Pumpkin Cheesecake & Tawny Port


There are many wines that pair well with cheesecake. A sparkling wine is a nice option as is a rich, robust Tawny Port. I prefer a Tawny Port over a Ruby Port with cheesecake because the rich caramel and nuttiness pairs incredibly well with the graham cracker crust. The notes of pumpkin, pecans and caramel in the cheesecake are mirrored by the exquisite flavors in the Tawny Port.

Ruby Ports are red, with loads of berry aromas and typically sweeter than their Tawny counterpart. The main difference is the amount of time the wine is aged. As it ages longer in oak casks, the red color turns into a paler, brown hue and develops more nutty, caramel, toffee, cinnamon and chocolate characteristics. When shopping for a Port, you will often find 10, 20, 30 & 40 year Ports, in addition to Vintage Ports. Vintage Ports are extremely rare and tend to be very expensive. In fact, there are only typically 2 or 3 Vintage Ports produced per decade.

The dates (10, 20, 30 & 40) mean the average age of the final blend. I recently had a 100 year flight of Graham’s. The 10 and 40 were my personal favorites. The acidity in the younger Port works incredibly well with the cheesecake. The richness and nuances that develop with age are better appreciated on their own. Serve Port slightly chilled for a perfect sip. A proper pour is 3 oz since it boasts a much higher alcohol content than table wine. It’s also customarily served in a port glass. Tawny Port is also spectacular paired with bleu cheese and cigars.

Recommended Producers

Chocolate & Wine Pairings

Pairing wine with chocolate sounds like a match made in heaven, but the wrong pairings can leave a bitter taste on your palate. However, the right coupling can create a euphoric experience for your taste buds!

A general rule of the thumb when it comes to wine and dessert pairings is to select a sweeter wine than the dessert. While this is a good start for creating exquisite wine and chocolate pairings, there is plenty of gray area and personal preference also comes into play.

One of the most important things to think about when pairing wine and chocolate has to do with tannins. Dark (bittersweet) chocolate  with a high cocoa content has more tannins than milk chocolate. Tannic chocolate and tannic wine compete for the same palate space leaving behind a somewhat chalky, unsavory taste on your mid-palate. If you love dark chocolate,  opt for a sweeter dessert wine like Sauternes or Banyuls. If you love a drier red wine, choose fruit infused dark chocolate and a fruit forward red wine with integrated tannins like a Zinfandel. The fruit filling will bring out the fruit notes in the wine.

Here are a few wine and chocolate pairing ideas that will please even the pickiest palates. For a fun get together, host a wine and chocolate night at your house with some of these classic pairings.

Champagne – For an ultimate pairing, think white chocolate covered strawberries, white chocolate caramel apples or white chocolate shortbread. The fresh baked brioche characteristics in the bubbly provide a perfect complement to the shortbread and the high acidity is the perfect counterpoint to the creamy white chocolate. Looking for a budget friendly sparkler, grab a Vouvray Demi-Sec or Prosecco.

Riesling – This is unexpected and delicious when pairing with dark chocolate covered ginger or a milk chocolate bar with stone fruit and nuts.

Zinfandel – A youthful fruit forward Zinfandel can provide an interesting pairing with fruit infused milk chocolate and milk chocolate covered bacon.

Sparkling Brachetto – A sweet Italian dessert wine with notes of sweet raspberry and rose petals is decadent with just about any chocolate. The Rosa Regale paired with chocolate covered strawberries, dark chocolate raspberry truffles or chocolate cupcakes is a match made in heaven!

Port – A ruby port paired with chocolate peanut butter cups will create a nostalgic experience. The combined flavor profile will be reminiscent of an adult PB&J. A tawny port with notes of caramel and fig paired with milk chocolate covered graham crackers will create a taste sensation similar to a Twix bar.



Pecan Squares & Malvaxia Passito

In search of the perfect dessert wine to pair perfectly with your cheese plate, pumpkin pecan pie, apple cobbler or pineapple upside down cake? Look no further than the Barboursville Malvaxia Passito out of Virginia.

For all of you wine connoisseurs out there, this wine is a bit reminiscent of a Tokaji from Hungary.  Luca Paschina,  winemaker for Barboursville Vineyards, best known for the “Octagon,” an award winning Bordeaux style blend, hit another  grand slam with this exquisite dessert wine.

The 2008 Malvaxia is a blend of Vidal Blanc and Moscato Ottonel varietals. The grapes are dried out like raisins in the traditional Passito method in an effort to concentrate the flavors and sugars.

Tasting Notes: 2008 Barboursville Malvaxia Passito, Orange County, Virginia 

This is a rich and opulent wine with a beautiful honey amber hue. Aromas of juicy stone fruit of peach and apricot followed by candied pineapple, candied lemon peel, sweet anjou pear, orange blossom and a hint of sweet baking spice swirl in your glass. The palate is rich and balanced with intense fruit flavors of candied pineapple, dried apricot and pumpkin pie spice that lead to a long lingering and decadent finish with good acidity.

This lusciously sweet dessert wine is a perfect pairing with savory foods like foie gras or an aged cheese plate (Stilton w/Fig Jam) and absolutely delicious with an array of sweet desserts including this pecan square recipe from Ina Garten. I modified this recipe and added a 1/4 teaspoon of clove and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in the topping to play off the spice notes in the wine.


Chocolate Cupcakes & Rosa Regale

The Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui from Italy is a go-to with just about any chocolate dessert. It’s the perfect partner for dark chocolate, chocolate mousse cake with raspberry sauce and raspberry infused chocolate truffles.  This a semi-dry wine that boasts a beautiful bright ruby color and has sumptuous notes of sweet raspberry, strawberries and floral aromas of rose petals.  It’s also delicious with lemon meringue pie, baked lemon ricotta and New York cheesecake with strawberry sauce. The perfect ending to any celebration.

Tasting Notes: Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto (375ML half-bottle), Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $13) 

The bouquet is filled with aromas of juicy strawberries and raspberries with floral notes of rose petals, while the palate provides a burst of intense ripe raspberry & a touch of baking spice.