There are many differences between European and American culture not the least of which is the dessert course. In America, that leans more towards a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. Conversely, dessert in Europe is seen simply as another wine pairing opportunity.
While European desserts tend to be less sweet than American selections (i.e. cheese platters are a popular option), they certainly eat their fair share of macaroons, custards and pastries. Borrowing the best from both worlds, I give you wine and cheesecake.
Not just any cheesecake, mind you, but all-natural, holiday-inspired selections from Portland Style Cheesecake & Dessert Company. Owner Kim Haines has been focusing on from-scratch, non-GMO ingredients for 27 years. She uses expeller-pressed oil and there are no trans fats to be found even in her cracker crusts. The result is cheesecakes and butter cakes that are creamy, fluffy, moist and (nearly) guilt-free.
Riesling & Eggnog Cheesecake
The wine: Seufert Winery 2012 Botrytis Riesling, Yamill-Carlton
The dessert: Eggnog Cheesecake
Why it works: The slight baking spice notes in the wine marry softly with the dusting of nutmeg atop the sumptuous cheesecake making for an inspired Christmas pairing. Both the wine and cheesecake have rich and creamy textures, neither one overpowering the other. Ripe stone fruit and candied aromas in the riesling match the sweetness level of the eggnog.
Alternate pairing: Chocolate Raspberry Cake brings the pronounced fruit flavors of the riesling to the forefront.
Availablity: Eggnog Cheesecake is available during the Christmas and New Years holidays only.
Vino Nettar & Chocolate Mayan Cake
The wine: Alloro Vineyard 2014 Vino Nettare, Chehalem Mountains
The dessert: Chocolate Mayan Cake
Why it works: This muscat/riesling blend seems created for Haines seasonal Mayan Cake. Filled and side-walled with Mexican chili ganache (made with Mexican chili powder), iced in cinnamon cream cheese butter cream and rolled in all natural chocolate, the tantalizing spice of the cake is enhanced by the weight and roundness of the Vino Nettare finish.
Alternate pairing: Deep stone fruit aromas mingling with delicate floral notes on the nose make this Vino Nettare an excellent accompaniment to the Christmas ham. Consider honey-baked and studded lightly with cloves.
Availability: Chocolate Mayan Cake is available during the Christmas and New Years holidays only.
Nebbiolo & Chocolate Salted Caramel Cheesecake
The wine: Bethany Vineyards 2012 Nebbiolo, Columbia Gorge
The dessert: Chocolate salted caramel cheesecake
Why it works: Rose and violet on the nose with a hint of tobacco make this slightly masculine wine an ideal pairing for this cheesecake thats neither sweet nor bitter but, rather, savory. It is in the quality of the chocolate and the pronounced salty finish that the secret to this combination lies.
Alternate pairing: Nebbiolo is a varietal that begs for food. Carry this bottle from main course to dessert with a roasted beef tenderloin. The wines tannin and acidity level hold up nicely to the fat of the meat.
Availability: Chocolate salted caramel cheesecake is available year round.
Brut & Classic Vanilla Cheesecake
The wine: RMS 2013 Brut, Willamette Valley
The dessert: Classic Vanilla Cheesecake
Why it works: This is quintessential New Years. Both offerings are classic and superior in quality. Winemaker Rollin Soles has taken the wealth of bubbles knowledge he procured at Argyle and sealed it in this 2013 vintage sparkling. A blend of higher-altitude Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the lemon grass and dairy components in this brut stand side-by-side with the richness of the cheesecake. The result is pure decadence.
Alternate pairing: Eggnog cheesecake is also a lovely pairing. Not traditional, it certainly marries with the buttery, creamy components in the Brut.
Availability: Classic vanilla cheesecake is available year round.
Ripassco & Double Chocolate Cake
The wine: g. Cuneo 2013 Ripasso, Columbia Valley
The dessert: Double chocolate cake
Why it works: Winemaker Gino Cuneo prides himself on respecting traditional Italian winemaking methods. Possibly the only Ripasso made stateside, this repassed wine comes from predominantly Sangiovese. Although it is produced from a blend of dried and non-dried grapes, it is still a dry red wine. The aromas of raisins and currant met with deep fruit flavors are an ideal match for Haines rich, dense double-chocolate cake. Fitting for Valentines Day, a day to celebrate the depth and intensity of love.
Alternate pairing: Chocolate Mayan cake provides the complexity this wine demands.
Availability: Double-Chocolate Cake is available during the Valentines Day holiday only.
Chinato dErbetti & Chocolate Raspberry Cake
The wine: Canas Feast Chinato dErbetti, Willamette Valley
The dessert: Chocolate Raspberry Cake
Why it works: This brandy-fortified wine is made in the traditional Italian digestivo way. Over 18 herbs, spices and aromatic plants are infused with estate Nebbiolo and then barrel-aged for an extended period. The fruit-forward qualities of Nebbiolonamely cherry and raspberrycoupled with baking spice notes are perfect for holidays. In the case of Valentines Day, it is the floral notes of this impeccably-crafted Chinato that present a bouquet to the nose and dance a flirty tango with the raspberry purée of the weighty cake.
Alternate pairing: Double-chocolate cake delivers the density this ample wine requires.
Availability: Chocolate Raspberry Cake is available during the Valentines Day holiday only.
I can think of no better time than the holidays to introduce a new family tradition. Portland Style Cheesecakesand butter cakescan be found at Fred Meyer, New Seasons and Zupans all over the west coast as well as PCC Natural Markets, Metropolitan Market and Town and Country Markets.
To see the full line of desserts at Portland Style Cheesecake & Dessert Company, go to www.pscheesecake.com.