Bob's Cheese and Wine Blog

My world of cheese and wine

Archive for July, 2009

Amarelo: A Portuguese Cheese

Posted by fromagebob on July 19, 2009

I ran into this cheese at Sunset Corners. By coincidence, I had tried another Portuguese cheese Saturday evening at a friend’s house, and it was quite good. My only other exposure to Portuguese cheese was Azetao, but the portion I got was way past its prime, so I had no way to judge it’s quality. I was at Sunset Corner’s great Saturday tasting (noon – 4 every Saturday!), and spotted this cheese in the case. I’m still trying to pick the cheeses and wines for the first Cheese Class, so I thought I would give it a try.

It’s quite good. The paste is off-white, with a creamline tending towards a dark ivory. The aroma is of fresh cream, with notes of straw and earth. On the tongue, it’s got a pretty distinctive flavor that reminded me of clotted cream, with brown butter and grassy notes. It paired quite nicely with a Cline Viognier and St. Francis’ Red.

This is a raw milk cheese, with sheep and goats milk. It’s a semi-firm cheese; some of the references I found noted that was pretty aggressive, but I didn’t find it so. It was somewhat intense, but not unpleasantly so.


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Wine and Cheese Tasting at Casa Toscana – Part II

Posted by fromagebob on July 16, 2009

The cheeses were wonderful. They were all from Il Forteto, a rather interesting producer in Italy. According to the representative at the tasting, the farm was founded to help disadvantaged youth find a place to prosper, and from their initial foray into cheese making, the project blossomed into a full-fledged farm producing a variety of wonderful products. You can check the website for more information on this.

There were three cheeses: Pecorino Stagionato con peperoncino, a Brillo Pecorino Di Vino, and a Boschetto al Tartufo.

Pecorino Stagionato con Peperoncino

This translates to “Aged Pecorino with red pepper” and that’s what it is. The cheese is made from pasteurized sheep’s milk, and aged for at least three months. The ingredients are simply milk, rennet, salt, a fermentation microbial, and the peppers. The paste is kind of crumbly, but moist; it’s in between a semi-firm and firm cheese. The aroma is slightly herbal, with hints of straw and cream. In the mouth, it’s spicy with a nice peppery taste, and flavors of brown butter and cream. It was quite nice. We paired this with the first wine (2006 Toscana Rosso). It was quite nice. The two paired well, but the alcohol content of the wine (14%) really “hotted up” the peppers. Eating a portion of the cheese with no visible peppers went well, but with the peppers started OK, but got pretty warm. I found that after a couple of bites and sips, my mouth was on fire – pleasant – but hot. The wine and the un-peppered part of the cheese rated a +1, but the wine and the peppers got a -1. I guess that evens out to a zero. I would probably serve this cheese with a dark beer, or maybe a lower alcohol Sancerre.

Brillo Pecorino Di Vino

These cheese are matured in wine in clay pitchers, for about four months. According to the website, selected cheese are washed, dried, then placed in terra cotta pitchers containing a mixture of Tuscan wines (doesn’t say what wines, but I would love to find out). The website suggest that they need constant attention; I suspect that they are turned and rotated periodically to make sure they age consistently. The cheese wheel is dark red, with distinct wine-y aromas emanating from the wheel. The cheese itself has a nice aroma of cream and butter, with a hint of the wine off the rind. The flavor is almost fruity, with some citrus notes. I also tasted butter and herbal notes. The cheese has a pleasant, tart finish. We pared this with wine #2 (the Rosso de Montalcino). I gave this a +1. The wine faded out a bit, but it made the cheese fruiter and more creamy. Nice paring.

Boschetto al Tartufo

What’s Emeril say? BAM! Good description for this cheese. Tartufo is “Truffle” in Italian, and you could see the truffles embedded in the wine. This cheese was a fresh cheese, and is 30% cows milk, 70% sheep. The flavor is rich and luscious. With a wonderful truffle notes. The aroma is truffles, cream, and roasted nuts. The flavor was really truffles. You got some cream and butter from the cheese, but the truffle flavor just stood out.

I got to try this with the third and fourth wines (the Nero De Casanova and the Sassontio). I gave the cheese and the Sassontio a +1 – the wine enhanced the truffles, and actually got a tiny bit fruiter. Then I tried the cheese with the Nero de Casanova and the sky lit up. It was a stellar paring, a definite PLUS TWO! The wine and cheese just came together into something quite delicious – I actually forgot to take notes, it was that good (don’t worry, I will get more of both!).

What happened was this: they were coming around with wine #4 and the cheese, but I still had wine #3 in my glass, so I told the pourer to hold off. I tried the cheese with wine 3, and after the fireworks stopped, I got some of wine #4. My table-mates were commenting on how nice the cheese and the Sassontio were. I tried it, and it was good – but not as good as with the Nero. So I told them. Naturally, we all had to get more cheese and some of the Nero (the research involved in this is just excruciating!!).

