This is a sublime wine and cheese pairing — Pleasant Ridge Reserve alpine-style cow’s milk cheese with an absolutely lovely New World Syrah.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made by the Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin. Their cows are reportedly happily grazing away on ridgetop grasses and fresh herbs — and I believe that only a happy cow could produce the kind of milk that ends up tasting this good in a cheese! Rich, creamy, complex, reminiscent of a Gruyere, with caramel notes and a fruity/grassy/briny tang. Cannot recommend it enough. (And I’m not the only one who feels this way, apparently. It’s won a slew of awards — 2010 American Cheese Society Winner: Best in Show, 2011 American Cheese Society Winner.)
The first time I ever tried this cheese, it was paired at a restaurant with a Washington State Syrah, and I’ve always remembered what a perfect wine/cheese moment that was. And although I think this cheese is really quite versatile and also pairs beautifully with everything from a really well-made Chardonnay to an aged Cabernet Sauvignon — or even a glass of Bourbon — I tend to gravitate to a New World Syrah to try to recreate that first love-at-first-bite memory.
So when I find a Syrah from California or Washington that I really love — not an everyday occurrence, by any means — this is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it. This Donelan bottling is everything a Syrah should be — concentrated, intense, nothing shy about the body/flavor/alcohol, but beautifully-made, with impressive complexity. They’re on to the 2011 vintage it seems, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take a chance on it.
Donelan 2010 Syrah Sonoma Country Cuvée Christine ($45). Intense, youthful, really good — with deep, meaty blackberry and a black pepper kick layered with pretty, extracted black plum and exotic spice notes. Should age beautifully. Find it!