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For fuss-free fall entertaining, it’s hard to rival a bountiful cheese board and some delicious wine. But since pairing the complex flavors of wine with those of cheese can be tricky, we asked several North Shore purveyors to suggest some wines they’re currently excited about and cheeses to match. 

To plump up your cheese board, set out a variety of crackers, along with some fresh and dried fruit, separate bowls of nuts, olives, and chutney or jam. Some charcuterie is always welcome, as are bite-size veggies, like cherry tomatoes and mini sweet peppers. Then, all you need to do is add napkins and goblets, uncork the wines, and gather some friends to share in the bounty. 

Susan E. Ulbrich of The Cheese Shop of Salem

At The Cheese Shop of Salem, which carries more than 120 cheeses and 400 wines (plus crackers, dried fruit, nuts, and condiments), manager and wine director Susan E. Ulbrich suggests uncorking the 2020 Gönc Winery Harvest Moon, a Slovenian skin-contact wine made from Pinot Grigio grapes. “It is a soft orange-bronze–colored wine that’s technically an orange wine (the reddish-blue color of the white grape skins steeps in the pressed juice longer than with most white wines and color the juice pinky-orange) and full of notes of peach pit, apricot, and herbs.”

Ulbrich suggests serving the wine with Calderwood, an alpine-style raw cow’s milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Aged for six months in hay, the cheese takes on flavors of walnuts, earth, umami, and chestnut honey, says Ulbrich, who also likes the orange wine with Tommette Brûlée, a firm sheep’s milk round from the Basque area of France. “It’s just a gorgeous little wheel that’s torched at the height of ripeness to burnish the rind and give it a caramelized sweetness.”

Another wine Ulbrich recommends serving is the 2021 Azienda Agricola COS Frappato, a Sicilian red aged in concrete vats with spontaneous fermentation and composed of biodynamic certified organic grapes. “It’s a beautiful ruby color, with aromas of wildflowers, rose blossoms, and spice,” says Ulbrich, “and excellent with Urchrüter, a super cool organic, raw cow’s milk Alpine cheese from Switzerland that’s smooth and buttery with flavors of walnut and brown sugar. The Frappato also pairs well with Robiola Due Latte, a soft-ripened cow and sheep’s milk cheese from Piedmont, Italy.”

Kathleen Powers Morgan of Savour Wine & Cheese

Kathleen Powers Morgan, owner of Gloucester’s Savour Wine & Cheese, which sells 50-plus cheeses and 1,000 different wines (along with charcuterie and pantry items), proposes serving a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France, Château Du Breuil, Savennières. “It is a very versatile wine,” says Morgan, “and slatey and aromatic with fruit, typically described as ‘dusty apple.’ It’s magnificent with sheep’s milk cheeses, including the Lamb Chopper, a creamy-textured cheese that’s tangy and a bit grassy and from Cypress Grove creamery in California; Ewephoria, a hard, slightly crumbly and salty cheese from the Netherlands, and Istara Ossau-Iraty, a creamy, but firm, mild cheese with notes of almond and apricot stone fruit from the French Basque Region.”

Another sipper Morgan recommends offering is Omen Red Blend from the Sierra Foothills in California. “This is a full-bodied, luscious blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Barbera, Sirah, and Grenache and loaded with blackberry and plum flavors on a core of cedar and ripe cherry.” To accompany it, Morgan suggests Wookey Hole Cave Aged Farmhouse Cheddar, a British cheddar made by Ford Farm in Dorset and aged in the Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset. “It’s a classic cheddar with a tangy, salty, slightly sharp taste,” which can stand up to the Zinfandel in the wine. So can Gruyère and even blue cheese, she adds.

Bruce Flynn of Cellar Door

At Ipswich’s Cellar Door, home to approximately 200 wine labels and 30 cheeses (plus artisanal cured meats, tinned fish, crackers, and condiments), co-owner Bruce Flynn suggests snapping open the Vigna San Lorenzo Col Tamarie Frizzante, a sparkling orange prosecco with a bottle-cap top from Veneto, Italy. “It’s a blend of six grapes, including Glera, Boschera, Perera Bianchetta, and Grapariol,” says Flynn, “and is relatively light with flavors of stone fruit, apple, and pear. It’s really fun and goes great with Piave Vecchio Selezion Oro, an Italian cow’s milk cheese that’s slightly sweet and nutty and tastes like a creamier, less-mature Parmesan.”

