How to Make a Perfectly Paired Cheese Plate

Styled And Written By Grace Timmerman | Photographed By Sunny Frantz
Boards by Alex Clarke Woodworking

Few things make a more welcoming and generous presentation than a large wooden board—or a collection of little boards—bursting with local festive treats that showcase our dear state’s true love and passion: cheese.

After selecting some favorites from Fromagination on the Square, I turned the corner onto West Washington to discover a wine haven at Casetta Kitchen and Counter. Pairing wine with cheese can be both a crapshoot and a subtle skill, so I sat down with local sommelier James Juedes, who co-owns and operates Casetta, and got his guidelines for navigating the world of wine in a beer-dominated town.

Here are the top takeaways:

  1. Explore regions you’ve never heard of before or grape varietals you didn’t know existed.
  2. Ask Questions—Local wine shops want to match people with their perfect wine.
  3. Beware Misnomers—Price doesn’t equate quality. Sweet doesn’t equate fruity. Dry doesn’t equate tannins. The best way to avoid misnomers is to practice tasting. Try the themed tastings offered at Square Wine Co.!

No matter what ends up on your cheese board, approaching it with abundance and sharing it with good company are the real keys to success.

Pictured above, from left to right:


This creamy, semi-soft cheese has the perfect proportion of chipotle, which lends just a hint of smoky heat on the back of cranberry’s tang. Metcalfe’s Market carries a variety of locally curated items that would pair well, including olives, cured meats and here, Nut- krack’s caramelized pecans, which provide a sweet and salty dynamic.

PAIR IT with either white or red. Try an off-dry Alsatian reisling or a Loire Valley pinot noir. Avoid pairing with any wine that has been oaked.


A luxurious brie with a soft middle and a characteristic briny kiss at the edges of the palate. Sliced apple, Potter’s crackers, Silver Spring whole grain mustard and Quince & Apple black tea and fig jam all harmonize well.

PAIR IT with mature, mushroomy Champagnes ideally. (James practically shouted “Champagne!” when I mentioned brie.)


is an earthy cheddar, thanks in part to the modest blue mold streaks that create a delicious fusion. Here accompanied by Marcona almonds and blackberries, it’s also the ultimate cracker topping.

PAIR IT with an Italian Vin Santo for an indulgent treat. Santerini, Isole e Olena, Badia e Coltebuono and Felsina are all admirable producers.


White as pearls, this black truffle-flecked standout is rich and creamy. Ames Farm single source honey and table grapes lend complementary sweetness.

PAIR IT with a white Burgundy (French chardonnay) or a slightly sweet sparkling rosé such as Bugey Cerdon. Let the white sit out at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before pouring.


A beautiful blend of styles—think parmesan matched with a fine gruyere. Oh so smooth, with buttermilk sweetness and just a hint of funk. Serve with honey and fresh fruit, or with pickles and mustard.

PAIR IT with a white wine with honey and floral notes, such as a German pinot gris from Zind Humerecht or Elena Walsh’s gorgeous Italian gewurztraminer.

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