Thursday, October 4, 2012

Newsletter Recap On Cheese & Wine Fest

In an effort to not talk politics, which is fucking consuming me right now, I am running this piece from our current newsletter about my big Cheese & Wine Fest. Totally cheating I know but trust me, you don't want to hear what's really on my mind right now...

For those of you that weren’t able to get seat for the highly coveted Cheese & Wine Pairing Seminar last month, (always wish we had more seats to accommodate everyone that wishes to attend) I thought I would give you a recap, a run down if you will, of what we poured, which cheeses we paired with them. Not quite as good as being there but a glimpse and maybe a guide for your next cheese and wine purchases.

As the sold out crowd sat before their cheese plate I explained that we would be starting with the cheese at twelve o’clock and moving clockwise as we moved on to the next flight. We began, as we often do, with a classic cheese and wine pairing, and then, in the interest of helping them understand, I had them try that same wine but with a cheese that was an absolute disaster with it. Sounds a little mean I know, and I confess that some of the horrified, “Why would you make us do that?!” faces crack me up, but the reason I do that is to make clear the fact that there is something to that whole pairing thing, something chemical, that can take two wonderful tasting things and completely wreck them, both, when tasted together. Once tasted, “Yuck” faces and all, the group totally got it and it ended up being a truly fantastic night of tasting and leaning. 

First Flight

Wine- 2010 Pierre Fouassier Quincy ($18.99) A delightfully fresh and bright Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, just across the way from Sancerre, this wine is full of tang, fresh cut grass, grapefruit and minerals.

Cheese- Bucheron, French Goat’s Milk. A nicely aged goat cheese with a sturdy bloomy rind, luscious creamy layer right beneath the rind and a firm, crumbly texture in the center.

Pairing: A classic. If you’ve not had goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc, well get in your car and drive over to The Wine Country this second! Gorgeous balance of bright, tangy, vibrant and creamy. 

Second Flight

Wine- 2011 Chateau la Canorgue Luberon Blanc ($16.99) White Rhones can be somewhat difficult to pair with food but this balanced little blend of Calirette, Roussanne, Bourbelanc and Marsanne, that sees no oak, is a pure joy to drink. Nice fruit, light weight and with the coolest little hint of fennel.

Cheese- St. Marcellin French Cow’s Milk. This is a cheese that can vary tremendously depending on its stage of development or age. A soft washed-rind cheese that comes in fun little terracotta crocks, when young the cheese is buttery, dense and has a tart, almost sour finish. When older you can nearly use it as dip! Super gooey and where that milky sour thing was you will now find a mushroom like earthiness.

Pairing: I confess that I was hoping for the cheese to come in a little further alone in age, (does make a huge difference) a wee bit gooier, but was still very happy with how the Canorgue Blanc tempered that tart thing on the cheese. A simple but nice pairing. 

Third Flight

Wine- 2009 Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Clos de Chateau ($29.99) One of the best vintages to date from this Domaine. A powerful Chardonnay with lovely nutty, roasted flavors and a big blast of ripe pear and citrus. Rich and full in the mouth but with brilliant acidity.

Cheese- Epoisses French Cow’s Milk. An extremely aromatic, (read stinky as all get out) washed rind cheese with the most glorious of all silken textures. Massive mouth feel, salty and uber rich, this is without question one of my favorite cheeses in the world.

Pairing: Have you ever heard the adage, “What grows together goes together”? While I’m not dogmatic about that there are times when there is no denying it, this pairing of two treats from France’s Burgundy, was mind-blowing. Decadence, salty, savory with fierce creaminess and astounding length. 

Fourth Flight

Wine- 2009 Trimbach Gewurztraminer ($23.99) A slightly sweet Gewurztraminer from Alsace full of ripe peaches, wild white flowers and a note of spicy ginger. Round in the mouth but with plenty of zip to keep your palate refreshed and ready for another sip.

Cheese- Red Dragon English Cow’s Milk. I tossed this cheese in the mix to challenge myself a little. A Cheddar-like cheese packed with mustard seeds and a swath of horseradish. Great melting cheese so a no-brainer for grilled ham and cheese or burgers, it is one of my favorites to serve with thick slices of green apples.

Pairing: One of the stars of the night! Had one couple even tell me that they didn’t like Gewurztraminer, thought it too aggressive for most foods but they loved this pairing so much they ended up buying both at the end of the night. The sweetness in the wine held in check by the mustardy, spicy cheese and the cheese was also more restrained by the weight and slight sweetness in the wine. 

Fifth Flight

Wine- 2010 Widman Vernatsch, Alto-Adige ($19.99) Such a light and delicate red wine! Just a shade darker than some of the Roses we carry but don’t let the color fool you, there is plenty of lip-smacking flavor going on here. Tart red cherries, cranberries and black pepper, makes me crave grilled pork loin or smoked chicken.

