimidating, the wine is anything but. If you like a full-bodied red, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, you will not be disappointed with this gorgeous wine. Plus, Spanish wines are really killing it right now. The quality makes you think you should be spending a whole bunch of money when you are actually spending about as much as you would on that run of the mill boring affordable wine you always buy. This cheese is heaven on earth and since aged cheeses pair beautifully with full-bodied reds, this will be a pairing to remember.

Now that you have a few new things to try, may I suggest that rather than showing up to your holiday party with the same boring old Chardonnay or California Red Blend, you instead grab a bottle of one of these—or all four—and become the star of the night without breaking the bank. Happy Holidays!

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Written by Nikki Berglund

Nikki Berglund is a Fargo native and the owner of Luna Fargo, a local neighborhood restaurant specializing in casual upscale comfort food using fresh and local flavors and ingredients whenever possible. She is also the third generation to operate her family liquor store, Bernie’s Wines and Liquors. Berglund's work-related passions include good wine, good cheese and good food. She has passed her Level One Sommelier Certification with the intention of becoming a Level Two Certified Sommelier in the near future. She is also currently studying to become a Certified Cheese Professional, aka a "cheese monger."

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