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Traci Lee
February 17, 2012 | Traci Lee

Finding Harmony in Wine & Cheese

Monday evening, I sat in on The Harmony of Wine & Cheese class at Murray's Cheese, and enjoyed not one, but six successful, and delicious pairings. Eric Genau, our Wine Director, selected the wines and taught the class alongside Murray's Education Director, Sascha Anderson, who selected the cheese for the evening.

The great thing about this class is that the wine and cheese are chosen by pairing principles, and the first time the combinations are actually tasted together is during the class. This can lead to wine & cheese bliss, or a miss, but the experience is the best way to learn what you like, and don't like, which is the ultimate goal. When you are sitting in front of six wines and six cheeses, you have the opportunity to follow the rules or taste whatever you think might work well together. If you're eyeing the cheddar while sipping the bubbly, give it a try, you might find a new favorite!

We all have different palates and set of experiences that reflect what we believe tastes good, or bad. This is as simple as the preference of chips and salsa, over chips with a creamy dip. Maybe your taste buds enjoy the combination of salt and spice, or maybe you recently experienced the best salsa of your life while vacationing in Mexico, and ever since, the taste of salsa transports you to the beach, relaxing under the sun with great food and an ice cold beer in your hand - that personal state of happiness can make anything taste better.  

Wine and cheese pairings work the same way, its about finding what appeals your taste buds and creating memoriable experiences.  I list all six pairings of the night below, but let me tell you about my favorite...the third pair in the evening's line-up: Glatzer Grüner Veltliner 2011 and Winnimere.

Glatzer Grüner Veltliner is an aromatic white wine, produced by an extremely nice guy named Walter Glatzer, in the Carnuntum region of Austria.  This wine has a golden straw-yellow color and an incredible fragrance.  It is fresh and light on the palate, with a medium body and clinging finish.  

Going back to my chips and salsa reference, this wine is really delicious, but it begs to be paired with something to make it better, it is truly a food wine.  This is the same way I think about a salty tortilla chip - I enjoy it on its own, but it is better with a dip!  Lucky for me, I'm sitting in cheese heaven, staring at a gooey dollop of Winnimere, from Jasper Hill Farms.   This handmade, washed-rind, raw cow's milk cheese from is from Vermont and it stinks.  The nose is dirty and woodsy, but don't let that scare you, the flavor is mild and harmonious.   Winnimere is washed with a locally brewed beer and wrapped in a binding of spruce, which is handcut from a tree on Jasper Hill's property.  

Much like salsa, my palate believes washed-rind cheese should part of a pairing - on a baquette, in mac & cheese, on a grilled cheese sandwich or with a beverage hearty enough to partner with the strong scent, without overbearing its subtle, creamy flavor.  Glatzer's wine is a winner!  Like any great pairing should, each component tastes better together, than it does alone.  

The bright freshness of the white wine rounds out the sweet cream flavor of the cheese without making it too fatty, and the cheese exemplifies the fruit in the wine - making me want to enjoy more of both!  This cheese is wrapped in heavy tree spruce, you can literally cut off the top of the round and dip your bread right into this gooey-goodness, while sipping a glass or two of Glatzer's Grüner - pairing bliss!

Here are the pairings we tasted at Murray's.  If you are interested in hosting a wine and cheese evening with your friends, let us know,  we would be happy to help make your selections!
Jean Louis Denois Brut Blanc de Blanc NV (France) with Brunet
Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini 2010 (Greece) with Tomme Chevre Aydius
Glatzer Gruner Veltliner 2011 (Austria) with Winnimere
Maysara Vineyards Pinot Noir 3 Degrees 2009 (Oregon) with Tarentaise
Castell'in Villa Chianti Classico 2008 (Italy) with Pecorino Foglie Di Noce
Ferreira Tawny Porto (Portugal) with Colston Bassett Stilton

Time Posted: Feb 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Traci Lee
January 19, 2012 | Traci Lee

Surprising Flavor from a Perfect Pairing

I'm very excited about my first wine and cheese pairing of 2012, because both components are complex and flavorful: suberb on their own and marry together in a super surprising (and delicious) way - which is the #1 goal when creating a perfect pairing! 

