Did you know that Upper Bench Estate Winery in Penticton, BC also makes their own cheese? A match made for any wine lover. I knew, but hadn’t had the chance to try their cheese together with their wines. I was fortunate to have them send me some of their King Cole Blue cheese, which I dutifully tried with each one of their newly released wines. Which wine(s) did I think make the best pairing with their blue cheese? Read on.
My Review of Upper Bench Wines
Upper Bench Riesling 2016 – Medium straw and lemon colours blended together. Bright and clear. Medium plus youthful nose with intense aromas of citrus, citrus rind, lime, pine needles; light stone fruits and apricots in the background. Medium-dry up front but dries up on the finish. Medium plus acidity and flavour intensity. Medium bodied, not quite round mouth-feel. Mostly citrus, lime, and citrus rind, with some green apple and lesser amount of pine needle. A hint of apricot on the mid to finish. I picked up a hint of stoniness as well. With decanting the citrus intensity is lessened and you get more stone fruit flavours at the start and mid palate. I also picked up some honey on with decanting. The wine finishes with mouth-watering acidity, and flavours of grapefruit rind and lime. With decanting, you more stone fruit and tropical fruit on the finish. The wine is delicious either with or without decanting. You get two different flavour profiles.
Rating: Bright fresh citrusy straight from the bottle to glass, or change it to more stone fruits with decanting.
Upper Bench Chardonnay 2015 – Clear medium lemon in colour. Medium plus to pronounced nose; a blend of butterscotch, citrus, nutmeg, toasted oak and tropical fruit aromas. It’s dry, with medium acidity, heavier almost viscous, and semi-round feel in the mouth. Toasty oak, tropical fruit, sweet spices, roasted pineapple and some buttery mouth feel. With decanting the wine becomes a bit rounder. Medium plus length. Mouth watering acidity, plus pepperiness, pineapple and honey on the finish.
Rating: A solid Chardonnay that says pay attention to the flavours. It does need food of equal strength.
Upper Bench Cabernet Franc 2014 – Clear, deep garnet coloured. Medium intensity, youthful nose, with flower, sweet and candied red cherries, vanilla and baby powder aromas in the glass. With decanting the nose becomes much more plummy and also adds chocolate. It is dry, medium bodied, semi-round, with medium tannins. Red fruit, raspberries, ripe plums, and dried fruits, along with light sweet spices, cedar, and some bitter oak. I’d describe the flavours as being quite deep. With decanting the wine takes on some perfume and chocolate. The wine has a medium length, which I wish lasted a little longer, but if you decant this wine, the finish does extend out a bit more! It finishes with bitter chocolate, oak, and dark fruit, with firm, dry tannins. A bit of a brooding wine. I’d say it can age for another 4-5 years.
Rating: – A deeply flavoured wine that mixes red fruits with plums and dried fruits. For best effect, decant this wine.
Upper Bench Pinot Noir 2014 – Medium garnet. Medium nose, with aromas of violets, sweet spices, ripe red cherries, and some Kirsch cherries. A nice nose. Decanting lessens the intensity of aromas, but you get some oak added. The wine is dry, soft, with lighter tannins, medium body and a silky mouthfeel. It is very flowery. You get violets up front followed by raspberries, red cherries and other red fruits, in layers. Light oak. The wine has medium plus length, and finishes with tart red fruit, firmer tannins, sweet spices and some oak.
Rating: A feminine, seductive wine. Floral, raspberries and cherries on the palate.
Upper Bench Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – Deep garnet, almost opaque in colour. Lighter nose with baby powder, sweet red fruit, ripe cassis, and a touch of nutmeg, sweet spices and milk chocolate aromas. Dry, soft and round, with medium acidity, tannins, and body. Medium plus flavour intensity. Red fruit, raspberries and cherries, perfume, along with sweet spices, cedar, and milk chocolate on the palate. You also get plums coming in on the mid palate to the finish. Lots of flavours. Medium plus length with firmer tannins on the finish. Quite peppery too. With decanting that pepperiness diminishes.
Rating: A quality Cabernet Sauvignon with a feminine feel. Maybe try pairing this with grilled pork chops.
Upper Bench Merlot 2013 – Medium plus garnet; translucent but slightly darker core. Medium plus intensity nose. Youthful. Very fruity, with ripe plums, red cherries and red fruit, together with touches of vanilla, nutmeg and milk chocolate on the nose. With decanting this wine also showed some smoke and/or bramble to the nose. Dry, round with medium mouth feel, but quite grippy tannins. Pronounced flavours. Red fruits, red cherries and plums, with some vanilla, nutmeg, oak and milk chocolate. With decanting there is some black fruit and violets as well on the palate. The wine finishes very peppery, along with tart red fruit, oak and vanilla flavours. I also picked up what I could describe as some minerality on the finish. Intense flavours. With decanting the wine becomes more laid back and less peppery. This wine can be enjoyed now, but I think with 1-2 years to settle down, it will be better.
Rating: - Nice ripe plums, tart red fruit, and cherries on the palate, finishing with pepperiness.
Their Wine Labels
I did notice that they are in the process of changing their wine labels, as you may have noticed in my photos above. The older labels don’t stand out in a lineup, but their new labels with distinctive lettering do give the wines a more modern look.
The Blue Cheese Challenge
Upper Bench’s cheeses are hand-crafted from 100% pasteurized Canadian cow’s milk from D Dutchmen Dairy in Sicamous, BC, and can be shipped across Canada. They describe their King Cole Blue Cheese as “This velvety semi-soft, surface ripened blue with veining through out is a bold, full-flavoured cheese.” They don’t explain why this cheese is called “King Cole”. My only point of reference is the British nursery rhyme about Old King Cole. If you don’t remember the Old King Cole rhyme, here it is from Wikipedia.
From my tasting notes, I describe the King Cole blue as lightly aromatic. Creamy, soft, with medium blue bitterness. Medium length. Lightly salty. Not gritty. Very nice. If you like Cambozola, this is one notch up in intensity, but not as strong as Roquefort cheese.
When I tried this cheese with the wines, I cut the cheese into thinner slices, and let it warm up to room temperature to allow the flavour to come out.
King Cole with:
- Riesling – Nice interplay of salty and bitterness from the cheese with the acidity and sweetness in the wine. The creaminess of the cheese tones down the citrus and rind in the wine. A good pairing.
- Chardonnay – Nice toasted oak and butterscotch note from the wine on top of the cheese. The wine tones down the bitterness and leaves you with butteriness. A good pairing.
- Pinot Noir – The bitterness from the cheese tones down the fruit flavours from the Pinot, which is too bad as the Pinot has very nice flavours. An OK pairing.
- Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine makes the cheese seem creamier. The blue bitterness diminishes and the cheese feels more buttery. The wine and the cheese have equal strength in this pairing. A good pairing.
- Merlot – The stronger tannins in this wine overpower the cheese, as well as the tartness of the wine is too much for the cheese to handle. With decanting, the wine softens and the pairing becomes much more complementary. You start to get the creaminess and bitterness in the cheese. A good pairing, but you have to decant the wine first.
- Cabernet Franc – Complementary pairing. You get the creaminess of the cheese and less bitterness. An OK pairing.
Overall I think the two white wines topped my list for best pairings, followed by the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. You can buy the cheese online from the winery, along with their wines.