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