One girl stayed with wine #4, but another had an interesting experience. When she first got the wine in her mouth with the cheese, she commented that she liked the other paring better, but then her eyes widened, and she said “WOW”. She described it like this: “At first, the wine and the cheese were separate, and I didn’t think it would be better, but then they came together in my mouth, and it was amazing!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

The cheeses are available from Casa Toscana – visit their website to order. The first three wines should be available at Whole Foods – going to check that out myself.

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Wine and Cheese Tasting at Casa Toscana

Posted by fromagebob on July 15, 2009

Had the pleasure of going back to Casa Toscana in Miami’s Upper East Side last night for an Italian Wine and Cheese tasting. Yum!

The tasting featured four nice Italian wines: a 2006 Ciacci Piccolomini IGT Toscana Rosso, a 2006 Ciacci Piccolomini Rosso de Montalcino, a 2006 La Spinetta Il Nero De Casanova, and a 2003 La Spinetta Sassontio. The cheese was from Il Forteto, a producer in Italy, and included three wonderful cheeses: a Pecorino Stagionato con peperoncino, a Brillo Pecorino Di Vino, and a Boschetto al Tartufo.

Let’s start with the wines:

2006 Ciacci Piccolomini IGT Toscana Rosso

This wine is produced in the Castelnuovo dell’Abate zone, Southwest of Montalcino. The wine is 95% Sangiovese Grosso, with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blended in. It’s fermented in stainless steel vats, then aged four to six months in Slovenian Oak Barrels. According to the producer’s tasting notes, it has an intense, fruity bouquet, with notes of herbs and spices. It’s ready to drink, full-bodied, soft, and well-balanced.

I found it to have a nice nose, with a slight sense of alcohol (it’s 14%), along with nice strawberries and undercurrents of leather. There was some stone fruit in there, and maybe a touch of smoke. It is a soft wine, with strawberries and stone fruit on the palate. I wish the alcohol level was a little lower; I think it gave the wine a tiny negative, but I would rank this 85 on a 100 point scale, and +1 on the FromageBob scale.

2006 Ciacci Piccolomini Rosso de Montalcino

This wine is also produced in the Castelnuovo dell’Abate area. It is 100% Sangiovese Grosso, and spends about 12 months in Slovenian Oak. According to the tasting notes, it’s fruit forward, with an intense bouquet of fresh cherry, rose, violet, cinnamon and cloves. I found cherry, dark berries, and strawberries on the nose with a touch of roses. I think dark cherries. The taste was cherries, cloves, tobacco, and a little chocolate. It was a nice wine – I liked it better than the Rosso, I think because it had more body and better mouthfeel. I would give this an 86/+1

2006 La Spinetta Il Nero De Casanova

This wine is a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino. It’s made from young vines, and aged in toasted French oak for 9 months, followed by 2 months in stainless steel barrels, then 2 more months in bottles. The wine is neither filtered nor clarified. According to the tasting notes, it offers scents of ripe berries, cherries, plum and coffee, and could age for up to 10 years. I found it to have a nose consisting of black cherries and leather, with just a tiny hint of coffee and chocolate. The taste was tannic, with chocolate, smoke, and dark cherries. This is definitely a food wine, and was a fabulous paring with one of the cheeses (but you’ll have to wait for that!). I would give this an 88/+1. Definitely a food wine.

2003 La Spinetta Sassontio

This wine is also a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino, but ferments in new toasted French Oak for 12 – 14 months, then 3 months in stainless, followed by 20 more months in the bottle. It is not filtered or clarified. According to the tasting notes, it has a crisp nose is black cherries, mixed berries, fresh tomato leaves, and minerals. In the nose, I found dark berries, cherries, and old leather (nice, smoky, worn, delicious leather!). In the taste, black cherry, tobacco, leather, and roast vegetables. It was quite pleasant, a bit tannic, but – according to the notes, could age for up to 25 years. I liked the wine – I thought tha the Nero de Casanova was better in this tasting, but I can see where this wine would evolve to be greater than the former. This is also a food wine.

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Mona Cheese from Wisconsin

Posted by fromagebob on July 9, 2009

Mona is a mixed milk cheese from the same cheesemaker that produces Dante. It’s a blend of sheep and cow’s milk that’s aged for a minimum of 6 months. It’s a semi-firm cheese with a nice flavor. Like Dante, Mona is produced by the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. Between 100 and 400 East Friesian or Lacaune ewes are milked between February and September. The sheep are pasture-fed during the spring and summer. The cheeses themselves are produced by Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wisconsin.

The aroma is very mild, with a hint of toasted nuts, lanolin, and brown butter. The flavor has a salty, buttery taste with some grassy notes, and a rich mouthfeel. Near the rind, the nutty taste is more pronounced, with a more earthy flavor. It would be a nice cheese for a party or cheese plate in one of the milder positions. In parings, it went quite nicely with the Clif Family Climber White Blend, and with Santa Carolina Carminere. It was OK with a Mattabella Chardonnay and the Clif Family Syrah, but wasn’t that great with the Buhler Char or the Santa Carolina Cab.

