A great way to beat the post-holiday blues is an after-ski wine-and-cheese party. Imagine yourself in a chalet, hunkered down with a few close friends, nibbling hunks of bread and cheese accompanied by bright and lively wines fireside.
No need to cook. Just grab a bit of Gruyère, Raclette, Munster or a creamy wheel of Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese of Dodgeville. Anything vaguely alpine will do. Consume them at room temperature — never fridge-cold — or melt over potatoes.
The wines that pair best with this kind of repast have a bit of acid to cut through the fattiness of the cheeses, while not being overbearing.
Eric Bordelet is a former sommelier who was convinced by winemaker Didier Dagueneau to take over his family's orchards in Normandy. Bordelet began making cider in 1992 and has since achieved a level of quality that has reimagined what sparkling ciders can be.
His Bordelet Authentique Poiré cidre ($15) bottling is made with 12 distinct types of pears and is a wonderfully balanced (pleasing but not sweet) way to start any occasion. Pairs best with something creamy.
Importer Terry Theise has a lot to say about the relatively obscure grape variety Scheurebe. He argues it's like "Riesling after it read the Kama Sutra." Maybe not, but it does have a raciness that Riesling lovers should notice. The varietal pairs wonderfully with Middle Eastern food, for instance, and also Vacherin, the über-unctuous cheese that Rush Creek Reserve takes as its inspiration. Try the Messmer Pfalz Scheurebe 2011 ($15).
Navarro Vineyards arguably makes the best American Gewürztraminer, a varietal that is a classic pairing for Alsatian Munster. Most Munster you'll find in a grocery store (don't confuse the European Munster with American Muenster) bears no resemblance to the earthy, funky gloriousness that is true Munster. But Navarro Gewürztraminer 2011 ($22) pairs romantically with anything that has some flavor, and has the signature lychee fruit nose.
Petite Arvine is thought of as the best grape varietal grown in the Valais region of Switzerland, and the René Favre & Fils bottling comes from the oldest vines of this grape in the world (2011, $23). The wine tastes of honey and green apple with flowers (some say wisteria) and has bracing acidity. It's an excellent companion with Italian Robiola but also makes a great mate for Raclette.
A second bottling of Petit Arvine is available in the Madison market, and is worth comparing. Grosjean Petit Arvine 2011 ($27) from the Valle d'Aosta is so pretty you might find yourself in love with this varietal — and not pair it with cheese at all.