Category Archives: Wine and Cheese Pairings

Tunworth, a guilty English pleasure

It’s a good idea to cheat on your regular cheesemonger from time to time. Some cheeses are imported in very small quantities and may just be available at one or two small specialty shops, or not in your usual haunt. This is how I discovered one of my new favorite cheeses, Tunworth, an English guilty pleasure! Available at Brooklyn Larder in Park Slope (a dangerous place for any gourmet), Tunworth’s bloomy rind encases a delicious runny paste with a mushroomy savory note. Similar to Camembert it has a slightly sweet finish and nutty undertones.


Tunworth is made by Hampshire Cheeses, founded in 2005 and owned by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce.

Stacey, originally from Sydney Australia, had worked in a cheese shop long before she and  her English husband settled with their three young children in rural Hampshire. She found herself thinking fondly of her cheese shop days, missing the inspiration that the little store gave her, before long Stacy began making her own cheese at home.

It soon became clear that she would need a purpose-built creamery to fulfil her dream. With encouragement from the owner of Neil’s Yard Dairy she was soon making this cheese from pasteurized cow’s milk dream that has won a world cheese award and  in 2006 was voted Britain’s Supreme Champion Cheese at the British Cheese Awards beating more than 800 other cheeses. No small accomplishment for sure!


I’d suggest pairing with one of England’s best fizzy wines, Ridgeview Estate Cavendish, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A sparkling wine from England, you ask? Partly an effect of global warming and the chalky terroir of Southeast England, this stellar bubbly shines next to others outside of Champagne. The vineyards are located in the South Downs of Sussex, part of a region that shares the same limestone ridge with Champagne.





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Emidio Pepe Pecorino, Colli Aprutini IGT, 2010; An amazing find in the world of wine!

A delicious grape and a cheese, Pecorino!

A delicious grape and a cheese, Pecorino!

Last weeks predicted Snow-pocalypse had many rushing out to stock up on wines to weather the storm. Frankly Wines in Tribeca was bustling with activity before mass transit shut down for who knew how long! The next day brought about relief and a snow day for many NYers overjoyed that they wouldn’t spend the next few days stuck at home. In celebration this special bottle was opened to sample with customers at Frankly, and I was lucky enough to be there!

I know many associate Pecorino with the world of cheese, but this wine made from the grape of the same name is one of the finest white wines to pass my lips in quite some time! It’s lush, silky texture and concentrated flavors and aromas of apricot marmalade, toasted almond and a touch of sweet spice had me dreaming of sun-kissed vineyards and a walk in the Italian countryside! Pure heaven in a bottle, and a perfect pairing with cheeses of the same name drizzled with orange blossom honey!

Produced in the region of Abruzzo by Emidio Pepe and family the grapes are grown organically on two hectares and crushed delicately by foot  in wooden tubs in order to avoid the contact between the iron presses and the acids of the fruit. The juice then goes into glass-lined cement vats for fermentation, then, after a few months it is transferred to bottle. It ages in the cellar in the bottle for 2-3 years and is carefully hand decanted before release. The 2010 vintage is the first release of this fancy pants wine and hopefully not the last.

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Mac and Cheese: A comforting, soul satisfying cheese and wine pairing

mac and cheese recipe

Creamy, dreamy, gooey goodness. The best mac and cheese recipe ever!

There are a millions ways to make mac and cheese, but for me there is nothing as tasty as my version made with an easy béchamel sauce, layered with a blend of cheeses and baked with a crispy parmesan/cracker topping. Based on an old family recipe this is no designer noodles tossed in lumpy cheese sauce or hipster variation studded with peas, bacon or kale chips. It’s the real deal, hearty Southern style with loads of divine shredded cheese oozing into every crevice of the elbow macaroni (the only pasta that should be used to make this) and baked till the top is crunchy and browned.

It’s a favorite dish I remember from childhood, a big food hug that makes me smile as I savor each fork-full  filled with down home goodness. No bells, whistles or fancy trappings, yet one of the most soul satisfying meals that makes an appearance again and again on my table. Also, it’s the dish I’m asked to bring to every family gathering or potluck.

For pairing try a lightly oaked Chardonnay with just a touch of spice and apple flavor, my favorites hail from the Burgundy region of France. The best ones have just enough acid to cut through the decadent richness of the dish while their rounded fruit flavors complement the notes in the cheeses. Think of apple pie and cheddar cheese, one of the best food pairings ever created!

