When a company sends you sample boxes of cookies crafted to pair with wine, the only logical thing to do is organize a tasting.
Diana Fisher, owner of Moderne Barn Wines, graciously offered her store. Last Friday evening found me there, setting up a table with six plates of sweet and savory treats and six white and sparkling wines selected by Diana.
“Holy crap, these cookies are good!”
So exclaimed Jen, one of several women enjoying tasting party at the wine shop. As their event wound down, she wandered over to my table. Another bite of the sea salt chocolate oatmeal cookie, this time with a sip of rose Prosecco.
Her eyes opened in surprise. “Phenomenal!” she said and proceeded to entice several friends over to try these unusual offerings.
So, who comes up with the idea of creating cookies to mate with wine?
Two women in Virginia with backgrounds completely unrelated to cookie baking, that’s who.
Leah Kuo and Laura Englander met at their children’s playgroup and quickly realized they shared en entrepreneurial passion. Their venture, CookieZen quickly became Cookies & Corks, as the duo decided to incorporate their love of wine into the business.
In an era where people often eschew heavy desserts, these cookies are a delightful end-of-meal trifle. They also solve the pesky problem of pairing dessert and wine – a notoriously difficult challenge for those who don’t love sweet wines (and perhaps want to nurse that Cabernet through dessert.)
It’s an idea that catches on quickly. Marcus Rhatigan is the first to stop by the table, his motorcycle boots not suggesting a wine and cookie connoisseur.
But he gets it right away: “These are mad good!” he exclaims as he pairs the sea salt chocolate cookie with Champagne. He tried more combinations, loving rose Prosecco with a rosemary thyme cookie. “This is really wild!”
The cookies make a “super starter or dessert,” he notes, adding that the cookies would be terrific to take for get-togethers with his in-laws.
Meanwhile, Jen has brought several friends over to try the sea salt chocolate cookie (hands down the most popular one of the night.) More raves ensue before the ladies try other combinations.
Their favorite pairings included Pinot Grigio with the peanut butter chocolate cookie and Gewürztraminer with the ginger cookie: “I love it!” said Erin Holliday.
Her friend Jean McGovern agrees with this pairing: “I’m not a fan of ginger cookies, but they go well together.” Of course, Gewürztraminer is a classic match for Asian cuisine, often seasoned with ginger.
The lemon cookie also was a favorite match with several of the wines. “Wow, this goes really well with [Champagne],” said Jim, another customer trying the treats.
The store’s owner, Diana Fisher, paired it with Prosecco. “It gives the [wine] a sweetness that doesn’t take from the lemon.” Her husband Steve called the lemon and rose Prosecco pairing “perfect.”
A non-peanut butter fan (me) actually enjoyed the cookie paired with Chardonnay; the duo created lots of smooth creaminess.
Not all pairings worked. I found the parmesean thyme cookie delicious, but challenging due to its strong flavors. Another taster, Jean McGovern, tried the lemon cookie with Champagne and found it “musty.” And while people enjoyed the Apricot Sage cookie, most didn’t feel it worked in general with the wines.
Cookies & Corks makes a variety of treats to go with red, white and sparkling wines. For the wine and cookie taste test, guests enjoyed parmesan thyme, zesty lemon and sea salt chocolate oatmeal cookies with Champagne, Prosecco and rose Prosecco, as well as apricot sage, peanut butter chocolate and ginger molasses cookies with Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Grigio.
The company also makes cookies for red wine: white cheddar rosemary, espresso chocolate peanut butter and shortbread to pair with wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.