Cheese- La Tur Italian Mixed Milk. This ultra-creamy, rich, decadent and hauntingly mouth coating cheese from Piedmont is a blend of cow, sheep and goat milk, has a very lacy bloom and has a texture that can remind you of cream cheese. Creaminess from the cow’s milk, salty from the sheep’s milk and acidity from the goat, this is one of those cheese that makes people’s eyes roll back in their head.

Pairing: Even thinking about it now, I don’t think we could have picked a better wine for this cheese. Because of the richness of both texture and flavor we needed something with a fairly light body and some spice to cut through and the Vernatsch did so beautifully. One of my favorites for sure.

Sixth Flight

Wine- 2010 Josep Vendrell Sere, Montsant ($12.99) Frankly this is one of the most screaming deals we have as far as red wine goes right now, period. An all-purpose red that would go with just about any food you threw at it. We love this wine so much in fact, when we heard the importer was running low Ronnie hopped on the phone and bought the rest they had. Brimming with spicy Grenache flavors, light and easy going body, nice spice and wicked cheap. Love it.

Cheese- Onetik Pilota Spanish Sheep’s Milk. Along with Epoisses, this has got to be one of my most adored cheeses. Dense pale white texture, slightly fruity and nutty, perfectly salty but it is the meltingly sumptuous mouth feel that makes me wild for this Basque cheese. One of those cheeses that you could pair with anything from red, white, rose and sweet wines. If you are building any kind of cheese plate, you need Onetik Pilota.

Pairing: Easier pairing of the night, a wine that goes with anything and a cheese that does as well, together they were simply comforting. The salty cheese bringing out more of the pretty fruit in the wine and the wine graceful enough not to clobber all the character in the cheese. Sometimes simple is what’s needed. 

Seventh Flight

Wine- N.V. Villa de Corlo Lambrusco ($14.99) We are wild about Lambruscos we’ve been tasting as of late. Once thought of as a sweet, insipid lifeless stuff that sold itself as a beverage to pour over ice here in the US for years, but the real Lambrusco is revered in Italy, especially in Emilia Romagna, as the perfect wine, weather dry or off-dry, to serve with slices or slabs of cured meat and hunks of sweet and salty Parmigiano Reggiano. It might be a bit of a challenge for us to convince people to give these serious, deep red and frothy sparklers a try, but we’re up to it as we know just how freaking cool these wines are. Serious importers are bringing in the real deal now folks, the lush and full, spicy and crave worthy sparkling reds, be the first of your friends to be all over it!

Cheese- Barber’s 1833 Cheddar English Cow’s Milk. I’ve never had a more perfect and balanced Cheddar, not ever. Sharp but not in that way that has you reaching for the sides of your throat, milky, crumbly, fruity and salty. I’ve had way more powerful Cheddar but none I couldn’t keep my hands off like this one. Once the plastic wrapping is removed you can pretty much count on it being gone, it’s that good.

Pairing: Another total rock star! The gently frothy red with all its deep, dark black fruit and cracked pepper just sang when you had the fruity and succulent Cheddar in your mouth. A good pairing is when the two things taste just as good together as they did on their own, a great one is when both things were made better when put together, this is a great pairing.

Eighth Flight

Wine- 2010 Dover Canyon Cujo Zinfandel ($15.99) Our September Wine of the Month this is just a juicy, luscious, berry-rich and soft Zinfandel that is a blast to gulp. No spike of high alcohol, no pruney notes, no cooked or over-ripe flavors, this wine offers pure uncomplicated pleasure, and who doesn’t love and need that from time to time?

Cheese- Rebloshon French Cow’s Milk. Now before some of you get too excited, this is not the un-pasteurized version that is still not legal here in the states. This is however a beautifully indulgent and runny cheese that is impossible not to adore. Firm washed rind that once it’s cut open releases the almost pudding like savory goodness that lies within. Mushrooms, earth, fruity and a touch nutty this is a cheese you almost want to eat with a spoon.

Pairing: I jokingly referred to this as, “Our big dumb pairing” keying off the almost snuggly like feeling putting these two nearly over the top things together gave us. Like a loveable nuzzle from a big adoring puppy. The sweetness in the wine made the cheese slightly nuttier and the fat in the cheese held up swimmingly to the wine.

Ninth Flight

Wine- 2010 Copain Tous Ensemble Chardonnay ($18.99) Anyone that says California Chardonnay is all gloppy, over-oaked and flabby has never tasted this wine. Ripe pears, green apple, some citrus with a crisp green note play delightfully against the wines curvy texture and slight caramel flavors. Rethink California Chardonnay, try this wine!

