I love cheese. I love wine. I love to eat cheese and drink wine at the same time. I know there are official/suggested combinations of cheese and wine that bring out the best in both, but I always forget the rules when faced with the decision. Kind of like when I'm in the video store and totally forget what movie it was that I wanted to rent (it even happens now with Netflix...sigh). If I'm planning a party, and know what the wine is, I can do a little research before getting the cheese. There are some good websites, and a fun "cheese clock" that comes in kind of handy.
The good news is that in my world, if things aren't exactly according to the rules, knowing that there are some rules, and knowing what you like go a really long way. I went to a wine tasting at Pourtal in Santa Monica, highlighting wine from Close Pepe Vinyard. Amazing wine BTW. If this was a wine blog, I'd have a lot of very complimentary things to say. Point is, my friends bought my tasting, and I was in charge of picking out cheese (supplied for the restaurant by Andrews Cheese Shop!). I knew there were Pinot Noirs on the tasting, but was sure there were other wines too. I ended up with an Ossau Iraty sheep's milk cheese from the French Pyrenees, Zamarano cow's milk cheese from Spain (like Manchego, but in my opinion tastier!), and an Allegra goat's milk cheese from California. They weren't quite right, but they were pretty good. The richness of the Ossau Iraty really went well with the smoky Syrah with interesting herbal undertones. Nice and rich, kind of floral, and perfect on a little slice of toasted baguette. Yum! The goat cheese went nicely with the Pinot Noir even though it probably would have gotten a better chance to shine with a Sauvignon Blanc. Whatever. It was a delicious cheese and a delicious wine! A little tangy, a little sweet, creamy with a light ash coating on the rind. The Zamarano was nice and nutty, with a sweet saltiness (is that possible?).
The point is not to panic when faced with the decision to choose a cheese plate. Just remember what you like, try to remember why you like it - is it rich with butterfat? Is it nutty? Is it tangy? Is it bold or mild? What kind of wine are you drinking? Is it bold and in need of something strong to go with it? Is it acidic? Full of drying tannins? Bubbly?
What do YOU think it would taste good together? Remember - that's the final test.