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Cheese Classes

Posted by fromagebob on July 7, 2009

We did it! We’re going to be starting our cheese classes next month, at the Whole Foods Lifestyle Center in Coral Gables. There will be three classes, described below. I’ll have the link in the next day or so for where to sign up! Say CHEESE!!!

Entertaining with Cheese    August 13, 2009

Ever been to a party (or given one…) where the “cheese” was a pile of white and yellow cubes with toothpicks sticking out of them? Nevermore! In this informative and tasty class, we’ll explore a selection of cheeses just perfect for parties, from casual entertaining to formal dining. We’ll learn how to cut, plate, and serve cheese, and then try a selection of wines chosen to pair with a the cheeses to create great combinations. We’ll also share some tips about selecting and buying cheese, so you get the best selection from the Whole Foods cheese counter!

Session 2: What’s in a Rind?        August 20, 2009

There are lots of ways to classify cheeses, from the milk type to the country where the cheese is made, but the most common way is by rind type and texture: Fresh cheese, Bloomy rind, Semi-soft cheese, Washed rind (stinky!), Firm cheese, Hard cheese, and Blue cheese. In this class, we’ll take a look at examples of each type of cheese, learn a bit about how cheese is made, and what makes it so delicious! We’ll also discuss how to store cheese so that it stays fresh and yummy. Of course, we’ll also be paring our cheeses with a selection of wines, and learning how to choose the right wines for your cheeses.

Session 3: Now, That’s Italian!        August 27, 2009

An Italian fellow I know insists that Italians invented cheese! Not sure how true that is, but we’ll certainly discover just how wonderful Italian cheeses can be in this session. We’ll try a variety of cheeses from around Italy, and– you guessed it – pair them with some great Italian wines. At the end of this class, you will be saying manga! manga! with the best of them!

Each class will start promptly at 7:15 pm, and will run for approximately 2 hours. Each class will feature a selection of cheeses and wines. We’ll start each class by trying the wines, then the cheeses, and then we’ll pair them up. We’ll discuss our impressions of each component, and share ideas on what works, and what doesn’t. Each class will feature a handout with information on the wines, cheeses, and parings, along with ample space for you to take notes on each.

All classes will be held at the Whole Foods Lifestyle Center, on San Remo Avenue in Coral Gables. It is just South of US1, behind the Whole Foods Store, about ½ block EAST of Red Road. Street parking is available at the meters, or for free in the Whole Foods Garage.

Class size is limited, so PLEASE sign up early. Individual classes are $64.50 each; the entire series is $157.50. If you have any questions, you can e-mail, or visit our blog at

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Saxony Cheese from Wisconsin

Posted by fromagebob on July 6, 2009

This is another nice cheese that Myriam brought back from her recent trip to Wisconsin. It’s a new cheese – commercial release is in the 3rd quarter of this year, which is a few months away. Saxony is a raw cow’s milk cheese made from cooked, pressed curds. It is a washed rind cheese that I would classify as semi-firm. For some reason, my photo of the cheese has disappeared, so I found on their site.

It’s a pretty cheese, with a nice looking rind and a pleasant taste. The cheese is ripened for at least 90 days. It peaks at 150 days, and has a shelf life of 9 months. I found the aroma to be quite nice. It reminds me of pecans sautéed in a little butter. There is a definite buttery note to the cheese as it warms up, and a faint herbal note as well. The flavor is rich and buttery. There’s there is the tiniest hint of caramel, and as it melts on the tongue, you get just a touch of brown butter flavor. Near the rind, the flavor flattens out a little bit on first bite, but then delivers a stronger, more nutty taste than towards the center.

I tried this with a Norton Malbec. Initially, they both kind of neutralized each other, but then the cheese got a little fruity. Interesting. During the recent tasting panel I also tried it with several wines, results listed below.

Wine Score
Norton Malbec 0
Clif Family Climber White 0
Mattabella Chardonnay 0
Buehler Russian River Chard 0
Clif Gary’s Improv (Syrah) 0
Santa Carolina Carminere +1
Santa Carolina Cab -1
Kit’s Killer Kab 0
Pinord Moscatel 0

According to the website, the cheese would pair with a fruity white wine, dessert wine, or beer. The 0 scores aren’t bad. Basically, the wine and cheese really didn’t do much for each other, but they didn’t hurt each other either. I’ll have to keep on the lookout for some more to try with more wines.

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Cheese Classes!

Posted by fromagebob on July 4, 2009

Looks like they’re finally coming to be! Planned dates are August 13th, 20th, and 23rd, at the Whole Foods in Coral Gables (Red Rd near US1). Session 1: Cheese for entertaining; Session 2: What’s in a Rind; Session 3: Now THAT’S Italian!
Keep watching for more info!

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