Pairing wine and cheese is a serious business. Luckily, there are both wine and cheese experts who get excited about crafting the perfect cheese platter and wine pairing. It’s a work of art. Some prefer the stinky cheeses, while others favor a more mild selection. One of the best ways to distinguish what kind of cheese and wines you like is to actually taste. All five of these L.A. shops and bars invite you to come in, sit down a while, sample and taste.
Andrew’s Cheese Shop
728 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
A stroll along chic Montana Avenue in Santa Monica may find you stopping into Andrew’s Cheese Shop. Andrew, the store’s cheese monger, knows his product. To help his guests know what they like and dislike in a cheese, he provides clients with a descriptive tasting card that tells a story. From where the cheese is and what its traits are, to which wine to sip with it and the story behind the farm or producer, these little “take-home tasting notes” help to navigate through the shop’s 200 different artisanal cheeses. The neighborhood space is welcoming with an outdoor sandwich board featuring the day’s specials including Proscuitto Pear with Point Reyes (blue cheese, sliced pear, shaved asparagus and honey mustard) or the Portobello with a Sheep’s Milk Feta (served with zucchini, arugula and roasted peppers). Sign up to receive emails so you can reserve your space for Andrew’s popular Grilled Cheese and Beer event – it sells out fast.
California Wine and Cheese
115 W Foothill Blvd
Monrovia, CA 91016
This wine and cheese tasting bar is all about California wines and gourmet cheeses from all over the world. Proprietors Tom and Janet Dugan make sure your experience is complete. Every Friday, the Dugans prepare a new line-up of wines for tasting. There are always eight to 10 wines available by the pour (1.5 ounces) or by the glass (5 ounces) in addition to various cheese plates, which are designed to complement the wines. Two plates of cheese are created and served each week from a selection of 40 to 50 different cheeses. One plate suggests either red or white wines, while rich blue cheeses make up a second plate offering red wine pairings. The Dugans aren’t necessarily sommeliers or cheese experts, but they do have a love and passion for wine and cheese. The last pour is 20 minutes before closing down for the night.
128 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Mignon is Los Angeles’ downtown hot spot for wines and cheeses. You’ll find French sparkling wines, whites from Italy and France, reds from Germany and Hungary and Belgium beers, too. Its brilliant cheese selections come from all over the world. A French goat cheese such as Selles-sur-Cher and a sheep Torta de la Serena from Spain go nicely with a side of farm-fresh radishes served with butter and fleur de sel. California cheeses are well represented on the Mignon menu — a San Joaquin Gold cow cheese and Little Boy Blue cheese. Charcuterie and smoked salmon and trout complement your order and the extras are nice too, which include local honey and sweet potato jam served with apples, Marcona almonds and walnuts and marinated olives. Happy hour is an affordable treat with $5 glasses of wine and $5 for all small plates.
The Red Room Food & Wine Bar
17499 Ventura Blvd
Encino, CA 91316
The Red Room Food & Wine Bar’s wine list gives you an excellent selection. Spanning from all around the world, you can indulge in Italian and French wines as well as some closer to home from Napa Valley and Santa Barbara. If you are into bubbles, you might enjoy a 2005 Juve y Camps Gran Reserva Cava from Spain, or perhaps a crisp and light-bodied Fred Loimer “Lois” pour from Austria. The red selections are endless with choices from South Africa (2009 Excelsior Cabernet) or from California’s Central Coast (2008 Mandolin Syrah). The menu offers tapas and main entrees – whatever you are in the mood for. The small plate must-haves are Sweet Italian Sausage with smoked mozzarella and marinara; a Cheese Board of daily selections with fig jam, grapes and roasted almonds; and a Mushroom, Roasted Shallots and Brie with white truffle oil flat bread.
The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills
419 N Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210
A mainstay of Beverly Hills, The Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills has been the purveyor of choice since 1967. It is one of the best resources in Los Angeles for home and professional cooks because of the hundreds of hard-to-find, rare, hand-made and farm-fresh cheeses carried in this store. Known for the largest assortment of goat and sheep milk cheeses and for the best mozzarella di bufala from Italy, The Cheese Shop is at your service. It regularly hosts tasting events (these sell out quickly) sharing tips on wine and cheese pairings, a great activity for a group of friends. Sign up for monthly email invitations by sending an email to info@CheeseStoreBH.com with “Add Me To Your Tasting List” in the subject line.
Sheryl Craig is a writer with a passion for interesting finds and treasures in Los Angeles. She has a background in journalism and public relations. A mother of two daughters, Sheryl integrates her healthy lifestyle into raising her children. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.