If you're a cheese fanatic—like myself—you're familiar with Venissimo Cheese, and its four locations in San Diego. But what you may not be aware of is its Academy of Cheese classes with some designed for wine lovers, too.
Last month I attended Venissimo's "Classic Wine and Cheese Pairing" class at its Headquarters location (789 West Harbor Drive). The quaint spot serving as a makeshift classroom with long tables was set for 16 eaters and drinkers.
Upon arriving, staff greeted us with Prosecco and a sliver of Mt. Tam triple-crème Brie. I was hooked on both.
Once everyone was seated with supplies at the ready, instructor Rob Graff launched into his lesson, introducing four concepts for pairing: complementary (e.g. fruity wine with a fruity dish), contrasting (sweet wine with salty food), regional (wine and fare from similar regions) and textural (smooth wine with creamy nosh). He then walked us through tasting 11 cheeses and six wines. Most wines paired with two cheeses.
One of my favorite matches was the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon by Le Vigne Winery with Fontina Val d'Aosta and Noord Hollander. The first cheese was soft and light in both texture and flavor, while the second was harder with a salty edge. The wine was packed with flavor from ground pepper to ripe cherries. While both pairings worked, the Noord was especially tasty with the fruitful wine contrasting its slight bitterness.
Another combination that was a hit with many tasters was the finale: 2008 Taylor Fladgate Late Bottle Vintage Port with Shakerag Blue. This was another contrasting pair with the pungent and tangy cheese mellowed by the sweet port.
Between samplings Graff educated us about cheese (and wine) regions and production. He answered questions, yet kept things moving so that the two-hour class flew by. Afterward many happy attendees took advantage of a 10-percentoff deal included with the class, myself included.
Downtown store manager Cait Gunderson noted that if you can't make an AOC class, the Venissimo staff is well versed in pairing and often helps shoppers find the perfect cheese for a specific wine, beer, spirit or sometimes all three.
Venissmo's next wine-related class, "Wine World Wanderlust," is July 23 at the Del Mar location. Visit its website to register for that and other Academy of Cheese classes.