Cheese- Ewephoria Holland Sheeps’s Milk. One of our best-selling cheeses, take one bite and you will know why. Created for the US market, hence the “cute” name, this wine has more sweetness than most other Gouda coming from Holland. That sweetness shows itself in the form of caramel and browned honey butter and it is divine. A drier cheese that is best suited for chunking as opposed to slicing it is on every fruit and cheese plate I make.

Bonus- Stone Brewing Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean (12oz $2.99) So when trying to pair a wine with the Ewephoria I ran into a fairly serious issue, one that was solved by this dark, mildly smoky, hop-rich and vanilla kissed porter.

Pairing: You know, sometimes the best wine for the job, well it’s a beer. The super-intense cheese, while eye-rolling delicious is kind of a wine killer. I tried wine after wine, went red to white and back again but once the cheese was in my mouth with the wines, everything went horrifically metallic. Not good I assure you. I found that the stunning Copain Chardonnay was the least offensive  but, that metallic thing was still there and rather than try and ignore it I took the opportunity to share with the group that not every cheese has a wine buddy as it were. The porter was amazing with the Ewephoria, just perfect as the vanilla picked up all the caramel in the cheese and the hops and roasted notes in the beer were way sturdy enough to marry with the cheese. Some things can’t be forced and that cheese needed beer.

Tenth Flight

Wine- N.V. Dow’s Trademark Reserve Porto ($16.99) Buying Port can be a bit of a commitment, I mean that is a big bottle of sweet wine and unless you have a couple big parties, or like many of us, love ending our evening with a glass of something sweet and rich, well like I said, a commitment. That’s why we love this Trademark from Dow’s, all that deep berry and cassis, coco and palate filling Port flavor without costing and arm and a leg!

Cheese- Roaring 40s Blue Australian Cow’s Milk. This packed and powerful blue has become a Wine Country staple and we even have a few people that flip out a little if our supplier is out of stock, it’s that addicting. Without a doubt a blue in its intensity but with some balancing sweetness and far less acidic tang or sharpness.

Pairing: We started with a classic and ended with one as well. Port and blue cheese is another one of those cheater pairings, it always goes, always floors people and is always remarkable. Both things are enhanced when paired together and as I said, that is a great pairing. 

Sorry you were not able to attend but I hope this helps!
Samantha Dugan
Cheese Maven    


gabe said...

sounds amazing. i'm familiar with enough of those wines or cheeses that I found myself oohing and aahing as I was reading this. There are about three of those pairings that I am now dying to go try.
Thanks Samantha!

Samantha Dugan said...


Well welcome back you. These cheese and wine events are always a ton of work but I dig the challenge and get a goofy ass charge out of watching people get it. We had a crazy long waiting list for this class so I figured a recap might be useful....sure as hell was to me as I have been bound and wound up in debates and politics lately. Thanks for popping by sweetheart.

gabe said...

my pleasure!
harvest is just getting rolling up here in Oregon, so time is getting short. Glad I stopped by for a drool inducing visit.
where is your wine shop? I think it's in Southern California? Might be too far for me to road trip for your next wine/cheese tasting...

Samantha Dugan said...


I was assuming/hoping it was harvest that was keeping you away and not something I said. How is 2012 looking for you guys?

Our shop is in SoCal, Los Angeles county basically in Long Beach. Would love to have you road trip out this way someday! Bit of a haul I fear...

webb said...

Horrors! You served BEER at a wine tasting? Cancal my reservation!

Or, perhaps it's "WTF .. they got beer last time."

It all sounds great. Wish i could pop in ...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

If you'll be my Cheese Maven, I'll be your Cheese Whiz.

I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

You know, everyone was cool with the beer, except for, and this was....odd, the woman that had mentioned her friends didn't want to come because I served beer once. She wouldn't even try it and said, "Oh, I didn't try it, I hate beer"....left me wondering if her comment about people not wanting to come might have been more to get in my head, rather than an actual fact. Not sure but she was the only one not having it.

Ron My Love,

I do has me a passion for that warm, gooey, oddly colored and salty business so, you got a deal!

gabe said...

haha. if i'm checking in to your blog this time of year, it's a sure sign i enjoy it.

2012 is looking warm and dry. lots of sugar, which is a relief after two very cold vintages. also lots of acidity, which is usually a good thing, but might be a problem with such high alcohol. but the real story of the vintage is that there has been no rain, so there has been absolutely no mold. we're making jokes about skipping the sorting line and just dumping grapes straight into the destemmer. we did find a gatorade bottle in one of our buckets while working the sorting line today, so i guess it's worth the extra effort.

the other funny thing about 2012 harvest is that we are going with an amish theme. so we've all shaved rediculous beards and ordered amish hats off the internet. the girls got bonnets, which they are not happy about. if you need a laugh, check out our facebook page.

thanks again for the great blogs. it's good to be reminded why we're doing all this work around this time of year.