Wine and cheese

Wines, cheese and chocolate are pictured from the “Sweet & Salty: Chocolate & Cheese with Wine” seminar led by New York-based wine writer Wanda Mann. 

Friday morning, breakfast looked a little different. …

It was 10 a.m. and I was staring at a plate of cheeses and chocolates and a line up of white, pink and red wines — what a strange way to start this full-packed day of sipping spirits and tasting bites, I thought.

But before I could even begin to contemplate what I was doing, Wanda Mann voiced into her microphone from the stage: “People who get up early in the morning and have chocolate, cheese and wine for breakfast — my kind of people.”

The crowd cheers, myself included.

It was a full house in the Little Nell tent positioned at the base of Aspen Mountain. And Mann, a New York-based wine writer, knew how to energize a morning crowd. This marks Mann’s first year at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and she was ready to challenge her audience. The seminar, titled “Sweet & Salty: Chocolate & Cheese with Wine,” was an experiment for all.

“We know that we love wine; we know that we love a chocolate; we know that we love a cheese. We don’t necessarily know how they’re going to go together,” Mann said. “So this is an experiment.”

An experiment, indeed. Throughout the three flights, we were able to sip, smile and share our thoughts.

Behind every sip of wine, bite of cheese and nibble of chocolate, there was a story — from the cocoa beans cultivated in the headwaters of the Amazon to the appraised slice of blue cheese served at the White House.

Mann was thinking, “What are the three things that chocolate, cheese and wine have in common?”

The answer, it seemed, was elegantly simple: “They’re things that we like to indulge in — maybe it’s after a breakup, or when we’re feeling happy,” she concluded. They’re things that we like to share, foods that spark joy. They bring comfort, just through the feeling and texture that they bring to our palate.

The other thing to consider, Mann said, is fermentation. Wine is made from fermented grapes, but fermentation is also part of the chocolate and cheese making process.

The final thing that came to Mann’s mind when they’re made at an artisan level, is that these ingredients — cheese, chocolate and wine — can tell the story of a place, of a region, of the people that made it. So really, we’re not talking about mass produced products here. When they’re made with care, we really have that sense of place and what we call terroir one, you find that the cheese and chocolate as well.

“It’s really about finding ways to elevate the flavors in each one, to bring out the best in each one. … Kind of like when you get different people together. Right? We bring out the best in each other,” she mused.

This, to me, is what the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is all about. Or what I think it should be all about.

Jacqueline Reynolds is an arts & entertainment reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at