Another cheese he likes with the sparkler is the creamy cow’s milk Cranberry Orange Fresh Farmer’s Cheese from Smith’s Country Cheese in nearby Winchendon. “It’s soft and similar to goat cheese, but doesn’t have that tang,” says Flynn.  

His second wine pick is Julien Pilon Le Bruit des Vagues Marsanne—Roussanne, a Northern Rhone white wine made from Marsanne and Roussanne grapes. “It has a full, buttery mouthfeel with pleasant acidity and flavors of stone fruit, so goes well with cheeses that have a bit more boldness and hints of apple, like the Boston Post Dairy Gisele, a Vermont-made, goat and cow’s milk, Alpine-style cheese washed with spiced apple cider. It’s released in September and has a creamy texture and gouda-like style.”

Flynn’s second cheese recommendation is the Spanish Pasamontes Oro Aged Manchego. “It’s a complex, raw sheep milk cheese,” made by the Pasamontes family, who established their Spanish dairy in 1896.  

Heather Gretz of Leary's Fine Wine & Spirits

Heather Gretz, manager of Newburyport’s Leary’s Fine Wines & Spirits, which carries over 125 cheeses and 1,500 kinds of wines, loves small producer wines and suggests serving the organic Beppe Marino Quattrofilari Nizza Riserva starring the Barbera grape. “It’s a light-to-medium–bodied red from Piedmont with soft tannins and is just really friendly drinking,” says Gretz, who loves pairing it with Caprino Nocciolino, a fresh goat’s milk cheese coated in chopped hazelnuts. “It’s creamy, nutty and decadent and, because it’s from Piedmont, a perfect match for the red from the same area.”

Gretz also likes the red with Moliterno al Tartufo, a medium-firm sheep’s milk cheese rippled with truffles. “Truffles and Barbera go very well together because neither one overwhelms the other.” 

Gretz’s second wine suggestion is the Vin de Savoie Domaine Charles Gonnet Chignin, a French white made from the Jacquère grape. “It’s a crisp, delicious, high-elevation wine that’s really refreshing,” she says. “It would be perfect with Le Tompey L’Etivaz, an old-world–style Gruyère made on a small family farm in Switzerland. That’s because the fruit in the wine brings out the nuttiness in the cheese.” Gretz also loves the white with Timberdoodle, a washed-rind cow’s milk rectangle from Woodcock Farm in Vermont. 

“It’s slightly pungent with a sticky texture and a creamy, soft interior,” says Gretz, “and the wine is simple, bright, and clean and a good palate cleanser for it.” 

Appleton Farm Store

Over in Ipswich, the Appleton Farm Store carries several regional cheeses, including two cheddar-style rounds made with their own cow’s milk. Before the pandemic, cheesemakers Liz and Peter Mulholland of Valley View Farmstead in Topsfield came to Appleton Farms to make the cheese. Now, the couple makes the cheddars on their own farm. “They make the Appletomme from the farm’s certified organic milk produced by our grass-fed cows,” says Erin Shaw, general manager of The Appleton Farm Store. Aged for twelve months, the cheddar is pleasantly tangy. “They also craft our Unity Cheddar made with Appleton cow’s milk and Unity cheddar goat’s milk. It’s a young cheese and very creamy.”

A terrific wine to try with Unity is the 2021 Tizona Terra Alta Vineyard Picpoul Blanc from Bokisch Vineyards in Lodi, California. Zippy, light, and ripe with flavors of pear, green apple, and lemon zest, it beautifully plays off the mild gaminess of the goat. Plus, it has only 12 percent alcohol, making it a perfect preprandial sipper. To pair with the richer Appletomme, consider the 2016 Peltier Schatz Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich, pruney wine with flavors of fig, blueberry, and vanilla.

Taste more, learn more

The Cheese Shop of Salem offers virtual tastings focusing just on wine, just cheese, and a combination of both. Additionally, the shop hosts free wine tastings every Saturday between 4 and 6 p.m.

Savour Wine and Cheese hosts complimentary tastings of 20 different wines during store hours from its digital wine machines. The store also offers free wine tastings every Saturday between 2 and 4 p.m.

Leary’s Fine Wines & Spirits offers free wine tastings every Saturday between 4 and 6 p.m. The store also has several annual in-store “Wine Extravaganzas,” where the staff pours more than 100 wines. Leary’s also offers regularly scheduled wine education classes on the premises with winemakers, vineyard owners, and wine educators.