I enjoyed an award-worthy duo of Vermont Butter and Cheese Company's Bonne Bouche and 2006 Argyle Brut Willamette while watching Anne Hathaway and James Franco host the Oscar Awards on Sunday. I was happy to see Christian Bale accept the Supporting Actor award and agree The King's Speech deserved Best Picture, but I was even more pleased to discover this great pairing!
Argyle Winery, in Dundee, Oregon, uses vintage dating on all of their sparkling wines and changes the ratio of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes used each year. This 2006 Brut is composed of 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir, has aromas of honeysuckle and vanilla and displays an apple-crispness, with yeasty, biscuit-like flavors, which are typically found in expensive vintage Champagne. I personally love Pinot-blended sparkling wines for their richness and spice, and this bottle offers both creamy and crisp flavors, which perfectly compliment the sweetness of Vermont B&C's flagship cheese.
Bonne Bouche is the 2010 American Cheese Society's winner of the Best Goat Cheese in America award and has a smooth, creamy texture with notes of fresh flowers, citrus and hints of hazelnut. This cheese is perfect on its own, as a salad topping and pairs especially well with sparkling wines. Packaged in its own, small micro-cave, this cheese continues to age until you break the seal and enjoy!
Domaine Constant Duquesnoy Vinsobres is from a leading producer in the Cote-de-Rhone village of Vinsobres and offers a beautiful pepper and violet aroma as soon as the bottle is opened. This domain was established in 2004 by a Belgian businessman who had long dreamed of becoming a winemaker and was granted appellation status in 2005. This wine is made from 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah and offers a much higher quality that its price tag would suggest.
I typically enjoy a deep, dark wine such as this with full-bodied dishes, such as chili or stew, but find that they are often difficult to pair with an artisanal cheese because the weight and texture dominates the flavor. However, when this generalization is proved wrong, it tastes just right!
Roomano, a cow's milk cheese from Holland displays similar characteristics to an aged Gouda, but contains less butterfat than Gouda's required 48%, making it sharp and crunchy. Distinctly salty with flavors of butterscotch, carmel and toffee, this cheese is perfect for grating over a crisp salad, shredded over chili, or sprinkled on popcorn! I can't think of another cheese that literally pairs with everything, and is the perfect snacking cheese.
Paired together, a distinct contrast of spice, sweetness and salt balance on the palate, with a strong intensity and great finish, creating one of my favorite pairings to date.
Wine and cheese pairings should be experimental; it is an interactive way to strengthen your palate and to truly concentrate on flavor profiles. I often find myself more attentive towards a wine, cheese or a food if it is unfamiliar, but always compare with flavors previously experienced. For example, if I were tasting an exotic fruit on a tropical island, I would think "does this taste like a mango, pineapple or a strawberry?" Maybe it is unlike anything I have tasted before, but the next time I try another fruit, I will add this tropical flavor to my comparison.
Successful wine pairings work the same way: the pairing will always be judged on your own memory of flavor profiles. Bottom line - to become a better taster, drink more wine, and eat more cheese! This allows you to compartmentalize what you have tasted and further understand what you like and do not like about the pairing.
This week, I selected a traditional French cheese that was new to me: Bethmale, a semi-soft, raw cow's milk cheese from the Pyrénées. This pasty, yellow-hued cheese has swiss-style holes and a leather-like rind with strong, stinky nose. On the palate, this cheese is spicy on the tongue, but melts into a smooth, fruity, much milder delight with a long finish.
After getting a sense of the cheese, I uncorked a bottle of Vina Sastre Tinto Ribera Del Duero, a Spanish red wine, made of 100% Tempranillo grapes from a family-run vineyard using biodynamic and organic practices. The nose offered up soft-cedar and violet characteristics and the flavor profile provided a spicy, fruit-forward richness, along with an interesting depth and great structure. (The Tinto also paired perfectly with a Spicy Chili I made for dinner!)
Together, this wine and cheese created harmony. The cheese offered a punch in the beginning and became milder as it melted in my mouth. The wine provided the opposite - a gentle, sweet nose with a bigger flavor on it's finish, which I loved! Merging the two provided a great example of complementary flavors - they played to each other's strengths, without overbearing each other. Delicious!
I opened a bottle of Conn Valley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Prologue to enjoy with a wedge of Spring Brook Tarentaise, both medium-to-full bodied, with fruit-forward notes and a long finish. I made the assumption this would be a balanced pair based on the weight and flavor characteristics shared by both the wine and the cheese and it worked. In terms of pairing, I always seek balance, meaning all the attributes are in harmony, with none either too prominent or deficient.
This Cab is bold enough to stand up to the swissy, Alpine-style cheese without overbearing its flavor, creating the desired balance. I love the wine, and I love the cheese, but they are actually better together, rather than on their own. Hands down the best pairing of the week!
Founded in 1983, Conn Valley Vineyard is located where Conn Creek flows out of Howell Mountain. This wine, hailing from California's North Coast, sees 18 months in 60-gallon French oak barrels before bottling. The oak is only a minor influence, which supports bright blackberry and currant fruit, cedar, and a touch of chocolate on the long finish.
Produced in Vermont, Tarentaise has a gruyere-like taste and an inspiring story:
Spring Brook Farm learned the Tarentaise recipe from friends John and Janine Putnam, of nearby Thistle Hill Farm in Pomfret, VT and created a similar, yet distinctly different version to support a hands-on educational farm, enabling city kids to have a glimpse of country living. The organization, 'Farms for City Kids' offers hands-on learning, team and character building skills to the kids that work between the dairy barn‚ small animal barn‚ greenhouse‚ garden and dormitory. Their efforts result in traditional, well maintained dairy farm, which produces over 600,000 lbs. of milk each year, which is made into the tasty Tarentaise Cheese.
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 Fleurie. This 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.
Happy New Year! I put a lot of thought into the first cheese and wine pairing of the year by considering what I wanted from the duo before making my selection – an indulgent crowd-pleasing pair, which could be enjoyable any time of day.
After the wonderful task of tasting a few combinations, the first pairing of 2011 is Bisol Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut Desiderio Jeio and La Tur. Both Italian favorites, this sparking wine, from the Veneto region, offers a fresh lemon tang that pairs deliciously with the 3-milk cheese. Produced in Piedmont, La Tur is a combination of cow, goat and sheep milk which is shaped into cupcake sized rounds and aged a few weeks to develop a cloud-like, bloomy rind that encloses the buttery, creamy middle. If you love ice cream, you will love this cheese!
The Prosecco has the perfect amount of fizz to compliment the rich creaminess of the cheese, without cutting too deeply through its decadent flavor. A perfect party-starter, this pair would be just as successful at brunch as it would an evening celebration. Serve along side a crusty baguette and mission figs. Cheers!