My picks!

Maison B. Perraud Saint-Veran 2012, (Burgundy, France)

This is a Chardonnay for people who don’t like Chardonnay. It’s rich and round, but, without the excess vanilla and spice sometimes found in new world Chardonnay. Made from 50 year old vines grown in clay soil it has a medium body with just a touch of nutty flavors and baked apple notes.

Maison Champy Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012, (Burgundy, France)

Slightly creamy and buttery without over doing it. Food friendly, afforadle and incredibly delicious!

Best Mac and Cheese recipe –

Bake till browned and bubbly for best mac and cheese ever!


Serves 6 as main dish

6 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 pint light cream

3 pints whole milk

10 oz. extra sharp white Cheddar shredded, if you want to use an artisan cheese try an English cloth bound cheddar

5 oz. Gruyère shredded

5 oz. aged Gouda shredded, Old Amsterdam or Beemster are best

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan Reggiano

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 cup crushed butter crackers, ritz or your favorite

1 teaspoon white pepper

salt to taste

2 teaspoons Coleman mustard

1 box elbow macaroni, cooked al dente

Cook elbow macaroni al dente, rinse in cold water, drain and set aside. In medium sauce pan melt 4 tablespoons of butter on low flame, add flour and stir till smooth. Slowly add milk and cream whisking to prevent lumps. Add white pepper, salt to taste and mustard to sauce and cook on low flame till thickened, whisking to keep lumps from forming so sauce is smooth. If sauce is to thick add a little additional milk. Set sauce aside, preheat oven to 375 and prepare for assembly.

Toss cheddar, Gruyère and gouda in large bowl. Ladel enough sauce into 9 by 13 inch pan to cover bottom well. Add a thin layer of macaroni, shredded cheese and repeat till you have a bit of room on top. Melt remaining 2 tablespoon of butter and add to breadcrumbs, crushed crackers and parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Spread breadcrumb mixture on top evenly and loosely tent pan with foil. Bake for 40 minutes in preheated oven, remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes or till browned and bubbly. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!



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Holiday wine and cheese events in NYC

cheese wreath

Holiday entertaining can be fun, but also stressful for a host/hostess that wants to create the perfect atmosphere for guests. Choosing wines that can not only please a number of people, don’t break the bank and are a complement to a range of flavors can be challenging. How much do you buy, are there certain regions, styles or grapes that are safe bets? Can you find delicious wines under $25 that will wow your guests? Is there a certain style of cheese that will go with not only the wines you serve but other courses or appetizers on the menu? Is there an easy way to arrange your cheeses that will be festive and impress your foodie friends? Why not join me aboard the motor yacht Manhattan for a fun and festive holiday wine and cheese event to learn the secrets behind perfect pairings?

The Manhattan will be decorated for the season, the beautiful glass enclosed salon is warm and cozy, and you can escape the holiday rush for a few hours as we cruise around Manhattan island sipping and sampling in style! Sassysipsnyc readers can save 10% by entering the code WINETEN online at


Saturday November 22nd & December 13th, 1:45-4:30  BUY TICKETS

Wine tasting in NYC

Wine tasting in NYC

Holiday Wine and Cheese Pairing. Have you ever wondered what wines are the most food friendly? Are there crowd pleasers in the world of wine and cheese? How to I add interest, contrasting and complementary elements to my cheese board? Can I craft a stunning cheese display without spending hours in the kitchen? How do I store my cheeses and wines and what temp should they be served at? All these questions and more will be covered in this fun and interactive pairing! Recipes Included!

Saturday December 20th, 1:45-4:30 BUY TICKETS

New Years Eve 2014, Sparkling, Cheese, Chocolate also included, 5:30-7:30 BUY TICKETS

bubbles and silk!

bubbles and silk!

Sparkling Wines and Silky, Savory Cheese for a Decadent NYE Celebrations! Learn what makes sparkling wines so fabulous and food friendly. Bubbly from around the world will be poured and served with some of the worlds most luxurious cheeses! Learn what makes each pairing special and unique, and how to recreate your experience at home!

NYE tasting will also include several specialty chocolates!

