Women Winemakers Share Their Favorite Pairings

CHEESE PLEASE Winemakers share their favorite pairings


While we’re still sheltering-in-place, many of our thoughts have turned to the things in life we can still enjoy, like wine and food. We’ve rounded up three of Napa and Sonoma’s expert winemakers to share their top wine pairings to enjoy while we’re holed up at home, and hopefully soon in person too.

The Winemaker: Martha McClellan

German-trained winemaker and marathon runner Martha McClellan credits her success to simplicity: “Simple means direct, thorough, rigorous, and it gives me the confidence and freedom to work intuitively and highly specifically.” She and husband Bob Levy were named “superstar wine couple,” and she’s considered a star maker for wine brands that include Harlan, Checkerboard, Hamel and Blankiet. Her recent collaboration with ToyMaker has drawn even more positive attention.

Her Pairing Preference

I love all cheese and would eat any of it with a glass of ToyMaker. I think any of the blues would go nicely: Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Danish blue. I am a huge fan of Epoisses and find that it has a sweet savory character that the powerful but supple tannins found in the ToyMaker balance out exceptionally. Another all-time favorite is truffle cheese — its earthiness is a wonderful complement to the deep red fruit.

ToyMaker’s wines can be purchased by emailing info@toymakercellars.com.

The Winemaker: Stephanie Putnam

Photo by Nicola Siso.

Stephanie Putnam is busy. When not training her white Shepherd puppy, Kody, to not chew her shoes, she oversees all aspects of winemaking at Raymond Vineyards and JCB as well as other Boisset brands. Throughout her tenure as director, she has focused on cabernet and chardonnay and has earned much acclaim, including recognition in Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 and Wine Spectator’s Tom 100 Wines for the 100-point 2015 JCB Surrealist. The Bay Area native’s enthusiasm began at an early age in a family who appreciated gourmet food and wine.

Her Pairing Preference

With the Raymond Generations cabernet sauvignon, I like a dry Italian cheese such as Latteria San Andreas like we have in our sister property, Atelier Fine Foods in Yountville. It’s slightly sweet, with a dry, grassy taste that will pair with the spice, fruit and tannins of the wine. For the Raymond Napa Valley Reserve chardonnay, I opt for a fresh goat’s milk cheese from Nicasio Valley called Foggy Morning, which has the classic tang from goat’s milk cheeses and rounds out the buttery chardonnay.

Raymond wines can be purchased online here.

The Winemaker: Maggie Kruse

Photo by Matt Armendariz.

This summer, with 13 harvests under her belt, Maggie Kruse took over winemaking responsibilities at Jordan Winery. Fermentation science runs deep in her family: her father brewed beer at Miller in Milwaukee, and she moved to California from Wisconsin right after high school graduation to study winemaking. On fermentation, she’s happy to talk shop. “I love sour beers; they smell like everything you shouldn’t do with winemaking. All of the bacteria they use to make sour beer is the bacteria you try your hardest to avoid in winemaking.” Only the second winemaker in Jordan’s 44-vintage history, Kruse will be pouring the winery’s 40th-anniversary Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon at a new-release tasting at the winery on May 2.

Her Pairing Preference

No matter what vintage of Jordan you open, I love to pair it with the truffle brie from Marin French Cheese Company. The subtle truffle character complements the beautiful dark fruit in our cabernet so well and the creamy texture of the triple crème doesn’t interfere with our tannin profile and long finish; it is a great pairing. For the chardonnay, I love the Laychee from Penny Royal Farm in Anderson Valley. This fresh goat’s milk cheese is a great complement to our fruit aroma and mouthwatering acidity.

Jordan wines are available for purchase online here.

How to Help:

There are so many local restaurants and wineries that need your help right now. For more ways to support local businesses, go here.

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Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle is a Marin-based writer and editor. Currently the editor of Marin Magazine, she enjoys the various perks of her job, which include meeting chefs, winemakers, and inspiring characters. As a volunteer philanthropic advisor for the EACH Foundation, she focuses on needs in her home state of Hawaii. Some of her favorite nonprofits include City BeatHawaii Land Trust, and University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

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