Food and wine pairings are a staple of wine country experiences and the home table. What if you felt left out of those choices? Wine Country 2.0 is all about bridging that gap. Most wineries would prefer not to turn away potential buyers and club members.

As the world turns to greater sustainability and greater care of the planet, more and more people are looking for wine products and experiences that reflect that sensibility. While the majority of consumers may say there are no substitutes for animal-based cheese and charcuterie pairings with wine, they would be mistaken!

Alison Kilmer, champion of Wine Country 2.0, founder and CEO of Uppercase Tea, and long-time vegan, gave the hosts an eye-opening experience of the vegan kind during the show. Not only were we thrilled to taste the delicious pairings she provided, but they were all plant-based. Vegan cheese and charcuterie have come a long, long way from basic Tofu and baloney!

Alison recounted her own experience of touring wineries when she first moved to wine country a decade ago and was disappointed to find she couldn’t partake of most of the offered tasting experiences, as none had vegan options. It became her mission to help wineries discover the benefits of adding vegan experiences to their offerings.

Besides the obvious benefit of reducing animal-based food dependence, vegan offerings are healthier for humans and the planet overall. They increase sustainability, reduce our carbon footprint, are more compassionate towards animal life, and are far more easily digested by the human microbiome than animal-based foods.

Alison began by taking us through a food and wine tasting paired with Miyoko’s Creamery plant-based cheeses. We couldn’t stop raving about the flavors, aromatics and seamless wine pairings. Miyoko Shinner invented the category of artisan vegan cheese. Now she’s on a mission to revolutionize the entire dairy industry. Her product line includes Vegan Butter, Cultured Vegan Farmhouse Cheddar & Pepper Jack, Organic Cashew Milk Artisan Cheese Wheels (available in 8 flavors, made from cashew milk), Vegan Cream Cheese, Vegan Mozzarella, and Vegan Roadhouse Spread. Adding to their elegance is practicality: You can cook and bake with them, and they even freeze well!

Some of the pairings Alison recommended are Three Sticks’ Chardonnay with Miyoko’s Herbes de Provence Cheese Wheel, Miyoko’s Aged English Smokehouse Cheese with any of the Petaluma Gap-based Pinot Noirs, and Gordenker Rose of Pinot Noir with Miyoko’s Double Cream Classic Chive Cheese. In fact, Alison lives on Moon Mountain in Sonoma and highly recommends Miyoko’s Aged Black Ash Cheese Wheel with Moon Mountain wines, including Repris’ and Gordenker’s Cabernets. The hosts tested several of these cheeses and found them incredibly aromatic and flavorful. Alison’s comment to our reactions was that plant-based cheeses often pair better than cow’s milk-based cheeses because the animal-based cheese often coats the mouth, inhibiting all wine flavors from being detected by taste buds.

On the charcuterie side, we were once again blown away by the rich flavors in Renegade Foods’ portfolio of plant-based salamis: The Sweet Toscana offers notes of sweet Italian herbs and roasted red pepper. The Spicy Chorizo has lots of spices, paprika, garlic and more. (It would be fantastic on pizza!) Their Smoky Soppressata, offering Calabrian-style flavors, truly came across like it was fresh from the smoke house!

As our conversation evolved, we found ourselves stacking up wedges of Miyoko’s cheeses on top of the charcuterie for even more complex flavors. Clearly the charcuterie could pair with a number of wines, from sauvingnon blancs to petite verdots.

But what of vegan wines? Wine is made from grapes, so surely it is vegan! Alas, no. Not necessarily. There may be animal-based ingredients in fertilizers used during farming, and in making the wine, isinglass (from fish bladder,) gelatin, egg whites, and sea shells, may also be used. These products grab onto the impurities and make it easier to catch them in the filtering of finished wine. But there are plant-based products for this purpose on the market many wineries use…

Alison recommends is a great place to find out if your favorite beer, wine or spirits are solely plant-based. There’s also a Vegan Wines, a vegan wine club, and if interested, you can partake of a vegan wines-only tour through La Belle Vie Wine Tours, which also provides delightful detour to Charlie’s Acres, a local farm sanctuary in Sonoma.

One other common thread between all these vegan-based products and services on the show? All are helmed by women! (Not that women have a corner on vegan businesses – just sayin’: Isn’t it interesting???) Cheers, ladies! As Miyoko says, “Milk plants, hug cows.”

For an eye-opening (and mouth-watering) view of bringing vegan experiences to the world of food and wine pairing, tune in to our lively discussion and tasting. And follow Alison @winecountryvegan or @winecountry2.0 on Instagram and at Wine Country Vegan on Facebook.