2010 Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio is a beautiful golden color and very aromatic with hints of hazelnut, white fruit and subtle spice.  The palate is delicate, but expressive with layers of flavor, literally each sip brings out something new - if you don't think of enjoying white wine with food, give this a try!  It is rich and earthy, medium to full-bodied and has a hint of peach, a ton of minerality and a textured mouth feel that is a very different from many Americanized, flat/light Pinot Gris you may have tasted and said "yuck".  Azienda Fratelli Pighin is a magnificently beautiful family-owned estate located in the prestigious D.O.C Collio zone of Grave-del-Friuli, in northeast Italy, and they remain a benchmark producer for Pinot Grigio. 

After enjoying a few sips of Pighin, I pick up a piece of very stinky Grayson, a gooey, golden, washed-rind cheese from Virginia.  Meadow Creek's Grayson looks like Tallegio and smells like feet, which is great, considering this cheese is produced by the Feete family.  This cheese smells dirty and straight from the barn, but tastes mild and amazing.  It is creamy, with a thick paste that coats your mouth and I immediate think of using it in mac + cheese.  The flavor is deep and hearty with onions and meaty beef on the palate, it could be a meal.  The taste tames the scent and although it does smells like feet, Grayson will knock your socks off.

Once I have covered all of my tastebuds with the cheese, I take a hearty sip of the wine.  It tastes like banana! In a good way.  Thankfully I'm tasting with a number of others, confirming the banana burst and full-bodied tropical fruit that I find within this wine and cheese combination.  The hazelnut flavor in the Pinot Grigio is also amplified when paired with the cheese and the meaty character of the cheese is humbled by the layers of fruit in the wine. 

While both the Pighin and the Grayson are outstanding on their own, this pairing truly brings out the best of each other, while creating a new flavor together.  That being said, a perfect pairing like this is able to work because 3 tasting principles are at work:  the weight -  each component is similar, medium to full bodied, with big aromatics, that greatly play into the what you experience while tasting.  The texture - the wine and cheese "feel" similar in your mouth, they coat your tongue with creamy, smooth layers.  Finally, the flavor - the wine is hearty and earthy, which is a great clue that the taste will be enhanced with food.  The cheese is tastes like a meal itself, and of course, meals are always better with wine - I can't wait for you to try this combination!  When you do, please post your thoughts here or share with our Facebook community!

Time Posted: Jan 19, 2012 at 5:00 AM
Traci Lee
January 10, 2011 | Traci Lee

Let's Go Buffalo

I attended my first Buffalo Bills game in November and since that very cold Sunday, the refrain of "Let's go Buffalo" excessively repeats in my mind nearly every time I see the word "buffalo".  The last place I thought the song would return would be standing in front of a cheese counter...

A few days ago, while at Murray's Cheese in NYC, my cheese shopping was interrupted by the jingle, but this time, I embraced the inspiration and picked up a 1/2 lb of Quadrello di Bufala.  Composed of buffalo milk, which is rich and flavorful with a high fat-content, this cheese is produced in the Lombardia Region of Italy and similar to the classic Taleggio recipe, but sweeter, creamier and a little stinkier.  

After tasting the cheese, I knew I needed a wine that carefully stood up to the powerful flavor, but would not crush the creamy, salty and soft essence of the Bufala.  The answer had me singing Let's Go Buffalo* through many tastes of 2009 Terres Dorees Jean Paul Brun FleurieThis fantastic red wine comes from Southern Beaujolais, in the Burgundy Region of France, and is made from Gamay grapes.  The fruit comes entirely from Fleurie, one of the Cru Beaujolais Villages, and hails from a great vintage in the region. 

The elegance of this wine paired perfectly with the washed rind style cheese, and displays a balanced marriage of fruit and spice.  I would use this cheese in an expressive mac & cheese dish, to serve with this wine on a cold, winter evening.  Delic!

*Friends and family, don't worry, I have been singing the Steeler's tune all weekend.

Time Posted: Jan 10, 2011 at 1:18 PM