For this years Cheese and Wine Fest I wanted to change things up a little and put a twist on the conventional, "Wisdom" of cheese pairings. First of all I am a strong believer in white wine being better suited to pair with cheeses, there is just something about the acidity and brightness of white wine that balances the richness in most cheeses in a way that red cannot so we featured more white than red....something that seems to surprise a lot of folks but I only seem to hear the, "What more white than red" comments at the beginning of the tastings not at the end...I think people are getting on board! I also wanted to offer more unusual pairings this year, everyone knows Stilton and Port taste fantastic together but what else might work with such a great cheese? I was very committed to my whole, "Thinking outside the cheese box" thing, in fact so much that I ended up in a bit of a pickle when it came to actually putting the pairings together and then putting them in an order that made sense for both the wines and the cheeses which ended up being no easy feat. After a long afternoon of chompping, sipping and the occasional, "Blech...try a different wine" the line up was set and ready to go.
We started with N.V. Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, (44.99) paired with St Andre, (Cow's Milk) smeared on potato chips. It was a decadent way to start but who wants to dip their toes in the pond when you can go splashing around with both feet! It turned out really nice, good balance between crunchy, salty chips, creamy soft cheese and toasty refreshing Champagne.
Second was more of a classic pairing, Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, (9.99) with Capri Chevre, (Goat's Milk). I called this the green pairing as is was so bright and refreshing.
Third was the first of our, "Say what?" pairings. Groth Sauvignon Blanc, (16.99) with a young Spanish Manchego, (Sheep's Milk). I almost always pair Manchego with red but there was a waxy note to this young cheese that just needed a wine with a little more lift so I went with the Sauvignon Blanc. The pairing was very nice but in my opinion not stellar.
Fourth up Jean-Pierre Seve Macon-Solutre, (15.99) with Comte and the pairing was quite lovely...on the rich side but in a good way. The Chardonnay, (Macon) had just enough sweet fruit upfront to highlight the fruity nature of the cheese.
Number five was one of my personal favorites, Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Bourgogne Rose, (18.99) with Abbaye de Belloc, (Sheep's Milk) and both offerings were so delicately beautiful but together....damn!
Six was the first red, Zenato Valpolicella, (13.99) paired with Fontina Valle d'Aosta, (Cow's Milk) and the creamy earthiness of the cheese really made that wine pop...quite yummy.
This was Nancy's suggestion and she was dead on! Delvil's Corner Pinot Noir, (14.99) and Sottocenere al Tartufo, (Cow's Milk..with truffles). This one was tricky as the truffles in the cheese were pretty aggressive but the tangy cherry in the wine just lifted the cheese in the nicest way...bravo Nancy.
This is where things kind of go wacky....in a good way. N.V. Balivet Bugey-Cerdon, (19.99) with Beemster XO Aged Gouda, (Cow's Milk). The sweetness in the Cerdon balanced out the nutty richness in the cheese perfectly, this is a pairing I would do for a dessert course to blow my guests minds.
I thought Randy was gonna freak when I put this on the table! Domaine Piquemal Muscat de Rivesaltes with Farmhouse Stilton, (Cow's Milk). Most Muscat is too delicate to hold up to a cheese as powerful as this Stilton but this is a rich, very sweet style with just enough weight to hold its own. Another wonderful option for a dessert course.
And how do we finish this monster event?? N.V. Stone Brewing Double Bastard Ale and Idizabal, (Sheep's Milk, slightly smoked) yes, yes we did! The cheese has a waxy, very faint smoke flavor and with this hoppy beer it just sang...such a cool way to finish, not to mention the crispness of the beer helped cut through all that cheese.
We had 109 people show up but there were only a few times when things felt seriously crunched, (there was a bit of cluster______ at the first pairing but that was just a spacial issue and from that point on things went really smoothly. A giant thank you to all that complimented my pairings I send you all virtual hugs, (those work better for me because I'm really the touchy type) and my gratitude for your kind words and continued support.
Wine of the Week 2003 Montrose St. Estephe
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