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A bowl of soup, a glass of wine, and thou; Gamay loves French onion soup

Gamay infused onion soup with Comte cheese

Gamay infused onion soup with Comte cheese

Many people only think of Gamay as the grape associated with Beaujolais Nouveau, an early release wine, originally made to celebrate the end of harvest. Clever marketing launched it into the American market in the 80s, complete with colorful labels and midnight parties to celebrate its release on the third Thursday of November. Fermented using carbonic maceration, it’s a fruity, fun wine with flavors of  juicy strawberry, walnut and candied apple. Admittedly I’m not a fan. But, there’s so much more to this grape, and the wines made from it, not only in Beaujolais but the  in Loire Valley, Canada and parts of the United States. One of my favorite local wines, from NY’s Hudson Valley, is in fact Whitecliff Winery’s Gamay 

A delicious value perfect for making soups or stews!

A delicious value perfect for making soups or stews!

In Beaujolais the vines are generally trained in low to the ground bush (goblet) system and grown in limestone-clay and granite or schist based soils that give many of the cru wines a distinct quality. AOC Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages are wines that can be flinty, perfumed beauties with a rich silky texture. Wines from one of the ten “cru” villages tend to be more structured and even capable of aging. My favorites hail from the cru’s of Fleurie and Morgon, their velvety tannins and fresh acidity makes them a perfect wine to pair with roast chicken, turkey, a number of softer aromatic cheeses and brothy soups. These wines can also be used to make a memorable French onion soup or coq au vin! Great values abound with many of the better wines in the $15-25 range.

My favorite NYC wine shop, Frankly wines, carries an amazing array of Gamay based wines in every price range! Below are just a few of my favorites, perfect to start your journey into the world of Gamay based wines.


Chamonard, Morgon “Le Clos de Lys”, 2012- This producer is known for their stellar examples of Cru Beaujolais. Drinking beautifully now with rich, lush fruit and a long finish.

Perraud, Morgan, 2013– Cherry, blackberry, smooth tannins and a slight peppery note make this a wine for any occasion. Simply delicious.

Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois Vin de France, Beaujolais, 2013- Flavors of fried cranberry, cherry and fresh red berries from the family known for making Beaujolais that is delicious and refreshingly different!

Soup, soupe or sop?

Our modern use of the word soup derives from the French word soupe but when cooks in the Middle Ages spoke of soupe ( or sop ) they were most often referring to  a dish comprising primarily a piece of bread or toast soaked in a liquid or over which a liquid had been poured. The bread or toast was an important  part of this dish and a handy way to eat it without looking like a barbarian.

Mentions of onion soups date back to Roman times but a ravenous French monarch seems to be credited with the version we enjoy today. Stuck in a hunting lodge without a stocked pantry this resourceful man created a tasty soup from wine, bread, butter and onions. Perhaps he had his cooks add cheese when he returned home and recreated it for his friends? I don’t know if this fable is true, regardless, whoever thought of this perfect marriage of wine, bread and browned, crispy, melted cheese was a genius. It’s a delicious and comforting treat.

I’ve made many different versions of onion soup. There are literally hundreds of different recipes suggesting adding everything from Champagne to Sherry. Trial and error led me to perfect the recipe below, I believe red wine makes a more flavorful version and eliminates the sweetness that adding a Sherry can bring. Including the use of Comte cheese instead of Swiss or Gruyère brings another level of joy to this classic. Made and served with Gamay this soup is sure to become a favorite to add to your table.

Perfect onion soup

Perfect onion soup

Onion Soup Gratinee

makes 5 to 6 servings


2 tbsp butter

4 cups sliced onions

2 shallots sliced thin

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

6 whole peppercorns

2 cups Gamay wine

2 oz brandy

5 cups beef stock or broth

1 lb Comte cheese, sliced thin, available at many specialty grocers and cheese shops

8 slices toasted baguette

Preparation- In large stock pot melt butter and add onions, shallots. Cook over low heat for 45 to 1 hour stirring occasionally. Onions should be carmelized and brown.

Add all liquid and spices and simmer for 1/2 hr at low boil.

In flame-proof bowls divide soup making sure to have an equal portion of broth and onion. Top with toast to fit around top of bowl, break pieces if necessary to cover surface. Top bread with sliced cheese and bake in preheated 400 degree oven till browned and bubbly.


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